Tuesday, January 27, 2009


One of the primary functional advantages of Color Management for most individual computer users who are digital photographers is to facilitate making prints that match what they see on-screen in their computer’s display. In terms of color consistency, a Color Managed print workflow does achieve that goal, although too much complication and confusion can ensue in the implementation of a color managed print workflow, in my humble opinion.

Unfortunately the “prints too dark” problem many are having, and finding few resolutions to correct density mismatches between screen image and print image, was never anticipated when Color Management was designed. At that time the only way to display an image with a computer was a CRT monitor, and because they match the range of values in a digitally made print, display luminance to print density matching was not an imagined need.

Today with LCD displays that are much brighter than CRT’s by at least 25%, and often more, there is a problem due to that mismatch in the range of values of a display and the range of values that are reproduced in a print.

If this were an ideal world, the luminance range defined when a display is calibrated would be included by white and black luminance measurement figures recorded in the display profile for the display. Also an ideal would be one that image editing applications that support color management would use workspace profiles which would respond to the display profile luminance range and measurements and pass on the white and black luminance levels when the workspace profile becomes the Source Profile for making a print. Then a printer driver would have a reference to the brightness range of the display used for editing the image and could accommodate and interpret an image file’s midpoint setting to result in an adjusted printing midpoint that will produce an output density matched to the screen image.

Sadly this ideal world would require an overhaul of the Color Management System, an undertaking that would take years and cost Apple, Microsoft and Adobe millions in extra programming hours. A shortcut fix is to edit existing output printer profiles to include a print density adjustment. But there isn’t a profile editor available as a stand-alone application at a reasonable cost. So as long as there is no resolution or a fix/patch from those who could provide one, namely all the printer companies in the printer drivers they publish, or in photo image editing application software, everyone looses?

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