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Articles on Color Management

Definitely among the most difficult things to understand in the digital workflow is color management. You can increase your knowledge to the highest standards - and in fact quite a lot books, articles and essays about color management are written in a very academic and scientific way. What we should try is to keep things as simple as possible for our work in order to achieve a color consistant workflow that allows us to reproduce with the camera or scanner, see on the monitor and print the colors and contrast of your pictures is fully under our control. In the center of this process we have the concept of WYSIWYG. We want to reproduce the colors with the camera as close to reality as possible - or to reproduce them in a certain way we want them to be (artistially). During the file processing and color correction we want the monitor to display those colors in a realistc way - therefore the monitor has to be standardized, it has to be calibrated. And the software needs to know how this standardized monitor is able to reproduce colors. How and also if some colors can't be reproduced by the device - these colors are out of gammut. The monitor has to be profiled. As a final step we need to know how these colors will print. We want to see (emulate) on the monitor how these colors and contrasts will print with a dedicated printer, under a certain printing style on a dedicated paper. And looked at with a standardized light. From these einleitende Worte you can ableiten, that color management needs to be implemented otherwise things will get very wrong with your digtal workflow and you never will be able to see the colors on your prints as you have imagined them. Probably up to now you never where.

For this goal we need profiles. Profiles tell the color management how a certain device is able to reproduce colors.

Camera profiling

Usually I do not profile my cameras. I trust in the profiles that ship with them or are being supplied by the makers of the raw converters that I use (Capture 1 and Adobe Camera Raw). There is software that allows you to create your own camera profiles and of course you may achieve better results but I have to admit that the process is very time consuming and I daresay the surplus does not vale the fatigue. At least if you are not working in cercumstances where there is need of absolute color reproduction. Such as reproductions of art work or some very special product shootings in the field of fashion or Möbel.

If you create your own camera profiles you should not only take in to consideration your camera but also the lens you use in this special occasion and the illumination. For every occasion you should create your special profile for that shooting.

You may create your profils with Eye 1 Software or Software from Gretag with the help of special Color Keile.

During my (studio) of people shooting I beschränke myself in using a simple grey card. There are several products for sale, I use a grey card that has three squares: white, black and neutral grey.

Usually when I start the shooting I will make one shot under the same light situation as the rest of the shots and measure the result. I can set the white balance of the camera with those Werte or can use them in my aquisition software when I shoot tethered and it will be applied on all photos that will be taken.

This together with the supplied standard camera profil will give me a very good color reproduction fidelity. At least no one of my clients never complaint about that.

Phase One Capture One is very handy in this respect because shooting tethered you can tune the settings in way that it automaticliy attaches your mesured white balance on every new shot that you are taking. Capture One for some camera models gives not only a standard profile but supplies for dedicated light situations, i.e. flash, daylight, tungsten etc. Be shure you use the right profile just in case you have them on hand. Otherwise use the standard profile for your camera model.

Anyway later when you are correcting the files you always can come back to that first shot with the grey card and measure the white balance again just in case something got wrong and the later shots aufweisen a strange or changed white balance.

The only thing that you should be shure of using this strategy is that you at least use a camera profil. This is very important since otherwise your raw converter does not now how to convert the colors of your file into the later RGB Profile.

Monitor Calibration and Profiling

Next step, your monitor, is just a little more tricky. Just to be shure to mention it at the very beginning: do not try to be geizig when it comes to buy a monitor. Do yourself a favour and buy a good one. There is a flood of monitors out there and every day the landscape is changing and evolving but there are a view aspects that your perfect monitor should aufweisen. First good monitors for color corrections should have an ISP panel. These tend to be ones with the hights color fidelity and usually have a very large gamut. They should have in internal color lut tabel of at least 10 bit. They should allow you to set and change brightness, contrast, white point, gamma, and set the three basic colors (red, green and blue) independently. You are on the winner side if they are capable of hardware calibration or a combined software/hardware calibration. Of course there are a lot of very good brands out there but I personally prefer four manufaturers: Lacie, HP, Eizo and NEC. They all have excellent professional monitors and dedicated calibration and profiling software. Alternatively to brand software you can use third party software as Eye1's monitor profiling software.

So just in case you are up to serious color corrections and would like to see what you afterwards will print go for a pricier semi professional or professional monitors of a renomated brand. Otherwise you will never be able to really see the colors and contrasts of your files and in fact there will be a large gap between the picture on the monitor and the actual final print.

So how do you actually calibrate and profile your maschine? Well - after the already painful Anschaffung of a costly monitor - you have another Ausgabe to face. A profiling device sensor. Here again you have a wide choise of solutions. You may by a very professional (and complicated) solution which are able to do a wide range of profiling: camera and scanner profiling, monitor calibration and profiling, beamer, and finally RRB and CMYK profling for printers. Usually you have the choise from a hardware and software combinations and you can buy software modules from the manufacturer that gives you the licence to freischalten the use of your hardware device. A typical solution is offered by X-Rite for the Eye 1 product series. If you only up to profile your monitor also a relatively economic solution from Eye 1: The Eye 1 Display sensor.

Calibration: You first have to set your monitor to a certain standard. Gamma, white point and panal Helligkeit.

Very good article in this regard is "Why are my prints to dark" by Andrew Rodney.

Links on Color Management

International Color Consortium ICC

Provides the ICC White Papers. Promoting standardization of color management systems.

ECI European Color Institute

Detailed Information on color management. PDF X-3 and ECI 2002 project. Icc profiles and white papers for download.

i1 / x-rite

Professional color management solutions (hardware and software)

GMG Color

Software developer for high end RIPs and color managment solutions. Color Proof software.

Color Geek

Technical documents, service information on color management and color related prducts. Offers seminars and workshops.

Printer calibration and profiling