Getting predictable results in today’s digital workflow requires establishing a color management setup. Calibrating your devices will get you half way there. The other half is establishing color space for your working files, converting your working space file into an ICC Profile for printing (if you do your own printing) and/or managing your file’s color space for a photographic lab and for the Internet. Consistency is key in the digital workflow today.
Calibrating devices is pretty straight forward while establishing a color managed workflow is more specific to the type of work, workflow, equipment and needs for each individual.
Calibrating your camera is as basic as establishing a proper White Balance. Setting your camera to a pre-set such as Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, dialing in a Kelvin color temperature, or creating a Custom White Balance. Using “auto” white balance works very well except it can become inconsistent.
Calibrating your display is 1) the most important aspect of any imaging workflow, 2) is easy to do with a proper calibration device (i.e. XRite ColorMunki Display), 3) is perhaps the least expensive and most important piece of digital equipment you could have. Note: System calibration such as found in the Windows and Macintosh operating systems do not accurately calibrate contrast ratios or color temperatures and are inconsistent.
Calibrating printers are without question the easiest to accomplish because if you have an inkjet printer, it is actually self calibrating. If your results change, going through a basic nozzle cleaning in most cases will bring it back to a consistent means. When using a professional photographic lab, their printers are properly calibrated on a daily basis and your primary responsibility is to send your files to them in the required color space such as sRGB.
You are now half way there, as a matter of fact, you are more than half way there especially after you properly calibrate your display. Let’s look at the other half.
Establishing a working color space for your digital files can start out in your camera where sRGB or Adobe RGB are choices when shooting JPEG in camera. However, if shooting in the Raw format, a files color space is not embedded into the file until the image is processed. sRGB, Adobe RGB and ProPhotoRGB are the most standard color spaces and are designed to allow you to work within a confined color space (sRGB) or an expanded color space (AdobeRGB/ProPhotoRGB) with your initial process. Proprietary raw processors such as Canon’s DPP or Adobe Lightroom allows your to automatically work in the expanded color space initially and then export to a confined color space when needed. In Photoshop, you have to establish the color space in Adobe Camera Raw’s Workflow Options if you want to work within the expanded color space (recommended).
There are two types of camera profiles, the color space profile that the file is resident in such as sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto RGB – and a profile “style” created for a specific look or camera, also known as a “Picture Style” (i.e. Landscape, Portrait, Standard) or a custom camera profile created with a product such as the XRite ColorChecker Passport.
Converting your color space into the printer color space can be established in the print module in Lightroom or even in the printer’s driver or in the print dialog box in Photoshop. However, when uploading your files to a professional lab, always check with them regarding the required color space. Most labs request that you convert to the sRGB color space when uploading files for printing and by the way, sRGB is the only color space you want your images to be in when uploading images to the Internet. In Photoshop or from the Bridge, when using the Image Processor you’ll find a button to convert to sRGB during batch processing, in Lightroom use the preset or establish sRGB during the export process and in a program such as DPP, choose Adjustment-Work Color Space-sRGB prior to Batch Processing.
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