Articles: "Ensuring Color Accuracy For Your Digital Photos"

January 12, 2004
by Shawn Mulligan

So, what color is this? Dark Green? Olive? Teal?

It's not a trick question, but if you haven't calibrated your monitor lately, it could feel like one.

If you think color integrity doesn’t matter much, you might think you can stop reading now . . . but think twice about that. The reality is that anyone sharing photos, charts, graphs, or other images electronically can run into situations where what looks like the perfect shade of teal on your screen comes across as eyeball-bursting blue to your colleagues, friends and relatives.

Most people know that color management has to do with how images look on a monitor. But few realize that PC and Mac monitors' ability to interpret color fades—rather quickly—with use. The green you're seeing now, for example, could look very different in just 3 months.

We tend not to notice color disintegration until someone points out that something we sent them "looks weird." Then we try to adjust the monitor manually, using our eyes as a guide.

Until recently, making adjustments that way was okay for most of us because we were primarily working with text, and, until recently, calibrating a monitor was a costly procedure, reserved primarily for high-end animators and others so reliant on accurate color that they calibrated their machines several times per day.

Now, the rapid co-evolution of digital photography and image-management tools has made it easy for photographers, from the novice to the professional, to improve the results of their digital images, and for all computer users to improve the color accuracy of any kind of illustration. It seems like everyone is adding charts, graphs, photos and other images to their communications, which has greatly amplified the importance of accurate color display.

Moving just ahead of these trends, companies like ColorVision have been innovating color-management systems that make calibration simpler and more affordable. Recently, new tools for color management have become available to consumers, such as the Spyder monitor calibrator from ColorVision. This is the first product of its kind to work with both CRT and LCD displays, so you can be sure it will function with your personal computer. After a simple step to attach the calibrator to your monitor, the hardware-software combination takes care of the rest. The software interprets what it "sees" on the screen through the calibrator and creates an ICC (International Color Consortium) profile. The ICC's standard color profile allows color information to work across various applications and devices, so other programs on your system that manage and present color on your screen maintain the consistency of the calibration.

Most of the time the monitor is the problem. However, after the monitor has been calibrated, sometimes the printer is found to "have issues" too. To address this there are products available that also can calibrate your printer so printed material exactly matches the colors on the calibrated monitor.

That's a big boon for photographers and amateur shutterbugs alike.

You can make sure you're not seeing red over color, by checking out more information online at

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