Tips + Techniques


Color Management Cheat Sheet

January 13, 2016

By RF Staff

This cheat sheet has been adapted from the article "Crash Course To Seamless Color," by photographer Jeff Rojas, from the January edition of Rangefinder Magazine.

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There’s so much information surrounding color management out there these days that, let’s face it, it’s overwhelming. With the seemingly endless number of printers and color management options out there, it can be downright dizzying at times, and it raises the question: is there a perfect solution for ensuring 100 percent color consistency in your images?

The answer is no. And that is simply because color can change based on a number of factors, including individual color splash_2perception (varies from person to person), hardware vs. software combinations, document settings, editing software and even the light source in your studio or editing room. 

While color management can be extremely specific, here's a quick list of pointers to keep in mind to help you keep your work looking consistent across any number of platforms and printouts.

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  • Consistency: 
    • The color temperature of the light in the room you photograph in, edit in and review prints in should always remain consistent.
    • Your color space should ideally remain consistent.
    • Your white balance should always remain consistent.
  • When you can, tether.
  • Calibrate your monitor.
  • If you plan to print in a magazine, work in Adobe RGB and export to CMYK.
  • If you plan to print with a lab, follow their designated recommendations for exporting.
  • sRGB simplifies your workflow and can be easily displayed on all monitors and programs.
  • AdobeRGB can always be converted to sRGB.
  • Be sure you're photographing your image in RAW format so you have the ability to change white balance in post-production.
  • Be sure to keep your monitor at a flat, even plane on your eye level to accurately depict color as best as possible.
  • If you're trying to match your print to your edit, remember that using AdobeRGB color space is much more powerful during the printing process, and it has more color spaces that match CMYK than sRGB.

Color Spaces Cheats:
sRGB
For digital only.
This is the most common color space used by monitors, and by default most digital cameras will display your image in sRGB.

AdobeRGB
For professional-quality prints.
This has a greater range of colors than sRGB, especially in the cyan and green areas of your image.

CMYK
For newspapers and magazines.
This is used in the printing process and has the most limited amount of colors that can be produced.

Plus: ProPhoto RGB (RAW)
For the color perfectionist in you.
This covers the largest range of colors beyond what human eyes can see. If you print with high-end printers that use the entire spectrum of color, this is the color space for you. 

Related Links:
Crash Course To Seamless Color, by Jeff Rojas
Making the Grade: The 7 Steps to Color-Correcting Your Films
Bundle Up Your Color Calibration Tools with Spyder5STUDIO