Color Confidence: The Digital Photographer's Guide to Color Management by Tim Grey, ISBN: 0782143164

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, October 2004, updated Mar 2007
Published by: Sybex Inc.
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$44.99, CAN$62.95, UK£29.99

Have you ever noticed that what you see on your monitor display is not always what you get when you print? Much of this has to do with the differences between the two different color principles (RGB transmitted color on monitor displays vs. CYMK reflected color from printed output) and much is also due to how your system has been configured. And that's just the beginning of the problems because monitor displays use Additive Color whereas printers work via subtractive color. Confused? Don't worry it's a subject which confuses lots of folks, and one which is covered in some depth by author Tim Grey. This book takes a good look at the process of color management and the theory behind it. The book is very clearly sectioned with excellent coverage of theory, applications, devices and methodologies.

The book begins with a section called Foundations which does a very good job of covering the basics of color theory. I especially liked the coverage of metamerism as it explains to the user why the perception of similar colors varies under different lighting conditions. The chapter also explains just how much the accuracy of color management is affected by your choice of conversion profiles. The concept of rendering intent is introduced in this chapter too. It is a concept which was new to me in name if not in principle. The concept explains how your choice of conversion system directly affects the result of your output.


The next chapter covers the usage and set up of Photoshop. While the chapter is a little short in relation to other sections in the book it does cover much of what you need to know about the color management features in Photoshop. I was left with the feeling that much was left unsaid but decided to move on to the next few chapters and see what Tim had to say about the technology you can use in your color management process.

The first chapter in this section discusses display technologies and how important your selection of monitor type and display adapter really is. The chapter discusses factors like brightness and contrast and setting your white point. The coverage also includes the different tools available for calibrating your monitor and the differences between the various tools. The last part of this chapter discusses the environmental concerns affecting your color management workflow including items such as lighting conditions in your workspace, available room color, light and the use of a monitor hood.

The next chapter covers scanning technologies and the different factors affecting your search for the ideal scanner. Important considerations like dynamic range, resolution and bit depth are discussed along with the methods for setting up your scanner profile. Again this chapter briefly covers much of what you need to know but doesn't mire you in unnecessary details.

The Digital Capture chapter covers the use of digital camera technology in your workflow. Coverage includes the features to consider in your selection of the ideal digital camera, setting up the camera with consideration placed on white balance, file type, capture modes, color space selection and resolution. Again here the importance of color profiling is heavily emphasized with a cursory look at the different software available for image handling and conversion and the importance of camera RAW in this process. This section does a good job of covering the basics of the technology involved in the process but doesn't attempt to explain every variation you may encounter.

The next chapter in Color Confidence covers the process of post-capture optimization. This process is important as it helps to ensure that the image you display and output has the most fidelity with respect to the image you intended to capture. There are several methods for achieving this and among those discussed are memory color, saturation based, color balance and neutral balancing. The chapter also does a good job of taking a look at black & white images, an important detail because many printers add a color cast to B&W images which often require time consuming adjustments to eliminate. The author also revisits Photoshop and discusses several techniques for non-destructive editing and provides tips on the best methods for adjusting and saving your files.

The penultimate chapter deals with the final step in the color management workflow process: Output. The coverage ranges from choosing an output device, selecting and creating printer profiles, softproofing (previewing your output) and refining your output. It also intelligently discusses the pitfalls of image mismatching. My favorite example was the common pitfall of "chasing the print" whereby a user keeps adjusting the print because it looks wrong, ending in a file which may work well on one system but not on any other. The chapter also briefly covers output for display and web-based solutions.

The last chapter is quite short and talks about the workflow process, it is a little cursory and takes a point form approach to the subject. It is in essence a recap of much of what has gone before but could be used as a basis for a checklist.

Cons: Some of the subjects could have benefited from more in-depth coverage. Not really a con, but after reading this book you will want to got out and spend some money on some very necessary hardware.

Pros: Excellent coverage of the concepts and process of color management. Excellent examples illustrate the issues being discussed and the language used makes no attempt to lose the user in technical-ese. I highly recommend this book. Tim Grey does an excellent job of covering the issues at hand and tackles the issues surrounding color management in a manner which makes it easy to follow. If you are a photographer who wants to have control over your workflow and also wish to have consistency in your output, Color Confidence is a great primer.




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