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Author Topic: LR4 printing color output problems: RAW vs. JPEG (or 14-bit vs. 8-bit?)  (Read 2546 times)
dwnelson
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« on: March 17, 2012, 07:24:14 AM »
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I posted this in the Color Management forum but got no replies, so I'm reposting here.

I am using LR4 (the final version) and my printed images from my 12-bit and 14-bit NEF raw files look good, but when I print with an 8-bit JPEG or an 8-bit PSD file with the same profile and settings, they look terrible - overall they are darker and slightly more magenta. I tested checking and unchecking 16-bit mode in the LR4 Print module and in the Epson 3880 printer settings, but that didn't affect anything. Any clue what's going wrong?

Another weird thing: when I print a contact sheet of mostly NEFs but that also includes one or two 8-bit images, all of the images in the contact sheet (even the NEFs) look dark. Other times all of the images in the contact sheet look good, including the 8-bit images. I haven't been able to figure out why yet...

I'd appreciate any input. Ask me anything.
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Scott O.
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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2012, 11:37:44 AM »
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Couple of questions...are you using a color calibrated workflow?  i.e. is your monitor calibrated and your printer profiled? If not, the likelihood of you getting good colors is very low. You need to start with knowing the colors you see on your monitor will match (at least pretty closely) the colors which come out of the printer. To answer your question, yes 8 bit color can look significantly different than 16 bit color because 16 bit files just plain have a tremendously greater amount of information than 8 bit. Others will chime in, but it would help if you could tell us your platform (Mac or PC), your monitor, and more importantly your printer. And by the way, I always use uncompressed RAW in camera and 16 bit when printing...more information will yield a better outcome, and even if that is more information that the printer can process, in a few years when processes have improved my files will not be lacking!
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dwnelson
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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2012, 02:03:43 PM »
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Sorry I should have provided more detail. I didn't want to overwhelm with unnecessary detail but now that you asked, here goes. Smiley

I am using a color calibrated workflow. I followed the suggestions in C2P&S and used a ColorMunki Photo to calibrate my monitor and printer. I am using a 27" mid-2011 iMac 2011 with OS X 10.7.3 and my printer is the Epson 3880 with a custom profile generated by the CM Photo. I am printing with LR4. I even used the soft printing functions and my 8-bit prints look nothing like the screen, while my 14-bit NEFs look great.

My main question is, why am I getting the variable printing outcomes when the settings, profiles and paper are the same and the soft printing options don't reveal these darker, slightly more magenta images? The only common denominator is that the poor prints are of 8-bit images, or the poor contact sheet prints (with mixed 8-bit and 12 or 14 bit NEFs) have some 8-bit images in them. (Also, remember that the contact sheet prints aren't always darker, and I haven't been able to predictably reproduce the variable prints).

Also, the 8-bit images are old scans of slides. When I scanned them 10 years ago, I didn't even know about 16 bit. Smiley All of my workflow is in RAW files and when I export to TIFF its in 16-bit.
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digitaldog
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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2012, 03:12:41 PM »
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As of yet, I’ve never heard of differences you describe solely based on bit depth. In fact, few printer drivers can even deal with more than 8-bits per color and the few that do, I can’t say I’ve seen anything different without a very powerful loupe. Has to be something else going on. What I’d do is render the images from the NEF to both an 8-bit per color and high bit TIFF and try printing in LR and see if there is a difference and if possible, Photoshop if you have it.
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Andrew Rodney
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dwnelson
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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2012, 08:34:13 AM »
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That's what I suspected as well. I ran various controlled tests to see if I could reproduce the printing failures, but I haven't nailed the cause yet. I'll post again when I know more.
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« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2012, 04:22:28 PM »
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What colour spaces are the various images in?  In particular, differences between those now in 8-bit and those that are higher?

You're using a colour managed workflow, but what is that workflow?  What settings are you using in LR and the printer driver, and which printer driver and OS version are you using?
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dwnelson
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« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2012, 06:39:26 PM »
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What colour spaces are the various images in?  In particular, differences between those now in 8-bit and those that are higher?

One 8-bit PSD doesn't have an assigned color space. This is one of the images that prints dark. I suppose I could convert this PSD to ProPhoto RGB and try printing, but I haven't done that yet. I'm running out of paper, but that's on my list.

Another JPEG, that was taken straight from a D3s, prints dark. (I know I should have taken it in NEF format, but I flubbed the settings and this is what I'm left with. Fortunately the exposure and color balance are excellent, and the out-of-camera jpeg doesn't need any post processing). Anyway, this print is dark. It's in the color space "sRGB IEC61966-2.1." I'm not sure if that's assigned to the D3s or my iMac, but that's how it's labeled. It sounds like an sRGB profile specific to a device, but I don't really know what all of the stuff following sRGB means.

As far as the raw Nikon D7000 14-bit NEF files (or raw 12-bit Nikon D100 NEF files), I don't know if they even have color spaces. Does anyone know? I have never heard that they do, although I could be wrong. As far as I know, Lightroom 4 has its own large color space, based on ProPhoto RGB (see the Camera to Print & Screen Video #19 for further discussion). I think the images are processed in LR4's own large color space, including the Print module.

You're using a colour managed workflow, but what is that workflow?  What settings are you using in LR and the printer driver, and which printer driver and OS version are you using?

As stated above, I am running Lion 10.7.3 and I import photos into Lightroom 4. See the four screenshots I've attached to verify the print settings. The profiles were made with these settings. All of these settings remain the same between the prints. Are there other settings I have left out that you need?

I re-watched the C2P&S tutorial again, and one difference I noted, is that in Lightroom I have the print settings set to "Managed by printer" and I do all of the print settings in the printer driver (the latest driver, v8.64). This includes selecting the printer profile, the paper, the ppi, the print speed etc. Again, the prints come out fine as long as they are not the color-space-less 8-bit PSD, or the 8-bit sRBG JPEG above. I also followed the method in C2P&S, where I selected the printer profile from directly in LR, and there was no difference.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 06:49:48 PM by dwnelson » Logged
digitaldog
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2012, 07:43:43 PM »
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One 8-bit PSD doesn't have an assigned color space. This is one of the images that prints dark. I suppose I could convert this PSD to ProPhoto RGB and try printing, but I haven't done that yet.

You have to ASSIGN a profile, the correct profile (whatever that might be). And with untagged data, I’m not surprised you got a fugly print.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2012, 07:47:34 PM »
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As Andrew just said, that's the key here.  For a colour managed workflow to work, you need to ensure that the images have colour spaces assigned to them (that are correct).  You should also, preferably, be setting LR to Application Manages Colour rather than printer, then choose the correct ICC profile for your printer and media and disable colour management in your driver (depending on which driver you have, this will actually happen automatically and prevent you from over riding it).

The problem you have at the moment is that the driver is managing colour and its expecting either sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998) as the colour space of the image, but it's not, so when it attempts to translate that to match the profile you're telling it to use, it's like using a German-English translator but feeding it with Norwegian instead of German (as a general analogy and not a comparison of Norwegian and German).
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dwnelson
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« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2012, 08:31:46 PM »
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I think we may be zeroing in on the problem. So how do I assign the 8-bit PSD and the 8-bit JPEG to the LR4 color space? My guess is to export via LR4 to a 16-bit TIFF in the ProPhoto RGB color space, and then re-import the TIFF.

Sound good?
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digitaldog
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2012, 08:42:26 PM »
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I think we may be zeroing in on the problem. So how do I assign the 8-bit PSD and the 8-bit JPEG to the LR4 color space? My guess is to export via LR4 to a 16-bit TIFF in the ProPhoto RGB color space, and then re-import the TIFF.

What is the color space of the data? LR assumes sRGB. It appears this isn’t the case however. You’d assign the profile using Photoshop ideally. But the big question is, where did this data come from originally and in what color space?
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Andrew Rodney
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dwnelson
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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2012, 10:28:02 PM »
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I seemed to have solved the problem. My mistake was allowing color management in the Print module of LR4 to be "Managed by printer." I should have selected the printer profile directly from Lightroom. Thanks to Phil for pointing that out.

Another interesting finding was that this was the only parameter that influenced the look of my images. As long as I allowed LR4 to select the printer profile, anything I printed looked good. This includes images files without an assigned color profile, or sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), or ProPhoto RGB. (Incidentally, before this exercise, I didn't realize that ALL of my Nikon NEFs have the Adobe RGB (1998) color profile. This included the D100, D300, D90, D7000, D700 and D3s.)

For anyone who wants to know, I printed four images in a test mode, and here are the inputs and the results:

Image #1: Lupine meadow
bit depth: 8-bit
file format: PSD (from scan of slide)
color profile: none
Printer driver controlling color via custom printer profile: dark, slightly more magenta result
LR4 controlling color via the same custom printer profile: looks good, matches the calibrated screen
*I converted this image to a 16-bit TIFF with a ProPhoto RGB color profile, and the results were the same

Image #2: Bristlecone pines
bit depth: 8-bit
file format: JPEG (from Nikon D3s shooting in JPEG mode)
color profile: sRGB IEC61966-2.1
Printer driver controlling color via custom printer profile: dark, slightly more magenta result
LR4 controlling color via the same custom printer profile: looks good, matches the calibrated screen
*I converted this image to a 16-bit TIFF with a ProPhoto RGB color profile, and the results were the same

Image #3: Mount Whitney
bit depth: 12-bit
file format: NEF (from Nikon D100)
color profile: Adobe RGB (1998)
Printer driver controlling color via custom printer profile: dark, slightly more magenta result
LR4 controlling color via the same custom printer profile: looks good, matches the calibrated screen
*I converted this image to a 16-bit TIFF with a ProPhoto RGB color profile, and the results were the same

Image #4: Nevada Fall
bit depth: 14-bit
file format: NEF (from Nikon D7000)
color profile: Adobe RGB (1998)
Printer driver controlling color via custom printer profile: dark, slightly more magenta result
LR4 controlling color via the same custom printer profile: looks good, matches the calibrated screen
*I converted this image to a 16-bit TIFF with a ProPhoto RGB color profile, and the results were the same
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 10:31:29 PM by dwnelson » Logged
dwnelson
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« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2012, 10:29:40 PM »
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FWIW, I still don't know why I got a few good prints before I discovered the solution, but I don't really care as long as it works. Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2012, 12:55:59 AM »
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Glad you've got it sorted out!

The reason your unassigned images are working is that they were probably either in sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998) which are within the assumptions made by the applications and driver so when you run the workflow correctly, it's not far enough out to make a noticeable difference.

Andrew is right, of course, that you really want to be sure that all your images have a colour space assigned.
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