Guest article by Barry Nelson of Captivated Images

Many photographers ponder as to why the color seen on their monitor does not match the print that comes back from the lab. Back in the days of film it was common for photographers to have their lab do the color correcting; they simply shot and mailed their film to the lab and what came back was a proper color corrected print.

These days in the digital era, it isn’t quite as simple. A good working knowledge of color management is critical to today’s digital images to maintain color consistency. Color management ensures that what you see on your computer monitor is what will come out when the image is printed.

The complexity of what color management is could fill a book and is far too much to discuss here. In fact, there are several very good books about color management such as “Real World Color Management” by Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy, and Fred Bunting. In short, the term describes series of profiles called ICC (International Color Consortium) profiles of every device in the entire workflow from the camera, to computer monitor to printer. This tutorial by FujiFilm is helpful in describing the entire process.

Color calibration tool:

How do I maintain color consistency from digital to print?

To calibrate a monitor is to make sure that each device is “seeing” the color the same way. While there are multiple solutions to calibrating monitors and printers, the most accurate way is to use a hardware calibration tool. This is an electronic device that looks at your monitor and printer paper and then creates an ICC profile for each. Every monitor and printer is different, so to get an accurate color depends on how accurately the devices are profiled.

Hardware calibration tools can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Products such as Color Munk by X Rite and Spyder 4 from Data Color are relatively inexpensive and easy ways to use hardware to calibrate your devices, each offering excellent tutorials on how to use them.

So if you haven’t hardware calibrated your monitor and received the correct ICC profiles for your printer or for your lab, get to it! Then it will really be “what you see is what you get”.

About the photographer:

Owner of Captivated Images in West Texas, Barry Nelson is a portrait photographer who specializes in senior, wedding and family photography. Captivated Images has obtained many awards including the Fuji Masterpiece and Texas Professional Photographers Association Photographer of the Year 2012. See some of Barry’s work below:

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