Using ICC Profiles

ICC profiles define a meaning for the numbers used to represent colors in digital images. Without an ICC profile digital files will produce unpredictable and inconsistent results.
As a rule, always use ICC profiles. There are a few rules for using ICC profiles. Always assign ICC profiles (the correct ICC profile) when you create a digital file. Always use ICC profiles when converting digital files from one color space to another. Never remove an ICC profile from a digital file without replacing it. Use accurate high quality ICC profiles. While there are exceptions to these rules, they’re rarely encountered.
Here’s one of the single most confusing things about color management. The same numbers in different color spaces produce different colors. Why? Because while RGB color spaces (including the standard device neutral editing spaces sRGB, Colormatch, Adobe 1998, ProPhoto) all use the same numbers from 0–255 to describe color, each color space is capable of different things. For instance, wider gamut color spaces are able to represent more saturated colors. The numbers used to produce the most saturated red (255/0/0) will produce a more saturated red in a wider gamut color space than they will in a smaller gamut color space. So the same numbers in different color spaces produce different results.
Here’s another way of saying the same thing: Change to stay the same. Use ICC profiles to define a source and destination so you can change numbers precisely to make sure colors stay the same. Once you know what numbers you need to produce the same color in two different color spaces (like a monitor and a printer), you can precisely change the numbers to produce the same color appearance as you move a digital image from one color space to another. If you don’t change the numbers, the appearance of the colors will change when you move a digital image from one device/color space to another.
Some change is inevitable when moving from a larger color space to a smaller gamut color space and ICC profiles can be used to predict how color will change. They can be used to show you what must change and can’t be restored (out of gamut colors) and what will change and can be restored (in gamut colors). While you won’t gain color quality when converting from smaller gamut spaces to larger gamut color spaces, you’ll lose a tiny bit of data, which if done a number of times can degrade an image. So, keep color conversions to a minimum. (Optimally, convert once when you acquire an image; a second temporary conversion will be made while you print an image).
Use ICC profiles. ICC profiles are recipes for color that clearly define numbers making color consistent and predictable. They’re the foundation for working with color in digital imaging.
How important is this?
See what can happen below if you don’t use ICC profiles correctly.
Read More

6 Simple Steps To Good Color Management

Color management is rocket science. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to drive the rocket. Instead, be an astronaut. With a few simple steps you can achieve consistent, high quality color with your images every time.
These are the six simple steps to good color management.
1 – Make Profiled Conversions
Assign an ICC profile to all image files either during Raw conversion or scanning. Use appropriate profiles to make conversions into other color spaces with derivative files only. Minimize the number of conversions made.
2 – Calibrate Your Monitor Using Hardware
Once a month, use a colorimeter to build an ICC profile for your monitor. Minimize the influence of other light sources during characterization. Use the colorimeter’s software to help you set monitor brightness between 90 and 100 and choose White Point D65 and Gamma 2.2. Check the results with know target images afterwards.
3 – Set Good Photoshop Color Settings
In Photoshop’s Color Settings (in the Edit Menu) Set Color Management Policies to Preserve Embedded Profiles and Ask When Opening / Pasting. And, choose a wide gamut device neutral editing space. Start with North American Prepress Defaults and then change RGB to ProPhoto RGB.
4 – Softproof
Simulate the appearance of a print before printing. Go to View : Proof Setup : Custom and choose the profile you intend to print with. Check Simulate Paper Color and choose a rendering intent of either Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric. Make output specific adjustments before printing. Use these adjust- ments only when printing these media.
5 – Navigate Your Printer Driver Correctly
Use Photoshop / Lightroom or your printer driver to manage color – not both. In general, favor using Photoshop/Lightroom as this is the most versatile allowing you to use custom output profiles.
6 – Control Your Environment
Edit and evaluate your images in neutral surround- ings. Minimize the effect of extraneous light sources, such as glare on monitors or backlighting. Evaluate proofs and prints in appropriate lighting.
There’s much more that can be said about each of these topics – but, not much more to do. Take these steps and you’ll be well on your way to achieving consistent, high quality results with your images.
Read more with my color management ebooks.
View more in my color management DVD.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Simultaneous Contrast

How red is red? That depends in part on its context. We see colors in relationship to other colors in our field of vision. The appearance of any one color is modified by the presence of other colors. (This is a perceptual effect not a physical effect; while we experience it, we cannot measure it physically.)
Once you identify the elements in play, you can predict the effect. Simultaneous contrast can occur between any one or multiple components of the three elements of color – luminosity, hue, or saturation.
Place dark colors next to light colors and the dark colors will appear darker and the light colors will appear lighter.
Place cool colors next to warm colors and the cool colors will appear cooler while the warm colors will appear warmer. (Additionally, complementary hues increase each other’s saturation.)
Place saturated colors next to less saturated colors and the desaturated colors will appear less saturated while the saturated colors will appear more saturated. (Additionally, the desaturated color will appear to contain a cast of the saturated hue’s complement.)
Want to make a color appear lighter? Make it lighter or make surrounding colors darker or both. Want to make a color appear warmer? Make it warmer or make surrounding colors cooler or both. Want to make a color appear more saturated? Make it more saturated or make surrounding colors less saturated or both.
Contrast (or lack thereof) is the engine that drives color dynamics. To intensify a visual effect, increase the contrast in the appropriate components of color. This effect is intensified between adjacent colors. It is further intensified if one color surrounds another, partially or entirely. (If a color dynamic is particularly intense it may create the visual appearance of a line separating the two fields of color. Op artists often use these effects to create highly dynamic visual effects that appear to pulsate or move.)
Color management doesn’t yet accommodate these kinds of perceptual effects. Standard color correction strategies don’t tend to address them. But you can incorporate them into your color adjustment methods for greater precision and/or expression. All you need to do is take note of them and make appropriate compensations to achieve the result you desire.
Read More

Create An Oasis of Creativity For Yourself

Try setting half an hour a day for your creative life. If you did this everyday for one year, you’d give yourself 182.5 hours, roughly the equivalent of 4.6 work weeks. As you can see, it really adds up.
Many find it helps to pay yourself first in the morning. Get up early and get more time for yourself. One advantage to setting time aside in the evening is that the amount of time you spend can often be extended. Try both. Monitor your energy, Strike a balance between what’s practical and what’s ideal for you.
Set up a space that’s ready for you to be creative (even if this is a User setting on a portable computer) and keep it organized, so you’re ready to go when you get your time and you don’t waste it organizing.
Finally, when you’re able, take a trip for a long weekend or week of total immersion. Trips can add many more valuable hours to your creative life, as well as new stimulation, new material, and a fresh perspective.
The biggest challenges are starting and sticking to a plan. Start now. You’re sure to miss a day here and there, just don’t make it a habit. Instead, make a habit of taking some time for yourself.
Listen to more creativity tips here.
Learn more in my creativity workshops.


One of the most distinctive features of a visual artist’s use of color is their use of saturation.
Many photographers are often asked, “Are you a black and white or color photographer?”  (Curiously other visual artist’s are rarely asked this question.) While many people who ask it don’t mean it to be, it’s a loaded question. There’s often a latent assumption that you can’t do both well. In fact, work with one can strengthen work with another. Moreover,  the question suggests that black and white (and shades of gray) are not colors, when in fact they are very specific colors – neutral colors. And, the question does not address with any specificity how a photographer uses more saturated color. Curiously, this question is rarely asked of painters and filmmakers. A more useful question might be, “How saturated is your palette?”
There are essentially six distinct levels of saturation – neutral, semi-neutral, reduced saturation, fully saturated, highly saturated, and super-saturated.
Read More

Share Experience / Share Vision

It was December 2005. We had just made the long crossing of the Drake Passage to Antarctica. On the horizon were enormous icebergs. It was our first view of big ice. We all rushed to deck and began to photograph. I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with Seth Resnick. He was using a long 300mm lens. I was using a wide 28mm lens. We both looked at each other and then looked again. Our approach was so different we were astonished. “Let me see your camera!” we both said simultaneously and quickly traded cameras. We laughed out loud. With one quick glance, we realized we were seeing in entirely different ways.
It was February 2007. We found ourselves in the very same situation. Again, we had crossed the Drake Passage to Antarctica. Again, there was big ice. Again, we hurried to deck. Only this time, Seth appeared with a wide 14mm lens and I showed up with a long 100-400mm lens. We grinned big grins. We had influenced each other.
It was January 2010. Once more, we had crossed the Drake Passage to Antarctica. There was more big ice. Again we raced to deck. This time we both carried two cameras, one with a wide lens and the other with a long lens. We smiled and nodded knowingly at one another. As a result of sharing the same experiences and the results we produced from them, we had learned to become more versatile and see in more varied ways.
Sharing experiences with other visual artists can be extremely stimulating and rewarding. The resulting growth comes in unexpected ways at unexpected moments. In situations like these, I’ve come to expect the unexpected. Especially with Seth!
What opportunities can you make to share experience and vision with other artists?
Read Seth Resnick’s images and version of our story here.
Find out about our Digital Photography Destinations workshops here.

Using Photoshop Stacks To Remove People – Deke McClelland

Deke McClelland shows you how to use stacks to remove moving objects in a scene.
This is a game changing technique I emphasize in all of my field workshops.
It will open up new possibilities for you, change the way you shoot, and raise your success rate.
Learn more from Deke McClelland here.

Read more in my digital photography and digital printing ebooks.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Selective Content Aware Scale and Content Aware Fill – Terry White

Terry White demos ways to make Content Aware Scale and Content Aware Fill more selective. Both new miracle features usually succeed or fail epically. When either fails, try these two techniques.
Find more great content from Terry White here.
Learn more with my digital photography and digital printing ebooks.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.