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On the difficulty of acquiring good Color Management knowledge...

Published July 28th, 2011

Hello!



Before I start blabing about all the nonsense I have to say, I want to take a moment to celebrate this first entry in my blog on 500px. I discovered 500px very recently and just love it. Coming from other similar websites, I find the quality and clarity of the website to be much higher and love the fact that people don't post the latest pictures of their cat yawning or pictures of their manhood (although cats are cute, it is quite boring to see 10000 favs on a cat picture because it is... "soooo kwoooot!"... well you get my point... and I have no interest in other guys private parts really).
Anyway... I am getting out of my point here. The gist is... I am happy I found 500px and love the website.



This introduction being done... let's go to the main topic of this first entry: the mighty nightmare of color management.



It all came on a gloomy night when I was working on a picture and decided to post it on a website to see if someone was interested in commenting on my talent (or lack of). After posting the pride of my art, the only comments I received was from people saying that the picture lacked saturation, that the greens were tinted in a mix of blue and grey, and generally, that I had underachieved the potential of my picture. There was surely something wrong with the computer screen of these ignorants who dare claiming the lack of quality of my cherished photographic work. Being the self critic I am, I decided to check into that anyway... and that is when I hit the wall of color management (Yes... I was that ignorant of what color means in digital photography... I may say, I had the excuse that I am coming from the old school of darkrooms and emulsions but I had no real excuse for this gap of knowledge for the digital world other than being lazy).



In a fraction of an hour, google was telling me there were color spaces, gamuts, ICC profiles and globally a general ignorance of the general public to the extend of this struggle for the perfect solution. But... I like challenges and learning new things. So I digged in the different sources and came up with a list of books to read in order to update my brain with a relative good knowledge of color management. However, the wall was harder to climb than I thought.
All the books I was reading were only partially talking about color management or were aimed at the scientific reader with detailed and scary diagrams of a printer's piezzoelectric elements to inject ink on paper or chemical details about the absorption of the said papers. For an ignoramus like me... it was pretty scary.



Nevertheless, after many hours of study, I got to the point where I learned to calibrate a monitor correctly, use the right color space for the right printing method and impress my fellow non-photograpy-freak friends with boring discussion about the quality of the fine art prints done under Adobe RGB instead of sRGB (not to mention my poor wife who had to suffer my explanations on the subject). With this in mind and without further gilding the lily and boring my readers to death with all the above stories, I finally come to my recommendation of what are (in my humble opinion) the best sources of knowledge for beginners to learn and surpass the mighty task of managing colors.



Recommended readings and sources (I will keep on updating this list as I currently go over new sources to further my knowledge):
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Fine Art Printing for Photographers by Uwe Steinmueller and Juergen Gulbins.
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This book became my bible when I doubt about my colors. From an introduction to the printing techniques (and yes, a small explanation about the piezzo-electric components of an inkjet printer) to print permanence, types or papers and off course the explanation of the different color spaces available, this book covers all necessary elements in plain english and a straight to the point style. No need to be a chemist or a electronics engineer to understand this one.
The book is a great reference and summarize all the necessary knowledge to control your colors.



The only disadvantage I would mention is that it focuses on fine art printing. However, how can I say it is a disadvantage when the title is just mentioning that the book is indeed focused on that very topic. You will notice that despite this focused topic, the books teaches enough to have a good understanding of the other printing methods and gives a great base for being proficient in color management.



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Overview of color management on www.cambridgeincolour.com
(http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/color-management1.htm):
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A great source for beginners and definitely a good short read to start with when you are just beginning your nightmare of managing color or threw away the latest prints you received blaming the printer for giving you something that did not look anything like what you had on your computer screen.
If you like what you read on this website, you are good to go with the above mentioned book.



So to sum up this first entry of mine, and to make sense of its title, let me conclude saying this: Color management is a pain for most people, and I personally find it hard to find good sources to learn from as a beginner and amateur. However, if you like photography like I do, you will find color management fascinating and actually may one day find it a way to be more creative.



Finally, I invite everyone interested to criticize my entry and add any source they may think would be useful to the topic.



Thanks for reading all this blab!





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