Colour Management

Colour Management is simply about consistent colour throughout the workflow - nothing more.

In a colour managed workflow, correct colour in = correct colour out. Or just as equally, wrong colour in = the same wrong colour out.

The colour - correct or incorrect - will be maintained all the way through a Colour Managed workflow, e.g. from scanner to monitor to printer. Consistency is the name of the game.

On the other hand, Colour Correction is about maintaining the true colour of the original image by correcting errors or distortions within a given device. This is known as calibration or profiling. Colour Correction is simply a part of Colour Management, but the two are often wrongly treated as synonymous.

When you calibrate your scanner, that's Colour Correction. Once calibrated, the scanner will try to accurately reproduce the colour it scans. 

When you calibrate your monitor, that's also Colour Correction. The monitor will attempt to accurately reproduce the colour that's input to it.

When you calibrate your printer, that too is Colour Correction, although there's no way a printer can accurately reproduce the whole gamut of colours displayed on a monitor.

Put all these colour corrected (calibrated) devices together, and now we're talking Colour Management! Calibration allows a device, within the limitations of the technology, to accurately reproduce a particular colour. When all devices in the workflow are calibrated, we have a Colour Managed workflow. If your colour workspace is, say, Adobe RGB (1998), you can embed this profile in your finished images. In theory, if viewed in this colour space on any other calibrated system, the images will look just the same as they do on your own monitor - and just the same as the original.

Stock Photography and Colour Management

In stock photography, the end user never gets to see the original image, so clearly Colour Management is not relevant - there's nothing to be consistent with. The buyer doesn't know - or care - whether the colours in a purchased image are identical to the original.

An image buyer is more likely to be concerned with the colour balance of the various pictures on a printed page rather than the colour accuracy of any individual image. For example, take a page in a travel brochure with lots of images, all with blue skies. Probably the most important consideration for the page designer is that all the blue skies match - or at least don't clash. The original colour balance of each individual image is not important. The designer will adjust the colours of the individual images until they all match.

So there's no need to get hung up about Colour Management if you submit to stock libraries. I'm not advocating poor colour balance or grossly distorted colour - I'm just saying don't get distracted by unnecessary colour management. It's really of no importance in the world of stock photography. Just make sure your images have a good colour balance and saturation. Don't worry about accuracy. It's not relevant.

As a final note - the Adobe RGB (1998) colour space has become the accepted standard among imaging professionals. If you make this your own working space, the chances are that a stock image buyer will see your images in very much the way that you intend. But it really doesn't matter that much if they don't!

All text and photography copyright 2007-2016 Dave Pattison. All rights reserved.