To many people, colour management seems like a black art, almost the work of the devil. In fact, it really is quite simple and if you can follow the instruction manual for your camera you can certainly understand colour management.
This is intended to be a very quick start to get you up and running. Colour management means linking colour between devices, so what your camera ‘sees’ is what appears on your monitor, and therefore, what appears on the printed page.
First, you need to go into the camera menu and set up the correct colour. I’m assuming here that you are using a Canon Digital SLR camera. All the operation menus are fairly similar, but if you need to, check your product manual for exact details of how to do the following on your camera model.
TIP: while you have the camera in your hand, check the ‘WB’ or ‘White Balance’ setting. Chances are that it will be set for ‘Auto’. If you are shooting under daylight conditions, select ‘Daylight’ or ‘Sunlight’. This will help you to capture what you see under natural daylight, just like in the days of film as most films are balanced for daylight.
The next stage is probably the trickiest. The monitor or screen is your digital light box. Without it you cannot see correctly what your images contain, so it is important that it shows you the right information. First, it has to be ‘calibrated’ and then ‘profiled’. To do this you need the help of a colorimeter.
Here is an example using Eye One Display 2. Install the software provided. If you are using a PC, re-start the machine and then plug in the device. On a PC you will be asked if you wish to install the USB device. Do not search the internet, but allow the device to install automatically.
Start the software and select the picture of the monitor.
Choose ‘Advanced’ and select the type of monitor, i.e. CRT, LCD or laptop.
Colour temperature: 6500K
Gamma: 2.2 (DO NOT select 1.8 on a Mac)
Luminance (or brightness) 120cd/m
You will now be asked to place the device on the screen. Suspend it with the weight as a counter balance. Make sure it is in contact with the surface of the monitor.
If you are asked to set up the brightness, follow the instructions. You need to aim for a luminance of 120cd/m on a typical LCD monitor and as close to that as you can on the old fashioned screens. On a laptop, set the brightness to maximum and leave the luminance where it is.
Once the luminance and colour temperature have been set, the display is ‘calibrated’ or set to a known state. It is now important to measure that state and to create a profile. This will ensure the monitor displays colours correctly to a recognised international standard.
The software will now display a large sequence of colours on-screen and a range of grey tones. Once this has completed you will be asked to remove the Eye One from the screen and choose a name for the profile.
You have the option to see a before-and-after view of the screen. The results on a newly-calibrated display are usually dramatic.
When you save the profile, the software will set it as a default for your monitor and giving you the option of a timed reminder. For an older CRT screen, repeat the procedure weekly. For a flat or LCD screen, every couple of weeks is fine, as it is for a laptop.
Once the screen has been calibrated and profiled, do not change brightness, colour or any other setting. This is applies to laptops too.
See the difference
Try looking at a known image. Does it look better or different? Images of blue skies are considered ‘memory colours’ and are often worth comparing with reality.
Set your desktop as a neutral grey and check it. Does it look neutral? If you have used the software correctly, it should be near-perfect grey with no pink, blue or green cast.
Now you can look at your digital pictures with the confidence that you are seeing them as they really are.