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How does lab color correction work?

Updated: 09/15/2014

Even shots from great cameras won't produce perfect prints without adjustments.

It comes as a shock to most people when they discover their digital cameras make them look red, especially with the built-in flash. Color correction to the rescue!

Color Correction at SmugMug

SmugMug offers what very few printing sites offer: the ability to turn off color correction. However, unless you adjust your photos yourself and order test prints to verify your adjustments, we highly recommend enabling color correction.

We print through four different labs, and they each handle color correction differently. EZ Prints is the default lab for our non-seller accounts (and it's available to our seller accounts if they choose it). At EZ Prints, color correction is included in the print price and automated through industrial-strength software and SmugMug's special recipe. It improves nearly every print.

Seller accounts can choose Bay Photo or WHCC as their printing lab instead. The highest-level seller accounts also have the option to use Loxley Colour. Opting for color correction increases the base price of each print, but the special attention provides excellent results that are very consistent.

Where Do I Indicate My Choice?

Non-seller subscribers will see a Color Correction setting in the Me tab of their Account Settings under "Account," and they can also specify Color Correction Yes/No in their gallery settings page for each gallery. Seller account holders will see the choice in their pro pricing tool, on both the portfolio and gallery level.

How Does Color Correction Through EZ Prints Work?

This type of automated correction is nothing like the simple quick-fix programs you see in desktop applications that wreck many photos.

The easy part: brightness and contrast.

Photo needing adjustment   Well adjusted photo

The hard part: memory colors — skin, sky, and grass.

Photo needing autocolor   Photo after autocolor

The automated color correction does what is very hard even for Photoshop wizards to do: it senses the areas of photos we're likely to judge them by, and it adjusts those regions to tones we expect to see.

Q: I'm a SmugMug subscriber. Does the Apply Color Effect tool I see in my Tools Menu have this sophistication?

A: Unfortunately, no.

Q: If I am printing black-and-white or sepia photos, should I enable color correction through EZ Prints?

A: We recommend disabling color correction in this case because it's automated and optimized to improve color prints. You can download EZ Prints' ICC profile to soft-proof your work.

Q: I'm a pro photographer with a SmugMug seller account. Should I pay for color correction through your pro labs?

A: It depends. If you enjoy adjusting all your photos and have soft-proofed using your chosen labs' ICC profiles and ordered test prints to verify, then you may wish to turn color correction off. If you would rather someone else do the legwork, you may find their color correction is well worth it.