Today I want to address a little about color balance. I’m not talking about corrections that we make to our photos to make them look more natural, or that we do to enhance the colors to make them look more pleasing to the eye such as warming an image up but I am talking about color balance as it effects the print that we hang on the wall.
Many times a customer will come in to get something printed and they’ll tell me that it looks just perfect on their monitor the way it is adjusted. Then they tell me to not adjust before printing as that is how they want it to look on the wall. What we need to remember is that when we are looking at a print on a computer monitor the image is lighter than what a final print will be that is hanging on a wall. No matter how much balancing we do to our monitors they will always look different. Why? Because a monitor is lighting the image from behind and when you put a print on the wall it is reflected light that is hitting the print that we see. This is not to say that monitor balancing is useless, it is actually REALLY important to do, but no matter how good the balance is there will be differences.
Add to the differences between that of a monitor and a print there is another HUGE difference and that is the intensity and color of light that is lighting the print on the wall. In a Dark room the print will obviously look darker, in a bright room the print will obviously look brighter. But depending upon the color of the light that is falling on the print whether it be incandescent, fluorescent or LED light the print will look different again.
If you are a photographer printing for a client or even giving the print to a friend there is usually no way of knowing what type of light will be striking the print when it is displayed. So what’s a person to do before they get their image printed? This is another area that falls in the kiss principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). Instead of making the print yellow to compensate for a blue light source or making it Bluer to compensate for a yellow light source, etc I always tell people to go right in the middle, make the print look nice in average lighting and don’t go overboard in any of your adjustments. So don’t add a bunch of blue, or a bunch of yellow, or a bunch of magenta to try to compensate for what you think is going to be the final lighting conditions. Likewise do not make it too dark or too light.
If you print an image the color that it should be then the slight changes in most rooms with the color of light used will not effect the print seriously in anyway. For the brightness or darkness of the final image I tell people to go a little lighter than what looks good on your screen, rooms tend to be on the darker side and a dark print can be hard to see.
If you have any questions about what to do with a image before printing feel free to ask, printing advice is always free.