October 31, 2008

Color Management Tip

Many photographers have trouble matching the color on their screen with the color they get from their printers. But there is a fix that cost less than $20 that I would think everyone CAN afford.

Control the ambient light in your computer room.

If you use overhead lighting, or your monitor sits in direct sunlight, it is virtually impossible to get could color matching, no matter a glossy or matte screen. Ambient light impacts the way we see color. If you have a cool light source dominating your room, it will make the images on your screen appear bluer than normal.

Spend $20 and get yourself a floor-standing lamp with a 20 to 40-watt bulb in it. Put it somewhere on a plane BEHIND your monitor so that its glare doesn’t reflect in the monitor. While the room will probably appear much darker than you are used to, it will greatly improve the accuracy of the color that YOU see with your own eyes on the monitor. And that is a great starting point for a good color managed workflow.

Maybe you need curtains or blinds to block the sun? Or maybe you have other ambient light problems like that great big red Santana poster that hangs on the wall right above your monitor. Get rid of it. It makes your monitor appear more red than it really is. Get the idea?

Whether you use a matte or glossy screen, these tips will cut down on the glare that concerns photographers editing pictures on their computers.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 28 Comments

  1. Would the ambient light source described here be better or worst than using no light at all? In design school I worked late into the night many times and used to work in the dark. Is this a good idea or is the light source behind the monitor better?

    Thanks!

    A

    Reply
  2. Would the ambient light source described here be better or worst than using no light at all? In design school I worked late into the night many times and used to work in the dark. Is this a good idea or is the light source behind the monitor better?

    Thanks!

    A

    Reply
  3. Adam it’s best to have SOME ambient light in my experience. The light behind the monitor produces the best results for me. Your mileage may vary.

    Reply
  4. Adam it’s best to have SOME ambient light in my experience. The light behind the monitor produces the best results for me. Your mileage may vary.

    Reply
  5. Thanks Scott! I must say that I love having these tips coming in all the time and the ability to have instant feedback from you and even other listeners is great!

    Reply
  6. Thanks Scott! I must say that I love having these tips coming in all the time and the ability to have instant feedback from you and even other listeners is great!

    Reply
  7. Hmmm, problem. Room layout prevents lamp placement to keep light off monitor – must use overhead lighting.

    However, I’m wondering: if the main goal is preventing direct light on monitor screen, how about a handmade baffle/shield on the overhead light that would prevent it from shining directly on the screen, restricting it only to the wall on the opposite side of the room? (opposite wall white with nothing to project colorcast).

    Reply
  8. Hmmm, problem. Room layout prevents lamp placement to keep light off monitor – must use overhead lighting.

    However, I’m wondering: if the main goal is preventing direct light on monitor screen, how about a handmade baffle/shield on the overhead light that would prevent it from shining directly on the screen, restricting it only to the wall on the opposite side of the room? (opposite wall white with nothing to project colorcast).

    Reply
  9. I wish it were this simple. I am one of the people struggling with this issue. Ambient light isn’t the problem. I have an Epson R1800 printer. Yesterday I received my brand new Eye-One 2. I ran it last night and it changed the monitor a little. I bought Shepards new book on Epson printing. I made sure I am using the correct paper profile. I made sure LR2 or PS are controlling the color and not the printer driver. I made sure Adobe is not running any other color space. Still the Epson prints are way darker making image editing on screen almost useless. What is possibly left to check or change? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  10. I wish it were this simple. I am one of the people struggling with this issue. Ambient light isn’t the problem. I have an Epson R1800 printer. Yesterday I received my brand new Eye-One 2. I ran it last night and it changed the monitor a little. I bought Shepards new book on Epson printing. I made sure I am using the correct paper profile. I made sure LR2 or PS are controlling the color and not the printer driver. I made sure Adobe is not running any other color space. Still the Epson prints are way darker making image editing on screen almost useless. What is possibly left to check or change? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  11. @Kurt this post isn’t intended as a white paper on color management. It’s merely one tip.

    Reply
  12. @Kurt this post isn’t intended as a white paper on color management. It’s merely one tip.

    Reply
  13. After reading your post I did a search on the internet. I found this little tool that seems like it would help also.

    http://www.photofriday.com/calibrate.php

    Reply
  14. After reading your post I did a search on the internet. I found this little tool that seems like it would help also.

    http://www.photofriday.com/calibrate.php

    Reply
  15. Scott – I know it’s not and wondered if my detailed post was out of place. I’m getting desperate, man. :- )

    Reply
  16. Scott – I know it’s not and wondered if my detailed post was out of place. I’m getting desperate, man. :- )

    Reply
  17. Curse you Scott Bounre and your commonsense, low cost solutions to frequent photo problems.

    @ Dan: I know on last week’s podcast Scott mentioned that he had something like a night light behind his monitors, would it be possible to use something very small like that, just run a power strip up behind the monitor and plug something little in?

    Reply
  18. Curse you Scott Bounre and your commonsense, low cost solutions to frequent photo problems.

    @ Dan: I know on last week’s podcast Scott mentioned that he had something like a night light behind his monitors, would it be possible to use something very small like that, just run a power strip up behind the monitor and plug something little in?

    Reply
  19. Kurt,

    Are you using the default printer profile or did you have one made? I had one made from a place called Kathy’s profiles for my 1800 and I’m probably 80-90% there.

    Scott,
    Does it matter what type of bulbs you use for your light?

    Reply
  20. Kurt,

    Are you using the default printer profile or did you have one made? I had one made from a place called Kathy’s profiles for my 1800 and I’m probably 80-90% there.

    Scott,
    Does it matter what type of bulbs you use for your light?

    Reply
  21. Great tip here – I do the same thing. Truth be told, when my computer room used to have a window, I would only print after dark. Now that my new computer office/den/man-cave will be in a basement with no windows, I’ll have much more control over ambient light. Also painting the all but one of the walls an 18% gray, and then the last one black helps too. Of course you have to have an understanding wife! :)

    Reply
  22. Great tip here – I do the same thing. Truth be told, when my computer room used to have a window, I would only print after dark. Now that my new computer office/den/man-cave will be in a basement with no windows, I’ll have much more control over ambient light. Also painting the all but one of the walls an 18% gray, and then the last one black helps too. Of course you have to have an understanding wife! :)

    Reply
  23. Stephen – thanks for the tip. I just found the site (cathysprofiles.com). Should definitely be worth $35 to try at least one.

    Reply
  24. Stephen – thanks for the tip. I just found the site (cathysprofiles.com). Should definitely be worth $35 to try at least one.

    Reply
  25. I seem to remember reading that imaging professionals tend to have their screen wallpaper set to neutral grey. Persistence of vision and all that.

    Reply
  26. I seem to remember reading that imaging professionals tend to have their screen wallpaper set to neutral grey. Persistence of vision and all that.

    Reply
  27. [...] has a Color Management Tip and Online Resources for Planning a Photo [...]

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  28. [...] has a Color Management Tip and Online Resources for Planning a Photo [...]

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