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Color Management



TECH TIPS

Color Management
Pro Shooters Can Achieve Consistent Color When
They Go With the Workflow

BY SAM SWARTZ, Senior Applications Engineer
Systems & Solutions Group, Eastman Kodak Company.

This graphic shows what can happen when you add color management to your digital workflow. The top image shows a diversified but flat photo with adequate color. In the bottom image, there is improved contrast in her face, increased detail, boosted saturation, and intensified color.

Is there a serious practitioner of the photographic arts out there today, born and raised on film and processing chemicals, who has not at least considered "taking the plunge" into digital imaging?

There are compelling reasons- including heightened predictability and efficiency by controlling images via color management software tools-to jump into the digital pool. Equally compelling are the reasons to look before you leap

ICC (International Color Consortium) color management can deliver a serious business advantage to professional photographers-by increasing productivity, improving image quality, and accelerating lab-processing time.

Many photographers have a good grasp of the cameras and printing devices used in digital imaging "solutions." But much of digital photography's potential lies in the "digital darkroom"-the software applied between capture and output.

Few resources detail the practical application of color management for photographers or studios wanting to maximize its benefits and performance. That's what I'd like to focus on: this critical software-based segment of a digital "workflow" to create quality photographic images.

WHAT IS COLOR MANAGEMENT?

Simply put, color management helps solve many of the problems associated with reproducing consistent color as the digital image moves across devices, applications, and platforms. It can also be used to customize or "edit" color, hue, and saturation to ensure color accuracy. Adding color management to your digital workflow and adopting the ICC standard will help you:

• Establish consistent, predictable color throughout the color reproduction chain.
• Minimize wasted time and materials because predictable color means fewer remakes.
• Provide standard operating procedures for color production that will reduce deviations caused by variations in techniques.

Fundamental to color management is the color management module (CMM), which must be active in either your operating system or in the application. With that as a starting point, Kodak has assembled the following "best practices" techniques and workflow paths, for both the photographer and the lab.

Color management can produce significant improvements in an image. Notice the increased detail, contrast, and texture in the bottom image, as well as boosted saturation.

PHOTOGRAPHER'S WORKFLOW

To view your images on-screen in accurate color, the first thing you need to do is calibrate your monitor and build a "profile" for it. You also should calibrate and build monitor profiles for anyone else that evaluates or edits your images, so each person will see the same colors. Once you set up the monitor profile as your system profile, color management-savvy applications will use it to accurately render images.

Profiling digital cameras can compensate for variables such as exposure, lighting, and the unique characteristics of the camera. So you'll likely want to build a custom profile for each scene and apply it to every image you capture in a session.

The first step in the digital camera profile-building process involves use of the industry-standard GretagMacbeth ColorChecker Color Rendition Chart, in 24-patch or 240-patch format, and profile building software, such as Kodak ColorFlow Input Profile Builder. Using your camera software, photograph the ColorChecker and save the image. Then launch the profile- builder software, which uses your ColorChecker image to construct the profile.

If your camera application uses profiles, apply them during capture. Some camera applications, such as Kodak Professional DCS Capture Studio, have color management integrated within them, so profiles are automatically applied when you capture images.

If your camera application does not include color management, you can apply profiles using an application such as Adobe Photoshop. After you capture and download your images, open them in Photoshop, apply the custom camera profile you've created, and convert to the RGB working space-such as Kodak ProPhoto RGB-you want to use. Then embed the profile.

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