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If you've been pursuing photography on any level for a reasonable length of time, the term “color management” won't be a new one to you. Even the rawest novice will understand that colors can shift in the process of creating images, and that there can be several factors that may cause those shifts. Even many experienced photographers, however, don't always grasp what's involved in complete color management. Let's take a look at what needs to be considered if you really want to get photo colors under control from start to finish.

There are three basic stages in creating a photograph with a digital camera:

  1. The capture: recording a scene on the camera sensor, using available and/or supplemental lighting.
  2. The edit: Almost all digital images will require editing.
  3. The display: There are two basic options here: electronic display and printing. Each has its own specific requirements.

Along with the other aspects of an image, color information can be affected by the methods the photographer uses. Furthermore, each stage in the process depends on the previous stage for maintaining true colors. Developing the best practices for each stage is critical if you want to render colors faithfully in your final images, or exercise precise control over their manipulation.


Given those points, it's easy to see that complete color management is also a 3-step process. In other words, you need to take the proper steps before and during the capture stage, followed by editing correctly, then outputting the image to your display medium. Those steps may include calibration, compensation for existing conditions, and using the right devices to establish control parameters.

Over the course of the next few articles, we'll discuss the color management steps required for each stage of the creation process. We'll include standard and optional steps as well as recommended for procedures, software and hardware.

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As you work your way through this series, you'll find many references to the color management solutions from Datacolor. Their line of comprehensive, intuitive color tools includes all the components needed for quality color management and control, from start to finish. They've developed hardware and software packages specifically engineered for each stage of color management, as well as a complete studio that includes everything needed to manage your entire color management workflow and achieve professional, repeatable results.

Color management is the key to consistent quality in your images and taking control of color is surprisingly easy with the right methods and the right tools. The next few articles will introduce you to both.

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