Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I've noticed lately that subjects with darker skin, especially brown hues, tend to come out with lots of red in prints.

When shooting against red or brown backgrounds, this effect is significantly worse. Is this something I can solve with better lighting and/or do I need to change my process in Photoshop?

We're trying to setup my studio with better lighting right now but I also have some trouble understanding the interplay between RGB and CYMK. What can I do to improve the quality of my shots and how can I prepare the images properly for printing?

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Have you calibrated your printer and screen? –  Fake Name May 9 '11 at 7:21
    
@Fake Name: Essentially, no. I don't understand enough about it as I have been using print services for a long time. :/ –  Imagen May 16 '11 at 0:32

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are two possible causes and in fact both may be happening ... firstly if you have auto-white balance enabled then the camera may be setting the white balance based on the whole picture, which if you have a red or brown background then it may be the majority of the shot. To overcome this you need to either adjust the white balance in post processing or set a custom white balance based on the subjects skin.

The second issue is calibration of the monitor against the printer. You say the skin become red on printing, so I presume it looks okay on your screen. This is caused by the screen and printer not being calibrated together. There are many ways of calibrating them, personally I have found the Spyder series of tools very capable in this process.

If the image looks okay on your screen then it is the calibration you need to work on, if the image is bad on screen and print then it is the white balance and maybe the calibration also that need correction.

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I'm hoping to fix this from the camera side. I've taken the same photos to a print shop and they still come out red. They tell me others do not have the same issue so I assume it is my camera settings. Is white balance the only thing involved? Is there any way to compensate with lighting as well? –  Imagen May 16 '11 at 0:36
    
Even if you try to add artificial light, this will then change the overall colour temperature meaning there is no guarantee that it would resolve anything as you would be changing the white balance without controlling it or understanding it. I would suggest checking if your camera is capable of setting a custom white balance and then experimenting with this to see if it resolves your issue. –  Barry Semple May 16 '11 at 1:59

This sounds like a printer profile selction issue. The way colors look in print is highly dependent upon the inks and papers used, and often the default "mode" for certain printers is to print with saturation intent and a poorly calibrated printer profile for its default paper types. This often results in prints looking too reddish.

I am not sure what printer you have, but you should check and verify that you always know the following when you print:

  1. What kind of paper is selected?
  2. Is the current print ICC profile matched to the selected paper type?
  3. Have you chosen a useful rendering intent?

Programs like Photoshop allow you to manage print output yourself, which is usually what you want to do if accurately reproducing your photos in print is your desire. When manually managing all aspects of print, you should be carefully selecting the type of paper you are putting in the printer (printer brands like Canon and Epson have a fairly broad range of branded papers, and also usually support high quality third party papers.) Once you have selected a paper type in the printer driver, you need to make sure you select a matching properly calibrated ICC color profile for that printer and paper selection. If you are using papers of the same brand as the printer, you should be able to select a matching ICC color profile that was installed with the printer drivers. If you are using a third party paper type, look for an ICC profile for your printer on that paper manufacturers web site.

If you match the paper type selected with a valid ICC profile, you should be ready to go. You will want to select a rendering intent to get the best results. Its not alway clear which intent should be used until you have printed at least once...Perceptual usually works for most things, however sometimes you may wish to use Relative Colorimetric. Absolute Colorimetric and Saturation intents should be avoided.

Regarding interplay or conversion between RGB and CMYK...don't worry about it. Thats what the ICC color profile is for, and if you use a good one (most important when using third-party paper types), your printed color rendition should be superb.

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