Color Management for Photographers - SunStar

Color Management for Photographers

By Albert Pedrosa

COLORS are often disregarded or misunderstood. If you plan to keep your photos to yourself and have no plans of printing it, submitting it to a client or maybe post it on social media, then you don’t have to bother understanding color management. When color is shared, viewed in different display or reproduced to different media, then it must be managed.

Colors are common for us to see every day, but what we don’t see is how they can easily deviate and you would question its complex behavior because they are supposed to be simple and straightforward. I’ve been dealing with color since the mid-90s and up until now, I still encounter a lot of people working with colors who have no idea what they are dealing with.

One very obvious result of color management issue is image not matching the prints. Another would be the monitor not matching with another monitor. Imagine a skin care clinic spends thousands to come up with an image that would reflect their brand and quality of service only to get a billboard with skin colors far from their expectations.

There’s a long line of possibilities where colors could have shifted. Unfortunately, photographers are part of that line, in fact it’s where the colors all started. Without proper understanding, the printer, most often than not, is blamed first. The printer will then pass the fault to the source of the file, which will just add to the confusion.

Is the red in prints and the one in the actual fabric the same? If you’re buying the gown online, can you trust your monitor colors? Colors are not as simple as you see them.

So after you purchased hundreds of thousands of photography hardware and spending countless hours editing the image to get it right, you’ll just end up with a print different from what you and your client expected. Not to mention the skills investment you made to do better photography.

Managing colors is a serious and real issue and must be understood if you are working with colors. Firstly, cameras can be calibrated to capture the right colors of a particular product, especially if the product is color sensitive to their consumers. The process is simple, all you have to do is take a photo of a color swatch that you can buy from camera stores and let PS or LR do the rest. Normally, the brands are from X-rite or DataColor.

The monitor on the other hand, whether it’s the most expensive brand or not, must be calibrated before you start using it. Recently, pro versions of monitors from ViewSonic come pre-calibrated. However, note that the monitor needs to be recalibrated monthly.

You also need to get an IPS-type monitor to make sure that the colors are the same no matter what angle you are viewing it from. Color profiles like ProPhoto RGB, Adobe RGB, sRGB must be set in your photo editing application. ProPhoto RGB and Adobe RGB can be used for high-end fine printing while sRGB is for more common type of printing and for social media.

If you’re a photographer, never convert to CMYK. Always submit RGB and let the ad agency or the printer convert it to the proper print profile. Understanding color management as a photographer is an essential skill to make sure that your color outputs are within expectations. Keep on shooting, everyone!

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