Sponsored by Eizo
Color management can be a very complicated subject to grasp even for most professional photographers. I blame that misinformation on strategic marketing by companies selling color management products. You see, there is no “Ultimate Tool” for color management. There are unique tools designed to help you see color accurately, and then there are tools used to be sure that the colors of your photos are actually correct.
In short, a COLOR CHECKER makes sure that your images are color correct and a COLORIMETER makes sure that your monitor is displaying accurate color.
Here's the longer explanation....
FILE COLOR ACCURACY
Even if your screen is color managed and you’re using a colorimeter, like the X-Rite Colormunki, Datacolor Spyder5PRO, or the built in colorimeter on the Eizo CG2420, your colors may not actually be correct. That simply means, reds aren’t really red, blues aren’t really blue, etc. To be clear, if your screen is correctly calibrated, you are seeing exactly what your computer is rendering, but that may be inaccurate. Here’s what I mean…
Say you take a photo of the color RED (Hex #ff0000), as seen in Figure 1.2 and the lighting you’re using is slightly cooler than normal because you're photographing that color on a cloudy day. Doing so will change the overall color temperature of the color red in your image.
Instead of being pure red, your color might have a tinge of blue, like in Figure 1.3. Instead of being RED (Hex #ff0000), your color is instead RED (Hex #ff001e), which is not ACTUALLY PURE RED. So why care? Well, things like skin color are primarily made up of the color red. That subtle change in color temperature directly effected how that color was recorded, so the person's skin color will be completely "inaccurate."
Other elements that directly influence how the color is recorded include: Camera choice, lens choice, adapters, lighting, lighting modifier, lighting position, lighting angle, lighting intensity, etc. You name it, it probably influences the way color is recorded on your camera. This is exactly why WHITE BALANCE isn't the only thing that you should be correcting in post production.
This is why we use color checkers. Color checkers, like the X-Rite Color Checker Passport allow you to replicate accurate colors. Reds are red, blues are blue, etc. The program that X-Rite includes with their software can be used in conjunction with Adobe Lightroom to create a customized DNG profile for the camera, lens and lighting combination you're using and shifts the color to represent true to life color in your image. See below:
MONITOR COLOR ACCURACY
Now here's the tricky part! Even if you're files are color accurate, it doesn't mean that your computer monitor is showing you color accurate photographs! Even if reds are reds, blues are blue, etc. your monitors colors may be slightly (or totally) inaccurate!
This is because the information that your computer is sending your monitor isn't being translate accurately by the monitor. Therefore the color of your files may be accurate, but your monitor may not be. Color can shift from monitor brand to monitor brand, for instance, Apple tends to have more saturated colors than their counterparts on the market. While that's a great thing for most consumers, it's not necessarily great for color accuracy.
Other factors that shift color can include age of the monitor, hours it's been running and the color profile set on the monitor. Outside of the monitor itself, you also have eye fatigue, color casts, and individual color perception. THERE ARE SO MANY VARIABLES!
To fix this, you're going to want to invest in a colorimeter, like the Datacolor Spyder5PRO (Figure 1.4) or the X-Rite Colormunki. Colorimeters analyze the colors that your monitor displays and corrects them to display what your computer is trying to tell it.
Monitors like the Eizo CG2420 (Figure 1.5) have a built in colorimeter, as you'll see in Figure 1.6. Having the same manufacturer means that the colorimeter, monitor and the software all sync together seamlessly. The software and colorimeter are built specifically for that unit and you're less likely to have inaccurate colors.
Color management ensures that the color in your images stays consistent from the time you take your photograph until the time that you deliver your file, whether that’s digitally or as a physical print. Unfortunately, there are many steps along the way where color can shift. Color management is the process in which we spend time looking through our process to validate where the shifts in color can occur.
If your colors are "off" and you're analyzing it's your monitor or your files, you're Color Managing.
If you want to learn more about color management, definitely check out this great article I put together to make it easier for you.