Colour Management

Colour Management is probably one of the most misunderstood subjects of digital photography, however in reality it is quite simple to put together a system where the finished print is an accurate colour representation of the original subject.

There are 3 stages of colour management in the digital process, capture, viewing & printing that every photographer should be aware of.

Capture

DSLRs have many white balance features, one of which is a preset. Canon cameras use a white subject to set the preset and Nikon use a grey subject. The test subject is put in the same light as the real subject and an image taken. The camera will indicate that it has been correctly set. Subsequent images are then adjusted for correct colour. One of the most simple tools to do this is the Lastolite Ezybalance (it has a grey side and a white side) at about £20. There are many other options available costing anything up to £100.

Viewing

In order to view an image it is necessary to set up the monitor using some form of colour management device. Software must be installed and then a calibrated device is attached to the screen which reads a series of colour patches generated by the software. From this a profile is created which in future will automatically adjust the screen colours to give a more accurate representation. A screen that has been calibrated can provide a significantly different image from an un-calibrated one.

Printing

In the same way that a profile is generated for the monitor it is possible to generate a profile for a printer. In order to do this a print or a number of prints are made which are covered in coloured patches. These patches are then scanned using a calibrated reader and a comparison made between the colours sent to the printer and the printed colours. From the readings a calculation can be made of how to adjust the colours sent to the printer so that the correct colour is printed.

Colour Management Equipment

There are numerous items of equipment that can carry out both monitor and printer calibration costing anything from £50 - £1000's as well as companies offering to create custom profiles for printers, the cost of which varies, along with the quality.

Whatever you decide to do it is much easier to sell an image that has accurate colours as opposed to one that does not.

Hopefully it will soon be possible to link this article to a colour management company to provide you with further help.