Monitor calibration

Consider This: Colors are what we see, not what we should see

The image you see here is one of my favorite color images. I love the red interior of the vintage car. It’s an HRD image. I created it by combining six images (Canon 5D Mark II/15mm lens) using Photomaix, and then by applying Topaz Adjust. You’ll find information on HDR (and discounts) on the Plug-in Experience.

Speaking of that red in my photograph, would you call it: rose red, tomato red, bright red, faded red, vibrant red, deep red, red/orange, bold red, cranberry, apple red, or maybe something else?

My point: we all perceive color differently – and refer to colors by different names. We also see colors differently under different lighting conditions. Other factors that effect how we see color include: stress, being tired – and drinking coffee, Coke, beer and wine. Age, too, affects how we see color.

No surprise. After all, as Ralph Evans said, “Colors are what we see, not what we should see.” That is why calibrating your monitor and printer is of the utmost importance. I do it twice a month. I also calibrate my projector before I give a presentation – because the room light changes from location to location. My calibration device: the ColorMunkie.

One of my good friends, Dr. Richard Zakia, author of Perception and Imaging – Photography, A New Way of Seeing, is an expert on color (among many other aspects of photography). In his highly informative and delightfully entertaining book, Dr. Z offers in-depth insight into how and why we see and perceive colors. If you are a nut about color, I suggest you check out his book. Even if you are not a nut about color, I know you’ll learn a ton from his book.

For now, here are some quotes that accompany his chapter on color. Think about each quote. Its meaning will become clear.

“A color cannot exist without an environment.” Edward Land

“Combinations of colors judged offensive a few years ago are in style now.” Roger Remington

“Color, as the most relative meaning in art, has numerous faces and appearances.” Joseph Albers.

“Imagine a piano having 75,000 different sounds.” This is the situation of painters.” Salvador Dali

Dr. Z includes his own quotes:

“Color, like sound and taste, is purely a subjective experience.”

“Red colors tend to increase tension; white, blue and green tend to release tension.”

If color management is driving you nuts, keep this quote in mind: “Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” – Monet.

See, you are not alone. Like all creative photographers/artists, color is important to you.

Don't Drink and Print

Did you know all of the following affect how you see colors:

- Drinking coffee, coke, etc.
- Stress
- Being tired
- Alcohol
- Age

The next time you set out to calibrate your monitor, make a print, or just want to work on an image in the digital darkroom, keep all those things in mind.

I gotta go. I have so much to do, which is causing me stress. I have to take a nap because I'm tired. I am 59, but I still have lots of energy – because I drink tons of Diet Coke! Maybe tonight I can relax and have a drink at happy hour :-)

Explore the Light,
P.S. This idea for this post was generated by a discussion I had with a few friends about the Colormunki - the calibration device I use to calibrate my monitor, printer and projector – before I have my cup o' Joe :-)

Is What You See What You Get?

If what you see on your monitor is not what you get from your printer, here are a few possibilities:
- Your monitor is not fully warmed up. May take 1/2 hour.
- Your monitor is not calibrated.
- You have not calibrated your monitor for a month.
- Your printer is not calibrated.
- You are not using the correct printer profile.
- You are not using the paper for the profile you are using.
- The lighting in your workspace is not consistent.
- You are working on your images with a screen background that is distracting you with strong color. Best to use gray.
- Print head is out of alignment or nozzles are clogged.

Even if you do all that stuff, your prints can be a little off – even if you have a large monitor. Monitor color and brightness are not exactly the same from side to side and top to bottom. Also, colors and brightness will look different the more you look to the sides. Knowing this, after you calibrate your monitor with your calibration device placed in the center of the monitor, work on the most important part your image there.

What's more, a print reflects light, while your monitor projects light. So the quality of the images is different.

Still more: Prints take a while to fully dry. Colors and brightness can change after a few hours.

Finally, we see colors differently at different times of day. We also see colors differently after drinking cola and coffee.

Well, I gotta go - and get my first Diet Coke of the day.

See the light (and color),
P.S. My guess is that age might also have something to do with it, especially if one has cataracts. Is there a doctor in the house who could comment?