What You See, Might Not be What You Get!

Infocus Weekly has covered profiling monitors on many occasions.  Yet, every once in a while I'm still gobsmacked when someone is seeing colors in an image which aren't supposed to be there.  This time is happened like this:


Finished Renovation, Bangkok Condo

12mm, F11, 8 seconds, ISO 100


BKKSteve:  I just emailed you a proof image.  What do you think?

Her:  Nice!  The blue colors are really beautiful.

BKKSteve:  Blue colors?  What blue colors?  Where are you seeing blue colors?

Her: In all the places you put blue.

BKKSteve:  I didn't put blue hardly anywhere.  Where are you seeing blue?

Her: The image on the television, the sky/clouds outside, and the computer monitors have purple fruit.

BKKSteve: Umm.. the image on the television is 100% lavender, the clouds outside are grey, and the 'apples' on the monitor are red.

Her:  No.. they're not...


By now regular readers are recognizing the signs of an un-profiled monitor.  Usually the color shifts are much less extreme.  Most often they'll appear to be the same colors but a different shade.  This is why it's difficult for most people to see the value in profiling their monitor.  In their eyes it's already "good enough" and that is that.

In this case the image in question has complex color.  I won't go into how much work it took to produce this image or how most people think an image like this can be achieved in Auto mode with a pop-up flash.  We really won't go into how most people could capture this scene with their camera in Auto mode with their pop-up flash, compare it to the image above, and not see a difference.  As photographers we just have to accept that some people will never appreciate our work.. ;o)


Finished condo, Bangkok

12mm, F11, 9 seconds, ISO 100


Color profiling your monitor is important.  It ensures that when someone goes to the trouble of processing an image, tags it with the SRGB color space, and emails or puts it on the web, that you will indeed be able to view the image as it was intended to be viewed.  And of course the opposite is true.  If you go to all the trouble of taking nice pictures, processing them, and then uploading them to Flickr or anywhere you want to share them, you want the viewers to see them as you intended.

The problem is that most people are into the "good enough" mindset.  And really, with today's great digital cameras most snapshots and family pictures are indeed "good enough for Government work." But as an avid photo hobbyist you want more?  You want people to see your images as you intended them.. and so do I.

The best we can do is profile our own monitors, put out the most accurate files possible, and be aware that if a viewers monitor isn't profiled then there will be discrepancies of some measure.

I use this product to profile my monitors and the monitors of my clients.  There are others, but this is a general purpose model that can profile laptops, desktop LCDs, and CRTs.  The  only thing it can't profile is my HDTV so I have another one for that.

If we profile our own monitors we'll have several main advantages:

    1. The files we take to the print shop to make prints.. should produce the most color accurate prints.  99.7% of consumer print shops use the SRGB color space/gamut, the same one we use on the web.
    2. The files we post on the web, when viewed by someone else with a profiled monitor, will appear to that view as you intended them.
    3. You'll have established a standard.. because if you're monitors aren't profiled, even the different computers in your own household won't view the same image the same way.

When it comes to correctly processing images color profiling is especially important for setting the proper white balance and subsequently the exposure.  The first thing we do in a workshop during the processing learning stage is to profile the clients computer and go over the basics of color management.  It's that important.  Even if you shoot black and white.. ;o)


Until next time..