The Complete Guide to Color Management: Color Made Easy

Color management can be one of the most boring topics to learn as a photographer, right up there with topics like digital asset management and accounting. They all have one thing in common, however: they’re important parts of being a photographer. Learning how to manage color doesn’t have to be difficult, however. Consider this your crash course introduction in learning how.

My Story

Let me begin this article by admitting that I’ve had the unfortunate experience of a failing to manage color. Even though my screen was color calibrated, I’ve seen major shifts in my work by the time the images reached the printer. Probably the most embarrassing time for me was when I had some images run in a magazine in Dubai. They decided to use one of my image for the cover, and the model looked like she had a spray tan. The images didn’t look like that on my color calibrated laptop. My mistake was submitting the images to the publication as sRGB files instead of CMYK or Adobe RGB files. Because the magazine was based in Dubai, and they had a short deadline, I never got to see print proofs, and they ran oversaturated versions of my images because they had decided to color correct the issue on their own. The didn’t have color calibrated screens.

Color Management Made Easy

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.

What I’ve done is divide the topic into four short videos. These videos are filmed in a very short format, and while I could spend days discussing proper procedure, let’s be honest, and admit that no one has time for that. I hope that these come in handy the next time you’re going to deliver your files to your clients.

Color Management in the Studio

This video includes:

  • Introduction to Display Color: 0:30
  • Analyzing Your Environment: 1:09
  • Avoiding Color Casts: 2:51
  • Using a Color Checker: 3:12
  • Tether When Possible: 4:08
  • Final Summary: 5:12

Color Management While Editing

This video includes:

  • Overview: 0:24
  • Your Monitor: 2:19
  • Viewing Angles: 3:37
  • Luminance and Gamma: 4:19
  • Final Summary: 4:50

Color Management During Delivery

This video includes: 

  • Overview: 0:30
  • Working With Print Labs: 1:12
  • Choosing the Right Paper: 2:33
  • Delivering Your Files Digitally: 3:44
  • Final Thoughts: 4:08