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Color management is for all photographers. It is just as
important to black and white photographers as color photographers.
Color Management is a set of techniques and associated hardware, software and
computer files used to ensure consist colors and luminosity
(brightness) throughout your
entire workflow, from capture to final output, be it print or electronic file.
Because it also manages luminosity, color management is used by black and
white photographers as well as color photographers.
It is not just a 'spider'. A 'spider' is an unofficial term for just one of
the pieces of hardware and software we use to apply color management to our
workflow. Specifically, a monitor colorimeter.
It is not calibrating your monitor to your printer. Color management
calibrates individual pieces of equipment (e.g. monitor, printer, etc) to a
known standard; not to each other. Since each piece of equipment is
calibrated to the same standard, you will get consistent results across your
equipment. Why is this distinction important? If you calibrate your
monitor and your prints still do not match your monitor, then you may not be
properly color managing your printer.
Color management is not about color accuracy or color correction. It is
about color consistency. Color management ensures that the colors in your
image are the colors you see on a monitor and in a print. Color accuracy
and color correction are used to ensure the colors in your image are the ones
you want. You need both color management and color accuracy. Why is
this distinction important? If you implement a color managed workflow and
you are still not satisfied with the results, it may be an issue of accuracy and
To properly understand color management, you will first want to be sure you
understand the following concepts.
- You can read about hue, saturation and lightness (also known as brightness
or luminosity) on the Light page.
- You can read about color profiles and color spaces on the Profiles and Color Spaces page.
- You can read about file formats on the File Format page.
Listed below are the high level components of a color managed workflow.
- Film and digital camera. Calibrate your camera's exposure meter. This is true for
both film and digital cameras. Why? Because exposure is what
determines tone, or luminance, in your image.
- Digital camera settings. Show the details
- File Format (may also be called image quality and/or image
size): Set to Raw or Raw + JPEG. This includes
black and white photographers.
- Color space (may also be called color mode): If you shoot
both Raw + JPEG, select the
color space you most commonly use. Generally, there are least
two choices: Adobe RGB (1998) and sRGB. If you use
ProPhoto RGB in the computer, set your digital camera to Adobe RGB. This setting only
affects JPEG images as Raw files do not have a color space. You can learn the pros and
cons of these two color spaces on the
- White Balance: (Unlike file format and color space, white
balance may have to be set for each photographic session.) There
are five common ways to set white balance.
Show them to me
- Auto - The camera automatically tries to determine the
white balance. Auto is best to use under rapidly
changing lighting conditions.
- Preset - Select a predefined setting, such as cloudy
day. Presets are easy and, usually, intuitive to use.
- Specific - Dial in a specific
color temperature, such as 5500 K. This should only be
used if you know the actual color temperature of the light
source, such as studio lighting.
- Custom - Use your camera to directly measure the color
temperature from a white or
gray card. While more time consuming, the custom method
can be the most accurate when the color temperature of the
light source is not known. Reference your camera's owners
manual to determine if your camera has the custom feature
and how to use it.
- Semi-Custom - Take a
gray card to your photographic sessions and take at
least one photograph of the gray card in the same light as
the subject. Once the photograph of the gray card is open
in Camera Raw, click the gray card with the white balance
and use the Temperature and Tint settings for the other
- Sharpening: Turn off. Sharpening does not affect Raw
capture. For JPEG images, sharpening should be applied to the image in
- Contrast (may also be called
tone): Set to normal or auto.
Contrast can be easily increased or decreased in Photoshop.
- Saturation (may also be called vivid): Set to normal or auto.
You can use the information on the
Hue/Saturation page to increase an image's saturation in
- Noise reduction: Do not turn off.
- Black and White: Turn off. Even if you are a black and white
photographer, you will want to convert your images to black and
white in Photoshop, not Camera Raw, using any number of Photoshop
techniques. Several of these
techniques can be
found on the
Color to Black and White page.
- Histogram: Learn how to display the image's
in the LCD monitor. Being able to read a histogram will help you
create an appropriately exposed photograph. Overexposure can cause
loss of detail in highlight areas. Underexposure can cause loss of
detail in shadow areas and increase
noise. How to read a histogram is explained on the
- Scanner. Scan using the Adobe RGB 1998 (preferred) or sRGB color space.
Do not save your scanned images in the scanner software's raw format.
Save them in a lossless format, such as TIFF, with the color space embedded.
- Monitor. Use a colorimeter to
calibrate your display. The end result is a color profile on your computer that your video card uses
to adjust the signals it sends to the monitor. If you use an old
version of Photoshop, make sure Adobe Gamma is not running on your computer.
If you have more than one monitor and your operating system and video card supports
separate color profiles for each monitor, calibrate all monitors to the same
luminance value (cd/m2 or candela per square meter.)
- Raw Converter. Make the following settings.
- White Balance: Set to As Shot; but you will adjust it as needed.
- Color Space: Adobe RGB (1998) or ProPhoto RGB for print
workflows. Adobe RGB (1998) or sRGB for pure web workflows.
- Bit depth: Use 16 bits per channel if you can. If you use ProPhoto RGB, you
really need to use 16 bpc. B&W photographers also should use 16 bpc.
8 bit can capture 256 luminance values per channel. True 16 bit can
capture 65,536 luminance values
- Photoshop. In the Edit > Color Settings dialog box, the following
should be set.
- Working Spaces: RGB should be Adobe RGB (1998) or ProPhoto RGB
for print workflows. Adobe RGB (1998) or sRGB for pure web
workflows. If you use ProPhoto RGB, you need to use a 16 bit
per channel workflow.
- Color Management Policies
- Set them all to Preserve Embedded Profiles
- Profile Mismatches: both checked
- Missing Profiles: checked
- Conversion Options
- Engine: Adobe (ACE)
- Intent: Relative Colorimetric
- Use Black Point Compensation: checked
- User Dither: checked
- Advanced Controls
- Desaturate Monitor Colors: unchecked
- Blend RGB Colors Using Gamma: unchecked
- Printer. Determine printing environment's black point.
- Tell me why
- Photoshop can distinguish all 256 digital tones.
However, your inkjet printer may not be able to reproduce
all 256 tones. Knowing your printing environment's black
point will help you manage your printing
environment so you can print detail where you want to. Do
not get confused between calibrating a monitor to set its
black point and determining a printing
environment's black point. Doing one does not do
- Tell me how
- Read the
Printer Black Point page. The
Downloads page has the black point and white point
targets discussed in this section.
- You can record your printing environment's black and
white points on the
Black and White Points chart page.
- Printing. See the Photoshop Printing page for details. But the highlights are
- Color Handling: Let Photoshop manage colors
- Printer Profile: Use the appropriate color profile for the
printer, paper and ink being used. If a profile is not
available, consider purchasing custom profiles.
- Rendering Intent: Relative Colorimetric
- Black Point Compensation: Checked
- If you do not use your printer on a regular basis, print a
nozzle check pattern once a week to keep the nozzles from clogging.
- Internet. The Internet is the least supported environment for
managing colors. Monitors and some browser's do support the sRGB color
space. But only a very small minority of web users calibrate their
monitor. Therefore, the best you can do is convert and embed the sRGB
color space into your JPEG images that are to be used on a web site.