How to get a print of a digital pic that looks great on my monitor, but like a** on paper
January 27, 2007 9:18 PM   Subscribe

How to get a print of a digital pic that looks great on my monitor, but like a** on paper

I have a picture of a Montana sunset that I took with my Nikon-d50 digicam. I now have that pic on my desktop, and it looks great. When I print out the pic (at professional printers) changed to jpeg, tiff and bmp, they all look like crap. Should I be looking for a specific printer or what would you suggest to make the pic look like the quality on my monitor. Thanks in advance.

posted by weiler63 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What do you mean by "crap"? Does it look blurry or pixellated? If so, it could be because the image is of too low a resolution. This is often the cause of people's dissatisfaction with prints of their digital photos. If this is the case, their is little that a printer can do to improve it. If it is something else, like the colour or the contrast is off, that can be usually be adjusted.
posted by good in a vacuum at 9:40 PM on January 27, 2007

Which color space is the photo in? If it's in Adobe RGB, but is being processed as sRGB, it's going to be desaturated and not as contrasty.

You might want to quantify exactly how the printed photo looks like crap. Area the colors off, are all the shadows plugged, the highlights clipped, no contrast, saturation not waht you expected, what?
posted by notsnot at 9:40 PM on January 27, 2007

What resolution is the picture? Anything less than 300 dpi or so will look terrible on paper.
posted by gemmy at 9:42 PM on January 27, 2007

In what ways does it look horrible? Is it pixelated, with blocky detail? Or just a color/contrast thing? If pixelated, then it could be that you didn't shoot the picture at a high enough resolution to be "print ready" normally at least 240 dpi or higher. Depending on what size you're trying to print, you could need a much larger image.

Genuine Fractals ProPrint can up the resolution of images to look better when printed (but it can't do complete miracles, if the source files is too small). You could try it out (in Photoshop).

If it's color or contrast, you should be able to fix that in Photoshop or another image manipulation software.
posted by visual mechanic at 9:44 PM on January 27, 2007

Following on gemmy's question, what size were you having it printed at? If I'm reading right, the d50 is a six-megapixel camera, wich means that it would be best printed somewhere around 6" by 9" at 300 dpi, but preferably smaller. The format of the digital file won't matter much, (unless you've got jpeg compression cranked all the way up) so I'd wager that you need to adjust the size/dpi ratio. A 72 dpi image printed at 11" x 17" will look like crap, but you can take the same image and resample it so that it's smaller but has a higher dpi and it will look great.
posted by lekvar at 9:52 PM on January 27, 2007

for color or contrast problems:

test print
adjust in photoshop
test print
adjust in photoshop
repeat till desired result is achieved

Keep in mind the printed image will never look just like the image on the screen because the printed image doesn't emit light. Sometimes adjustments that make the image on screen look worse will get the printed image closer to your goal.
posted by subtle_squid at 10:04 PM on January 27, 2007

A before and after picture would help. Link to the original pic and then a scan of the print. People will probably be able to tell you what's wrong pretty quick.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 PM on January 27, 2007

I second subtle_squid. Also, try this:

Block all the light in the room. Adjust your monitor to all the default original settings (eg: on CRT, contrast 100% brightness 50%; on LCD, backlight however it originally came. And look these things up by your monitor make and model # on Google if you don't have your manual to reference this, or a "reset to default settings" option). Now, if you have, at all, a monitor calibration program - one that helps you set the gamma to a proper level - use it. The most common one that works well is Adobe Gamma, which you should Google. Use that to set a gamma point for each color on your monitor. And whatever result you get, save the profile and use it.

This should color calibrate your monitor in a very rough fashion, which is to say it's not perfect but it'll work and it'll save you $150 on a professional color calibrating tool. The thing is, many people adjust settings on their monitor in a completely wacky fashion, not knowing what it'll do to their colors (I worked like that for 3 years, with a horrendously set white balance). If you're confident in the colors that your monitor now puts out, try printing without using any of the printer auto color correction settings. See what results.
posted by brianvan at 10:57 PM on January 27, 2007

If it is the colours that are off, head over to dry creek photo. There is a bunch of information on calibrating your monitor, colour profiles etc so you can get the most from your digital prints.
posted by squeak at 11:32 PM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

weller, we need more info to help you... In fact, if you can post a link to your photo, that would probably help. But you need to tell us what's wrong with the print.
posted by knave at 1:14 AM on January 28, 2007

The printer that gets the most praise is probably the Fuji Frontier, which transfers the digital image to traditional photo paper and then develops it with traditional wet chemistry -- hence, providing a "real" photograph and not an inkjet print.

A lot of places in your neigborhood will have one (e.g. Walgreens and Costco), and you'll find that many of the online houses use them as well. You can search around on for recommendations and lab locations. You should also check out this comparison of online print services as well. (FWIW: I print thousands of images through ezprints and MPix annually.) Each Frontier can have its own sensitivities, so two printers side-by-side may not produce identical results; however, they should be fairly similar.

One thing to be aware of: during checkout, many places include a "feature" called "color correction" or something similar. Usually it's a little checkbox that you can disable/enable. I'm sure this service is designed to be helpful and that somebody on this planet uses it with desirable results, but I have never been satisfied with the results from a company's default photo correction service. Every time I've used it (i.e. when I've overlooked the option to deselect it), I've had to tear up the photo and throw it away.

I'd be happy to take a look at the image if you care to send it to me (address in my profile -- < 10MB should be fine). Fingers crossed that it's something easy to straighten out for you.
posted by Hankins at 7:20 AM on January 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Were you shooting raw+jpg or just jpg? If you have the raw file you should be able to print beatifully up to 8x10 or even beyond no problem. If only jpg, well that's what jpg's for, computer screens.
posted by scheptech at 6:39 PM on January 28, 2007

Notwithstanding all the good info above, sunsets never look good printed. It's all about transmitted light vs. reflected light. Ask your printer for a Duratrans or equivalent. You'll a lightbox for display though.
posted by Fins at 6:46 PM on January 28, 2007

You'll _need_ a lightbox.
posted by Fins at 6:47 PM on January 28, 2007

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