A Journey Through Color – Coloratti Ashley Karyl
by Dave Mobbs – December 7th, 2016
Sooner or later, every photographer wonders why the colors in an image are all wrong and the questions always end with the same answer. They need a properly color managed workflow.
My photographic journey towards color management ironically started in black & white, as a young photographer in Milan. At the time, I loved shooting reportage style fashion that received considerable artistic praise, but not much paid work.
One day during a routine appointment at a magazine, the Art Director told me plainly that I should shoot clean color because that’s what clients want. It was absolutely true and within 12 months I became known for producing clean color beauty images of models.
One of my first advertising jobs was for Rimmel, who had a new line of products for which the color theme that season was grey. The client was continually taking the model outside the studio to see if the makeup artist was applying the correct tones, but in reality the final result was very much dependent on Kodak and the photo lab.
In those days, photographers had no means of influencing the color once the images left our control, since it was entirely up to the printer how they would look. However, all of that changed when we started scanning, retouching and producing digital prints.
On one hand it was fantastic, because we suddenly had the ability to remove small skin blemishes, unwanted hair or make eye colors appear more intense. However the burden of responsibility had shifted and mistakes were incredibly expensive.
This was a frustrating period, as the photographic industry was rapidly moving towards digital, yet most of the practices were primitive at best. I can remember the biggest professional photo lab in Milan naively adjusting their displays by eye to try and match their prints in the hope it would deliver better consistency.
As digital photography became the standard, we suddenly had more control than ever, yet ironically, many photographers have been unwilling to take advantage of these possibilities and continue leaving it all to chance. In reality, you only have a fully color managed workflow if it is maintained at every stage of the process, from capture to edit to print.
The demands on delivering perfectly retouched images with excellent color suddenly became the key priority. That is why I invested in my knowledge of color management, as the only practical means to ensure success of those goals.
A key breakthrough came from using the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport to shoot a custom white balance. It can also create camera profiles to ensure clean neutral color that respects the correct relative balance between colors under specific lighting conditions,. This cannot be achieved by standard profiles found in software like Lightroom.
At a certain point, I became frustrated by the amount of wildly inaccurate or highly technical information about color management. It was clear that nearly everybody was struggling, so I felt it was long overdue for somebody to write a book that explained everything in clear practical terms, which eventually led to the release of Colour Management Pro not long ago.
Recently, I started giving talks about color management to photography students at colleges and universities. This is a great opportunity to help the next generation of photographers produce consistently excellent color from day one of their careers.
When helping others to learn about color management, I feel it’s important to explain the process in relation to real world situations. My emphasis is on maintaining control at every stage, to guarantee consistency and cut down dramatically on lost time and costs in post production.
It comes as a real revelation to most people when they learn how easy color management can be if they follow some basic good practices, like setting a custom white balance and calibrating the display. At long last they can regularly produce the colors they want, while saving time and money.
Creatively, I am currently transitioning from commercial work to fine art photography and no doubt I’ll have a chance to shoot more black & white again. However this is still shot, edited and then printed on a color printer, so color management will be no less important than it is for color photography.
About Ashley Karyl
Known primarily for his beauty photography with advertising and editorial clients in the cosmetics industry, Ashley Karyl started his career in Milan and is now a UK-based photographer. His work has been used by clients who appreciate his graphically clean, fresh style of work and natural enthusiasm to ensure that the final image is always perfect for their needs.
Among others, his images have been used by clients such as Cerruti 1881, IO Donna, Collistar, J Walter Thompson, La Rinascente, Rimmel, Neutro Roberts, Kelemata, Kérastase, Marie Claire, Young & Rubicam, Ogilvy One, IPC Media, TBWA, Arnoldo Mondadori, Rizzoli, Euro RSCG, Microsoft, Hachette, Adidas, City Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Boots Group, Colgate Palmolive, etc.
Website – http://www.ashleykaryl.com