Calibrating your workstation

1. Environment

The first and easiest step to color managing your workflow starts in your studio office.  Stick to neutral colored furniture and décor – even wood finishes will create warm casts! Your workspace should be well lit with ambient natural light. Set up artificial lighting to avoid screen glare. Remember that what you wear effects your perception of the image in front of you. Stick to neutral clothing choices. And if you haven’t done so yet, check your own color discrimination with the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue test (but don’t test yourself on a non-calibrated monitor!)  http://www.xrite.com/custom_page.aspx?PageID=75

 

2. Equipment

A reliable monitor cannot be stressed enough. Manufacturers such as NEC and EIZO are preferable. Color management experts recommend a monitor be no older than a few years and cost no less than $500. When it comes to monitors, you get what you pay for! It is a cardinal sin of color management to view or edit images on a laptop. Laptops are neither consistent nor reliable for profiling and proofing.  Remember to keep your monitor’s brightness in check (your prints don’t emit light!) and shoot for 6500 Kelvin.

Your monitor’s light is not enough – you need simulated daylight in your workspace. Bulbs manufactured by Solux provide consistent and reliable industry standardized lighting at the ideal 5000 Kelvin. Beware of bargain bulbs labeled “daylight”.   Check out this fixture for a simple, cost effective light solution.

 

3. View

To see what your lab will see, view your images in daylight with the lights on. Remember that your monitor and your print are inherently different. Your monitor emits lights, whereas your print absorbs light. View your print in the same light that you edited your image.

 

4. Calibrate

Calibration in its least refined form requires matching the white from a print to the white of a monitor. However, since you are a professional photographer and not a professional calibration device, monitor calibration must must must be executed by an actual calibration device for reliable, practical, and consistent results. Colorvision Spyder devices and the X-rite i1Display2 are great options, however this technology is constantly changing and updating, so keep your ears and eyes pealed. Follow the manufacturer’s specifications for the best results.

 

5.  Embed

An image without an embedded color space is worthless. Always embed your chosen color space. Relative colorimetric is your friend. There is no “right” color space in digital photography. It all depends on your image, your substrate, and your output device. However, chose practically – neither too large nor too small. Common spaces like sRGB and Adobe RGB 1998 fit well within the output capabilities of well-profiled professional imaging labs and include an impressively wide color range.  Larger color spaces like ProPhoto RGB require special attention in editing and proofing.

 

6. Repeat

Congratulations, color manager! Your workflow is now officially color managed. Once a workflow like this is initiated, maintenance is your next step. Calibrate your monitor about every two weeks and keep your eye on the industry for technology and developments for color managing your art. My favorite resource for how-to and how-come questions is  www.colorwiki.com.

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