Home How-To Tip Of The Week Color Management Basics—05/02/11
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Color Management Basics—05/02/11

Where to begin with color management in camera and in the computer

This Article Features Photo Zoom

On The Screen
Technically, this step could fall under "in the computer" as well, because the settings that affect how your monitor displays color are all adjusted in software on the computer, too. This is perhaps the single best way you can improve your color workflow: Calibrate your monitor. Simple brightness, contrast and color improvements can be made without hardware calibration, and these are better than nothing, but the peace of mind, and ultimately the image-editing power, that comes from knowing that the data in your pictures actually does look like what you think it looks like....that's invaluable. It means that when you send an image file to someone else who's working on their own calibrated monitor, you're both looking at the same image. Without it, anything goes. You could work to lighten a dark image that's actually perfectly exposed, or perhaps you'd think every image you shoot is too red, when in fact it's your monitor that simply glows a little warm and makes every picture appear too red. The point is, a simple and affordable hardware device that reads the brightness and color values output by your display, and then creates a monitor profile that accurately corrects for the biases built into a screen, is the best way to get your color calibration on track.

In The Printer
Color-managed printing is as much about paper and ink as it is about the hardware. It's a complicated step in the color-managed workflow, but assuming you've carried a profile with the image file, you're in the home stretch—about to produces an accurate print. Let's say you're in Photoshop, working on a file with an Adobe RGB profile attached to it, and you're ready to print. You have a choice to make: Should the software (Photoshop) interpret the colors for the printer, or should the printer interpret the colors itself? The most important thing to do here is to choose one or the other, but not both. Otherwise, each device (the software and the printer) will attempt to compensate for the color profile, and you'll end up with poorly printed colors. Then there's the profile for the ink and paper. Different papers work with different inks and require different profile adjustments, so if you're working with a high-gloss photo paper, the printer needs to lay down the colors of ink differently than it would for a matte paper. Most manufacturers of specialized photo papers offer downloadable profiles matched to paper and ink and printer. This is the best way, especially for a beginner, to ensure accurate color prints that match an already accurate monitor. Later, when you're feeling more advanced, you can create your own custom printer and paper profiles—though if you're getting good results from ready-made profiles, you shouldn't feel obligated to switch.

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