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Colour Calibration

"When is white WHITE?"

... or red RED, or any colour "correct" for that matter?

There has been much discussion recently about colour calibration and how to "get it right" in one of the photographic forums.

In a perfect world, any printed photos we produce from our printer (or have produced by a printing company) would look the same as the photos do on our computer monitor. In turn, they would look the same as the original subject that we photographed (or scanned). Not only would the colours all match, but so would luminosity (taken to mean brightness in photography).


If you are in this "perfect world" already then you are very fortunate. For many of us, who have wasted much paper and ink, and have possibly spent more than we planned on equipment by having to purchase additional colour calibration hardware and software, not everything in the garden is so rosy, or is it crimson?!?

So, how do we achieve this perfect world? First and foremost, accept that it is very rarely attainable.

There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that colours appear to change under different lighting conditions. Do you have orange street lighting in your area? Take a sheet of white paper outside in the middle of the day and it looks white, yes? When night falls and the street lights come on, take that same sheet of white paper outside. What colour does it appear to be ???

If there is to be any chance of getting colours and luminosity consistent then the image MUST be viewed under the same lighting conditions throughout. Although, in theory, this could be done with any type of light source - from candlelight to bright sunlight - for practical purposes it is best to use daylight, a light source of colour temperature around 5500K. There's more about this at -

The majority of my photography is artistic in that I seek a result which pleases me and those who view my work. I rarely undertake documentary work which requires complete accuracy to the extent that the print must match the subject in all respects.

I am fortunate in that my world of colour calibration is as perfect as I want it to be. Generally speaking, the prints from my R1800 and from the three printing companies I use match my screens which match the original subject photographed when all viewed in the same lighting conditions.

That's good enough for me. It's not completely perfect because I use a PC and an iMac - the characteristics of their screens means that they display images slightly differently. As far as I know, they will never appear identical. If you know different - please contact me and let me know how.

How do I handle Colour Calibration? Try this -

1 - Take a photo of a test card or a subject with many colours, including red, green, blue, black and white, outside in daylight.

2 - View the photo on the screen once the screen has been warmed up for at least half an hour (curtains drawn, no house lights on unless you have daylight 5500K bulbs). If you are happy that the image on the screen looks the same as the subject itself, LEAVE WELL ALONE - IF IT AIN'T BROKE DON'T MEND IT!.

If you are not happy, then at least give any colour calibration software that is already installed on your PC or Mac a chance. With perseverance, you might be fortunate and be able to adjust things and improve things to a point where you are happy with the results, even if they are not perfect.

If you are still not happy then, and I recommend only then, invest in some calibration hardware and software. Please let me know how you get on over at -

3 - If you really want to be particular, consider adjusting your camera's screen settings so that you can assess your photo more accurately as soon as you have taken the shot -

4 - Finally, make sure you have the correct software driver installed for your printer. I learned the hard way when I started using a Mac as well as my trusty PCs last year. More about this at -

When you are sure, then run the printer's "print or nozzle check" routine just to make sure there are no blocked nozzles, alignment issues or other nasties. It's surprising how a printer which has been idle for a couple of weeks can get "out of shape". As an aside, I always run off at least one print a week just to keep things running smoothly.

All ready? Print the photo using the correct ICC profile for the paper being used - e.g. Epson Premium Glossy.

If you have followed all of the above then the chances are that the print will look pretty good. If not, then double check that Photoshop, or whatever imaging software you use, is controlling the printing and disable the printer's colour management.

Colour Calibration

... if you can't read the microscopic text, try right clicking on the image and opening it in a new window.

Still unhappy? Maybe you need to invest in one of the colour calibration products that caters for printers as well but they are not cheap - some costing as much as a new laptop or lens!!

However -


"When folk view your prints they will have no idea what the original subject looked like - and you will have most likely forgotten.

Was Constable's Haywain really that colour?"

Further reading - www.better-photographs.com/digital-photo-printing.html

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