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Preparing photos for Costco printing

Charles Rackson , Aug 05, 2010; 02:57 p.m.


I've been taking photos for a few years, but I really don't know much about printing. I was considering buying a printer and someone suggested that I try the Costco printing service. I went to talk to the Costco people and they referred me to a website with color profiles for their printers: http://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/Profiles/Washington_profiles.htm (I'm interested in the Issaquah Costco). They also told me that if my photos didn't have a 1x1.5 aspect ratio, they would be automatically cropped. They suggested that I add borders to my photos to produce a 1x1.5 image file. I use Lightroom3 and I have Gimp, although I don't really know how to use the latter. I have a couple questions.

1. Is there any way to save a photo with borders in LR3? If not, how can I use Gimp to do it?

2. How can I use their printer profile in LR3? In Gimp?

Thanks in advance,


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Mark Sirota , Aug 05, 2010; 03:03 p.m.

Rather than adding borders, I would suggest cropping your shots to match the aspect ratio of the paper you plan to print to. If you plan to print 4x6 or 8x12, that's 1:1.5 as they said. If you plan to print 5x7 or 8x10, those are different... The crop tool has presets for these aspect ratios, or you can set your own.

If you really want to pad out your shots with borders, there are a few ways, none of them elegant. The best two for a Lightroom workflow are to do it in the Print module, and print to a JPEG file which you'd send to Costco, or use the LR2/Mogrify plug-in from Tim Armes on export.

Is their profile for soft-proofing, or do they want it embedded in the file? Some labs want you to soft-proof using their profile, then send them a file in sRGB or Adobe RGB. Some want you to embed their profile. You need to ask what they want.

Charles Rackson , Aug 05, 2010; 03:35 p.m.


Thanks a lot for your help! I think I'll crop to size when I can, but printing to JPEG seems to work great.

I just called Costco and the photo guy wasn't exactly sure how I was supposed to use the profiles. He said that using the profile would change the colors in the JPEG file. Does that mean embedding the profile?

-- Charlie

Sheldon Nalos , Aug 05, 2010; 03:52 p.m.

I use the drycreek.com profiles for printing at Costco. To use the profiles you set the destination color space in the Lightroom Export file settings to the drycreek profile for the type of paper you are going to print on. You then upload the photo to Costco and make sure that they print it with Auto Correct turned off. I don't believe it embeds the profile in the file, just converts the colors so that the image turns out properly when printed. Obviously you need to have a calibrated monitor so that what you see in Lightroom is accurate.

Since you are shooting with an SLR and not a point and shoot, you don't need to worry about borders or cropping for 4x6 prints. The native aspect ratio of a 35mm SLR is 2:3 or 1:1.5 or 4:6 (all the same ratio). If you are printing 5x7's or 8x10's you'll need to use the Lightroom crop tool to crop the photo to match.

Charles Rackson , Aug 05, 2010; 03:59 p.m.

Thanks Sheldon. For my local Coscto there are profiles for two different printers. Can you specify which printer is used when you order prints? I don't want to prepare the file for one printer only to have them use the other.
-- Charlie

Mark Sirota , Aug 05, 2010; 04:00 p.m.

I don't believe it embeds the profile in the file, just converts the colors so that the image turns out properly when printed.

Lightroom always embeds the profile as well, even if Minimize Embedded Metadata is checked.

Sheldon Nalos , Aug 05, 2010; 09:22 p.m.

The info on the Drycreek website should say which printer they have profiled. If they're like the two other Costcos that I use there is probably one printer that does the bulk of the digital printing and the other older one that's used for film. You could ask the lab which one digital prints are sent to to make sure that the printer model matches the one that Drycreek profiled.

Mark - by embed the profile I mean that the actual profile itself is buried within the jpg file. The profile is a 1.4MB file, so that means the smallest jpg file size you could get would be 1.4M plus the size of the image, even if it's only 100x100 pixels. I checked and LR3 does not embed the profile, just tags the file with what color space it was converted to so you can get smaller sized images. Just a difference in terminology of embedded vs tagged. I think the idea behind embedding the profile is so that you can send an image to someone else to open in Photoshop, without worrying whether they have loaded that particular profile on their computer.

I'm pretty sure that the Fuji/Noritsu printers at Costco don't read the profile regardless of whether it's tagged or embedded, so I guess it's a non-issue.

Mark Sirota , Aug 05, 2010; 09:59 p.m.

Sheldon, I understand exactly what you mean by embedding the profile. LR3 certainly does embed the profile if you select sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), or ProPhoto RGB, so I'm surprised it doesn't embed a custom profile (and it never adds the EXIF tags). I haven't tested custom profiles on export myself, so I'll have to take your word for it for now.

Sheldon Nalos , Aug 05, 2010; 11:14 p.m.

I guess it must embed the standard profiles because they are a lot smaller (1k to 4k in size). Don't know why it doesn't embed the larger custom profiles...

Charles Rackson , Aug 06, 2010; 01:28 a.m.

Many thanks to all who posted a response.

I called Coscto and asked them which profile to use. They have two printers, a Fuji Frontier 590 and an Epson 7880. They only use the Epson for very large prints. So, for my 4"x6" test prints I chose the the Fuji Lustre paper profile.

In the LR export dialogue under "color space", I chose "other" and added the Costco profiles. I did the same in the Print module.

For photos that already had a 2x3 aspect ratio, I simply exported JPEGs with the Fuji Lustre profile. For photos that did not, to keep Coscto from automatically cropping, I added a stroke border and/or margins in the Print module and chose "print to: jpeg file". I then re-imported those jpeg files and cropped the margins to taste with a 2x3 aspect ratio.

I had 20 4"x6" color and black-and-white prints made. All the color photos came out extremely well; I couldn't have hoped for better. Some of the color files had very saturated colors and some had very subtle color. They all came out very very close to how they looked on-screen. The black and white photos had excellent tonality, but they all had a slight purple cast. Perhaps there is a way to avoid this; I'll ask the technician about B&W next time I'm down there.

-- Charlie

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