File Format for Printing

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by tylerwind, Mar 7, 2007.

  1. I'm planning to get some 8x10 pictures printed at a local shop. This will be my
    first time printing larger images from my files and I'm wondering what format
    is best to use. Some of my shots are large JPEG, which means I'm limited to
    large JPEG for printing (right?). However, most of them were shot RAW. Should I
    convert them to TIFF and take them to the shop? Or, should I convert them to
    highest quality JPEG? In general, what is the difference between TIFF and high
    res JPEG and when would you use one over the other? What format do you guys
    convert to when a shot is taken in RAW and you want to print it with top-notch
    quality? Thanks!
  2. From your tiff, a HQ one time jpg is fine. As long as any future changes are always made from tiff. For first generation (2nd?) you will not notice the difference between tiff and HQ jpg. Thats my workflow;

    RAW---TIFF master(or psd)---jpg for output.
  3. While I think you won't be able to see a difference between a high-quality JPEG and a TIFF at 8x10, I must admit that I always use TIFF on the CDs I give to my printer, just to make sure. With the low price of CDs I don't see a reason to use JPEG.

  4. I agree with the above posters. You may not notice a difference, but why not get the best possible print you can, which would involve converting to lossless format like TIFF. My local shop also accepts images on a jump drive, so you don't have to even burn a CD (unless the files are larger than 50MB).

    I just went through this process for the first time myself, and found the process very convenient. I used a kiosk at my photo lab and uploaded my TIFs. I was then able to order prints right on the spot. I did have one 8x10 that was over the 50 MB limit, but for that, I just gave my CD to the shop and they are tkaing care of it. I pick up the prints tonight, so am keeping my fingers crossed that they turned out well.

    Also, don't forget to size the photos yourself in PS before turning them over to the lab. You will get a better result if you do the downsizing or upsizing yourself, because you can choose the resampling method and can sharpen, etc., according to the size of the print. If you give them a huge file but want a 4x6, they may downsize it with an arbitrary method, giving you a less polished result. Same would be true for upsizing if your file is smaller. Good luck.
  5. Ask them what they want and accept.

    Then give them the highest quality option they offer you. Tiff as first choice. Second choice: highest-quality jpeg, taken as the last step on an otherwise-lossless workflow.
  6. So, a TIFF is consider "loss-less" meaning you lose no quality, correct? Another question I was wondering about it what is the difference between a 16 bit and 8 bit TIFF? I'm assuming the 16 would have better color and quality but I don't know the technical details.

    Lastly, are there any websites or articles you guys would suggest me reading to learn the basics of digital printing? (ie-when you lose quality/"loss-less" transfer, what the bits mean, when JPEG is/is not as good as TIFF, etc.)

    Thanks again!
  7. 8-bit vs. 16-bit is more complicated than this, but the simple version is that 16-bit files give you more flexibility in editing, but aren't necessary at the print stage because very few printers even accept 16-bit input. In other words, you shouldn't see a difference if you downsample to 8 bits right before saving the final file for printing.
  8. Tyler, in addition to the file format (TIF, JPG) you need to know what profile the image needs for the printer. Most print shops want sRGB profile, but some will specify Adobe RGB - ask the print shop what profile is required. If you view the file using non color managed software it needs to be in sRGB profile or the colors will not be correct. Photoshop is color managed, so it does not matter when viewed using Photoshop because it will convert the image to the correct profile before it is sent to the monitor. Software like Windows Picture & Fax viewer is not color managed and it needs sRGB profile.

    I think all shops will want 8 bit files and if you supply a JPG file it has to be 8 bits because JPG does not support 16 bits.
  9. Tyler,

    I work for a large format photographic print shop. I would have to agree with what the other people have posted. You probably would not notice any difference between a high res jpeg or a tiff at an 8x10 size, but it is better to be safe than sorry. You might as well save them as tiff files.

    As for the 8 bit vs. 16 bit; a lot of lab equipment will not read a file if it is saved in 16 bit. Depending on the lab's policies you may wind up getting charged for them to convert it back to 8 bit.

    The best bet is to check with the lab you plan on using and see how they would like the files formatted and which color space will give the best result. This may also vary depending on which machine they use to do the work. Most labs, if you have the time, will run a test first if you are concerned about the color output.

    Happy printing!
  10. Thanks again for all the help--here is the update. So, I'm not taking these files to a professional lab, just to Walgreen's. Now, don't laugh--I have actually been advised by a very prominent professional that the quality of their Fugi Frontier is just as good as most labs. At the advice of my friend (Vincent Tylor, who I consider to be THE demi-god of, I was planning to get some prints and then adjust my monitor to suit their printer (instead of calibrating my monitor first).

    So, I did a trial run tonight. First thing I found is that there is not difference at all between the high-res JPEG and 8 bit TIFF. However, my prints came out not even resembling what I see on my computer. They actually printed 2 copies and both were exactly the same. I pulled the photos up on their monitor and the prints do in fact match what is on their monitor. But, I had one sunset picture where the sky is blue, orange, and red--it printed with almost a completely YELLOW sky! Then several of my shots have highlights that are blown out, the sharpening looks terrible, and contrast is dialed way up. Since you guys seem knowledgable in this area, I figured I'd seek some advice. Should I adjust my monitor (and pictures) to suit their printer, or is it possible their printer is the thing that is not adjusted?

    In other words, if I take my pictures to another Walgreen's, would I likely get the same image or would it be totally different? I was planning on fine tuning my monitor and things coming out close to what I see but it is not even in the ballpark of what is on my screen (or what I've seen when I've pulled them up on other screens). Should I go get a couple shots printed at a few locations around the area and compare? I'm open to suggestions...I'm 100% new to this so it may be my post-processing and ignorance in getting the images ready to print.

    Thanks again!
  11. You need to calibrate your monitor using software/hardware designed for monitor calibration - like Gregtag Macbeth Eye One Display 2 or similar. Monitor color changes with time and for accurate color monitors need to be calibrated on a regular basis - every two to four weeks. I calibrate my monitor every four weeks. If you adjust color balance using a non calibrated monitor your color in the image is probably wrong.

    You can try several different shops to print the images, but I expect you will get several different color images. The only way I get repeatable results is by using a Professional Lab, and prints from this lab match my calibrated monitor. The professional lab profiles their printer on a regular basis. I expect the printer is making automatic adjustments to your images - you should request that they print with no adjustments.

    I purchased a photoprinter and with accurate printer profiles I get prints that match my calibrated monitor.

    Good luck on your process.
  12. You can ask the lab in which you have prints made about Tiff and Jpeg. The lab I use requires Jpeg files. If you bring Tiff files they will then change them to jpeg and charge you extra for the work.
    I believe most people decide at the time of the shoot what they need as a final product and then choose RAW or Jpeg or RAW+Jpeg.
    Here is a wedsight that discusses some pro's and con's of RAW and Jpeg files.
  13. "At the advice of my friend ... I was planning to get some prints and then adjust my monitor to suit their printer (instead of calibrating my monitor first)."

    Tyler, been there, tried that. It is very frustrating and almost impossible to make the monitor match what comes out of the printer. You think you've got it, then bam, the next thing you print is way off.

    Listen to these folks. They don't sit around and make up arbitrary answers. You have to calibrate that monitor you're using. The reason that prints look different from what you see on your screen is that your screen is displaying whacked colors. Calibrating it makes it display the correct colors. A good photo printing lab can provide profiles for their printers, which makes your editing process even more accurate. (Walgreens probably cannot.)
  14. I doubt your monitor, or any monitor, is so far out of calibration that you see blue skies and get yellow skies in print.

    more likely is that there are many layers of automatic correction in the Frontier - color, sharpening, contrast, upressing and downressing. Ideally you want an operator skilled enough to disable those and print it straight with no corrections, which ideally you've already done in your color-calibrated post-processing workflow.

    Color correction is going to be especially troublesome with strong colors like a good sunset. You can verify what happened with your test prints - on the back of Frontier prints will be a series of alphanumeric codes indicating adjustments made to the individual color channels. With no adjustments, it will read something like "NNNNNN." Do a search here, I've found detailed info on this in the archives.

    It's definitely possible to get wonderful prints from a Frontier. I've used one local photo shop that charges a lot and advertises their extensive experience with their well-characterized and maintained Frontier. My prints with them have matched my monitor very closely. Results at Walgreens with the exact same machine and a bored, inattentive, untrained operator have been considerably more variable.
  15. Very good and logical advice guys--thank you! I'll definitely try that. I think the Frontier must have made corrections, although they (the "lab techs") said it would not. The numbers on the back of the prints is 990107891, then my file name, then "Walgreens" and then the date. Does that mean it adjusted them? To be honest, I got the girl to pull them back up on the screen where you order prints and their screen display was very similar. I guess this could mean that my monitor is off OR, that their monitor is off/making corrections. If my pictures really look like this on a calibrated monitor, I can't believe I would have gotten more than a few ratings over "4" posting my images on! My guess is that they have some sort of calibration on their monitor or automatic adjustment when you're ordering prints.

    I know I can't "see" what your monitor shows, but can someone with a calibrated monitor do me a favor? Please look at this image:

    This is the exact file that I printed (although I printed a much larger version). On my screen here at home, the top of this shot is clearly blue, the middle is orangish/red with a tad bit of yellow (just a touch at most), and the bottom near the horizon is fiery red. When I printed it, the top is almost white (there is a faint touch of baby blue...about 10x lighter than North Carolina blue (I can't believe I used that example--HATE UNC! Anyway...)). The next layer is various shades but the only color I can see is yellow. And the bottom of the shot is a very light red.

    I know you can't say my monitor is "dead on" from my description, but can you at least confirm that the Frontier must have made some sort of adjustments from what I have said? Thanks a lot for all the help!

    I'm going to look into finding a lab (I've gotten some suggestions in the past--any in particular I should look at?) and the other suggestions above--I appreciate you sharing your wisdom!
  16. looks fine to me. the blue sky has a few points of magenta but looks real
  17. Tyler, I see Orange rather than Red in the picture.

Share This Page