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Color Vision Deficiency – Misconceptions and Implications for Color Management

     

by Brenda K. Hipsher – March 23rd, 2013

Color Vision Deficiency – Misconceptions and Implications for Color Management is a guest blog by New York Film Academy. We appreciate this opportunity to publish a guest blog on the topic. Thanks to Anjum Bhardwaj for contacting us and providing the content. Color vision deficiency is sometimes referred to as color blindness.

NYFilm2Color management is vital to a successful digital color workflow.  Because each of our devices produces a slightly different set of colors, without color management we often experience inherent difficulties of guaranteeing the colors we are viewing will be exactly the same when replicated in print or when seen on a monitor on the other side of the globe. Thankfully, X-Rite has a range of intuitive products that benefit both beginners and professionals alike and render color management headaches a thing of the past… but what happens when you throw color vision deficiency into the mix?

Hard Facts and Misconceptions

Color vision deficiency very rarely prohibits individuals from pursuing certain career paths. It’s commonly claimed that you can’t be an electrician or a military pilot if you suffer from it, and that’s simply not true (special licenses exist which recognize limitations, but do not make flying or passing electric testing regulations impossible). The only real difficulty comes when someone suffers from total color blindness, known achromatopsia, which only affects an estimated 0.003% of the population

The most common form of the disability is red-green color vision deficiency, which affects a large swathe of the population, especially amongst males, at around 7-10% depending on ethnicity. It’s less prevalent among females at around 0.5-1%. Given the large gender bias still present in the industry (a topic for a separate post!), the ven diagram depicting male media professionals and those most likely to be affected by red-green color vision deficiency has a massive overlap.

However, it’s important to note that this more popular form of color vision deficiency is not as debilitating as people assume, and if someone says they’re color blind, it doesn’t automatically mean they see the world in black and white (a far too common misconception). It’s easy to understand how maddening it is for red-green color vision deficient filmmakers and photographers to come up against cries of “surely that makes your job impossible?” whenever they reveal their profession.

To be fair, it’s somewhat intuitive to think that such professions – which rely heavily on perception – would indeed be tricky to accomplish with color vision deficiency. As it happens, there are a vast number of talented individuals who have successfully gone against the grain.

Color Blindness in the Digital Age

Leigh Diprose is an extremely skilled photographer who is adept at not only wedding photography, but also nature, landscape and abstract subject matter. What’s more, you’d never be able to tell that he suffers from color vision deficiency until he talked about it in a post on his blog. While Leigh admits there are some challenges when it comes to photo manipulation in Lightroom or Photoshop, for the most part he has no problem with adjusting color sliders by feel and working with the white balance of his camera’s RAW file format. Even still, he sometimes has to rely on his followers to point out some rare goofs which sometimes sneak in.

Kilian Schönberger is a similarly talented landscape artist whose photography transcends – and perhaps is even owing to – his red-green color vision deficiency. Check out his stunning work here.

Modern Techniques for Tackling Color Vision Deficiency Issues

Printing photography solely in a dark room poses its own set of challenges, with or without color vision deficiency, but in the modern world of digital production, a fresh set of problems – as well as the tools to solve them – have emerged over the past ten or twenty years. Photography schools such as the New York Film Academy train students to be cognizant of color management issues from the shoot to the editing suite.

SethVideoCCPPJeff Revell, an old hand when it comes to the photography industry, remembers how color correction was handled decades ago and how it compares with digital production techniques used today. Along with a video from Seth Resnick, Jeff points out that a variety of simple tech solutions can overcome most color issues regardless of the photographer’s perception. In particular he has found a good friend in the ColorMunki Photo, as well as seamlessly combining the ColorChecker Passport with its Lightroom integration. Both of these pieces of X-Rite kit are proven tools for making sure color adjustment is both consistent and easy to deal with.

What to Do if You Suspect Color Blindness

If you’ve noticed problems, particularly with differentiating between red and green hues, there’s a chance (and quite a high one if you’re male) that you may have some form of color vision deficiency. If you are color vision deficient and have an interest, or work in, photography, a great port of call is the aptly-titled blog The Colorblind Photographer.

While professional testing is recommended, take a preliminary self-assessment. CLICK HERE for X-Rite Color IQ Test

X-Rite Color Perfectionists Unite!

Thanks again to New York Film Academy. We welcome guest blogs from individuals and institutions on topics of interest to our readers.

Learn more about the tools  to keep your color workflow in control at www.xritephoto.com.

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4 responses to “Color Vision Deficiency – Misconceptions and Implications for Color Management”

  1. I’ve been dealing with being a color bling photographer by making color management tools, like the ColorChecker Passport and ColorMunki my best friends. Fantastic article!

  2. David Burroughs says:

    As an Optometrist who spent 23 years in the Navy, some of this information is wrong.

    You absolutely can not be in certain military MOSs. Particularly those involved with aviation, such as pilots.

    I believe that may also pertain to certain civilian pilots and air traffic controllers.

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