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Author Topic: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?  (Read 1558 times)

michaelsh

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Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« on: February 11, 2018, 01:07:38 PM »

I do the processing of my (digital) pictures on a Thinkpad P70 with 4k display, calibrated with xRite i1Display (nearly 90% Adobe RGB) and also print them on an Epson SCP 600, using Tecco's PUW285 Glossy Ultra White and Tecco's ICC profile.

I'm always quite disappointed, to be honest, by the prints as compared to what I see on my display.

In most cases the prints are rather dull and underwhelming (regardless of BW or colour prints).

To me it looks like the fact that prints depend on the 'quality' of the reflected light as opposed to displays depending on proper calibration and having the advantage of light emitting rather than light reflecting is becoming more and more of a disadvantage for print as displays / monitors become better (i.e. being able to accurately display colours, basically).

To add to this: I'm quite disappointed about the various 'fine art' papers (Hahnemühle, Canson etc). I've tried a lot of them and spent a lot of money printing with them. The main disappointment has always been the same: they are not neutral and print snow white (any white actually) always with an ugly (to me) colour cast. And shift any other colours accordingly, and in most cases not to the best.

I would really like to hear and, if possible, learn in case you disagree with me and have advice on what I might have got wrong.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2018, 01:18:39 PM by michaelsh »
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2018, 01:25:10 PM »

It sounds to me like you have a colour management problem. If both your display and your printer/paper combination were correctly calibrated and profiled and you were using correct settings, with that glossy paper the prints should come out looking very close to what you would see under soft-proof in a properly calibrated and profiled display.

Traditionally, laptop displays are notoriously difficult to work with because with every small change in the angle between the screen and your eyes the projected image looks different. Not sure to what extent a 4K version changes that, not having tried it.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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michaelsh

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2018, 01:49:40 PM »

I'm afraid I don't have a colour management problem. I've educated myself about colour management under Win 10 and as I have said in my initial post xRite agrees in that it confirms a nearly 90% Adobe RGB coverage of my display. I understand that this still means that saturated colours will not be displayed accurately but it should not mean that most pictures (where I take it that most pictures are not over-saturated) should not display such a marked contrast between display and print.

I have a feeling that viewing and appreciating prints depends too much on the (reflected) light under which one views the print, as opposed to a proper display, where the light is emitted in a controlled fashion. Add to this the rather different 'white points' of the different (especially fine art) papers and the colours on a print start changing quite drastically.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2018, 01:59:23 PM »

The viewing conditions of the print are part of colour management. And you are correct that you need appropriate viewing conditions. The reason why I considered that you may have a colour management problem is because of your statement that there is a large disconnect between what you see on your display and what you see on paper. I'm assuming that when you mention what you see on your display, you are looking at the image with soft-proofing active, and paper white and black ink both simulated. With correct colour management right through the chain, what you see on the display should be a reliable indicator of what the print will look like. A whole industry and colour consortium as been devoted to this matter for many years and is generally considered to have succeeded. Where you will never get a close match is comparing a print on matte paper with a display image absent soft-proofing. In that case, all bets are off - the display image will look snappier. But you are using a gloss paper. Appearances should be able to converge rather nicely.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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michaelsh

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Thanks for your reply
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2018, 02:19:56 PM »

'I'm assuming that when you mention what you see on your display, you are looking at the image with soft-proofing active, and paper white and black ink both simulated. With correct colour management right through the chain, what you see on the display should be a reliable indicator of what the print will look like.'

I don't do soft proofing. That doesn't make sense to me if the display (as in my case) displays only 90% Adobe RGB. And even if I had a 100% Adobe RGB display (assuming for the sake of argument that Adobe RGB is the 'gold standard'), it's an RGB display with emitting light vs. a CYMK model printed on paper with a (in most cases) not quite white 'white point', shifting all other colurs accordingly.

The colours are not really wrong when comparing print to display, rather 'snappy' or perhaps 'lively' as opposed to 'dull' or 'diminished' or better 'muted' in the print convey some of the disappointment I regularly experience when printing.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2018, 02:28:14 PM »

There are inherent differences between transmitted and reflected light which are best mitigated by using gloss media as you are, but doing your edits under soft-proof. That will help you to add the snap you want to see in the print.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Chris Kern

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Re: Thanks for your reply
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2018, 03:14:12 PM »

The colours are not really wrong when comparing print to display, rather 'snappy' or perhaps 'lively' as opposed to 'dull' or 'diminished' or better 'muted' in the print convey some of the disappointment I regularly experience when printing.

Since you say the colors are accurate, it sounds as though your issue is that your pictures appear "punchier" when displayed on a high-dynamic-range transmissive medium—your monitor—than on a low-dynamic-range reflective one—the paper—which is inevitable unless the image has very low inherent contrast.  You're migrating it from an output device with a contrast ratio of ~1000:1 to one which, even under ideal lighting, has at most perhaps a third of that.

Quote
I don't do soft proofing.

There's more to soft proofing than accurately reproducing color.  As Mark points out, comparing the original image with a soft-proofed one allows you to modify the tones—as well, perhaps, as some color attributes—in order to reproduce on paper a reasonable simulation of what you're seeing on the monitor.  I often find I need to bump up the "clarity" adjustment in Lightroom and fiddle a bit with the tone curve tool in addition to any adjustments that may be necessary to get a good color match for the paper I've selected for that particular image.  The result may not be an exact correspondence between monitor and paper, but the print may seem just as punchy, even if it creates that impression in a different way.  Of course you can perform those same adjustments without soft proofing by making test prints, but you're likely to burn through a lot of time, paper, and ink before you get a result that satisfies you.

Mark D Segal

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Re: Thanks for your reply
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2018, 03:16:56 PM »

Since you say the colors are accurate, it sounds as though your issue is that your pictures appear "punchier" when displayed on a high-dynamic-range transmissive medium—your monitor—than on a low-dynamic-range reflective one—the paper—which is inevitable unless the image has very low inherent contrast.  You're migrating it from an output device with a contrast ratio of ~1000:1 to one which, even under ideal lighting, has at most perhaps a third of that.

There's more to soft proofing than accurately reproducing color.  As Mark points out, comparing the original image with a soft-proofed one allows you to modify the tones—as well, perhaps, as some color attributes—in order to reproduce on paper a reasonable simulation of what you're seeing on the monitor.  I often find I need to bump up the "clarity" adjustment in Lightroom and fiddle a bit with the tone curve tool in addition to any adjustments that may be necessary to get a good color match for the paper I've selected for that particular image.  The result may not be an exact correspondence between monitor and paper, but the print may seem just as punchy, even if it creates that impression in a different way.  Of course you can perform those same adjustments without soft proofing by making test prints, but you're likely to burn through a lot of time, paper, and ink before you get a result that satisfies you.

Exactly.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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TonyW

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2018, 03:35:30 PM »

....
To add to this: I'm quite disappointed about the various 'fine art' papers (Hahnemühle, Canson etc). I've tried a lot of them and spent a lot of money printing with them. The main disappointment has always been the same: they are not neutral and print snow white (any white actually) always with an ugly (to me) colour cast. And shift any other colours accordingly, and in most cases not to the best.

I would really like to hear and, if possible, learn in case you disagree with me and have advice on what I might have got wrong.
Mark has offered very good opinion and I agree with the sentiment that there is/may be a Color management issue.  Not least of which may be monitor calibration luminance vs print luminance. 
What are your editing conditions re ambient lighting?
How are you illuminating your print when comparing with monitor?

The highlighted comment about printing white is a little confusing.  Your printer cannot print white and white is limited to the paper base colour.  If monitor neutrals (measured equal data values) are not neutral then there is a CM issue - monitor calibration, icc profile etc.

Regardless of the limitations of your monitor gamut you should soft proof using the correct paper profile if you hope to get any meaningful, consustent and repeatable results.

I would also suggest that you test your paper, ink (you are using OEM ink?) with the correct icc profile under soft proofing conditions using a known test image rather than your own.  There are many but one you may find useful is the Pixl image which has useful information boxes in Photoshop explaining what you should see on screen and in print in a correctly managed workflow
http://www.pixl.dk/download/

Finally check your profile settings X Rite defaults to V4 and has been reported as potential problem area.  I would suggest calibration to V2 may be the better option
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Telecaster

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2018, 03:58:02 PM »

A couple observations from my particular vantagepoint:

I don't think there's a "best" way to display photos. Different tech allows for different looks, and you may just prefer screens to paper.

If you like the look of other folks' prints, the issue is likely more about finding a processing approach + printer + inkset + paper that works better for you than about prints per se. In my case it took years of trial & error experimenting, compounded by the fluid state of what was then a new printing technology, before I could consistently make something I was happy with. (Nowadays I mostly process for display on my 4K TV!)

-Dave-
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deanwork

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2018, 04:16:56 PM »

Thing is, in an instagram and snap chat addicted world, especially with people under 30, that often couldn't care less about how long their prints last, or whether they are even sold and collected, showing work on a good 4K and soon 8k led screen, in a public place, is going to become more and more popular all the time. They don't even need paper, period ( especially if they want sound as well).

Especially if you are doing high gloss super vibrant photography like people are doing with "digital cibachrome" face mounted or backlit in a light box type of work. It's really no different than the Getty
Stock landscape imagery you see on Google Chrome it looks fine ( until it all starts looking the same ) Personally I hate that kind of soulless textureless presentation but a lot of people love it. If you are going to adopt that kind of aesthetic, might as well do it on tv. Same thing as viewing on your display in the dark. Just cycle through these hd slide shows with no framing involved and when a 16k screen comes along go for that too.


A couple observations from my particular vantagepoint:

I don't think there's a "best" way to display photos. Different tech allows for different looks, and you may just prefer screens to paper.

If you like the look of other folks' prints, the issue is likely more about finding a processing approach + printer + inkset + paper that works better for you than about prints per se. In my case it took years of trial & error experimenting, compounded by the fluid state of what was then a new printing technology, before I could consistently make something I was happy with. (Nowadays I mostly process for display on my 4K TV!)

-Dave-
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JeanMichel

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2018, 05:55:34 PM »



I would really like to hear and, if possible, learn in case you disagree with me and have advice on what I might have got wrong.

Hi,
Welcome to the Forum.
Now that you are a forum member, you have access to some rather very useful video tutorials (they are free to you) in the Luminous Landscape Home: Camera to Print; Back to the print; LR and Capture 1… Watching and learning from those may be the fastest way to alleviate your frustrations.

And, do print. Prints will survive the obsolescence of the digital equipment and storage we now use; jpg, tif, dng, psd, gif. files will not.
 
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Peter McLennan

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 08:03:54 PM »

And, do print. Prints will survive the obsolescence of the digital equipment and storage we now use; jpg, tif, dng, psd, gif. files will not.

SO true.  Add VHS, Hi8, Bernoulli disks and a hundred other obsolete data and image formats to that list.  Prints are forever.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 08:10:59 PM »

SO true.  Add VHS, Hi8, Bernoulli disks and a hundred other obsolete data and image formats to that list.  Prints are forever.

Yes, I think this is indisputable. HOWEVER, that said, I think there could be a generational perception issue at play here. I would be very curious to see a correlation of age versus preferred photo format - it would come from data responding to two questions: (1) how old are you, and (2) do you value photographs more on paper or seen on an electronic device?
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Peter McLennan

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2018, 08:17:12 PM »

Darn good question. I have an appointment to give a talk to some high school kids next week.  I'll ask 'em.
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Mark D Segal

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2018, 08:22:50 PM »

Super - please do tell us what you learn from them!
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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JeanMichel

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2018, 08:58:05 PM »

Yes, I think this is indisputable. HOWEVER, that said, I think there could be a generational perception issue at play here. I would be very curious to see a correlation of age versus preferred photo format - it would come from data responding to two questions: (1) how old are you, and (2) do you value photographs more on paper or seen on an electronic device?

Well, yes.
1- I was born in 1948, a fine vintage year, says I :-)
2- I think that I value both fairly equally. Almost from the every beginning of my photography studies, in the late 60's and early 70's, I saw photography as belonging as much in books than on walls. Wasn't that the main achievement of Fox Talbot's Pencil of Nature? Disseminating photographs in books, magazines, newspapers, and now in the various electronic formats gives access to whatever the photographs is about (art, news, etc.) to many more people than a single print in a gallery, museum or home. However, the electronic image is more ephemeral, seen in a flash, gone in a flash. So, yes, in the end I prefer a hard copy of the image. All we need to look at a print are open eyes, no electricity, battery, smart phone, or computer needed.

And try this sometime: in a small gathering show a picture of your new baby or whatever on your smartphone, pay attention at the group's dynamics. A little bit later take out a print of the chubby newborn or latest fun thing bandpass that along. You will find that the group will act much differently and animately. Try it.

Now back to dissolving silver in nitric acid to make some film emulsion!


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pearlstreet

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2018, 11:47:30 PM »

My photographs look better printed than they do on a monitor. I spend a lot of time on them and use a variety of papers. Different images look better on different papers. But the op's photos may be an entirely different image that looks better on the screen. It's hard to judge without seeing the work.
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myotis

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2018, 01:51:33 AM »

Yes, I think this is indisputable. HOWEVER, that said, I think there could be a generational perception issue at play here. I would be very curious to see a correlation of age versus preferred photo format - it would come from data responding to two questions: (1) how old are you, and (2) do you value photographs more on paper or seen on an electronic device?

I casually asked this question last year (2017)  to about 20 final year biology undergraduates.  About half never printed their images, the other half felt it was important to have something "real" and they still put together photo albums. The half who "never" printed were the students doing my Digital Imaging in Biology Module.  The other half, who "did" print were doing a Nature Conservation Module.

I also work with someone who has just completed a photography degree, and in discussion (again last year)  it seemed obvious that prints were an important final product for her and her peers, but then again so was using film.  A lot of film photography was done while an undergraduate and her personal photography was now being done with a Hasselblad 500 using colour negative film, which end up as prints.

Given the sample I would hesitate to draw any confident conclusion, but it certainly seems the print is far from dead amongst young people.

Graham

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michaelsh

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Re: Are prints really the best way to display pictures?
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2018, 08:03:25 AM »

The highlighted comment about printing white is a little confusing.  Your printer cannot print white and white is limited to the paper base colour.  If monitor neutrals (measured equal data values) are not neutral then there is a CM issue - monitor calibration, icc profile etc.

That was indeed a sloppy remark on my side: as you pointed out above white on print is determined by the paper base colour. That is the reason why I prefer to print on ultra white paper, because all the fine art papers I have tested never gave me a 'neutral' white and they also shifted colours (some less some more) depending on the paper base colour.
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