Magazine Article


Color Management As a Competitive Edge
Great Client Service & Customer Relations Tool

Rick Souders

Rick Souders

Rick Souders

Color management is one of those frequently talked about and often aggravating topics that make many a photographer feel overwhelmed. I won’t attempt to explain how to color calibrate your monitors or printers in this article, because there’s already an abundance of material on how to do that.

Instead, we’ll focus on two other important color management issues: how to take an image and convert it properly so the colors you see on your monitor are in the printable gamut for the four-color printing process; and how to present your color-managed files as a client service.

Adjusting for CMYK

When you take a RAW digital file and process it into a TIF file, you are looking at a full-color image in RGB format. This image can look wonderful on your color-calibrated monitor, but there might be several hues of color out of the printable range because of CMYK’s limited color gamut. Here is a simple technique you can do that won’t take a lot of time.

Open your image in Photoshop, go to the pull-down menu under View, and select Diagram 1A: “Gamut Warning”. You’ll notice that all colors that won’t produce properly in the four-color print process will be grayed out from what you saw on screen in “Dog on Red Couch”. This example shows there are more color areas out of Gamut than in, when compared to “Dog on Red Couch—Color Managed” .

Now that you see your image will not print exactly as you had anticipated after converting to CMYK, you can adjust the image slightly to compensate. Use Levels, Curves or Hue/Saturation commands to make corrections and bring the image colors back to a printable range.

Notice in “Dog on Couch—Color Managed” how most of the colors shown in the gamut warning have now been brought back into an acceptable range. Whenever you give images to clients for print, check the gamut warnings, even if you’re not converting to CMYK, just so you know how things will print. Anytime you can get your images closer to your clients’ expectations, the more valuable you become to them. They will know you’re looking out for their best interests.

Creating Contact Sheets

Let’s continue down the path of presenting that work to your client. If you’re providing assignment images on a CD rather than posting to an FTP, it’s easy to get sloppy and just burn a CD, scribble what’s on the disk, and send it off to the client. This is not a good client service approach, so if you relate to this, read on.

Use your business savvy to help separate yourself from the competition. When presenting files to your client, remember this is another sales presentation opportunity. Put together professional labels for CDs. Label images with names or numbers that will make sense to the client. Provide your client with a high-resolution set of inkjet proofs that shows what files are on the CD and how they will print.

We make proof sheets in Adobe Photoshop CS2 so we can profile prints. Here is how you can make a quick Photoshop Proof:

Use Photoshop’s Contact Sheet II under File/Automate to set up your images into a contact format. Adjust the options available for your needs, such as the number of images placed per page and whether you’d prefer captions under each image. Then select OK to have Photoshop automatically create contact sheets from your images.

When your contact sheet is complete, select “File/Print with Preview.” In the Print dialog, select More Options to expand the box showing Color Management options. Under Color Handling, select “Let Photoshop Determine Colors.” Then select the Printer Profile you’ll use to print your contacts. We’ve selected a custom profile we created using an X-Rite Pulse system calibrated for an Epson R2400 printer with Premium Glossy paper. Select Print and make sure Color Management is set to Off (No Color Adjustment), if you’re using your own calibrated profile. Select paper and print quality under Print Settings, then select Print again to print out your color calibrated Contact Sheet.