Q&A For Digital Photography
Digital Help is designed to aid you in getting the most from your digital photography,
printing, scanning, and image creation. Each month, David Brooks provides solutions
to problems you might encounter with matters such as color calibration and management,
digital printer and scanner settings, and working with digital photographic
images with many different kinds of cameras and software. All questions sent
to him will be answered with the most appropriate information he can access
and provide. However, not all questions and answers will appear in this department.
Readers can send questions to David Brooks addressed to Shutterbug magazine,
through the Shutterbug website (www.shutterbug.com), directly via e-mail to:
or by US Mail to: David Brooks, PO Box 2830, Lompoc, CA 93438.
Why The Colors In An Image Look Different In One Application And Another
Q. Why do the colors in the same image appear differently on different photo programs on the same computer/monitor? I expend a lot of effort in Photoshop Elements 5.0 to get the colors right in an image, but when I save the photo, it appears differently in My Pictures, other photo programs, or on the web.
Most noticeable is that the colors are darker and/or more saturated than they were in Elements. Yet, when I call it up again in Elements it appears the way it should! Puzzles me.
A. Although the same RGB data numbers are referenced in an image file, each application uses somewhat different video drivers and color space configurations to send a signal to the display/monitor. There is an operating system-based utility that is intended to regularize this, generally referred to as the Color Management System (CMS). However, if a user has not calibrated (measured) and profiled the monitor/display, then the computer and applications have no reference as to what colors the display/monitor is actually reproducing. In addition, many applications do not support the operating system CMS, and even if the display/monitor is calibrated and profiled the application does not recognize the display profile reference in how it displays color. Adobe's Photoshop Elements is an application that supports color management--if that feature is activated by the user (in Color Settings)--and will reference the display/monitor color profile. The web/Internet is not color managed in respect of the individual computer and its display, but it does conform to a simpler means of regularizing color in the display of photographic images called sRGB, which is a color profile that essentially reduces color gamut information to one common denominator that is an arbitrary, mean average of what a typical computer monitor will display.
Even with a professionally configured and fully color managed system, obtaining matched display of color between different applications is illusory, particularly with Windows applications. Some programs may or may not support color management, while some support sRGB and others display images in monitor color space with no interpretation or adjustment.
System Component Selection To Make B&W Prints
Q. Ten years ago I retired from my position as a staff photographer. At the time I was also devoting a lot of effort to producing archival black and white "fine art" photographs. Once retired, however, I decided to pursue another love, drawing and painting, with photography serving as a "memory" tool for my canvas explorations. All was fine until last year when I purchased my first digital camera, a Kodak EasyShare P880. My first impression was again to use this camera as a tool to support my paintings, but I am finding that my love of photographic work is beckoning me. I currently work on an iMac G5 with iPhoto and Kodak EasyShare software installed. I am using GIMP as an editing tool. My printer is an HP Photosmart 3210, and I have been using a few of the Legion papers. Since I would really like to start producing high-quality digital prints (probably both black and white and color), do you have any recommendations for a solid setup for both hardware and software and/or sources for this kind of information? I would also really like to take advantage of the P880's raw format and am currently looking at RAW Developer. Any and all suggestions will surely be appreciated.
A. To produce the best print quality currently possible with consumer products, I would first of all suggest using Adobe's Photoshop (either CS3 if you can afford it or Elements if not). Both provide Adobe's Camera Raw for conversion and adjustment of raw camera image files, including an effective method to convert color to gray scale. This includes selective assignment of density for different segments of the color spectrum. In addition, Photoshop provides a printing workflow using color management to assure color-matched prints to what you see on screen (if your display is calibrated and profiled).
Second, if you are serious about printing and want to produce archival-quality prints, I would suggest either the Canon PIXMA Pro9500 printer or the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 to obtain high-quality archival color and black and white prints.