Why the difference in colour?

Why the difference in colour? Update

Since posting this on Linkedin i have had so many comments, here and on Linkedin, that i can feel my head spinning. There are plenty of things i have learnt from this one post, first is, when you ask for help people enjoy the resulting conversations, they enjoy trying to help, apart from those few numpties who take it upon themselves to ridicule those of us who, when finding we have made a mistake, ask for help. Second, when you are being ridiculed there is always someone willing to jump to your rescue. Third, damned if i didn’t learn something! So thank you to anyone who commented and to all those who read but made no comment, i hope you too learnt something from my amazing faux pas, Never, ever tell anyone you used a Supermarket to proof your images, gasp!!!!!!!! Did you get the gist of RGB v sRGB? Great! Me too! And lastly, everyone DOES see your image differently to you, there is a wide discrepancy in how monitors ‘show’ your work and you can not guarantee that what you see will be any where near what anyone else see’s. There were several really helpful comments and by far the best was from Chris (https://www.flickr.com/photos/daz395/) who suggested i used a HDMI cable to hook my laptop to my HD TV to check my images. I have dispatched my son to his room with orders to swiftly remove his HDMI cable from his games console so Mum can play but found i dont have a HDMI socket on my laptop, so any other suggestions? Grrrr, having no money sucks!

stamens 2a
I have an exhibition in July this year and have been looking at which photographs i want to include. I have to provide several photos for a ‘still life’ window and work for an exhibition. I have spent the last few weeks humming and harring, bemoaning the fact that my photos are not ‘good enough’ and that i ‘don’t like’ them. Finally i have started to piece together the ones that i see as ‘fit for purpose’ and went to get some printed just to see if they were ok. OMG! what have i done? Why have the prints come back VASTLY different from what i see on my monitor? My beautiful rose which on ‘my’ computer looks very pale pink and white was horrible peach and yellow, just awful! Anything that has a slight cast of yellow is orange, anything that is pale is dark. I made Chris put some of my work up on his computer off my flickr account and it was so very different on his monitor than on mine and the prints were different again in some cases. Now i know that printing can be a problem area but the difference is huge. I have tried calibrating my monitor but i don’t have a spider, can’t afford one, that doesn’t help. So why does my work look paler on my screen than on Chris’s? HELP! It’s putting me off all of my photos, worries me what the ones i have put on the internet look like to others. Am i a laughing stock? Do people look at me like i am one of those ‘poor people’ deluded in thinking how good they are? Damn am i going to have to buy a new laptop? I will accept ANY offers of help. thank you.

23 thoughts on “Why the difference in colour?

  1. Sounds like a simple case of screen calibration is required without it what you see on screen is rarely what the image actually look like.

  2. Your monitor needs to be adjusted. I suggest you look into “Color Munki” or “Spyder 3”. The cost is minimal compared to the end results. Either will help you achieve unparalleled success.
    David Alter

  3. The difference between screens I’m sure will be down to calibration. Practically there isn’t much you can do about that – you can’t calibrate everyone’s monitor! Rest assured your work looks fine on my iPhone, iPad, iMac etc. In terms of differences between screen and print, well this could be down to a number of things….calibration, paper type, inks, colour management etc. It can be very problematic. I once ordered some calendars from Photobox, I then ordered a second lot a little later……the two batches, from the same source, came back completely differently…….needless to say I don’t use them anymore. In fact I do all my own printing now……that way I keep control of the output and I keep working and experimenting until I get something that I’m happy with. Remember your screen is backlit, so images on there will look brighter than in print. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get a 100% match. Good luck.

    1. Mark i have had many comments about this, from ‘your not doing it right’ to ‘calibrate your monitor’ no one has told me my work looks ok to them, so thanks on that score. I have used photobox and not had any problems colour wise on prints but i went to a supermarket to get some 6×4’s printed to see if they were ok, maybe i should have printed at home as they were awful. Suppose thats what you get going to a supermarket! Last year i bought an epson printer especially for photographs but have found it so expensive that its cheaper to go somewhere to print.

      1. One problem is that cameras, monitors and printers all use different languages. It’s a wonder they come out close at all, when you think about it. When I have prints made, I stand right there and inspect them when they come out of the printer. Usually, some adjustments are needed. The worst are the newspapers. The things they have done to my beautiful photos are damn painful. 😦

  4. I have been doing this for more than 30 years and the one thing I have learned is you must have complete confidence in your print lab. Building a successful photography career requires a successful relationship with your lab. You must have complete faith in them. If you want your monitor to match theirs ask if they have a calibration set for their lab monitors. When you send in images for print are you specific with instructions? Do you allow the lab to make the changes for you? Do you use a histogram to determine exposure? These are all questions which need to be answered. On my monitor your image is beautiful but I could see some lab tech thinking it is underexposed and darkening it up. Digital is much more unstable when printing for exposure than film was.

    1. Wayne, thanks for your comments. Finding that all important wonderful printer is so hard! I have tried online, local, not quite local and get mixed results. Last time i sat next to the technician and watched it print, even used their photoshop to make adjustments and the pictures were ok. Your right about digital v film. I learnt b+w developing at art college and you just cant beat it! Yes i use the histogram for exposure, sometimes i think i just get over enthusiastic with ps and should just leave it alone but i really like all of the programs you can use to manipulate your images and the effects you can create.

  5. Karen, I always thought I can’t afford a spyder and I somehow coped with the few prints I needed to make. But what came out of the printer was always very different to the screen and I wasted an awful lot of paper and ink trying to get it right. a few months ago I invested in a spyder and I cannot stress enough the difference this has made. What comes out of the printer is more or less the same as on the screen. There are still differences depending on the paper but I have picked a couple of images (2 colour, 2 b/w) and have done test prints on sample packs of paper to pick one that suits my images and my taste best. I have just this week received 4 frames of my images from a printer/framer for an exhibition next week. The colours were absolutely accurate. He is of course not a supermarket but although slightly more expensive, it saves a lot of heartache.

    1. Astrid, i got some prints from the supermarket to see if they would print sharp and if the colours were ok, in future i will just go to the printers and ask them to do it. I dont print at home as it is very expensive, ink wise. Good luck with your exhibition.

  6. I had a similar problem with my Canon I 9900, Everything was fine until I had to replace two cartridges, cyan and photo cyan. The phone rang, and yes, the cartridges were placed in the wrong slots. It caused a headache for a little while , checking the ink slots I saw the reason for my problem, I re calibrated my monitor and things have been fine since.

  7. Hey Karen,

    Mark has made some great comments. The picture your posted here looks amazing. Perhaps try a good proper photo lab in your area that uses good quality paper. I think there are some good ones online as well that will ship the prints to you.

    Make sure you are taking/sending the photos in with the right color profile. If you are exporting pictures with Prophoto RGB and the lab needs sRGB that could create some issues.

    I think the others are right too and calibration will help a lot. I would also put on your “most wanted list” a proper IPS monitor to hook up to you laptop. These monitors are getting affordable. In the past I put off buying one until I found an ASUS one that was a cheap price. Definitely not the top of the line but what I could afford.

    I am just starting to understand how ambient light plays a role. If you computer room has a lot of color you could also be getting a color cast from them, strong sunlight does the same and of course the type of artificial light you use.


    1. Charlie, all good points! I have been thinking of having another monitor, something big. I have also thought about ambient light, i work in my dinning room which has good light and neutral colour but it catches the sun which i know is a problem. Im glad the picture was good on your monitor, its good to know, and i will in future go to a good printer and do it properly next time! 🙂

  8. Hi Karen, I’ve ended up here from your linked in post. I can’t add much more than has already been stated above but will say that your rose is the colours you say are wrong on my laptop. Its yellow with purplish pink tones.

    I had horrendous issues with my laptop colours, and have gone through all the instructional videos and tutorials about setting the screen up. I ended up setting everything back to defaults and going through the wizard in control panel. But using the graphics properties tool from the system tray (by the clock bottom right) I went through the wizard using hose controls instead and its worked FAR better than just the wizard alone. I did find I had to use one of the controls panels sliders (R G B) and had to pull the red slider back a tad as the greys were showing a red cast.

    But since I have done that, its pretty accurate. So I’d suggest defaulting all your graphics properties to standard, then using the wizard with the graphics card tool. Gamma at 2.2 was hugely miles out on my screen, I set it to 1.2 and the ‘dots’ in the display were ‘just’ visible. So the ‘rules’ aren’t set in stone and can even make things worse as most of those ‘rules’ were made for CRT monitors not LCD/LED monitors. I’d also suggest if you have a full HD TV use an HDMI cable and see what your photo’s look like on that.

    Hope you get things sorted!
    Kind Regards

    1. Chris, thanks for your comments. I have calibrated my monitor using the controls, the wizards, everything other than a spyder and the grey is grey, the gamma has very hard to see dots etc. It seems that this one image will plague me! I do however have a HD TV and a hdmi cable, such a great suggestion, thanks.

  9. I have to say, Karen, you should be lauded for at least being concerned with proper color in your photos. Many photographers, (mostly non-professionals I admit), don’t even bother these days. I was amused and amazed at a seminar I was taking on Hollywood lighting techniques. The instructor forgot to change his white balance on his camera before a shoot and ended up with a blue cast to his image. He was embarrassed, but many in the class expressed how “cool” it was and that they thought it was a special effect. If the instructor had been going for that look perhaps it would have been cool. But that shows the way a lot of photographers are thinking these days. It’s not a mistake! It’s a special effect! *chuckle*

    I couldn’t afford a Spyder or color Munki either for a long time. I solved my problem by finding a quality photo print house that I could visit with my files and we look at them on their screens before we make prints. I know it isn’t the best but its the way photographers used to have to do it as a matter of course, before digital. But At least your prints will be what you want them to be. Then sell a few at the exhibit and same the money to buy a color correction system for you monitor.

    1. 🙂 Yes Rick, hopefully thats the plan.
      There are so many ‘buttons’ on cameras these days that it is a wonder we remember which to turn off and which to select so its no wonder we forget things like white balance etc. Thank heavens there are numerous special effects to be made in photoshop!

  10. Hi Karen…one choice you may want to follow up is to look for a local camera club. Many buy a calibrator and certainly members will have one. You can also take a class in Photography and check to see if they will provide a calibration on your monitor. Once you solve this (I’ve a Spyder now 6+ years old) you will not have all these print issues as others have pointed out. I use MPIX for some of my services and similarly for PhotoShelter (my image website) and also Shutterfly. I’ve ALWAYS gotten correct color on the resultant prints (they perform tests on your images). When using print programs on your computer, you may find that prints are sometimes a little ‘flat’ compared to your image on your (corrected) monitor. In Lightroom (I highly recommend it) I apply a some Contrast and Brightness (~20%). Also, it is important to know that with Photoshop programs it sees the calibration profile that is your “default”. This means that if you have a bad profile (or none) you will be editing forever against a miss-calibrated view of your images. This particular topic seems relegated to footnotes (or never discussed) in many books. All the earlier advice is on target. Don’t wait on this really, really necessary correction.

    Another place to look is one of the local photo print shops. These guys will always have calibrators and can do an in-shop correction for you at a reasonable fee and you can verify your print quality at the same time by having them print some of the “corrected” images.

    1. Thanks Barry, you have given me some great advice, i will ask my local print shop if they can calibrate my monitor, they have let me use their computers before know so fingers crossed. The photoshop default is interesting and i am going to find out some more about that and check mine. Many thanks.

  11. Karen, one thing to keep in mind…virtually all uncalibrated displays are too bright, have too much contrast, and are too blue. This is especially true for laptop screens. Why? Because the manufacturers believe (right or wrong) that their displays look more vibrant that way to consumers and are therefore more appealing. The problem is, what you see on those uncalibrated screens is nowhere near what you’ll see in a print. When you do calibrate your display, you will think something is definitely wrong. It will look duller (lower contrast & less bright) and have more yellow (less blue) than you’re used to. But you’ll find the images you print from that calibrated monitor will be a near match to what you see on your display. I use a ColorMunki and it was arguably the best equipment investment I ever made. Do what you can to prioritize the purchase of a decent calibration device as soon as possible.

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