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How to get accurate colours from pictures & prints

Hey all,

When taking photos, editing the exposure and white balance in Photoshop, and then printing them, how you ensure you're getting as close to the natural colour as possible?

I just printed my first photo (a picture of a house plant), and held up the print next to the plant and the colour does not look very natural.

I tried to take a photo to show you but the difference in the photo isn't as obvious as it is in real life - in person you can see that the plant has a more natural and flat olive green colour, while the print is shinier and the greens look significantly different.



  • Movingalonghome

    Evey step from live to photo, and there are many, involves compressions, bit translations and compromises. it is amazing that it is as close as this. Investigate raw format photography, Photoshop color schemes and printer profiles.

    Something noticeable here is the shadows in opposing directions, suggesting very different times of day.
    As an artist you know this has a profound effect on color perception and reproduction.


  • edited June 2017
    Thanks for the reply. I'm going to do some experimenting. I think it might mostly be the camera - as soon as I take the picture and look at it the greens already have that kind of plasticy fake look compared to the actual plant (so the pic I posted here isn't very useful!). Hopefully there are some good post-processing options in Photoshop to help correct this.

    The DMP photography guide recommends just adjusting the exposure and temperature/tint, but it seems necessary to go beyond that.
  • FlattyFlatty admin
    Have you tried calabtaring your monitor?? 
  • FlattyFlatty admin
    Good grief!! Calibrating I meant to say. Acting on past forum advice I purchased a calibration tool and the difference was quite noticeable 
  • Flatty

    No amount of calabtaring will improve the prints :#


  • Luckily i have a calibrated plasma tv to look at images on before printing :) would be tough without it as my laptop screen is so bad
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited June 2017
    So much woes occur from high tech. Thank God the masters were not so distracted. What I would do is to make a print and use that to make my drawing. Then with artificial lighting I would paint getting my colors from life. If using a black & White photo I could get my values from that too.
  • That's not a bad idea.

    My plan is to make three different, new versions of the photo in Photoshop, print samples of them all and compare them. I know I can do much better than the first one I printed.. but it will be interesting to see if it's possible to get the colour closer to how the plant actually looks.

    One problem for sure is that the colours in the printed photo (both on the computer and the printed version) are simply too bright, washed out, and the shadows are lost. It should be easy to fix these three things at least!

    Another option is to simply accept that it will be different, and simply work toward making the photos looking as best or interesting as possible to paint from instead of trying to get them to perfectly match the plant.
  • If you can get within close proximity in family of colors, you'll be ok, as long as your values are good. Remember, the photo is only the reference material and you are the master painter.
  • FlattyFlatty admin
    @dencal, I respectfully disagree;-) my prints were off until I made that calibration 
  • I agree with your plan @movealonghome, i.e. an experimental approach and honing in on the particular version of reality you find most pleasing, and then going from there.
  • Ultimately I'm not sure if it matters if it is exact unless you were using both life and photo as reference.  In then end when the painting is done are you going to display the reference photo with the painting?  That is a rhetorical question of course.
  • It matters because the colours of the actual plant are much nicer than what I've been able to get in my prints.
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited June 2017
    In a previous discussion similar to this it was suggested to photograph the subject against a darker background. If you're going to experiment any way, you might try that too.
  • I got the greens looking quite a bit better, although still not perfect. Good enough though, I think.

    Unfortunately part of the print is like... totally messed up though. There's a bit of grey/blue cloth and half of it has come out a very purple colour which is strange. Half of it looks good so I can use that to match the colours, but it's still very strange how terrible part of the print looks. Hoping this isn't something that is going to happen every time I try and print something! I assumed this quality of printer wouldn't make such obvious errors. (Epson artisan 1430).

    I wonder if more high-end printers also make these kinds of mistakes. Any experiences?
  • just out of curiosity: you apparently have the plant right there, why not paint "en nature"? just sayin'...
  • Yes of course I've thought of that, and I'm going to be doing some of that, but I'm also trying to learn about taking photos, editing them, and printing them :)
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