Color calibration is the key to obtaining an accurate reproduction of what you saw when capturing the image, and what is reproduced on screen or paper. It’s long been considered a bit of black magic as to how it is done, what with terms like gamma, color temperatures, luminance, and the like as part of the mix, but the simple fact is that unless you’re working on a calibrated display you don’t quite know whether the greens, blues, or other colors you are seeing are actually what everyone else is going to see, or what you’re getting when you look at the print you’ve made.
Canon’s 13x19”-sized printers, the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II and PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II, have had a longer life than most, but have been replaced with two new models that are similar to the PIXMA PRO-1, introduced over a year ago. New features on both the pigment-ink PRO-10 and dye-ink PRO-100 include Wi-Fi and AirPrint compatibility, a new plug-in to make printing easier, and a refined inkset.
I’ve been a long-time user of Wacom graphic tablets as part of my editing workflow. Making selections, painting a mask, and many other operations are not only more intuitive with a pen, but you have much finer control than you do with a mouse or trackpad. Until now, the Intuos4 Wireless tablet with Bluetooth has been what I considered to be as close to perfect as you could get. Used either left- or right-handed, I can have it plugged in via USB or use with Bluetooth when traveling or when I need to be a bit further from the computer, as when I’m teaching a workshop. When Wacom announced the Intuos5, I was curious as to what could possibly be improved upon from the current model, so I was anxious to take a look.
One of the most common complaints about digital imaging is the lack of consistency when going from one device to another—most commonly screen to print. Dark prints are the typical complaint, but color shifts are also a contributor to choice language and lack of hair. Yes, we tweak the image until the sky is that perfect hue of blue, or the skin tones have just the right amount of warmth and vibrancy. When it’s all done, the image is posted online or printed and it looks nothing like what we expected. The image is too dark, skin tones are too red, any number of problems. Where did it go wrong?
In almost all cases, the culprit is an uncalibrated display. Back when CRT displays were the common screen type, color could be wildly different and it was usually pretty easy to detect when the display was at fault. With modern LCD displays that isn’t necessarily the case—color is often close to correct in hue, but luminance, or brightness, is where the problem usually lies.
Photographers, especially those dealing with large numbers of images, are always looking for ways to speed up the workflow and spend less time in front of a computer and more time behind a camera. Applications like Lightroom have improved the process tremendously, making cataloging and image adjustments easier and faster than before. If you have adjustments that you apply frequently, you can use presets to make it a single-click process, applying a number of adjustments in one operation.
Kevin Kubota has been providing presets and tools for both Photoshop and Lightroom users for quite a while now, and one of his products is a combination of a package of presets for Lightroom and a mini keyboard from RPG Keys that looks much like a numeric keypad on your keyboard. Available as a bundle for $349, or as a rental for $19.95 per month after a $49 setup fee, you get over 100 presets that do everything from black-and-white conversions to skin tone enhancements (and a number of interesting edge effects).
Digital black and white has probably never been more popular than it is today. All of the major editing programs like Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture support black-and-white conversions natively, and at a much higher quality than just a few years ago. While all of these programs can do black and white you can take your monochrome imagery to the next level with plug-ins, specific task programs that use the architecture of the main program to get the work done. These plug-ins (which may be available as “stand-alones” as well) produce some amazing work, letting you emulate various film types, grain patterns, and more, usually working with “presets” (image looks) that can be modified with ease to customize every image. Combined with the improved output from recent inkjet printers, there has never been a better time to explore digital black and white than today.
There are few things in digital photography more frustrating than problems with color fidelity. One of the most commonly heard complaints is “my prints don’t match my display.” While color accuracy is improved with LCD displays, it isn’t perfect by any means, and if you’re serious about your photography it’s important to calibrate your monitor. And, if you do your own printing, you’ll often find that you can improve the quality of your prints with profiles built specifically for your printer and paper selection.
Mention digital image editing and it’s likely that the first word you’ll hear is Photoshop. It’s become a general term, like Xerox. For many, the full-blown version of Photoshop (currently at CS5) is either overkill, with features that you’ll never need or use, or just too expensive. Adobe realizes this and has produced a more streamlined version for years. This “entry-level” version of Photoshop, named Elements, is priced like a basic editing program, but filled with features you’d expect to pay quite a bit more for. The latest version, Elements 9 has added several new features that photographers have been requesting for years, making this release an even more attractive option, and further blurring the line between CS and Elements features.
There are normally a couple of new features in each release that make upgrading an attractive option for current users, and in this regard Elements 9 adds some interesting items in the sharing area, and a major feature that has been requested for years. Let’s take a look at what is new in Version 9.
The latest version of Lightroom is coming into full use as more and more plug-ins and export options come into play. This month Jon Canfield takes a look at the essential ingredients; next month we have another opinion about the latest version of Lightroom that takes a different point of view.