If you want to get the best out of Shutterfly, this post is for you.
With Tim Grey’s permission, I occasionally quote the questions and answers from his DDQ emails. If you aren’t on his DDQ mailing list, you can sign up for free. DDQ emails arrive almost daily and you can learn a lot just reading the Q&A’s.
If you want to search the DDQ archive or ask Tim a question, you will need to become a member. Either way, you can find more information here. Tim provides a wealth of information when it comes to Photoshop and the technical aspects of digital photography. He has authored or coauthored several books.
Now for some DDQ questions about Shutterfly, followed by Tim’s answers. In case you are wondering, Tim love’s Shutterfly.
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Question: In their FAQ’s relating to ICC Profiles Shutterfly suggests color management by using targets printed through Shutterfly to generate a profile for future printing at Shutterfly.
I am in the process of giving this a try (using x-rite PULSE ColorElite), but now face the question of how is the resulting profile applied when Shutterfly is the printer? Should I embed it in the JPEG file to be sent to Shutterfly or should a different procedure be followed?
Your help on this question will be greatly appreciated.
First off, let me say that I love Shutterfly. I’ve been using them for years, and have found them to provide excellent prints (and other photo-emblazoned products) with good service at a reasonable price. However, I have to say their instructions related to the use of ICC profiles are quite horrible. They are obviously (as far as I can tell) the result of someone who doesn’t know a thing about color management compiling a variety of tips from those who do. Beyond the obvious problems with such an approach, they also suggest that users should order a bunch of prints of known colors and then measure those colors with a spectrophotometer. This is crazy. If you’d like to read the full text of their suggestions (just for entertainment value, because I don’t suggest you follow their instructions) you can find the info here:
Fortunately, the solution is incredibly simple. As you’ll note from their notes at the above address, Shutterfly operates on an sRGB-based workflow, and their printers are profiled as sRGB devices. So getting accurate color from Shutterfly (barring other problems) is as easy as converting your images to sRGB just before uploading them to Shutterfly. So, simply optimize your images to perfection (using a calibrated and profiled monitor display, of course), and as your last step before saving the file you’ll upload to Shutterfly select Edit > Convert to Profile from the menu in Photoshop. Set the Profile under Destination Space to sRGB (it is listed as sRGB IEC61966-2.1) and the Intent to Relative Colorimetric. Then click OK and save the image. You can then upload the image to Shutterfly, confident you’ll get an accurate print.
I should note the only time I’ve found Shutterfly to be less accurate in terms of color is when the images is a colorized version of the original. Think of this as a grayscale image that is printed with a colored ink rather than black. You can create such an image by checking the Colorize checkbox in the Hue/Saturation dialog box, or by using the Tint option in the Black & White adjustment in Photoshop CS3. In my experience Shutterfly doesn’t do a very good job with these images. But otherwise if you have an image in sRGB you can expect very good results.
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Question: What’s the best way to share photos with friends and family? I know there are a number of web sites but I am looking for ways for friends and family to look at pictures and slide shows and maybe decide to have printed what they want. It needs to be simple for not really computer literate people to access and use. We have a family website that can be used or we could use a commercial site.
In a general sense, I think the best method of sharing images with friends and family is indeed via one of the many websites available for this purpose. This assumes, of course, that all those you intend to share the images with are on email and comfortable going to a website to view images (I know this is something we take for granted, but there are many people who aren’t comfortable with these technologies yet).
When it comes to selecting a particular site, I can assure you there are many to choose from. In my mind the key things you need are a good user experience, strong track record of providing good service, and options for your friends and family to purchase their own prints (or other photo-emblazoned items) directly.
In terms of a specific solution that I can recommend, I would suggest Shutterfly ( www.shutterfly.com ). I’ve been using them for years, and have been very happy with the features they offer along with the ease-of-use for those who aren’t particularly comfortable using a computer. I think you’ll find it to be an excellent service. There are certainly others out there, but this is one I’ve used extensively and can strongly recommend.
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Question: When uploading images to Shutterfly for printing, do you suggest turning VividPics off or leaving it on? Also, I have heard about ‘soft proofing’ images prior to printing for best results, but I don’t really know what it entails. Do you recommend ‘soft proofing’ when printing using an online service such as Shutterfly? If so, how do you do this?
I recommend turning off VividPics, on the assumption you’ve actually optimized your image already. VividPics enhances color and tonality in your images, and is intended to produce better prints. I actually consider it to be a good thing when you simply upload JPEG captures right out of the camera, such as for snapshot photos you’re having printed. However, if you’re working with images you’ve already optimized yourself, I recommend turning off this additional enhancement.
As for soft proofing, it typically doesn’t apply in the traditional sense when using online print providers, including Shutterfly. Most of these printers use an sRGB-based workflow, so you could theoretically soft-proof the images based on sRGB. However, since the sRGB color space is very close to what most monitors are able to display naturally, if you simply convert your images to sRGB before uploading to Shutterfly (confirming they look good on your monitor after the conversion, of course) you can expect accurate prints.