In the good old days, colour management meant "complaining to your lab about their printing". It was good while it lasted.
Nowadays, colour management is defined as the process by which you:
Match colours across all the devices in your workflow, e.g. camera(s), monitor(s) and printer(s);
Preview colours on your monitor while editing - so that you don't include colours in the final image that can be seen on screen but can’t be printed.
There is an easy way
If colour management gives you a headache, you’re not alone.
We suspect that fewer people than you think truly understand colour management, at least to the extent of being able to develop, trouble-shoot and successfully operate a comprehensive workflow between studio and lab.
But there is an easy option. Provided you capture a high quality image, and don't degrade it by inappropriate editing or colour management policies, our Full Colour Service option will ensure that you get a high quality print.
Colour preference is a matter of delivering colours that you like based on that science.
Meeting your preferences isn’t scientific. It's a matter of good service and dialogue - you expressing what you like and us learning to deliver it. Rest assured that we do spend the time to understand what our regular clients prefer. To paraphrase the shampoo ads, it may not happen overnight but, with feedback, it will happen.
What colour management means
In the digital world you'll almost certainly create and then "display" images and their colours on a whole range of different devices. You'll capture images on various cameras and/or scanners, display them on monitors (some your own, some at our Lab) and then print them (sometimes in your studio, sometimes using our machines). Of course Queensberry's main concern is to produce prints of high quality that suit your taste and that are predictable – that is, what you receive from us is what you expected to receive when you sent the image for printing.
Devices display colour differently
The core problem that needs to be dealt with is that all the devices listed in the previous paragraph display colour using different methods, and for this reason will display the same colour values differently. Indeed one device may be incapable of displaying the same range of colour values as another one. Most importantly from our point of view, printers have a smaller colour "gamut" than what your camera can capture or your monitor can display.
By definition the human eye can see the entire visible spectrum, but no physical device can capture, print or display the entire spectrum
In addition, your camera will have its own characteristics that must be taken into account. For example it may have a bias to making images too green or too magenta. This needs to be taken into account down the line by the devices that display and print the image. If not, the final “product” will likewise be too green or too magenta. The person doing colour correction prior to printing may correct that bias, but scientifically it will be “guesswork” (even if based on sound judgment!). It's better to correct the bias scientifically in the first place - so the person doing the colour correction has a more objective idea of what the subject really looks like.
The experts’ way of putting this is to say that colour is device-dependent: the colour that you see will change depending on the device that's producing it.
Fixing the problem with colour management
As we said, colour management is the process by which you:
• Match colours across all the devices in the workflow, e.g. camera(s), monitor(s) and printer(s), so that nothing is "lost in translation" and
• Preview colours on your monitor while editing so that you don't include colours in the final image that you can see on the screen but that the printer can’t reproduce.
In summary, colour management tools "translate" colours as captured into an objective ("device-independent") colour space and then translate them again from that objective colour space so that they are reproduced as accurately as possible on the monitor or print.
This device-independent colour space is rather confusingly called LAB colour and now you can probably forget I ever mentioned it.
There are lots of opportunities for things to go wrong, what with all the to-ing and fro-ing as the image bounces back and forth between your monitor and ours, your printer and ours - not to mention your digital projector and the web (which has by far the most restrictive colour gamut of all).
Fortunately, keeping the colours consistent doesn't need to be as difficult as it seems…
Colour management systems
Colour management would be a horrendous problem if you had to do it manually. Fortunately a colour management system (CMS) does it semi-automatically.
It's your CMS that tries to (tries to) ensure that the colours on your monitor accurately represent the colours captured by your camera, and the colours you see on the final output (print, slideshow etc)
It does so by mapping the colours from the the colour gamut of one device to the colour gamut of other devices … in your studio and at the lab … down the workflow chain. And it does so using:
CMS "maps" are called International Colour Consortium (ICC) Profiles and must be attached to each image for colour management to work.
Device profiles are created by calibrating cameras, scanners, monitors, printers, projectors etc. These profiles are then attached to images so that the colours captured in the files can be accurately transferred to the other devices (or image editing programs) that we expect to accurately modify, display or print them.
Profiles can be either generic or custom.
Generic device profiles are created by the manufacturer and are based on a group of devices, (a camera model, for example).
Custom device profiles are created for an individual device, such as a specific camera, and are far more accurate but costlier to create.
Back to Full Colour Service
The problem with colour management is that there are so many opportunities for things to go wrong:
An inaccurate profile … forgetting to soft proof … assigning a profile when you meant to convert.
If you choose Queensberry Full Colour Service we become responsible – within limits – for the quality of your printing.
Bottom line? All you need to do is to assign the camera profile and send the files to us in the format we specify.
We still recommend that you calibrate your monitor, and soft proof so you've an idea what the final images will look like, but we're responsible for extracting maximum quality from the images.
What does "within limits" mean? Simply that you shot the image. We can only extract the quality that's in the file.