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Like any other craft, there are a few tools you need to ensure accurate and consistent color throughout your image's color journey. We'll explore each of them in detail as it becomes time to put them to use. But first, let's take a quick look at some of the basics. And first and foremost, your monitor. Now your monitor is probably the most serious tool you're going to be dealing with in any kind of color workflow and you have to have a way to calibrate and profile that. Since most monitors don't come out of the box calibrated, well you need to know that what you're seeing on the screen is an accurate depiction of what's actually in your file.
So what happens if you don't take care of your monitor color? Stop and think about it. If your monitor is not accurately showing you your images, with the correct color and tonality, then your edits are guesses. I don't think anyone out there wants to sit in front of a computer for hours on end. Only get bad prints because your monitor wasn't showing you the correct color and tones in your image. Now what commonly happens? Let's take a closer look. Let's say your monitor is overly blue and this is something that's not uncommon.
When you view your image on the screen, even if the file is actually correct it will appear bluish and you want to edit it. So in this case, we bring our editing software. We add yellow to the color balance and, oh now it looks great on the screen. But, the original file was actually pretty good and you made it more yellow to counter your blue monitor. It may look better on the screen now, but when you print the image, it comes out yellow. Having your monitor set too bright is also very common. When you view your image on the screen, well, the image looks too light because in this case the luminance of your display is set too high.
So you make some brightness adjustments in your software to get it looking the way you want. Now that looks better. But, once again, even though the screen looks better but the original file was actually exposed correctly, and you made it darker just to counter your too bright monitor. Again, it may look better on the screen but when you print the image, it comes out dark. I hear this from some of my wedding photographer friends all the time. The exposure was a bit under, sometimes done on purpose to keep from blowing out details on a wedding dress, but it looks great on a monitor.
You get fooled into thinking the images are perfect, when in fact, the images are a bit dark and could use some brightening. When these images are sent to the lab, and come back too dark, you want to blame the lab when in fact, the culprit is your overly bright monitor. Monitor profiling and calibration help to end these common problems, and will make it much easier for you to get great prints. We don't want yellow prints, we don't want dark prints. We want perfect prints. Now to do this, you need some tools. Colorimeter-based devices like the X-Rite ColorMunki, display in the i1 Display Pro as you see here, along with other devices like Datacolor Spyder series, are great for those who need to profile their monitors when they're not planning on doing serious fine art printing on their own.
A colorimeter like these makes use of filters to measure the intensity of red, green and blue. Measuring these primaries is roughly similar to how our eyes work. The filters reduce a broad range of light into a few measurement values that allows your monitor to then show you red when it's asking for red. And these two X-Rite devices can also provide some other useful functions, including the ability to calibrate and profile projectors. They can also continuously monitor the ambient light around your workspace and even adjust your monitor's brightness if the ambient light should reach a certain level.
So for example, if your desk is near a window and you've got from sunny to cloudy to dark, it will automatically adjust your monitor so that what you're seeing when you're editing is best displayed. Now both devices sit flush on the front of your display. We're goinna see these in detail a little more later, and use their softwares to read color patches. Now here we see the ColorMunki Photo and the i1 Pro 2. These are spectrophotometers. Again, we'll see these in action as well. Spectrophotometer-based devices can also calibrate monitors from projectors.
They are the way to go if you also want the ability to create custom paper profiles for your printer. If you're doing a lot of your own final printing, or setting up devices for others to use, custom profiles can go a long way towards making the most accurate print possible. Factory supplied profiles are certainly better than not having a profile at all. But a custom profile can sometimes be much better. The last tool in this group is also the least expensive, and supports the idea that having the best files right at the start will produce the best print.
The ColorChecker Passport, or its big brother the ColorChecker, you've probably seen it. They've been around forever. They allow you an easy and effective way to record both an accurate white balance in your camera and give you the ability to create a custom camera profile. We're going to see this in Lightroom in a little bit and you're going to be amazed at how good your color can be with one simple click of the mouse. These custom camera profiles smooth out the color variations that cameras add to their files and return the raw data to a color response that is both more accurate and more neutral. We're going to put this great tool to work.
That sums up the tools we'll put to use that will help put in an effective color workflow into place.
- 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