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The Question of Color Management

When it comes to printing, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from photographers, printers, and labs alike about color management. Labs/printers will often layer in some color management to their workflow prior to printing to make sure the colors come out “just right.”



Is this something most photographers would appreciate? Do you handle your own color management in your printing workflow?



Many photographers prefer to handle color management themselves. They know what the color is supposed to look like, because they took the shot. However, things can always “change” when you use a certain paper, or add a layer of acrylic over the image.  Color management seems to be a polarizing subject. Many photographers feel very strongly about anyone messing with their color management while other photographers appreciate the lab stepping in.



Here’s what some of our TruLife Featured Photographers had to say:



Stacy William Head


For my paper prints I use a printer/lab that color matches the original to the type of print and it works really well.  Some printers don’t and the changed colors can affect the entire look and mood of a print than I originally desired.



Lewis Marroquin


I believe it’s a personal preference. I print images as fine art and I process my images in Adobe Lightroom. For black and white, I adjust the tones and for color I adjust my colors to create my image tone or mood. If I print an image, I expect to see what I created.



Due to different types of printing material, colors may be affected, so I believe it would be proper for a print shop to be open to communication with their clients including photographers, as to what to expect when it comes to colors and their effect on certain printing materials and of any suggestions that may require on the printing shop to make certain tonality adjustments.



Never perform any adjustments without first letting the photographer know. I experienced this personally, and ended up with a print appearing darker than what I had submitted without any notice. It can be that certain print shops handle so many orders that in time they become immune to customer service in that regard. They generalize an idea that it’s all up to the client to assume it’s not going to be 100% what they submit. I believe this is wrong because taking the shot is just part of the process of photography and up to the point it is printed it’s all part of the same process.



If we give our art to a print shop, we expect the print shop to communicate with us of any adjustments or concerns and offer recommendations. Asking questions is a wise thing to do. By asking questions to their customers, they can obtain an idea of what tone, mood, surroundings, lighting environment will form part of the prints location and advise of what printing material and color adjustments may suite better. There are times I do welcome help from the print shop… that is in regards to image resolution when printing larger size prints.



There is a photographer I admire, his name is David Yarrow. He photographs wildlife and if you look at his images and prints, the print shop he works with in Los Angeles is exactly the type of print shop I would want to work with.



I visited another photographer’s gallery in Jackson, Wyoming. His name is Thomas Mangelson. I saw all the different printing materials used on his displayed gallery and thought to myself how wonderful it would be if a print company would help me recommend what printing material would go beautifully with my images.



Benjamin Von Wong


I’m not sure if I’m the norm over here but I’m always looking for the path of least friction when doing this kind of thing. I’m not a fine art photographer and am used to having people experience my work digitally which means infinite variations of screens, computers, tablets. I get annoyed when the colors are horribly off hue, but other than that I’m pretty accepting of the different sheens and contrasts. If my work were to one day be printed twice my size at a museum I’m sure I would have a stronger opinion but for consumer prints, I don’t think it really matters.



Brad Scott


I usually let the printers do their job and make sure they produce colors accurate to what I see on my monitor with the file they send me.



Aaron Goulding


Printing can be troublesome if you don’t know what you are doing. I personally color correct my own images and thus far have been lucky to get back from my printer what I see on my monitor. Some printers have what’s called an auto correct. If I get back a print that looks strange I will ask them to turn off auto correct. Usually that fixes the problem.



The most important thing is to not over complicate the process. Some people like to use monitor calibrators. I am one of those that prefers to trust what I see and like I said before, I’ve had great results. If you don’t know how to process your own images then you may want to take your work to a lab that will process and print for you as well. That way they can make the proper corrections for printing. You can also request a proof from your printer, which will allow you to see a sample of how your print will turn out. Then you can make adjustments from there if needed.



Check out our TruLife® Acrylic Featured Photographers to read all the nice things they have to say about TruLife® Acrylic and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so we can deliver recent blog posts, along with any TruLife product and program updates, right to your inbox.



This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.