An Introduction to Printing and the world of ICC profiles


Profiling your Screen

In an ideal world, the image you see on your computer screen will be identically colour matched to the one produced by your printer, or the printer used in a print shop – However, and rather sadly, this is rarely the case.   By way of an example, imagine your Television at home – you’d probably claim the colours to be perfect, but once placed in a room with everyone else’s, it’s highly likely you’d see a huge variation from one set to another.
Computer screens are much the same, thus we must seek a common system of standardization and whereby some form of ‘interpreter’ can enable printers and screens to talk to each other in the same language.  Such a system exists and is called a Colour Management or Colour Workflow system, this sets out to manage this interpretative process and introduces us to the term Profiling.

In the graphics and printing industry there is a standardization system based on what are referred to as ICC profiles.  This is a reference system whereby monitors and printers can be profiled using standardized profiles.  ICC stands for the International Colour Consortium who were a group of industry experts who convened in 1993  to agree upon an standardized system whereby once set – monitors and printers would show (or print) the correct colours as provided by graphics systems.

See the diagram below for an non-optimised workflow:


Setting the screen for optimal performance

A good starting point is your PC’s monitor – is it accurately set up?

PC monitors are as varied in their settings as television sets.  Some are bright, some are dark, some too red and so on and as a result, if you are to have any hope of achieving good results then some attempt must be made to set the screen correctly.
Given that the screen version of the image is used to make judgments with regard to image colour balance and brightness, it follows that if the screen is out of adjustment, then the printer will produce a very different image to the one viewed on screen.
In an ideal world, if the PC sends a perfect Red to a VDU, then its screen should show a perfect Red,

If you have an older version of Adobe Photoshop Elements or Adobe Photoshop CS installed on your PC, then you may already have a piece of software to help you do this.  It’s called Adobe Gamma and is found in your Control Panel.  To use it, open the Control Panel, double click on the Adobe Gamma icon and when it opens, you will be presented with the option screen below:

adobe_gammaOnce you see this menu, choose the option to use the Step by Step (Wizard) and it will guide you right through the process to a stage where you can compare your new settings with the old and then save those settings for future use.  This will give you a good starting point in your quest for print quality.


Later versions of Microsoft Windows have a screen optimization system built in whereby a profile can be produced.  This is found in Control Panel – Display – Calibrate Colour and laid out in a step by step process.

The Apple Mac has its own screen optimizer built in and found in System Preferences – Displays – Color – Calibrate.  Once Calibrate has been chosen, the screen below appears.


This is followed by:


If none of the above are available, then an alternative, is to buy a Pantone Huey Pro.  See:

In ascending price, there are also a number of other products available:

and all do a very good job.

Once you have used any of the above, the VDU should show true colours  and brightness –  this is a good starting point.


The advent of flat screen monitors has produced a problem for those wishing to run full profiling adjustment programs, most of which call for changes in the VDU’s Contrast controls.  Few flat screen monitors allow changes in Contrast, thus one part of the process may well be unavailable.  For those who wish to have the complete process carried out, then an older CRT (Television type monitor) may be called for and these can be picked up very cheaply on Ebay (around £25 – £30) although usually – ‘Buyer Collects’.  Watch out for Iiyma, HP Compaq, Compaq, Viewsonic, NEC or Dell


The next stage in this Colour Management process is to introduce a printer profile into the chain and in the world of professional image production, a fortune can be spent on both screen and printer optimization.  However, this effort is usually well worth its cost in terms of time, ink and paper saved.

The printer profile is the last link in the chain and acts as an interpreter between the Computer and the printer.  It acts in much the same manner as the screen profile, in that if a true Red is sent to the printer,then the printer will recognize it as such and thus print a true Red onto the paper.

Unfortunately, not all domestic printers will accommodate printer profiles, but as a yardstick – Canon, Epson and HP printers usually will and in fact many are shipped with a range of possible profiles.  All of which are loaded in at installation and ready for use in Adobe Photoshop, Apple Aperture or Photoshop Elements.

There are a number of on-line companies who (for a fee) will produce a printer profile for you.  Simply Google the search terms – Printer Profiling and take your pick.  The American Printing Ink company Marrutt ( offer a bespoke profiling service and advice too:

For free profiling, try Fotospeed Papers (

They will mail you a test chart to print off and once you’ve done this according to their instructions, – you send it back in the post, with details of computer setup, printer, ink used and paper type.  Your print will be analyzed and a profile produced for your computer / paper / printer / ink combination and mailed back to you.  The profile must then be installed via your editing program and all instructions are provided.

They offer advice on profiles:

And a range of tutorial videos on their Tech Support page

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Street photography in Paris

Since my last post on Street Photography some of  you who have attended our Going Digital Portrait workshops have expressed some interest in this area.

I spent a week in Paris in early September and have placed a gallery on my own  Northern Light Photography site to show some of the images I captured there.

Some have you have asked about the lenses used and the best camera for the job and the short answer has to be – whatever suits you.  However, there is some wisdom in using a fairly small camera that can be easily concealed to allow for discreet shooting.  There’s nothing more likely to scare off your quarry than the appearance of a huge SLR with a 500mm lens.

The Rolls Royce of street photography is the Leica M series rangefinder and unless you are lucky to get a second hand one at a good price (as I did) you may have to sell your home, or one of your children to buy one.  An excellent alternative is one of the Canon G series (Currently at G12)

They’re small, classed as a Bridge camera, but have all the same controls as an SLR and offer excellent image quality.  You can pick up a good secondhand one for around £300.00+ at Ffordes on line.

An alternative might be one of the range of smaller cameras offered by Sony or Fuji.  They have interchangeable lenses and superb image quality.

As for lenses, it is indeed tempting to shoot from afar using a long lens, but traditionalists would have it that a shorter (35mm / 50mm) lens is ideal for the job.  Plus it makes it much more of a challenge to get in close and the perspective of a shorter lens often makes for a better image.

With regard to the Paris trip, I began (as I so often do) looking out for real street /homeless people and very quickly found that the streets are simply overflowing with the homeless.  Whatever their reasons for being there, it takes a hard heart not to be moved by their plight and whilst I have taken several shots – I gradually tailed off and moved to other subjects.

There is nothing illegal (or immoral) about Street Photography and Google is afloat with info. and articles on the subject.  have a look, get familiar with the techniques and do some research.

It does take some nerve to get in close, but there’s a real buzz in capturing what Cartier Bresson called the Decisive Moment.  He also said – “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

Happy Hunting!!

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Lenses, sensors and dust spots

For most digital users, dust on the camera sensor is one of the easiest things to acquire and probably, the most annoying to live with.   There are variety of solutions but perhaps the best starting point on this topic is . . . . . prevention.

From the moment you remove a lens from a camera body, every grain of dust in your region will be rushing toward your sensor, at least that’s how it seems.  A few simple precautions will minimise the dust problem and thwart the dust’s ambitions.

Removing lenses:

  • Try to swap lenses as infrequently as possible
  • Try to remove lenses with a smooth action, any grinding of the lens mount against the camera body will create small metal shavings – these will head straight for the sensor
  • At the risk of stating the obvious, change lenses out of the wind and away from dusty areas
  • Switch the camera off for at least 10 seconds before removing the lens.  This will turn off the sensor and allow some of its static charge to dissipate.  Remember . . . static and dust get on well together
  • Point the camera at the ground when removing the lens, you’ll then have gravity on your side with regard to falling dust
  • Before fitting the new lens, blow gently across (not into) its rear elements to dislodge any existing dust
  • Adjust zoom lenses gently.  Any rapid pushing and pulling of the zoom mechanism turns the lens into a giant piston and in its travel from wide angle to telephoto, it can suck dust into the lens cavity
  • Fit the new lens and store the original lens in your camera bag, with body and lens caps fitted and then . . . . switch on.

If you have dust spots on the sensor, they will usually show up more starkly at small apertures (e.g. f16, f22 etc.) usually along the top edge of the image and in the sky areas.  Their removal is a three step process and with luck, you may see them off at step 1.

Step 1 – The Rocket Blower

Before you begin, consult your camera manual to find out how you can lock up the mirror for sensor cleaning.  In this mode, the camera’s mirror will flip up, the shutter will open and once the lens has been removed you will see the sensor which at this stage, will be turned off.   Ensure that you have a fresh, fully charged before using the mirror lock function. If the battery power is too low, then the mirror can lock itself in the up position and the camera will need to be returned to a dealer to reset the mirror.

You will now need a acquire blower which will a) give a good blast of air and b) have a filter in its base to prevent dust being sucked in between puffs.  I would recommend the Giottos – Rocket blower (cost around £10.00), it meets both of the above requirements.

Place the camera on a tripod with the lens facing slightly downward and ideally, work in a dust free area (the bathroom – following a bath or shower is often ideal).  Select the Menu option to lock up the mirror, carefully remove the lens, place the blower’s nozzle in the mouth of the lens mount and give several fast puffs of air.   Once done, lower the mirror and replace the lens.  To test the success of your blowings, take a photograph of a section of clear blue or white sky at around f16 or f22.  You may have to use manual focus, given that most autofocus systems won’t focus on blank areas – then examine the test image on your computer to check the sensor’s surface for dust.

If the dust is still evident . . . . . . .

Step 2 – The Arctic Butterfly brush

If the above hasn’t cleared the dust, then you will need to resort to one of Visible Dust’s products – the Arctic Butterfly brush. Available from Clifton Cameras for around £70.00

The brush is statically charged and comes mounted on a battery driven spinner handle.  When the brush is spun between cleanings, any dust is spun off and the bristles become re-charged with static.  To use the brush, repeat the above steps to lock up the mirror, then very carefully wipe the brush in one direction across the sensor.  Withdraw it, spin for 30 seconds and brush once more.  Drop the mirror, replace the lens and test as above for spots in the image.

and finally . . . .

If dust still remains lodged on the sensor, then wet cleaning is the final step.

Step 3 – Wet Cleaning

This latter stage requires some nerve and yet more money!   It’s as well to approach this stage with some caution because it involves wiping a moistened pad across the surface of the camera sensor and whilst it is wise to regard the sensor as being delicate and easily damaged, it does have a protective window (called a moire screen) in front of its surface and is reasonably robust.

You will need to buy some sensor cleaning swabs and whilst there is a bewildering array offered on line, I’d be drawn once again to Visible Dust’s products.  They seem to be the  market leader in sensor cleaning.  The swabs come either dry, or ready moistened and look rather like little cocktail stirrers.  Check out Amazon or Warehouse express.

They’re packaged in what seem like surgically sterile packs and can only be used only once before being discarded.  You must repeat the steps described earlier to raise the mirror and this time (whilst carefully following the supplied instructions) wipe the swab once across the mirror, repeating the process with new swabs as needed.

In most cases, the dust will be gone and no further wipings will be needed – well . . . . not until next time.  However, if stubborn marks remain, it’s likely that the camera will need to be returned to the factory or service dept.

Have a look on You Tube, where you’ll find hours of videos (usually made by very earnest men) showing how to do all of the above:]&aq=f

I wish you luck!!

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