Who Is This Book Written For?
I travel a great deal, teaching students around the world, and I've found that what they need is straightforward, plain-language instruction that will help them solve their own problems. In this book, I hope to help you solve digital-imaging and -processing issues by showing you color management concepts that are easy to understand.
I don't want you to have to buy a huge doorstop book to find the information you need. The Eddie Tapp On Digital Photography series is designed to give you specific information on subjects such as using advanced production techniques, creating a color management workflow, controlling digital color and tone, and making creative enhancements.
This second book in the series, Practical Color Management, provides the basic information you'll need to get consistent color results from your digital files. In this technological era, it's easy to find yourself in what I call the "Abyss of the Digital Mass," a spherical object that encompasses all known elements of all things digital. Compared to the Digital Mass, the amount of knowledge most of us possess is but a few granules of sand. Sound familiar? But don't be the least bit intimidated or discouraged by this mass. Our job is to learn a single element at a time, and through education, implementation, and experience, these single elements will merge to form a greater understanding. From there, we will know that we can take some control of our own work.
Why Do We Need Color Management?
If we all had one type of camera, computer operating system, image-editing application, and output device, it would be extremely easy to set up a single system in which color would always come out the way you want it. But because we all have various hardware, software, and processing techniques, it's important to learn how to use the tools and theories of color management consistently so that our results can be predicted, and we aren't guessing in the dark. Here are the simple answers to the question of why we need color management:
My Own Color Management Journey
Early on in my digital experiences, Don Stevenson, an accomplished commercial photographer and good friend, told me about ICC profiles and color management. Don had only read about the promise of ICC profiles but encouraged me to get involved. After a little investigation, I did just that. Chris Warner, then with Apple Computer, introduced me to what was then an innovative solution: the Color Tron by Lightsource. And it all started to come together.
A few years later, GretagMacbeth and Apple had a series of seminars on color management, showing instruments and preaching the advent of using ICC profiles. But there was never any real information on how to actually use these profiles. I was already using them with relative success but never knew if I was doing so properly or not, and I had hoped that these seminars would reveal any hidden secrets. Instead, I would always leave these (free) seminars knowing there were good instruments to use but never seeing how to actually implement them in a workflow. So I continued to create profiles using what I call "Back Door Profiling" with four-color printing and professional photo labs with great success.
The first publicized success story using profiles came from a project that Stephen Johnson (digital explorer and innovator) had worked on. He shared his calibrated monitor profile with a printer in Texas, which used the profile to view the proper rendition of color and tone and print fine art posters for Stephen. The next publicized success story was documented by USA Today.
All of this was in the mid-1990s, and anything beyond using the Adobe Gamma Control Panel to simulate a calibrated monitor for color management was Greek to most of us. It wasn't until Photoshop 5.5 came out that we could easily use ICC profiles for output conversion on both the Mac and Windows platforms. At that time, I decided to study ICC profiles more closely so that I could relate this information in my workshops. I started to preach the promise of profiles in all workflows. I found that by implementing three simple stages (covered in this book), it was possible to obtain predictable results from the printing press or even the photographic lab. However, achieving these results was a challenge because for this type of workflow to succeed, consistency with the printing devices had to be maintained, and there was a lot of fluctuation or inconsistency with some labs and print houses. At one point, a lab executive wrote to me and asked that I stop spreading the promise of color management in my workshops and seminars.
These days most of the photographic labs have implemented color management into their workflows, allowing us to partner with them and let them color manage our work.
As a photographer, educator, consultant, and trainer, I have had the opportunity to work with many corporations, government agencies, individual studios, professional photographic labs, and four-color printing houses in establishing and implementing color-managed workflows. And in doing this, I have come across many challenges. This brings me to my coauthor Rick Lucas, who has always been my primary color management guru. On many occasions I have called Rick while I was on-site, and he has always been able to walk me through the most difficult challenges. (It is an honor to have my color management guru work with me in writing this book.)
There was a time not too long ago when teaching color management in my workshops, while perhaps the most important topic, ended up being the least fun. This is no longer the case. Color management has become a key element in the success of a digital workflow. Because 80 percent of imagers are now using some form of digital, they have acquired a fair amount of digital equipment and are demanding predictable and consistent results.
I have attempted to add workflow procedures within this book that partner up with a color-managed workflow. One workflow option that is not covered in a RAW workflow is Adobe's DNG (Digital Negative) format for preserving a variety of RAW files. DNG has the promise of allowing us to acquire today's RAW file formats years from now, even as operating systems and RAW processing software progress and change. I would encourage you to look at the DNG format for preservation of today's RAW files.
It is my hope that you will be able to take some of the concepts in this book, adapt them to a successful workflow with your work, whether you have a professional workflow or not, and enjoy the promise of color management.
Implementing Practical and Consistent Color Management
Here's a specific look at what the chapters will cover:
Consistency Conquers the Digital Mass
Color management is a sophisticated conglomeration of scientific computational algorithms, and it is not easy to grasp it all at once. The following pages are designed to help you understand the basics of how color management works and, more importantly, specifics of how certain type of workflows benefit from certain selections or settings.
As with any workflow, establish your settings and maintain consistency. (Have I used the word "consistency" enough here?) If your results are not predictable, analyze the area you think may be the problem and change a setting, color space, profile, or option, and come up with a solution that works for you.
In today's digital workflow, the ability to implement consistency has been greatly enhanced by the advent of color management. Over the past decade, manufacturers of equipment and software have increasingly allowed the implementation of color management options and controls, and there is every indication that, as technology progresses, using these controls will become easier and even more automated. Currently, it is possible to take a single image file and color manage this file to a host of different printers, including ink-jet, dye sub, laser, a professional lab, or a printing press, with matching results. The one thing you should demand in your workflow is predictable results, and color management can make that easier to obtain. Consistency is key; take the challenge. (There I said it again in case you missed it.)
This book was written based on Photoshop CS2, although many of the tools have looked the same for a few versions now. Of course, certain chapterssuch as Chapters 3 and 4, which touch on Adobe Bridgeare intended to address workflow needs specific to CS2.
This book is intended for both Mac and Windows users. Most of the tools and menus in Photoshop work about the same on both platforms. I'll call attention to those few specific differences, but in general, to accommodate both Mac and Windows readers, shortcuts are listed like this: Opt/Alt + Cmd/Ctrl + X, where the Mac key combination is listed first in each set of alternatives. Most Mac users know by now that they should Ctrl+click to bring up contextual menus when not using a two-button mouse.
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