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Author Topic: Costco Prints WAY too dark in Shadows  (Read 33486 times)
dwdallam
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« on: January 26, 2007, 01:14:51 AM »
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I've been having this problem for some time now. I just compared some prints I had made a few weeks ago, which i thought were way to dark, next to my monitor. WAY too dark compared to the monitor version in the shadows.

I have a Phillips Brilliance 23" LCD panel: 230WP7NS  has a 23 inch 12 ms S-IPS (LG.Philips) panel.

It's calibrated using the Spyder Suite software.

And we're not talking a little dark in the shadows on the prints compared to the monitor, but ALOT dark in the prints.

I assume the best way to overcome this is to tell the software that I'm seeing more shadow detail than I really am? Is so, what calibration step would I do that? I again assume it has something to do when visiallly setting the black and white point? In that step, the Spyder II ask you to adjust the brightness of the monitor until you can see all 8 number of blocks from a black to a lighter color of black. If my assumptions are correct, I should then lower the brightness (or whatever the setting is for that adjustment/calibration when calibrating)? That way the calibration software will think I can actually see more shadow detail than I can.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2007, 02:04:32 AM by dwdallam » Logged

Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2007, 08:22:20 AM »
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What you need to do is find a different print vendor that exhibits basic competence when printing digital files. If you've calibrated and profiled your monitor properly, any decent minilab should get pretty close to what you see on-screen. If not, take your business elsewhere.

NEVER jack up your profiling to attempt to accommodate a print vendor's incompetence. You're chasing a moving target if they aren't calibrating properly, and adjusting to match them will be like trying to nail jelly to a tree.
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pcrov
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2007, 01:23:23 PM »
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How does it look when you soft-proof using the printer's profiles?
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2007, 01:46:30 PM »
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Actually, I have used them on the odd occasion and found their profiles surprizingly acurate. As others have said softproofing is the key.
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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
Architecture and Landscape Photography
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bjanes
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2007, 03:10:11 PM »
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I've been having this problem for some time now. I just compared some prints I had made a few weeks ago, which i thought were way to dark, next to my monitor. WAY too dark compared to the monitor version in the shadows.

I have a Phillips Brilliance 23" LCD panel: 230WP7NS  has a 23 inch 12 ms S-IPS (LG.Philips) panel.

It's calibrated using the Spyder Suite software.

And we're not talking a little dark in the shadows on the prints compared to the monitor, but ALOT dark in the prints.

I assume the best way to overcome this is to tell the software that I'm seeing more shadow detail than I really am? Is so, what calibration step would I do that? I again assume it has something to do when visiallly setting the black and white point? In that step, the Spyder II ask you to adjust the brightness of the monitor until you can see all 8 number of blocks from a black to a lighter color of black. If my assumptions are correct, I should then lower the brightness (or whatever the setting is for that adjustment/calibration when calibrating)? That way the calibration software will think I can actually see more shadow detail than I can.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97613\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

You don't state if you are using soft proofing with the custom profiles available for most Costco print sites. I've had very good results from my local Costco in Glenview, IL. Prints can not match the dynamic range of a good monitor, and their color gamut may be smaller. When turning on soft proofing in Photoshop, Bruce Fraser recommends looking away from the monitor so you will not be shocked. If the highlights and mid tones are good, the shadows will probably be dark.

Bill
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dwdallam
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« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2007, 09:10:02 PM »
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What you need to do is find a different print vendor that exhibits basic competence when printing digital files. If you've calibrated and profiled your monitor properly, any decent minilab should get pretty close to what you see on-screen. If not, take your business elsewhere.

NEVER jack up your profiling to attempt to accommodate a print vendor's incompetence. You're chasing a moving target if they aren't calibrating properly, and adjusting to match them will be like trying to nail jelly to a tree.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97648\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


This is my thinking too. Thank you! The problem now is finding a place to do the printing. However, Costco does a great job when there aren't a great deal of shadows, such as portraits, urban landscape, you get the picture--even other landscapes other than sunsets where you have that large shadow area--such as when you need the sahdows to be dark, but teh refelctions in teh shadows to be bright, which incidentally look perfect monitor side.

What I was concerned with was that my monitor is much more bright than most being the type of panel it is. Even on other CRTs, I see more shadow detail on my monitor. So I was thinking maybe cheating a little on the "black point" calibration step still may work. But really, the shadows would require me to cheat too much, and then like you say, I'm trying to hit a running target. And what about if I want to print on other printers? You know at that point it never ends.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2007, 09:32:30 PM by dwdallam » Logged

dwdallam
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2007, 09:20:57 PM »
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How does it look when you soft-proof using the printer's profiles?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97679\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Excellent. I always softprroof and then "convert" and look at it after the conversion. The shadows, and things like refelctions off teh pools of water inside the shadow area look brilliant. But not when I get the print back. Costco actually prints everyhting darker than teh profiles show--at least in high contrast prints. Portraits and well lit images are wonderfully printed on the Costco Noritsu machines. I still think tehya re a little darker even in the well lit area, which I've been told is just a matter of going from monitor to paper, which isn;t as brillaint. I understand that, but this darker than dark shadow area is getting to me.

I have compensated in the past some by setting "shadows" to 0 in Adobe Raw, and then using contrast to kick up the blacks in the shadow area. It does work to a degree. I read that somewhere. You should leave shadows to 0 if detail within shadows is important.

Still, using the profiles should accomodate for that, at least largely.

It would be interesting to see if one of you have a Costco near you. I could profile the image for that particular costco, and you could have it printed and see what you actually think. I'd be willing to pay for it too. If it actually was a great print showing the shadows like they should be shown, I'd pay for your time to send it to me so I can take it to the warehouse manager too. At that point it would be a printer specific problem that they would have to deal with.  

I'd love to have a local printer to print the images, but where I live, they are all too small to actually own a high end 180, 000US printer that uses emulsions. I have a sneaking suspiciont that the Costco where I go is so busy they don't change their emulsions every day like they are suppsoe to. That can make shaodws very dark.

Believe me, those people in that printing department hate me.  I've stopped talking to them all together after having to get the warehouse manager involved for a very rude employee telling me, "Don't tell me what my job is" after I asked a simple question about dust lines in a print that the photo manager told me was a bad print the day before. That in my mind is complete insolence and incompetence. Anyway, Ia hve nothing to do with those employee anymore.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2007, 09:27:58 PM »
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Actually, I have used them on the odd occasion and found their profiles surprizingly acurate. As others have said softproofing is the key.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97683\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Let me get this right. When yuo say "soft proofing" you mean using Adobe's "Proof Setup" option? Of course.

I just hope I can come to some resolution, even finding a differnt printer. I'm just really over this stress of prints. I need to move forward and over this hump.

Again, if anyone wants to test print a file, I can proof it and then upload the jpg to your local Costco. That way I can see if it's my Costco specific or not. The closest Costco to me other than the local is about a three hour drive and at this time of year, most likely through the snow over the summit.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2007, 09:30:54 PM »
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You don't state if you are using soft proofing with the custom profiles available for most Costco print sites. I've had very good results from my local Costco in Glenview, IL. Prints can not match the dynamic range of a good monitor, and their color gamut may be smaller. When turning on soft proofing in Photoshop, Bruce Fraser recommends looking away from the monitor so you will not be shocked. If the highlights and mid tones are good, the shadows will probably be dark.

Bill
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97694\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


So how do you get around the highlights and midtones looking good and the shadows printing darkly? I've read that Fraser article too now that you mention it. Yes, as stated below, I soft proof all the way to hell. lol. I mean if that is true, tehn it would seem you need to incrase (guess) how much to brighten the image, either in RAW or using levels. The problem is that it's a crap shoot.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2007, 09:51:06 PM »
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OK I found a print I did about a month ago and it came out way too dark in the shadows, and even overall. But the mids and highs are acceptable. On my monitor the shadows are nicely lit and you can see the detail of the water spray and the foam Ont eh water, and everything else. The print you cannot see those things at all. If you view it in direct sunlight, it is better, but the shadows are still way too muddy compared to the online print.

Both the print and the Costco profile are there. If anyone want to see how it looks on their machine using the Costco profile that the image is converted to, that would be very helpful. Maybe it is something on my end? At least we can determine how how the shadows look on your screen using the same profile.

http://dwdallam.com/shared/
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2007, 02:36:13 AM »
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After looking at the profile and the image, I'm changing my diagnosis to a monitor calibration problem. Your blocked shadows are truly blocked; you have huge areas where the RGB values fluctuate between 2 and 3 in all channels (the large rocks on the left and right in particular). If you think you're seeing significant detail there, you're mistaken; it's noise and/or pixellated JPEG artifacts. Look at the histogram in Photoshop, and you'll see that 14.25% of your entire image is < RGB value 10, as well as a huge spike between levels 2 and 5. You should not expect to see shadow detail under such circumstances, and if your calibrated and profiled monitor is saying otherwise, your measuring tool is severely defective or miscalibrated. You should look into getting it repaired or replaced; hopefully it is still under warranty.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2007, 03:37:19 AM »
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After looking at the profile and the image, I'm changing my diagnosis to a monitor calibration problem. Your blocked shadows are truly blocked; you have huge areas where the RGB values fluctuate between 2 and 3 in all channels (the large rocks on the left and right in particular). If you think you're seeing significant detail there, you're mistaken; it's noise and/or pixellated JPEG artifacts. Look at the histogram in Photoshop, and you'll see that 14.25% of your entire image is < RGB value 10, as well as a huge spike between levels 2 and 5. You should not expect to see shadow detail under such circumstances, and if your calibrated and profiled monitor is saying otherwise, your measuring tool is severely defective or miscalibrated. You should look into getting it repaired or replaced; hopefully it is still under warranty.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97745\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Jonathan,

The rocks and the true shadows are black, even on my screen or silloetted, but the forground is so dark in the prints so as to make it unseeable pretty much. In other words, on my screen I can see the waves breaking over the rocks and the spray off of them, and I can see the water in the forground perfectly all the way up on the beach, from the rocks back to the camera position. I can see the reflection off of the water and the refelction off of the beach too where the water is pulling back into the ocean. In the prints, you don' t see that. It's very dark. Put yet another way, the spray coming off of the rocks looks so dark as to look like part of the rock. How do those areas look on your screen?

Another way to look at this is if I want the forground to be bright enough to resemble my monitor in the prints, I'd have to use levels and really slide the middle level icon to the left  to bring out the forground, and on my screen, it washes out the color in the clouds and sky.

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I feel like there may be hope in getting good prints from Costco after all--maybe.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2007, 07:36:25 AM »
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I've calibrated my monitor with a Gretag-Macbeth Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer, which has given me excellent matching between all of my monitors (2 LCD, 1 CRT, and a laptop), 4 printers, and several outside print vendors. So I'm pretty confident that it's working properly. Looking at your image, I see plenty of detail in the flatter areas of the water, and there is some detail in the front of the waves, although it is kind of dark and noisy and motion blurred. If that matches what you're seeing, then your monitor calibration isn't too far off, and your local Costco is the problem.
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X-Re
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2007, 08:23:52 AM »
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I'm by no means an expert in this arena, but I haven't seen this touched on, yet, and its been useful for me in printing to various vendors, etc...

When soft proofing w/ black point compensation turned on, it can be tricky to judge what's going on in the shadows - its taken me a while to get used to seeing those things, and judging against what's going to come out in the print. I've generally found (on three different RA-4 based printers in different shops) that the printer has less dynamic range than my picture, and that the shadows block up a lot more in the print than they appear to on the monitor.

In order to "pack" the print into the dynamic range of the printer and retain shadow detail, I have to reset what I tell the printer is "black" - I do this via the Levels command in Photoshop, and I adjust the OUTPUT shadow slider (that's the bar at the very bottom - not the one directly under the histogram) upwards some until the softproof again shows the details that its missing. Many times, this works out to moving the slider 10-15 units.

The prints come back with black blacks, and look like the monitor - but its a bit unnerving to see it like that on the screen...

Just my experience... I'm sure someone will tell me I'm an idiot, now, but... oh well..
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bjanes
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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2007, 08:36:07 AM »
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OK I found a print I did about a month ago and it came out way too dark in the shadows, and even overall. But the mids and highs are acceptable. On my monitor the shadows are nicely lit and you can see the detail of the water spray and the foam Ont eh water, and everything else. The print you cannot see those things at all. If you view it in direct sunlight, it is better, but the shadows are still way too muddy compared to the online print.

Both the print and the Costco profile are there. If anyone want to see how it looks on their machine using the Costco profile that the image is converted to, that would be very helpful. Maybe it is something on my end? At least we can determine how how the shadows look on your screen using the same profile.

http://dwdallam.com/shared/
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97728\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

The dynamic range of the best glossy prints is no better than 100:1, whereas a monitor can display 1000:1. Compression of the dynamic range is needed in order to print the image and usually an S-curve is applied and the deep shadows are clipped.

Here is an image of a Stouffer step wedge which has decrements of 0.1 OD (1/3 f-stop). The image was rendered with Adobe ACR with the shadow set to zero. Look at the image on your monitor and then print it. I can guarantee you that the monitor will show deeper shadows.

[attachment=1662:attachment]

Bill
« Last Edit: January 27, 2007, 08:43:27 AM by bjanes » Logged
Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2007, 08:42:28 AM »
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That's a kludge to compensate for the shortcomings of the print vendor's profile/calibration. If you use relative colorimetric rendering intent with black point compensation, and the profiles are accurate and the printer is reasonably well-linearized, the only possible problem you should have is visually unpleasant handling of out-of-gamut colors. Under no circumstances should you have extensive shadow blocking in areas that show detail on-screen.
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bjanes
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« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2007, 09:08:00 AM »
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That's a kludge to compensate for the shortcomings of the print vendor's profile/calibration. If you use relative colorimetric rendering intent with black point compensation, and the profiles are accurate and the printer is reasonably well-linearized, the only possible problem you should have is visually unpleasant handling of out-of-gamut colors. Under no circumstances should you have extensive shadow blocking in areas that show detail on-screen.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97769\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Jonathan,

I do not know to which post you are replying, but in the event that you are replying to my post, you are wrong. Black point compensation merely ensures that the black in the image is mapped to black in the destination, so that the entire dynamic range of the input is mapped to the entire dynamic range of the output. No profile can increase the dynamic range of a device. Rendering intent is essentially irrelevant in the deep shadows, where the eye does not perceive color.

It is simply impossible to show gradations in the deep shadows on a reflection print that are capable of being shown on a monitor or transparency. Why do you think that we use Stouffer wedges rather than Kodak Q14 targets? If you don't believe me, perform the test and report back with your results.

Bill
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a_krause
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« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2007, 10:01:56 AM »
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i hae a softproofing question. which stage in the process are you using it?

is it the last step or can you put it on right away and so all edits will affect the soft proof?
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2007, 10:04:17 AM »
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First, I was replying to X-Re, and second, you are wrong, at least under the conditions I specified. When you use relative colorimetric rendering intent and black point compensation, the white point of the source color space is mapped to the white point of the destination device space, and the black point of the source space is mapped to the black point of the destination device space. Intermediate tones are mapped proportionally between the destination white and black points, so that a 20-step gray pattern will appear to have an even luminance interval between steps on the monitor and the output device. The distance between the white and black points will vary somewhat depending on the printer and paper type. Matte papers have less DR than glossy, so while a 20-step gray pattern printed on matte will have a smaller tonal interval between steps than one printed on glossy paper, both prints will exhibit even step-to-step tonal gradations from white to black if the printer is properly profiled. I've verified this behavior with an Epson 7600, Epson R1800, Canon S9000, a couple of color laser printers, as well as a few other third party vendors I had make prints for me at one time or another.

Granted, prints have less DR than a monitor display. But that certainly does not mean that one must set the black point of an image to RGB 15,15,15 to avoid shadow blocking. All it means is that prints may appear less contrasty than a monitor display. If you have to raise the black point to RGB 15,15,15 to avoid shadow blocking when using RelCol+BP compensation, either your printer profile is bad, or you're trying to print some really dark, saturated out-of-gamut colors. Period.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2007, 10:06:36 AM by Jonathan Wienke » Logged

bjanes
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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2007, 02:36:27 PM »
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First, I was replying to X-Re, and second, you are wrong, at least under the conditions I specified. When you use relative calorimetric rendering intent and black point compensation, the white point of the source color space is mapped to the white point of the destination device space, and the black point of the source space is mapped to the black point of the destination device space. Intermediate tones are mapped proportionally between the destination white and black points, so that a 20-step gray pattern will appear to have an even luminance interval between steps on the monitor and the output device. The distance between the white and black points will vary somewhat depending on the printer and paper type. Matte papers have less DR than glossy, so while a 20-step gray pattern printed on matte will have a smaller tonal interval between steps than one printed on glossy paper, both prints will exhibit even step-to-step tonal gradations from white to black if the printer is properly profiled. I've verified this behavior with an Epson 7600, Epson R1800, Canon S9000, a couple of color laser printers, as well as a few other third party vendors I had make prints for me at one time or another.

Granted, prints have less DR than a monitor display. But that certainly does not mean that one must set the black point of an image to RGB 15,15,15 to avoid shadow blocking. All it means is that prints may appear less contrasty than a monitor display. If you have to raise the black point to RGB 15,15,15 to avoid shadow blocking when using RelCol+BP compensation, either your printer profile is bad, or you're trying to print some really dark, saturated out-of-gamut colors. Period.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97780\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

No one uses absolute colorimetric for rendering of photographs and anyone who uses a canned non-intelligent profile and CMS to make artistic decisions is naive. If the gamut of the input device is greater than that of the output device remapping must be done and current CMS's do not take the image content into account, at least to the extent required for a good print in difficult situations. With a high contrast image, your mapping algorithm described above would give a flat low contrast image with poor midtones. In these cases one can use the highlight-shadow control of Photoshop or use HDR and possibly some judgment. No photographic artist would use a profile from Costco for such purposes.

Getting to the problem at hand, it will be interesting how to get the best print from the OPs image. Hopefully, you will report back.

Bill
« Last Edit: February 08, 2007, 03:24:25 PM by bjanes » Logged
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