Kole Montross, a retouching artist in Icon’s fine-art department, looks over a restoration project for a client. Photo: Bonny Diadhiou; Gabe Palacio Photography
2. Calibrate and profile your display.
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again: A good-quality, calibrated, and profiled display is essential for making great prints, particularly if you plan to do any image editing at home. When you standardize your monitor’s color and contrast using a calibration device, such as X-Rite’s i1DisplayPro or Datacolor’s Spyder3Pro, you can have more confidence that the edits you make to your images will reproduce in prints the way you expect them to.
Labs that cater to more digitally adept photographers, such as AdoramaPix, will often allow you to download profiles for the printer/paper combinations they offer. If your at-home setup is color-managed, and you are comfortable using those profiles to soft-proof and preview your result in Adobe Photoshop, you can take on the job of color correcting your images yourself. You may even be able to take your setup for a hard-proof trial run: MpixPro’s service, for instance, will use your images to make five test prints for you to see how well the systems match.
3. If you can’t calibrate, let the lab do the color correcting.
Most labs catering to enthusiasts, advanced amateurs, and even pros will fix the color for you, so you don’t have to worry about it. This is a good option if you don’t have a calibration device, or if you are simply not so great at making color corrections. The benefit of letting the lab handle it is that its technicians are intimately familiar with the vagaries of its printers and papers.
Consider a service like Kodak Gallery’s Professional Prints option. When we asked Mark Cook, vice president of products for Kodak Gallery, about color management, he replied, “There’s a setting where you can turn it on or off. Color management is done by a human.” In other words, this is not the service for those who want to manage their color with soft-proofing and profiles. If you want your color or exposure corrected before your prints get made, a Kodak technician at the lab will make the call for you.