I’m a fan of printing photos at Costco. A couple of years ago, I did a test of all the local 1-hour printers around here, Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Costco, and determined that Costco’s color reproduction was the best. And the fact that it is cheaper than the rest is another plus.
But just because Costco’s color repro is better than the rest doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without some challenges.
I don’t own a colorimeter. I have an Eye-One Display in my Amazon wish list, but have dragged my feet about ordering it because I’ve read conflicting blog posts/opinions about the effectiveness of using one on a laptop. So at present, I don’t have a color management workflow.
When you upload photos to the Costco Photo Center, there’s a checkbox in the ordering process that is easy to miss (I know, I’ve overlooked it a number of times and to my knowledge, you can’t go back and change it once you’ve pressed the order button and that’s usually when I realize I should have unchecked it). By default, Costco determines that you want them to do color correction. If you don’t, you have to press an “edit” button where you’re presented with the opportunity to specify if you want your filename and/or custom text to print on the back of the photo (yes!) and uncheck that color correction button if that’s what you want to do. I wish they’d make that more prominent and put it a screen or two closer to the beginning of the order process rather than right before you say “order.”
And if you want to test a photo both ways, you have to put it in separate orders. This isn’t the most user-friendly system and maybe they’re trying to save customers from themselves, knowing most of them are not professional photographers and don’t know what they’re doing?
I have wanted to have a canvas gallery wrap printed ever since Costco started offering them. They are really cheap compared to my local camera shop and once in a while Costco even gives a $10 coupon. That’s very attractive for a test print. I just can’t plunk down $100 for a 16×20 at the camera shop not knowing how it is likely to turn out. Maybe when I’m more experienced at this but for now $35 (after coupon) is a much better risk. (Although it could be argued that the camera shop would work with me to get the color right, etc.)
I’ve searched high and low on the internet for instructions on what kind of settings I need to use to prepare my photo before uploading. I know that you can download printer profiles from Costco’s website, but I don’t know what to do with them once I’ve gotten them.
I finally found a blog post by Terry White that speaks highly of Costco’s gallery wraps and in the comments he tells what settings he uses in Lightroom. Using the Print module in LR3 is something I haven’t explored yet; I usually export my photos to a folder and upload to Costco from there. Using Terry’s method in the Print module is much better. But will it work?
Last week, I used my coupon and uploaded a photo for a 16×20 gallery wrap. I used my method of export to folder and upload (because I hadn’t seen Terry’s method then). During the ordering process, I didn’t notice the color correction button, so I can’t say if I just overlooked it like usual or if it isn’t offered for the wraps. The canvas was ready in just a few days and I was so excited to pick it up to see how it turned out.
Here’s a photo of it, still in its plastic outer wrap. Why? The color isn’t right and I’m going to return it. Another nice feature of buying from Costco.
Here’s the original photo:
It was taken at sunset and I was expecting the sky to be brown with a slight pinkish cast, not orange. I was planning on hanging it on a wall that is painted brown and these look horrible together.
So today I used Terry White’s method (print to Jpeg, 150PPI, Print sharpening: standard, media type: matte, Jpeg quality: 100, Profile: Adobe RGB, Rendering Intent: Perceptual) and ordered two test 8×10’s on photo paper, hoping I can use this as a cheap color test in future. One image is color corrected, the other not so that I can see the difference side-by-side.
The one above is color corrected, noticeably lighter and has more of that orange cast than the one that is not. Neither one matches what I see onscreen but I don’t think it’s realistic to look for an exact match. I’m looking for close enough.
Holding both of these prints up on the brown wall shows me that either one is acceptable (I could live with the color corrected one) but the darker one looks better. So now I’m still left with the question: would I get the same results on a canvas? Costco does not print the canvases, they farm them out to a company called YPOC, so I think I’d have to do another test canvas to find out for sure. Maybe YPOC offers printer profiles. Again, I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I found them.
If you’ve successfully used Costco for gallery wraps, please let me know what the secrets are. Or teach me how to use printer profiles in LR3. Another question I have is how to tell if an image is a good candidate for a wrap. This image looks sharp on screen (to my eye, anyway) and the 8x10s look good, but the 16×20 wrap is soft (but not unacceptable). How do I tell? If I were printing these for clients I wouldn’t want to give them a crappy product.
#costcophotocenter #gallerywrap #lightroom3
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