Poor colour rendering

I have imported a photo into a text document and printed it.
The colour rendering is very poor. Is there any way of improving it please?

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Thank you all for your interest and response.
I have decided to purchase a Photo Editing Software to give me more control over the result.
Your replies have helped me understand the complexities of the problem

Without factual information, it is difficult to give you advice. So here are generalities.

Colour management is a real pain because every device has its own rendering and your photo undergoes many conversions.

First, there is the shot. The scene is captured by a sensor which has its own capabilities due to its primaries. They already limit the range of possible colours (they define a triangle in the space of visible colours). If the shot is made with a decent camera, this triangle is quite large but can be be severely reduced on cheap devices like phones or low end pocket cameras, not speaking of the filtering effect of the lens.

Second, you display the photo on your screen. Nowadays, almost all monitors are LCD-based. They have a poor rendering with primitives not matching those of the camera. LCD screens have a relatively small colour triangle, meaning that you don’t see what the camera recorded.

However, this is still a favourable context because both are RGB. If you have enabled ICC profiles, conversions between the common areas of the triangles can keep the perceptual colours and translate approximately those not in the intersection. This mitigates the differences but does not eliminate them anyway.

Third, and this is the worst, your photo must be translated to CMYK to be send to the printer. The printer has its own triangle that you can conceptually figure out as being rotated 120° relative to the camera and screen ones. This is where most colour distortions occur. Rendering is also affected by paper quality (its white point). The printer driver also plays an important role.

So, if you want to improve the final result, make a copy of your photo and preprocess it in some graphical application like GIMP to compensate for the various translations. It may look horrible on your screen, but don’t trust your eyes (all screens have a dominant colour; if you try to render “neutral”, you’ll get the complement of the screen dominant on paper).

Only calibrated publishing chain allows you to work correctly. This means having all ICC profiles and enabling advanced colour management on your computer. The most difficult is to get the printer profile. The one for your screen can be computed with the help of a calibration sensor. The one for the camera is generally described in the specifications, but may differ in practice depending on the settings you selected.

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In addition to @ajlittoz explanation, a common error is for users to set the brightness of their screens too bright which compresses highlights and makes dark colours appear less dark than they actually are. There are sites, mainly photography, that explain how make rudimentary adjustments to your screen without the calibration tools used commercially.

@EarnestAl points out a common error. Here are rules of thumb for coarse adjustments:

  • brightness will determine the black level
  • contrast sets the white level
  • gamma defines a “ramp” for intermediate levels

But globally LCD are not fit for colour jobs: they are based on subtractive filtering. You start with backlight which is fully defined by the phosphors in the UV LEV (giving a so-called white light made in fact of discrete rays) and the diffusing material. Then you have transistor-driven LCD filters which eliminate part of backlight.

Whatever you do, your white point can’t be different (at maximum luminance) than your diffusing material. Filters in the LCD are not perfect: they can’t go to full opacity and dyes are approximately defined (their absorption spectrum is quite large; it is not a “pure” colour).

If you send your screen a gamma table to try to correct rendering, this will inevitably result in in a loss of luminance (filtering effect) and a loss of shades (quantization to 256 levels in each channel).

If by chance, you have kept a CRT on your shelf, use it for photographic work. Even a low-end CRT is better than an LCD for that. And since it is an analog device, you can adjust rendering by tuning gains on the amplifiers without degrading rendering with a digital gamma table. This supposes that your graphics card still has a VGA connector.