Thursday, 15 March 2012

What’s wrong with my colour?

Ever noticed the colour of your printed digital image looks different from what you see on your computer? This is called colour management and a new ‘thing’ we have to contend with in the digital era.
It is basically all about the colour of light and how our different devices record this: some are better than others and hence that is always reflected in price.

Our digital images are made up of pixels and each of these pixels is described by a set of colour numbers. It’s all very mathematical and something most of us, including me, have struggled to understand.

What happens is every device (camera, monitor, printer, scanner) interprets colours in its own way and therefore gives different colour numbers for the same colour pixel. And this is when your images start to look very different from your computer to your print. Even each camera interprets colour in its own way. For example look at this same colour numbered pixel and the colours it displayed as:

Pixel from camera
93R 154G 186B

Same pixel colour number printed at Lab ‘X’ 

 Same pixel colour number printed at Lab ‘Y’

So what do we do? Our best bet is to try and manage our colour workflow. 
It is a complex area and at each level there are numerous things you can do: colour management is a field of its own and for many that’s a mine field not a daisy covered one!
Here’s a couple of tips to get you started.
Start with your camera settings and ask yourself where do you want your images to end up?

sRGB is a good place to start if your images are going to be used for the internet as it’s the colour space of an average uncalibrated computer.

Adobe RGB is at present, the largest colour space available to most DSLR cameras so is a good starting point for those who want to process their digital files and output to a printer as in make prints to hang on your wall.
If you are using Photoshop choose Photoshop to Manage Colours' in the Color Handling options to print from your computer to your printer.

If you are using a printing lab to print images, ask them for their printer profiles and match your screen to that.
Best of luck!
These two images below (both scanned off the prints) came from the same digital file yet printed totally different at two different printing labs.

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