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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Colour can make me crazy

I thrive on colour, couldn’t live without it. Red is my fave, followed closely by purple and pink -- and always with black and white and grey thrown in as well. My purse is hot pink, so are my maryjane crocs. I have a beloved collection of Le Creuset pots and bakeware in shades of orange and yellow and red, even blue and white and a bit of green. I have cherry red bath towels along with bright yellow. You get the picture. I don’t live in a sepia world.

But when it comes to the trifecta of computers, cameras and processing, colour starts to drive me crazy. It goes like this: I take a photograph, upload it onto my laptop, and it looks good. I do a bit of colour correction in photoshop. It looks better. I may post it online -- either here on my blog or perhaps in my image galleries. I like how it looks. I go online with the captain’s laptop to have a peek, where it looks just fine too. He reassures me it looks the same on his computer at work.

So far, so good. But if I check out my blog on a friend’s computer, I don't always like what I see. While my photographs here on this blog often do look the same on different computers than my own, it is dispiriting to occasionally see that the colours look quite different on someone else's computer. Realistically I know there is a big difference in monitors and their colour profiles -- and I know I don’t have any control over any monitor but my own -- but it’s still frustrating that others might not see what I see.

Colour printers can also be problematic, but the frustration reaches a peak for me when I get photographs developed. I mostly get my photos processed at Black’s, a Canada-wide chain with so many locations that I’m sure you know where to find your local store. It’s so easy to upload my photos at their web site and then pick them up at my convenience. But on many occasions I’ve felt my pictures were too dark, but you know what? I placed the blame on myself, sure that my laptop’s snazzy LCD screen was causing me to see images clearer and brighter than they really were.

This week my frustration finally went over the top. Here’s why. I have a great photograph of a white wall with a large yellow daisy painted on it. Thinking it would make a good photo card, I had it developed along with a group of other photos I needed for a collaboration in which I’m participating. Actually, I had many photos processed. When I had a look at my prints, my white wall with a yellow daisy was instead a cream wall with an orange daisy. Or you could stretch it and say it was a dark yellow daisy but, honestly, it looked orange to me. There were problems with some other photographs as well.

So I decided, on the spot, that I needed to get these same photographs developed somewhere else. I needed a comparison. After all, I thought, maybe the problem was with my photographs and alternate processing would reveal that, and I could then try to correct my mistakes. (Yes, my mind went there again...blaming myself.) And I thought of Pikto, a photo lab here in Toronto. Last year my friend Nancy recommended them to me, but I just never got around to trying them out. But yesterday was the day.

So the captain and I headed down to the Distillery District and into Pikto. I dropped off my memory stick, we walked around and happily found The Sweet Escape (a wonderful bakery where we enjoyed a delicious lunch), and then returned to pick up my photos.

Guess what? The white wall was white, the yellow daisy was yellow. A miracle! The black-and-white images did not have a green tinge to them. The photograph of Terra showed a dog with bright black and white fur, not muddy black and pale grey. An ochre duotone did not look orange. More miracles! My gosh, my photographs actually looked, um, right. Like I thought they should.

There were other differences too -- to be fair, some quite subtle -- but suffice it to say that overall, the prints were absolutely superior to those done at Black’s.

I think I’ll be seeing more and more of the Distillery District from now on.

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