Colour management & photographic workflow

About colour management & photographic workflow
  • In photography, the main goal of colour management is to control the accurate capture of original colours and ensure consistent reproduction of specific colours or entire gamuts throughout the creative process.
  • When producing a photo, colour management is used to ensure consistent output across various devices, including digital cameras, scanners, monitors, TV screens, computer printers, and offset printing presses.
  • Colour management compensates for the differences in technologies, devices, and media all of which may have distinct capacities for reproducing gamuts and intensities of colour, potentially leading to unintended shifts in appearance.
  • At the consumer level, all operating systems include built-in colour management by default.
  • Most hardware and software related to visual design and image reproduction offer colour management options that can be set by default or require configuration based on specific purposes.
  • The International Colour Consortium’s (ICC) colour management system serves as a comprehensive industrial standard for cross-platform colour management.

The principal components of a colour management system include:

Colour management in practice

About colour management in practice

A typical colour management workflow starts by ensuring that colours seen through a camera viewfinder are captured and digitally recorded. Editing software such as Adobe CC allows extensive choices to be made about the appearance of images. When the workflow demands it, the calibration of monitors ensures information is accurately reproduced when viewed on screen. A successful outcome is one where all the decisions made during the editing process are accurately rendered in the resulting image.

A. Image capture   B. Image editing   C. Monitoring images   D. Image output


A. Image Capture
  • Digital cameras provide settings to allow colour profiles to be selected that affect how colours are recorded, these deal with:
    • White balance
    • Photo style setting includes control over sharpness, depth of field, contrast, saturation and tone (including monochrome) etc.
  • Digital file formats enable control over the quantity and types of information stored about an image:
    • Raw file formats store all the recorded information without compression.
    • JPEG, TIFF and PNG use algorithms to produce a balance between file size and image quality.
B. Image Editing
  • Software suites such as Adobe CC allow for almost limitless choices when editing visual material.
  • Applications within Adobe CC such as Photoshop and Illustrator allow workspaces to be selected prior to editing.
  • A workspace in Adobe apps is an intermediate colour model-related colour space used during the editing process.
  • A global setting for the colour mode of a workspace in Illustrator can be selected in the Document colour mode dialogue box during the set-up of a new document.
  • Workspaces can also be temporarily switched between CMYK, HSB, RGB, Greyscale and Websafe RGB in the Colour Settings dialogue box without affecting the Document colour mode.
C. Monitoring Images
  • Monitor profiles control the translation of data within image files into a monitor’s colour space.
  • On-screen controls may include:
  • Monitor calibration tools ensure accurate colour across the visible spectrum and fine tonal adjustment. Professional monitor calibration packages include:
    • Datacolor SpyderX
    • Calibrite ColorChecker
    • Wacom Colour Manager
    • SpectraCal Colorimeter
D. Image Output
  • Colour management systems use output device profiles to prepare and translate the data in edited documents to match the capabilities of an output device and ensure the best possible match.
  • To ensure consistency across applications, Adobe CC provides options to be selected in the Colour Settings dialogue box that ensures all applications are synchronized to use the same device-independent colour space.
    • RGB Colour Settings options include:
      • Adobe RGB (1998)
      • Prophoto RGB
      • sRGB
    • An extensive range of CMYK colour space options are also available.

A. Lab colour space (entire visible spectrum)   B. Documents (working space)   C. Devices 

This diagram illustrates the generic colour gamuts of different types of devices and documents.


Colour theories, models, spaces and management systems

About colour theories, models, spaces and management systems

Colour theory, colour models, colour spaces, and colour management systems are integral to understanding, representing, and manipulating colour in various fields.

Colour Theory
  • A colour theory is a set of principles and concepts used to understand how colour works, how colours relate to each other, and how they are perceived or interpreted by the human eye. A colour theory allows us to predict in advance how colour behaves in practice.
Colour Model
  • A colour model is a practical application of colour theory. In both industrial and design contexts a colour model is and mathematical representation or system for creating a full range of colours using a set of primary colours. Examples include the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) model for light-based colours and the CMY (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) model for pigment-based colours. The choice of a colour model depends on the medium (light, paint, ink, etc.) and the application (canvas, monitor, printer, etc.).
Colour Space
  • A colour space is a specific organization of colours derived from a colour model. It can be used to define a gamut or subset of colours that can then be successfully applied within a particular context or for a specific purpose. Examples of colour spaces used in digital design include sRGB and Adobe RGB within the RGB model, each of which encompasses a different range of colours.
Colour Management System
  • These are systems or protocols designed to ensure consistent and accurate colour reproduction across different devices, media, and lighting conditions. They consider the specifications of the devices used to capture, edit, or display colour, as well as the lighting conditions in which colours are viewed.

In summary, a colour theory provides the underlying concepts, a colour model provides a framework to represent these concepts, a colour space defines a specific range of colours that can be generated within the parameters of the model, and a colour management system ensures consistency and accuracy in reproducing colours across different contexts and devices.