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Imagers Adopt Range of Solutions to Take Challenge Out of Color Management



"It's very simple-you can train someone on how to use it in 15 minutes, and after that they can do two or three files per minute," Rapp says.

Today, every file for printing is color-corrected either by the lab or client. Rapp says the iCorrect software is so easy to use that some customers have purchased it for themselves. Those who do their own color correction get a 40 percent price break for printing those files.

At Burrell Colour, a network of six professional portrait and wedding labs based in Crown Heights, IN, meeting challenges of color management required a three-pronged strategy. "Early on, when we had a limited number of customers using digital, we had a color management system that gave us accuracy of between 50 and 60 percent," says Marc Struble, director of systems and technology. "But as digital changed and we brought on more photographers using it, we knew we needed a much higher level of success."

"We had to make sure all of our labs were balanced to each other for consistent printing on any order at any of the facilities," says Burrell's Bonnie Reid.

As Bonnie Reid, director of sales and marketing, explains, the first step to color management required elaborate testing and calibration of equipment at the company's main facility to achieve a color-managed workflow. Using that standard, the company then focused on its other facilities. "We had to make sure all of our labs were balanced to each other for consistent printing on any order at any of the facilities," she says.

Critical phase three focuses on photographers and their equipment as a way to manage their expectations. The company put together a package that included a test print, test file and advice on monitor calibration and settings they could use to set their monitors to display an accurate representation of Burrell Colour's digital print capabilities. "We make the recommendations for setup and the procedures, and as a final confirmation they submit a test file to us for printing," Reid explains.

The system works for the photographers who follow the company's advice and accept their responsibility for color management. Reid estimates this cooperative response to color management has enabled the company to realize accuracy on better than 90 percent of digital print orders. "Cameras are continuing to improve, and photographers are continuing to get better [at color management], so I think we'll reach a point where color management becomes less and less of an issue," she observes. "But there's still a lot of room for improvement."

Today CPQ offers two levels of pricing: its standard rate if color correction is done by the lab, and a discounted rate if the photographers correct their files before submitting them for printing.

No Compromise on Color

For a wedding and portrait lab like CPQ Professional Imaging in Cleveland, TN, there's absolutely no room for compromise on color management. With digital sales poised to increase, color management poses an ongoing concern. But it's not the challenge it was during the company's early experiments with digital, according to vice president Paul Kimball.

"Since we started our digital department, color was an issue until we decided to bring everything under one color management system," he says. The company produces print packages on a range of equipment, including a Durst Lambda and Zeta printers, and a Kodak RP 30 laser printer. "All are good printers," he notes, "but you need a color management system for consistent quality," print to print.

Eventually the company built its own color management solution from a combination of vendor programs and proprietary software writing exclusively for its workflow. They used the tools available in what used to be Kodak ColorFlow, but they are now using standard ICC industry profiles, and their working color space is Adobe98.

Kimball says one key component to any color management solution is calibrating monitors to profiles of output devices. The company uses ColorVision's SpyderPRO colorimeter and OptiCAL software for calibrating its LaCie monitors. The software is offered as a stand-alone product and as part of the ColorVision SpectroPro suite. Once the company perfected its color management system, it focused on educating photographers about color management. "A lot of photographers knew they wanted to go digital but didn't really have an idea of some of the challenges involved in digital imaging."

To help them and eliminate the margin of problem files, the company put together ICC profiles for all its printers and made them available to photographers on CD. It also worked up a color management "tip sheet" available for download, which explains color management and how they can calibrate to the capabilities of CPQ's digital printers.

Today CPQ offers two levels of pricing: its standard rate if color correction is done by the lab, and a discounted rate if the photographers correct their files before submitting them for printing. "We're still doing the color correction on 80 percent of the digital work we do," notes Kimball. "But we're making the tools available for the photographers who want that control so their jobs can go directly to print."


   







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