Importance of ICC profile from print lab

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by melandkeifspics, Sep 30, 2014.

  1. If I properly calibrate my screen using , say, a Spyder pro, how important is it to still use the print labs ICC profile? For example, album makers like Graphistudio don't openly provide an ICC profile, but they do recommend that your monitor be calibrated. Is that all you really need for any lab or album maker? Is it really as easy as making sure your monitor is calibrated and you can be assured that your prints will come out pretty close to how you edited them?
     
  2. The purpose of the printer's profile is so that an app can show you a so-called "soft proof" on your monitor of what the print will look like printed, so you can make appropriate adjustments prior to sending the file off to be printed. (Make sure you indicate to the printing service that the print is to be made with no color correction, as you've already done it.)
    Calibrating the display and having a profile for it allows the app to control the rendering on the display. Without calibrating it, the app is sending RGB numbers to the display, but those numbers don't correlate with anything. (E.g., 50% of full red, but what is full red?)
    Serious photo apps, such as Photoshop and Lightroom provide for soft proofing. Most amateur-level apps don't. Without soft proofing, there is no reason to have the printer profile. (The printing service needs it, but there's nothing you can do with it.)
    If you don't make use of the printer profile, it's still important to calibrate your monitor, as you'll then most likely be working in the sRGB color space. If the printing service handles that correctly, it's definitely better than nothing, as you still have a (suboptimal) color-managed workflow.
     
  3. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    It's critical to have the profile for soft proofing, selecting what rendering intent you prefer and of course, the lab has to use that exact profile and RI you ask for (or convert to).
     
  4. I believe the lab supplied profile should be used for more than just soft proofing.
    Full Photoshop (Photoshop CSx or CC) has the ability to convert your image to the profile. Soft Proofing changes on the image you see on your screen, not the file itself; converting actually changes the color values stored in the file. My last processing step is to convert to (not assign) the lab's profile before uploading the file for printing, and as noted by Marc, indicating to the lab not to make any corrections for color.
     
  5. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    I believe the lab supplied profile should be used for more than just soft proofing.​
    Absolutely! In fact, if you can't use it to convert the data, how would we know if that profile is used for the print processes? Or that the lab used the rendering intent we desire for each image? Any lab that sends a profile only for soft proofing, then demands data in a fixed working space (like sRGB) is conducting a half baked color management workflow at best. Buyer beware.
     
  6. So what working space do you return the file to the lab?
     
  7. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    So what working space do you return the file to the lab?​
    Depends on the lab. IF they force you to send them sRGB, you send them sRGB (which is about the worst, suboptimal working space to send for output to a print).
     
  8. [Brooks] My last processing step is to convert to (not assign) the lab's profile before uploading the file for printing, and as noted by Marc, indicating to the lab not to make any corrections for color.​
    While this may sound like a good idea, keep in mind that the lab might, at any time, make new color profiles (perhaps something has changed on the machine). If you have converted image files yourself, based on an older profile, prior to the machine changes, then you might not get what you are expecting.
    So unless you have control over the specific printer to be used, as well as inside information on the current ICC profiles, it's safer to NOT pre-convert to the printer profile.
     
  9. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    While this may sound like a good idea, keep in mind that the lab might, at any time, make new color profiles (perhaps something has changed on the machine).​
    IOW, their process control sucks? Their job is to keep the machines running consistently so that IF you send them a document today and in a year, the print should appear the same! The RGB numbers, unlike cheese don't go bad and change by themselves. IF they do have to update the profile, they should then supply it. Bottom line is, labs that provide profiles just for soft proofing probably do have process control issues, are always updating the profiles so what does that tell you about their color management and color control? Yes, find another lab.
     
  10. IOW, their process control sucks?​
    Andrew, please don't start on this sort of thing.
    Here are some possible reasons. Perhaps the lab has a gang of roll-to-process (printer with attached processor) machines, and they don't think the internal calibration routines match up well enough to use the same ICC profile on all machines. So each machine has its own ICC profile. Generally a lab doesn't want to let customers select an individual printer, because the lab needs the ability to take a machine out of service as needed.
    If the lab has allowed customers the option to select a specific machine, and that machine goes down for some reason, the lab now has a problem to handle. The options would seem to be: 1) hold the order until the machine comes back up, 2) contact the customer for instructions; perhaps the customer will reconvert their original image(s) to the ICC profile of a machine still in service, or 3) perhaps the lab would try to convert back from the out-of-service profile to an in-service machine's profile.
    Now Andrew, in your opinion, is this an acceptable situation for a lab to get into? And if so, what is the best way for the lab to handle things?
    To my way of thinking, if this is a commercial lab trying to be price-competetive, showing the customer a representative ICC profile for soft-proofing, only, is a very good option, provided they allow selection of a rendering intent. If certain photographers want the ability to pre-convert profiles for a specific printer, it seems to me like it ought to be at a higher price, should the lab be willing to deal with such things.
     
  11. Hi Bill,
    Yes, I understand your point. In my case the Costco where I have my images printed updates the profile at regular intervals. I always check for the latest profile before I process my images. They always print the images tagged "Do Not Color Correct" on the machine that is profiled.
    I have reprinted images a year later without changing the profile and I can see no difference even thought the profile has changed. Maybe I just have a poor eye or maybe the profile changes very little over time.
    For a big lab with many printers the only way is for the lab to convert from a given profile - sRGB or Adobe RGB, to profile of the specific printer that will be used for that particular image. That would not give the photographer a chance to optimize the image through rendering intent, but would give an economical print.
    To absolutely have control you would need you own printer and profile it before your print job.
     
  12. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    Perhaps the lab has a gang of roll-to-process (printer with attached processor) machines, and they don't think the internal calibration routines match up well enough to use the same ICC profile on all machines.​
    IOW, poor process control. Got it.
    So each machine has its own ICC profile.​
    Not necessary (not an issue with the shops I work with using dozens of devices). If I can get a dozen or more indigo press to all use the same profile, they should be able to do the same too.
    For a big lab with many printers the only way is for the lab to convert from a given profile - sRGB or Adobe RGB, to profile of the specific printer that will be used for that particular image.​
    Makes no sense. It's the output profile that defines the number FROM sRGB or Adobe RGB and for that to work, the output devices have to have consistently. The working space the data comes from is immaterial. By the time the output profile comes into play, and all devices need to honor that behavior, the data is in Lab anyway. The working space has nothing to do with this one bit!
    To absolutely have control you would need you own printer and profile it before your print job.​
    Not so. Multiple devices that maintain strict process control and produce the same output can all use the same profile. It's not easy, it's doable. I've spent the last 20+ years doing this. For some major (fortune 100) companies.
     

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