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- Understanding color spaces
- Understanding the color workflow for photography vs. design and web
- Setting up a digital camera for the best image results
- Choosing a monitor
- Calibrating a display using ColorMunki or i1Pro 2
- Choosing color settings in Photoshop
- Understanding color workflow in raw processing applications
- Creating a custom printer profile
- Soft-proofing images for printing on your own printer and for sending to a lab
Skill Level Beginner
Let's take a closer look at capture right when the shutter's depressed on the camera. Now there are only a few things you need to do for your camera to set it up for the best digital file capture. Ensuring you have the best data is also going to involve exposure and making sure you're metering the scene correctly. But those are topics a little beyond the scope of our discussions here. We've had a conversation earlier about RAW versus JPEG files so I hope you're sold on the idea of shooting and working with RAW files. You may not think about it but exposure also has a big effect on image quality.
If an image is overexposed to the point that you start to clip highlights, meaning there's no data left. You're going to be left with pure white and there's no way to bring any detail back. On the other side, if you underexpose, the shadow areas will start to display noise and they're going to degrade the quality of the color and the smoothness of gradations in those areas. You may also notice that your camera has a menu selection to choose a color space of either SRGB Or Adobe RGB. This is a big point of confusion. Understand that this choice only applies to JPEG captures.
RAW files have no color space assigned until you tell your raw converter software what space you want that exported file to be in. In general, our workflow for dealing with RAW files will be to send out a 16-bit Pro Photo RGB while editing and then convert to an 8-bit SRGB if you're going to send out files to a lab. If you're doing your own printing, you're going to stay with that 16-bit Pro Photo RGB file. Also if you're shooting RAW, there is no white balance built into the file.
But if it's a JPEG the white balance becomes part of the file immediately. So, set your camera to an appropriate preset be it daylight or cloudy or flash and it's going to give you the most consistent results. Now the auto setting can help in mixed lighting. But ideally you want to have a color reference for the best color. And we'll discuss that in more detail when we get to custom camera profile creation. Let's take a look at some numbers that backup the argument that you want to shoot RAW over JPEG. Now with a JPEG file you're dealing with 8 bits of data.
8 bits means you've got 256 steps from light to dark. Now unfortunately the way a digital camera works, those steps are not evenly divided from bright to dark. Fully half of the data you've got is going to be in your brightest tones. As you get down into your deeper shadows, you have less and less steps available. End result is when you go to edit this JPEG file, if any of your edits are serious, you're going to start to throw away a lot of data. And you're going to lose steps and that's going to mean breaks in your nice gradations and artifacts.
Now here we see 14 bit data. And we hadn't talked about 14 bit. Well, you have a choice in your software of either 8 bit or 16 bit. Professional level DSLR generally will capture, which actually a 14 bit file. And pro zoomer and mid range cameras will actually capture 12 bits. But they have to fit in one bucket either 8 bits or 16 bits. So with 14 bit files, you can see we've got over 16,000 steps from light to dark. So you can do some serious editing. And even in your deepest shadows you've got a lot of steps so that if you do that edit and lose a lot of data.
When that final file is finally set out as an 8 bit SRGB file, you've got a full 256 steps from light to dark, even after those edits. So to sum up, those 8 bit files do pose some dangers if you do need to do any serious editing to the image. If you have a higher bit depth, 12 or 14 bits in your capture, you have a lot more latitude when you go to do your edits. Remember, you've got half of your data at least in the brighter regions. So start with the best file you've got, and that allows you a lot of latitude for doing your edits And that's going to ensure the best image as it takes its journey from capture to edit, to output.