X-Rite Photo Blog
Color Perfectionists Unite!

Photo 1 by Katie Stern | Color Management in Photography Education


by Brenda K. Hipsher – November 8th, 2012

Color management has been a central theme in photo education since the advent of digital photography workflows.  Getting color under control is vital to producing a quality product. The ability to accurately predict how the final file will appear is essential to any photography professional.  That’s why Professor Katie Stern of University of Wisconson – Stevens Point teaches color management as part of her photography curriculum and why she has written a new comprehensive textbook for use in photo education called “Photo 1: An Introduction to the Art of Photography” published by Delmar, Cengage Learning.

Katie was kind enough to give us an interview a few weeks ago where we talked about the two year project of writing the new book and the necessity of color management in the digital photography workflow. “Digital color management was high on my priority list,” said Katie. She uses the X-Rite i1Display Pro for calibrating and profiling her monitor. I commented to her that she seems to have a tremendous investment in color management in general.  “That’s because I have a tremendous investment in ink and paper,” she responded. “You know you’re going to invest in something and the question is are you going to get results that work every time or are you going to fight and go to bed unhappy every night? So yes, color management is imperative even at the beginning level for photographers.”

On page 278 of her new book she starts with the monitor. The heading there says, “Step One: Calibrate Your Monitor” and that’s where Katie says everything has to start.  Listen to the entire interview with Katie Stern below and then read more about her color management journey in her guest blog that follows.

Color Management is Not an Option

by Katie Stern

My first experience with color issues was back in 1996 when I was trying to get my very first poster (a self promo piece) printed. I had taken photos of my golden retriever dressed up as a doctor (white coat, wire-rimmed glasses, stethoscope). Four of the photos told a story, so I combined them on one poster with a royal blue background and, after taking one college-level Photoshop class, sent the file to press.

Thank goodness someone had warned me to get a proof print. On the proof my royal blue turned to slate gray, the frames I had placed around each photo turned from brown to green, and my golden retriever turned into a dark Irish setter! Very strangely, the white coat and black stethoscope within the photos looked good. The printer said, ‘That’s the file you sent us, so another proof will cost you another $863.00.’

I didn’t have enough knowledge about color management to pull off this project. I called around and was eventually referred to Eddie Tapp. I took several Photoshop classes in Atlanta with Eddie and learned what I had been missing all along. My newly calibrated monitor produced a near-perfect proof the second time around. I sent the file to press and had excellent results.

My career progressed into education, and in 2004 I was teaching graphic design and attending graduate school. My MFA show was a collection of 15 photographs printed onto sheer silk fabric and hung in a darkened room from dowel rods. I used an Epson 7600 printer and the sheerest silk I could find. Color management was critical with this project, as each image took an hour and 45 minutes to print.

In the spring of 2012, my new textbook was published by Delmar Cengage Learning. Photo 1: An Introduction to the Art of Photography is a comprehensive  text for college and art school photographers. Chapter 10 of the book is called Digital Color Management and Printing. I give a brief history of digital color management and explain how people used to calibrate only to their own monitors and printers. Later people were encouraged to calibrate to a known standard, and it was actually years before excellent monitor/printer calibration devices were developed. I go briefly into mechanical means of measuring color , color spaces, gamuts and profiling devices, Photoshop’s color modes, and issues of visual perception. Then I go through steps including calibrating a monitor, setting a camera’s color mode, color settings in Photoshop, and printer profiles.

Chapter 11 is all about working with light, and the importance of setting a custom white balance. I talk briefly about using ColorChecker targets to aid in that task. I’m an avid fan of the ColorChecker Passport and use mine on a regular basis. I also ADORE X-Rite’s Color IQ test and use it in my classes here at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. I hope X-Rite keeps that available for years to come!

X-Rite Color Perfectionists Unite!Special thanks to Professor Katie Stern for her leadership in writing this new textbook. We certainly thank her for her time to talk with us and tell us more about why she believes color management is vital in the professional photo workflow.

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