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How to work with predictable color in print

Yvonne Berger (Yvonne_BergerBros) on July 15, 2011

Keywords: color_management, camera, basics, guides, tips, tricks

BB-nikonians-presented This article is brought to you by the "Ask Berger Bros Camera Forum!". Berger Bros kindly has supported Nikonians by providing this article written by professional photographer, instructor and fellow Nikonian Yvonne Berger.



Color management is one of those topics that everyone could use help with. Usually when I ask my students about their experiences with color management the general consensus is ...”frustrating”.

Not everyone is great at interpreting color, but with some practice I believe that anyone can learn to see color and more importantly they can get predictable color from their output device. Photography has been and always will be about the print regardless of what goes on in the digital age we all
love the feeling of holding and seeing a great print. So how do we get there? 
There are a lot of variables of course but let’s start basic then we can get
fancy once we have a better understanding of the ingredients that go into getting a good, predictable print.Every device has a color space, which is the range of RGB (red, green,blue) color that it is able to express, If we shoot JPEG it is determined in camera, if we shoot RAW we choose it post-process. By default, your DSLR camera is set to sRGB, you should change it to Adobe RGB. If you shoot RAW, in the RAW processor you will choose Adobe RGB. The range of color in Adobe RGB is greater than the sRGB color space.

cakeNext, we want to make sure the color we
are recording is accurate. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. You could make a custom white balance using an Expo Disc, which will give you the most accurate reading of the color temperature you are shooting in. You could also use an Xrite Color checker in one shot and then use that target post process to color correct all the images. Either way you need some thing to help you record accurate color because it is hard to remember color. 

Post-process is where a lot of mistakes are made regarding color, that’s why I recommend using one of the aforementioned methods. Additionally, it is important to be working on a monitor in subdued light that has been calibrated using a device like Datacolor’s Spyder Elite. If the color you are looking at on your monitor
isn’t correct you will be making adjustments based on what you see. If your monitor is running too cool and too bright you will be making adjustments to make it warmer and darker so when it goes to print it will not match the monitor.

xrite color chkr

Xrite Color Passport

On location shooting product for a client under mixed lighting made it difficult to get a proper in camera custom white balance. So I used the Passport Color Checker in my first shot. Then removed it for subsequent shots. Then in Lightroom I use the WB eyedropper to sample 18% grey from the checker-my color is perfect and then I sync the rest of the images to that setting.





DSC_3656 red rose Even the simplest forms of a color, in this case one white flower and one red flower, can vary. Go to the paint store and pick out color swatches and compare them to each other, there are warm and cool versions of every color. Practice seeing and interpreting color by comparing the swatches side by side.

Finally, when you send the image to the printer, you must be sureto select the correct ICC profile in the print dialog box. The ICC profile is instruction for the printer as to how to lay the ink on a specific paper. These profiles are available from the manufacturer’s website with instructions on how to install them. The print dialog box will also ask you to select a media type which will also be in the handling instructions. Finally, you must shut off the printer’s color management because you are handling the color in the editing program (i.e.Photoshop or Lightroom) and you do not need the printer software to do it too. Otherwise this will result in ‘double’ color management and your prints will no doubt be off. Although this may seem like a lot of steps to achieving the proper color I assure you it is well worth the time and effort. Color management is a multi-step process and if you are looking for predictable, accurate color it’s the best way to achieve it. WIth a little time invested and the proper tools you will have beautiful prints to share instead of your images being captive on your computer’s hard drive!

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BB-nikonians-160x50-Camera This article is brought to you by the "Ask Berger Bros Camera Forum!". Berger Bros kindly has supported Nikonians by providing this article written by professional photographer, instructor and fellow Nikonian Yvonne Berger.



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Yvonne Berger Yvonne Berger (Yvonne_BergerBros)

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