Posted by: kerryl29 | December 14, 2010

Custom Printer Profiles

If you’re not doing your own printing, you’re missing something, in my experience, at least. I’ve been doing my own printing for approximately six years now and it would be difficult to describe the sensation of satisfaction I feel when a print rolls out of the printer. It’s as though the final stage of an immensely personal process has been successfully attained.

While the overall printing program involves a learning curve and is fraught with occasional frustration, in my estimation it’s well worth the trouble and I encourage anyone who is serious about photography in general and landscape photography in particular to look into it. I think you’ll ultimately be glad you did.

Second Beach Black & White, Olympic National Park, Washington

If you are doing your own printing and you’re not using a custom printer profile, I’d encourage you to consider that situation as well.  After dealing with the irritation that came from using stock printer profiles with my Epson 2200 for several months, I commissioned a custom profile approximately four years ago.  (If you’re not making use of a color managed workflow of any kind, get thee to a nunnery.  Seriously, a lack of color management is the functional equivalent of flying by the seat of your pants; if you’re at all serious about taking control of your own printing–and if you’re going to the trouble of doing your own printing in the first place, why wouldn’t you be?–a properly color managed workflow of some sort is an absolute must.)  This decision effectively took the guesswork out of printing–no more endless trial and error to produce predictable results when making prints.

Back in October, the printhead on my 2200 bit the dust.  (Don’t mourn; it lived a long, mostly happy, life.)  I had considered purchasing a wider carriage, neutral black and white-enabled, printer for years, but could never bring myself to pull the trigger. I now had the perfect excuse.  Coupled with reduced pricing and a $300 manufacturer’s rebate, I finally settled upon the Epson 3880.  Its 17″ wide carriage, neutral Advanced Black and White printing mode and the ability to retain photo and matte black ink cartridges in the printer simultaneously were all major selling points for me.

Summer's End, Nachusa Grasslands, Illinois

But with the new printer installed, I ran a test print with the supposedly improved (over the 2200) generic 3880 profiles and was immediately dissatisfied.  I was back to the bad old days–trial and error to obtain prints that appeared to my eye as they should.  I missed my custom profile!

I recalled reading that Michael Gordon, an excellent fine art photographer whose work I’ve admired for years, had begun offering a custom profiling service at some point after I had obtained the profile for the 2200.  Because I knew how painstaking Michael was about his own work, I figured that it was worth looking into his service as a source for custom profiles for my 3880.  I had every reason to be confident about the integrity of his work; that he wouldn’t simply provide something that was “good enough.”  A testimonial page on his Web site, featuring names of many photographers already well-known to me offering their own glowing remarks in response to Michael’s profiling work, only enhanced that faith.  After perusing his profiling Web site I determined that his pricing was eminently reasonable, and I decided to engage Michael to create both color and black & white profiles for me for a third party luster paper that I use for the vast majority of my printing.

Heart of the Dunes Black & White, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made recently.  Despite some recent issues caused by changed color management settings in Adobe Photoshop, Michael’s written directions for printing out the targets necessary to create the profiles were clear; YouTube videos demonstrating the process of replicating the necessary software settings were of additional help and much appreciated.  Furthermore, Michael was readily accessible by e-mail to answer any questions.  While the process of printing the targets isn’t technically difficult, using the appropriate settings is absolutely critical to correctly producing the printed targets (which themselves are crucial to the production of the profiles themselves), so adequate instructions and availability to answer any arcane questions is of great value to the customer.

Once the targets were mailed off, turnaround from Michael was exceptional; the profiles were e-mailed to me the same day he received the printed targets via U.S. Mail, complete with full, clear instructions describing how to properly put them to use.  While I’m not a novice when it comes to this process, I can’t imagine that anyone without any previous experience would have any difficulty.

Lake Superior Sunset, Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

And what of the results?  To say that I’m entirely satisfied would be, if anything, an understatement.  I spent approximately a week working with the profiles, printing both color and black & white images, utilizing some photos that I’d printed on the 2200 and others that I’d never printed at all.  Without exception I was absolutely thrilled with the output.  Every image accompanying this entry has now been printed using the custom profiles I received from Michael.  All of them look absolutely terrific and–here’s the point–all of them were produced with essentially no muss and fuss, no trial and error.  The point of a custom profile is to produce predictable results.  While prints will never look exactly as they appear on a monitor (one medium, after all, is light-reflecting while the other is light-emitting), the goal is to produce a predictable result.  That these profiles surely do.  Coupled with my color-calibrated monitor, I know exactly what to expect when I click the PRINT button.  The ability of the profiles to produce this state almost instantaneously with fresh images–ones I’d never before printed–was particularly impressive.

I heartily endorse Michael’s work and service.  This advocation is unsolicited and I receive no remuneration for making it.  I simply like to support excellent, affordable services and this surely qualifies.  If you’re in the market for a custom profile, Michael’s service–, is the place to go.



  1. Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

    – Daniel

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Teague. Robert Teague said: RT @MichaelEGordon: A great review and endorsement of my printer profiling service. Thank U, Kerry! http://www.G … […]

  3. The blog is really informative and i like to share it with my friends.I love to come back on a regular basis, please post more on the subject.

    Epson print head

  4. I like the dunes, off course. THanks for sharing.

    • Thanks very much!

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