Colour management || Monitor calibration || Photo Printing || Photo Printers || Print Papers
What a photographer should know about colour management and monitor calibration
What is colour management?
How to calibrate monitors?
Aim: With this article, I start a series of articles on colour management / printing / printers / papers. This should enable you: to have predictable results when viewing your images on different devices (including prints) || to choose a photo printer wisely || and to prepare your images for print correctly.
Audiences: This article is meant for professional photographers as well as photography enthusiasts with overall knowledge of photography and post processing.
Imagine you have done an excellent job in editing your images. You save them in a format of your choice (JPEG, TIFF, PSD….) on a hard disc and take them to a colleague, client, or print shop. Gladly you open the images in a new working space on a new monitor and what appears on the screen is nothing but disappointment. The images look dark, the colours are washed out or there is a green colour cast on the entire image. The same issues may arise when you send your images to an online print service and the prints you receive are nothing like what you had seen on your monitor. If you have experienced similar situations you need to make yourself familiar with colour management. In this article I will address what you need to consider in order to make sure you will always have predictable results when you send your images for print or viewing them on another devices / platforms.
Colour management is about measures you take to ensure that colours are depicted as similar as possible -ideally identical- on different devices. Basically the colours in your images should be similar when viewed on different monitors, or when viewed on prints. By implementing colour management you make sure to have predictable results when you view your images on different devices (monitors, prints). However, in reality there are always differences in the range of possible brightness and colours, a distinct device can represent. To test this, just view a single image on two different monitors. You will immediately notice that a single image will look differently on different monitors. The differences will become even more noticeable when comparing a single image on a monitor and on a print. A monitor produces light, but a print paper does not. Hence, what you see on a print is totally dependent on the quality and characteristics of the ambient light that falls on the print. Nevertheless by taking some simple and affordable measures, you can have a good grip on the outcome. These measures are listed below:
Create a working environment with consistent low light
A working space -where your monitor is placed- with consistent low light during the day is ideal. Other light sources should not fall directly on your screen. A good test would be, to turn off your monitor and check whether you see the reflection of other light sources on the screen. If this is the case, you need to address that. Also you do not want your monitor’s brightness to be set at its maximum. Because you may end up delivering images that are darker than they should be.
Calibrate your monitor(s) on a regular basis
Calibrating monitor is about balancing and correcting its colours so the monitor would depict colours, tones and contrasts as close as possible to those that are recorded by your camera. No matter whether you are aiming to print your images or not, it is essential for you to have a calibrated monitor. Otherwise, it is hard to tell what your image actually looks like and you can not predict how your images will look on other devices or prints.
Calibrators are affordable and must have for a professional photographer. However, you might be able to share it (the cost of purchasing) with other fellow photographers in your town. Two examples of very reliable calibrators are “Datacolor Spyder4elite” and “X-Rite i1display pro”. Other brands to look for are: Pantone Huey and Bas1CColor Display.
A calibrator consists of a device you attach to and a software you instal on your computer. Once installed, the program will provide you with a step-by-step and easy to follow instruction. The entire calibration will take just a few minutes time. You need to calibrate your monitor(s) every six months, or when you change your monitor setting or when the lighting in your workspace is changed (e.g. new office, new lamps, etc.).
In addition to the commercially available monitor calibrators, your computer has also some built in profiles for calibrating your monitor (e.g. on Mac: System Preferences > Displays > Colours, then choose a profile like Adobe RGB and click on Calibrate). However, this option is not as accurate as calibration by a dedicated monitor calibrator (not even the cheapest one). Nevertheless, using this option is better than no calibration at all.
In addition to these steps, there are other color management steps that are fully related to printing and I will discuss them soon in this series.
I hope this was helpful, should you have any question or remarks please do not hesitate to send me a message.
Triangle Photo Academy team
This article was prepared by Armin Armani