Making Prints

September 9, 2013

You might expect a discussion of photo printers, but you won't find it here. I find printers a headache and a nuisance and rely on custom print shops to do my printing.

Another whole section about color management belongs here. Maybe someday. This is an important and complex topic, the root issue being that you want to get something looking the way you want on your monitor and get as close to the same thing as possible on a print. Entire books have been written about this, and the topic is called color management.

What I do want to include is some information about online print services:

MPIX comes with glowing recommendations, but the two times I have tried to use them (well over a year apart), their image uploading scheme has given me headaches. This has led to my interest in WHCC. Stay tuned, I am pretty frustrated with MPIX.

I found the following guidelines about submitting images to MPIX on their Mpix-Pro sister website:

An aside seems due here. There are 3 faces (or entities) you can choose from. Mpix, MpixPro, and Millers. You can google on a comparison, but the conclusions seem to be that if you are just ordering prints, go with Mpix, the quality is the same. Mpix will color correct for you, MpixPro expects you to be using a calibrated monitor. MpixPro has a minimum order and overnight shipping, and is really geared for the wedding photographer, or a professional who wants fast turnaround. I should use Mpix.

The short description of how to send images to them is that they want JPEG files only, sRGB, with as much resolution as you can give them. Their printers do 250 dots per inch.

They present a video on color management issues. A google search for something like "how to prepare files for mpix" will probably lead you to forum discussions that will be helpful.

In a nutshell, the video tells you to buy an use a monitor calibrator -- and this is good advice, it is the only way to have any confidence that what you see on your monitor will be what you will see on a print.

A good calibrator will cost perhaps $250. They used to recommend a product made by "Eye One", but in 2013 they began recommending the "Color Munki" product for reasons that are unknown to me.

You also need to do the right things about your ambient lighting, and let the calibrator calibrate for ambient light.

In photoshop, go to Color settings, select an sRGB workspace and convert to working sRGB, and turn on converstion warnings - save these settings as MPIX.

In Camera Raw, go to workflow and set color space to sRGB. Note that with the Eye One, MPIX recommends setting the White Point to 5000, Gamma to 2.2, and Luminance to 120. You will probably find that the Eye One recommends a quite low brightness (like 4/10), you should believe this advice.

Drug store printing

Some people suggest just finding some Walmart, Target, or Drug store that has a Frontier machine and giving it a try. You do not want to tell them (or allow them) to auto color correct, if you have the option of telling whatever inexperienced person is running the machine that day what you want. Pursue this at your own risk, you might get lucky.
Feedback? Questions? Drop me a line!

Uncle Tom's Digital Photography Info / tom@mmto.org