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I'm trying to print photos from Aperture on my MacBook Pro (Retina, Mid 2012) via commercial printers. 4 different printers have consistently printed my photos looking more green than they look on screen. This suggests to me that the laptop is displaying the photos as more red than they actually are.

I have taken the laptop to be calibrated at one of the printers, and there wasn't a significant difference.

Is there a simple way to adjust the colours displayed on the MacBook to match the printed photos.

Many thanks, Naomi

  • Are you comparing the prints directly to the screen, or do they look too green when watched independently on the laptop? – MirekE Dec 18 '14 at 23:06
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You should buy a calibrator(x-rite or spyder are the two main brands that come to mind) and do the calibration yourself. Having it calibrated there won't necessarily do you much good.

For a proper calibration you should do it right about as you want to edit those photos. And that's only after you have had your screen on for about 15-20 minutes. That's because the elements tend to heat up after that time and display an ever so slightly different hue due to the temperature change of the components.

When calibrating you should also make sure that there is no direct light hitting your screen, as that can also throw the calibration off. Do the calibration where you will be editing.

Also take these two external things into account. 1. The surrounding colors in your room. If you have very colorful wall behind you that will throw your eyes off.

  1. Have you consumed caffeine. Caffeine will alter your brains color perception a bit.
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Unfortunately color calibration is a bit of a complicated field. For best results, you will want to use a color calibration device such as a Spyder or Colormunki. These devices are somewhat pricy, but a very necessary step for getting solid color accuracy.

Software that comes with the color calibration units will display various colors on your display and measure what color is actually displayed. It then creates what is known as an ICC profile for your display which tells the computer what colors it should actually display so that the right color comes up on the screen. Unfortunately, however, this is limited to the natural limits of your screen and laptops have a major caveat in that they normally can't have their color temperature itself adjusted, which can sometimes drastically limit the range of colors that they can produce. While I don't believe it applies in your case, many laptops use TN panel LCD screens which also alter color substantially based on the angle of view.

Additionally, computers and printers have potentially very different color gamuts (or the range of colors that they can produce). It may be that your screen is incapable of displaying the color of the photos correctly but the printer is. There are some tricks you can do to alter the image such that it will perceptually match the screen display as close as possible when printing, but this involves also needing to have the ICC profiles for the printer that will be used for the print and is a bit complicated to get right.

When doing a calibration, it is important to reproduce an ideal viewing environment as closely as possible. Lights should be quite dim to avoid outside light and allow for strong contrast. The screen should have been on for a period of at-least 10 minutes for any warm up to occur. Generally it is helpful to turn off any dynamic contrast features of the monitor if possible. I don't know about the colormunki, but the nicer Spyder units actually have a light level sensor that will take ambient light in to account when performing the calibration.

Note that you will also need to select a color temperature for the calibration. If you are unsure what color temp you want to use for your editing pipeline, the calibration software can likely suggest one based on the characteristics of your monitor and what it most naturally lends itself towards, but you will also want to consider your final output the most closely as decisions made now will impact the final output.

Also, be sure to keep in mind realistic expectations for it. To get a good, color accurate monitor is expensive. Even a fairly basic color accurate monitor costs around $600-$800, so the built in monitor on a MacBookPro, which is designed primarily for size, weight and power consumption, isn't going to really be all that super in terms of high accuracy color reproduction. You can get it close, but there will probably still be noticeable differences from your prints, even with proper calibration. It will just be much closer.

One final parting thought, it is worth noting that if your printers are using a pigment based process, reds are often weaker on pigment printers than ink based printers or c-type printers, so that may also be part of the cause of the green shifting. It's a less likely possibility, especially after going through 4 printers, but something worth checking in to.

  • The ISO standard, as explained by X-Rite, a company that produces hardware and software used for color calibration, is to view prints in light that is at D50 (full spectrum centered at 5,000K) in terms of color temperature. In terms of intensity, around 2,000 lux (roughly equivalent to an overcast day) should be used for color decisions and judging (2000lux +/-500lux is within the standard, but +/- 250 is preferred), but intensity levels as low as around 800 lux may need to be used to observe fine differences in tonal qualities. Even 800 lux is not what I would consider "quite dim". – Michael C Dec 17 '14 at 23:38
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    @MichaelClark - My Datacolor Spyder constantly complains that it is too bright in my room. I believe the difference may be that you are talking about the standard for viewing prints, which need reflective light. I'm talking about viewing a screen, which is emitted light. They are different standards. – AJ Henderson Dec 18 '14 at 3:19

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