Color ManagementWhat Is Color

Why Do We Need Color Management?
Shooting, editing, printing – it used to be that only professional photographers could afford it, but now anyone can do all this at home on a normal PC. Digital photography has become child's play, thanks to lenses with lighting focus and automatic programs that can control any lighting situation. Even post-editing on a PC becomes easier with each new generation of software and provides ever more creative freedom.

Inaccurate colors
The only thing that doesn't yet work too well is the correct reproduction of colors. Pictures always look a bit different on screen that when you took them. And different again when you print them. From a technical viewpoint, this is hardly surprising: three different devices are working together, none of which has been calibrated to the other. A camera chip performs the digitalization in the RGB color space. This is the color space of light in which the human eye breaks down the colors it sees into red, green and blue elements, before our brain puts them back together again into a perceived color. After downloading pictures on to a computer, we view them on a monitor, which also displays colors using the RGB model. The small but subtle difference is that the monitor cannot display as many shades of color as the camera chip can capture. When you finally send the photo to the printer, the light colors are converted into ink colors. In fact, the printer doesn't "expose" the paper so much as cover it in drops of four, six, eight or more ink colors. If you've ever tried to mix an exact color shade using a paint box, you'll have a rough idea of how difficult it is to convert RGB colors seen with the eye into material colors.

Measure your monitor
On a computer, this conversion is done using standard color tables, which is why the results are so inaccurate. In order to achieve a uniform color result, you need to "network" the three devices together. This is color management's central task. It calibrates the devices to one another using specific profiles. These profiles describe the particular features of each device and come as standard with top-of-the-range cameras and printers. Any half-way decent operating system will have the necessary infrastructure to integrate these profiles.

Cameras, scanners and printers work reasonably consistently. Monitors on the other hand are subject to reeping wear and tear. Which is why the color profiles they come with are only a guide and need updating regularly. This is done using a "colorimeter" such as Spyder3Elite or Spyder3Pro. This is a measuring device that uses special software to measure the monitor's color values and adjust any color faults or loss of brightness.

Print in true colors
Once the monitor is displaying the colors reliably, you can proceed to calibrate the printer. For this Datacolor offers the Spyder3Print Spectrocolorimeter. which helps the image editing application to convert RGB color images into the correct colors for printing. Printer calibration is extremely simple. You simply print a special chart and then you reed it back in with the Spectrocolormeter. The software analyzes the colors, saves a profile of them and you can then use this to print out other pictures with the true colors.

Compared to a few years ago, the price of entry into color management has fallen dramatically. Today you can buy colorimeters such as Spyder3Express for 85 Euros, and a Spyder3Studio SR professional calibration solution for 449.- Euros (ex vat)




Why Do We Need Color Management?