Overview of Color Management
Now we're diving in to color management. As you'll see on this next slide, this is my office where I work. There's actually another desk over here that you can't see, but one thing I will note here, just to set this off. is look at my walls. They're painted 18% gray. I spent a small fortune buying GTI paint, GTI is a company that does a lot of color management stuff, and painted my walls 18% gray. I'm not sure I would do it again, but that is to show you how crazy I get with this. I also have a gray carpet, but we'll get into this. Color management. What is it? Why do you need it? Color management is basically how... First off, we wanna make sure we're looking at colors that are from a known color space, that are accurate, so that when we make it whatever percentage magenta, or whatever we're doing, it actually is what it is and we're not throwing darts at a wall guessing at what the color actually is. Then we wanna make sure that we can actually go to a different device, whether that'...
s a printer, somebody else's computer, your iPhone, whatever it is, and you actually see the same color. It's basically making colors repeatable, which is much more difficult than it sounds. In the old days, maybe five, six years ago, when you walked into an electronics store and there was the wall of TVs back there on the back wall. You would shop for a TV depending on which one had the best color. Meaning which one had the most pleasing color to your eye, 'cause this one would be magenta, that one would be cyan, this one would be brighter, that one would be darker. They were all over the map. Now when you walk into Best Buy, or whatever electronics store you're going to, they're all color managed and all of the TVs look almost identical because they're taking a device, like this studio device and they're actually calibrating the TVs. Now you're shopping for your TV on how sharp it looks, the size, this, that, whatever, but not necessarily the color. That is, because anytime you have electronics involved in something, we could have 12 different Nikon D850s and we could take the exact same picture on all of them and out of the camera, the color would be slightly different. It might be very subtle because the circuit board might be printed with a little more of this, a little more of that, a little less of this. The electronics are not exact for every single device. Because of that, we have to actually use measurement devices to calibrate our monitors and then to tell everything else how those colors were achieved and how they can be translated to a different device. That is all color management. The reason this is so important is because after this point, we're gonna be playing with our images. If we don't have this nailed down on our monitor, as to what we're looking at is true, then we might as well not even start working up our images or we're gonna be fighting the monitor because we don't know what it's gonna look like when we print it. First thing off the bat to understand here is, to start talking about different devices and their color spaces and color gamuts are the color spaces we typically use in photography. Here you see sRGB and Adobe RGB, which you've already talked about. There's also ProPhoto RGB on the far right here. You see ProPhoto RGB is actually even a little bigger in some places than what the eye can see. It doesn't cover the entire things the eye can see. It's missing some greens and some reds down here. Typically our cameras shooting in Adobe RGB, so why would you use a bigger color space, is one question. The answer to that question is that every camera manufacturer has a different idea of what Adobe RGB actually is. If you just use Adobe RGB to work up your images, you might be clipping some of the colors your camera is capturing. We'll get into this more, but just to show you the color spaces. The other thing to note here, I already talked about this, that every device sees stuff differently. Technically, all of us see color differently. I see color differently depending on how much caffeine or Red Bull I drink in the morning. If you drink alcohol while you're working up your images, not that I recommend this, but you'll see color differently, too. Because if you're hydrated or not hydrated, that might affect , very subtly, how you see color. There's probably eight people in this room. The odds are that one of us is color blind. Figure out if you're color blind. Go online and do a little test. You're probably red green color blind. That could massively affect how you see color. Even if you do see color really well, it could take years of you working up images to fine-tune your vision to see really subtle shades and different tones or color casts on your image. Even if your monitor is perfectly calibrated. We gotta fine-tune ourselves as well as everything else. Here's a good example, just to show you. This is bad color management. If this is my picture out of the camera, and it looks one way on the monitor, it looks different on my laptop, it looks different out of the printer. This is an extreme example. This is not typically what's gonna happen, but that printer may or may not be far off, depending on your printing skills. The other thing is when I send images to an editor, as a professional photographer, I even have a caveat when I send images off to people 'cause usually I'll send a collection of JPGs to somebody low-res. Then they'll tell me they want such and such image, but I'm like if your monitor is not calibrated to this settings, which we'll go into, then you may or may not be seeing accurate color on my images. I've had people come back to me and say, "Oh, you should probably saturate those images "a little bit more." I'm like, "Whoa. Hold on. "Is your monitor calibrated?" They're like, well no. Well then you're not seeing my images as they were worked up. This way I can help them get their monitor calibrated so they're actually seeing images. Most clients have this stuff dialed-in, too. National Geographic, for example, has their stuff dialed-in to an incredibly high degree. Which is why, when you pick up a National Geographic magazine, their stuff prints incredibly well, 'cause it's all in-house. All the images come in-house. They're worked up by National Geographic, not by the photographers, generally. They know exactly, for their printing, how the whole process works, so that the magazine looks great. And the website, for that matter. Just as an example. If you have a client that's new to digital, they may not know this stuff, so you might have to help educate them, or they can educate you on how they do their processes, so it's a give and take. Basically the aim of this whole color management is to force all your devices to show color the same way that you worked up your image. We have that same image, but everything looks the same now. This can be very difficult to do. It's not inexpensive. We're gonna go through a whole bunch of products here. How much you wanna dial-in your color management can cost a few hundred dollars to ten thousand dollars. The higher the price, the smaller the increments that you're actually making it better, so it just depends how nutty you wanna get about it. We'll calibrate our monitor here, and then when we do printing tomorrow, we have to use something to actually tell that printer what color gamut we're using, what color space, how this is being figured out, in terms of the color here, so that it can translate it to the printer to make an actual print that looks like our monitor. That's the trick of this whole thing. To do that there's something called Icc profiles which we'll see in this display. Basically, I've inserted these Icc profiles here. Icc, just so you're aware, is a French organization. The International Color Consortium is the English translation of their name. That's hence the Icc profile. They set the standards for color worldwide. Raw Plugin and Convert here, it's essentially an Icc profile, but when you download your images into Lightroom or any other software, they're creating their profile for that camera to render the colors however you want. Once we get into Lightroom, you'll actually see they just added a whole bunch of camera profiles and different stuff that you can choose a different starting point, depending on whatever you like or whatever gets you there faster. Then your computer. This is a Mac Pro, actually creates a profile, which we're gonna do here in a second, for the monitor to force the monitor to show an accurate color space, profile the monitor so that it's showing accurate colors, It also calibrates the monitor, well, we'll do that with the device, for the brightness, and to make sure everything's set up at the right, neutral settings. Then there's another Icc profile we use for a printer, or a scanner, or whatever else we're doing, you have these translators. So if my camera is speaking German, my computer's speaking French, my monitor's speaking Japanese, I need a translator between all these devices to translate that color along the way so that's just a quick analogy of that. Color management overview. It's much more than just dialing in your monitor. The working environment, as you saw with my office, is extremely important. How bright your room is is important. I've got a Sekonic Light Meter right here. There's a certain measurement called lux, which most light meters can be put in if your camera doesn't have this option If you put your meter right in front of your monitor, or put it out here in the light, it should read 20 to 40 lux, which is an ISO 100 is like 1-2 seconds at f/2. or something like that. If you put a white sheet of paper in front of your monitor. That's fairly dark. It's like theater lighting. When you go to see a movie, it's not pitch black, but it's not that bright. It reads 240 lux right now. That's 10 times higher than it should be. This is not the perfect work environment, because we've got a blue background here, reflecting off my screen. You don't want hot pink walls or something like this, because you see it on your screen. You want an environment where you dial this in. The lighting in your office. You also want that light to be a certain color temperature. Daylight balanced. That's 5,000 degrees kelvin. This gets really tricky when you're setting up the environment. You also don't want windows and I might actually be covering some of this stuff, but we'll get to it. You don't want open windows where the sun's going and changing all through the day because it might be way brighter in the morning and not so bright in the afternoon as the sun goes to the other side of your house. You wanna black out all the windows. You wanna fully control the environment so that the light is not changing in that office and it stays at that brightness. How I do it, and I'll show you the picture with my office, is I have a lamp with a SoLux bulb. SoLux makes the most color accurate bulbs in the planet. They're the bulbs that are in most modern art museums. The Guggenheim. All the big museums across the world have these bulbs, that are daylight balanced, pointing at world famous paintings. I basically stick that lamp next to my monitor and I move it until it's the exact ray of brightness right in front of my monitor and the room is the right brightness according to the light meter. How do I know this stuff? These are ISO 9000 standards that are industry standards. 95% of photographers I meet have no clue about this stuff, because it's just not something we've ever dealt with. For me, it's taken many, many years of investigating and mostly not talking to photographers, but talking to prepress people that print magazines and books because their job depends on color accuracy so it's very critical that they know this stuff. Another thing here is use a high end monitor. I'm gonna really go into monitors in a second. This is an EIZO. EIZO is basically, as far as I know, the top end brand for color management. They're also some of the most expensive monitors out there in the market for photographers. This is the CG277. We'll talk about this a little bit more. Super color accurate. The other thing we're gonna do is compare the brightness of the paper we're printing on, if we're going to print, compared to a pure white piece of paper in Photoshop here on our monitor. That's what's called matching color white. We'll get into that a little bit more. I think I'm getting ahead of myself here. Once you've calibrated your monitor, how do you know that it's accurate? The only way you know it's accurate is if you make a print and then you put that print in a known color brightness and white balance, which we've got a GTI Print Viewing box that's D50, so that 5,000 degrees kelvin which is daylight. It's got that perfect brightness, so that when we look at the white piece of paper with nothing on it, and the white piece of paper from Photoshop, we can compare those and tweak our profile that we've made for our monitor to match them. Then once we match paper white, the print should look almost identical to the monitor if we're using a glossy or luster paper. That's kinda the process. Are you wasting your time if you don't do this? Well, it depends. If you're a pro photographer, like I am, I'm gonna show you some images in this presentation where my images looked like horrible in the magazine and that was bad because that reflects on me. It doesn't reflect on the magazine. My name's the one next to the image. If my images don't look good in the magazine or the book, that's a problem for me, that I need to figure out the problem. If you're just posting images on Instagram, who knows what people's phones look like so their brightness could be up or down or all over the map. But for me as a pro, and anybody who is a serious photographer, who's printing their images, if you do what I'm saying here, at least to some degree, you're gonna save yourself a boatload of money when you go to print the images 'cause you won't have to make 10 prints. You'll make one print and it'll be almost identical to your monitor. Or your client will be much happier and you'll probably get hired more often than that photographer that doesn't have this dialed in because they've got a hodgepodge of images from this other photographer and they're all over the map color wise and they don't print consistency, so it's just giving a higher service level to your client. So it depends on what you're doin'. I wouldn't say it's a complete waste of time, but at the very least, calibrate your monitor. Minimum. That's a couple hundred bucks for a colorimeter or a spectrophotometer. We'll talk about that here in a second. What I've been saying earlier is often photographers early in the days I did this, we blame the printer back in the days when everybody read magazines more often for screwing up the images. When in reality, they actually know what they're doing, in my experience, really well and it's us who don't have our stuff together. On that topic, again, just what I said. This is a topic that's very sticky 'cause people get really defensive that they're not doing something and it's working fine for them. Hey, it's workin' for you, great. No problem. But for those of you that really wanna push the envelope and really wanna make sure that you're doing everything you possibly can to control your color, this is it. And this is the most important part of this entire class, 'cause if we don't do this well, everything we do from here on in, we're throwing darts at the wall and we have no idea what we're doing. That's why I get so crazy about color management, because this is the anchor for everything. My story My first printed book. This is Chris Sharma, deep water soloing off the coast of Mallorca. He was on the cover of my first book on adventure photography. The first printed book. It actually published this ebook on digital workflow before this came out, but this is not my fault. There was a slide image that we sent to China to be printed on the cover and they gave us a guide print which looked great. Six months later, they printed the book. It had a giant green color cast which I'm not sure you can see on the screen here. My mom could see it. If my mom could see it, it's pretty bad 'cause her TVs unwatchable in terms of the color issues. It's like, "Oh, man. "It's on the cover, too. "How can I send this out to clients? "I mean look at that. It's horrible." Even though it wasn't my issue, it made me sit up and really pay attention to color management. Before this I had had a green color cast happen to some of my images in magazines every once in a while. I was like, "That's really random." I blamed the magazine. I'll tell you a little more about that story in a bit. Any questions at this point besides do I need all of this, 'cause we'll get there. The answer is you need some of it, but you don't necessarily need all of it, depending on what you're doing.