How many professional photographers bother with color management?

Started Dec 17, 2011 | Discussions thread
Michael Thomas Mitchell Forum Pro • Posts: 11,791
Re: How many professional photographers bother with color management?

It sounds as if the teacher is pretty much relying on anecdotal evidence (is there anything else?), so I don't know how much truth there is in what he says or not. I can say, however, that I wouldn't dream of working on an uncalibrated system. That said, I'm still using the same calibration tools I've had for about eight years now. It was that long ago that, after struggling with good color between camera, computer, and printer, I'd had enough and bought a Sypder system. Best money I ever spent. It was a basic system: put the USB hardware against the screen, let it analyze the monitor, and out comes a custom color profile for that particular monitor.

It was absolutely eye-opening seeing the software's before-and-after demonstration of how colors looked uncalibrated versus after the Spyder had completed the calibration. For the first time, my prints and monitor really matched. What's more, I spend far less time in post-processing because it was clear that my camera was doing better with color than I previously believed.

There have been all sorts of new systems, upgrades and so forth in the eight years I've owned the Spyder, but I've been completely content with what I've got because it still works. I use for PCs, laptops, and netbooks, and as long as I do it properly to begin with (in a dark room where ambient light cannot influence the result), all of the monitors end up with very consistent color.

The only bad thing about color management to me is that cringe I sometimes get when I produce nice-looking images and then realize how it will probably look on my client's uncalibrated system. Most consumer monitors out of the store are too bright, too contrast, and gravitate towards the cool side of colors. In fact, I've never calibrated a single display myself in which that was not the case.

For the pro photographer, it would seem to me that basic color management would be as fundamental as getting your shots in focus. I don't know why any legitimate photog would ignore it.

ComputerDork wrote:

My photography teacher (professional or former professional) says that basically none of the professional photographers he knows these days bother to calibrate/profile their monitors or printers. He also says everyone just wants everything in sRGB, in his experience, and nobody has ever asked him for anything else. (I realize that people have to aware of enough stuff so that they don't send off some untagged AdobeRGB file or otherwise mess stuff up, I'm just talking about how many people mess with matching/calibration/etc.)

I also have a friend who works at a professional printing place (doing mostly signs and reproductions using huge ink jet printers) and it sounds like none of their stuff is properly calibrated/profiled (some monitors are but they sound WAY overdue for recalibration). All of their color management seems to be done manually by "feel" or by taking a pantone swatchbook, comparing swatches to swatches printed out on the target printer with various values, finding which ones match, and then just typing the RGB/CMYK/whatever values into whatever software application they're using to print (rather than typing pantone numbers into the software and expecting the software and printer to be able to figure this out). I know pantone colors aren't photography-related, I'm just giving another example of people working around having to do color matching the "right" way as I know it.

So is this typical among professional photographers or does it depend on what they're doing? Which ones tend to just take photos, adjust them on an uncalibrated monitor, and send them of in sRGB and which ones bother with all the profiling instrumentation and send stuff off to people who demand AdobeRGB/whatever?

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