I take a number of landscape photos which I then do quite a bit of post production work with in photoshop elements 9. When I take them to my local photographic shop (I am not talking Boots etc) and get them back they have lost much of their vibrancy and mood. I spoke to the owner and he said that is because they can never recreate the colour on modern laptops/desktops? Is this right? Do I need to go and buy an old screen to mimic what is happening at the developers? He did mention that I could download an application that could imitate various printers. What is this? Anyone else with this issue? Would welcome any advice

  • have you tried another printer with the same images? Something that would affect this is the enlargement that you are doing, how large are the prints? oh and which camera are you using? Dec 14, 2011 at 9:16

5 Answers 5


You can ask the shop for its printer color profile or try to find it online. Then you can see how your printed pictures will look on your screen. E.g this links gives printer profile for costco printers.

  • Thank you. I think that they use an Epsom and will ask them.
    – Dan
    Dec 14, 2011 at 20:08
  • Having a printer profile won't make much of a difference if your monitor is lying to you -- those "bright reds" that are lying down in the 30% luminance range are still going to be dark, muddy and brownish when they're printed.
    – user2719
    Dec 15, 2011 at 6:47

Have you calibrated your monitor? Out of the box, you get a lot more brightness and contrast on a screen than you can possible get from a piece of paper unless the light level in the room is uncomfortably high. That can really skew your expectations.

"Calibration" in this sense can, but doesn't have to, involve a separate hardware calibration device. You can get close enough for most purposes by adjusting your brightness so that white on the screen is about the same as the white of a piece of photo paper, or at least isn't that much brighter. Remember -- paper isn't backlit; the blank areas of a sheet of paper is as bright as it can get. Having the screen brightness turned way up means that you can only get the same effect on a screen or using a lightbox transparency.

Real calibration of your monitor will give you the best results, but it can be a bit pricey. And if you're using the same computer for entertainment, you might find that it gives you less exciting results when playing video or gaming if you use your "photo profile". But if prints are important, take a look at ColorVision's Spyder 3 system or Xrite's ColorMunki -- they're around the $200 mark for a basic setup that will get you as close on-screen to the finished print as you can get.


I'm not an authority on printing by any means but the printers in shops aren't calibrated for the kind of prints you want at all. I have been to many exhibitions and there are always the latest and greatest printers from the likes of Epson who specialise in large-scale, continuous feed paper printers and continuous inks. If you are serious about printing your work, take a look at one of these printers. They are pricey, and the ink is pricey, but with the right printing profile, the right monitor calibration, and the right equipment, you can print photos at home that will surpass anything from a mainstream photo printers...


If they use one of those big machines, which everyone but specialist printers do, then the machine will automatically adjust the image for what it considers to be the best result. If you've donea lot of work in Photoshop to get is 'just right' then the machine will be messing that up.

I've used Snappy Snaps in the UK and what you can do is go talk to the guys or girls who operate the machine and ask them to switch off the automatic adjustment to give you your pictures without modification.

I used to get a lot of black and white prints and if you don't ask specifically they get printed on 'colour' paper which can produce a slight colour tone difference.

Oddly enough getting them printed online can be just as good - all the companies use the same machines so there's actually little difference in output between Boots, Snappy Snaps, etc, but if you use the same shop all the time you cna usually get them to set things up for you prints specifically.

A certain amount of experimentation may be required to get the ideal result.


My name is Jessica. I am an art student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division. Printers use a color system of CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, while monitors use an RGB color system or Red, Blue Green.
If you want to make sure your pictures are exactly what is going to be printed, you should open up Photoshop, create a new document, and beside (color mode) hit CMYK from the dropdown menu. Then open your photo and drag it to the CMYK document. You will notice a huge difference in vibrancy, but this is what your picture will look like once printed.
I struggle with this problem all the time. It's difficult to create the vibrant images that you want when the printer limits you so much. Basically my advice to you is to work in CMYK mode all the time if you will be only printing the images. If you are posting online, use RGB. Hope this helps

  • Hi Jessica, welcome to Photography on Stack Exchange. I'm glad you're here, but I had to vote down your answer as it is incorrect on several points. Only production presses (news, publications, media) use CMYK. Photo labs generally use either hybrid print systems or RGB processes (laser or LED) on traditional light sensitive paper which is developed as a C-Type print. Further, the majority of the difference in color reproduction isn't the color space change (which working in CMYK mode still results in a mapping to RGB on the display) but rather in the color space a printed image can have.
    – AJ Henderson
    Mar 26, 2014 at 15:48
  • A printed image is reflective rather than emitted and so the color space the printed image can convey will differ from the screen depending on the type of paper used as well as the types of ink. This can be described by an ICC profile and the proper way to do color matching is to use the ICC profile of the printer/ink/paper combination to preview the output of the print on screen.
    – AJ Henderson
    Mar 26, 2014 at 15:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.