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04-29-2015, 03:16 PM   #1
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Assessing Color Balance

Greetings all!

Is there a means of assessing a DSLR's ability to accurately capture and render proper color balance independent of variables introduced by the viewing medium (ex. the camera's LCD display, various monitors on which photos are viewed, printer variables, etc.)?

My "new to me" K5 seems to add a slightly cool cast to the photos. I'm assuming that one of the K5's 538,927 settings can probably be used for fine-tuning the color but even so I'm wondering if there's some sort of test or process I can use, maybe something akin to the trusty old 18% gray card used to measure exposure.

I've tried viewing my photos on numerous monitors and on various sites (they appear somewhat differently when viewed from my Pictures folder vs. how they appear on sites such as Facebook) and am hoping that a means exists of assessing the color balance that removes the viewing medium as a variable.

Thanks for any suggestions anyone might have, all replies are appreciated.

Best wishes,

-Dave S.
Lindenwold, NJ

04-29-2015, 04:04 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by DJS22867 Quote
Is there a means of assessing a DSLR's ability to accurately capture and render proper color balance independent of variables introduced by the viewing medium (ex. the camera's LCD display, various monitors on which photos are viewed, printer variables, etc.)?
100%? No. Good enough for regular use with normal human eyes? Yes.
You will want to make a camera colour profile, calibrate the colours (color passport or some similar product) and use the correct white balance before every shoot. And make sure you use full spectrum lights, maybe using gels to control their temperature.
You will need a pro monitor, which should be routinely calibrated.

But of course, what good is all that when the person looking at the jpeg online uses an 8bit, glossy, uncalibrated monitor with their own saturation and contrast settings? When they view a print in slightly orange light?

So here are some easy settings that will get you 95% there, without the previous stuff. I assume you shoot raw and use a program like Aftershot pro, Silkypix, or Lightroom. Some of these might allow you to choose the camera calibration. Use the one for the camera or Embedded. Next is colour space, often a culprit for changing image quality. With colour space, there are two approaches. One is to use the biggest gamut colour space from the beginning and only change it if necessary upon export. I prefer the other method of having the same colour space throughout the process, so there are as few conversion as necessary. The best choice for this method is using sRGB in-camera, in the raw software, and in the exported jpeg as well. sRGB is not the absolutely highest quality, but nobody will notice, and it is the most widely recognized (websites, web browsers will not mess up its colours). Finally, remember that websites often resize and recompress photos. You can beat that by choosing certain parameters to avoid triggering the website's "resize, recompress" algorithms. Usually these things are colour space, image dimensions and file size. The latter two depend on the website.

I think choosing sRGB in-camera and on export will solve a lot of the problems. And keep in mind that different monitors can show drastically different colours, because most monitors (even the ones on the back of cameras) are not calibrated. If you don't use a calibrated monitor yourself, you can learn to read the histogram, but that can only help you so much. If you want to make and sell prints, you might have to find a way to calibrate your monitor, software, and printer. If you take your files to a print shop, just export them as tiff and it should be good enough. And for prints you should bump sharpening and brightness a little. Prints are a very different medium from screens, so learning to expect the differences takes some time

Last edited by Na Horuk; 04-29-2015 at 04:23 PM.
04-29-2015, 04:16 PM   #3
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Hi,
You cannot use color balance for this. This is what color management systems (CMS) are designed for. You must obtain or make a color profile for your viewing medium (e.g. printer or screen) and use software that is color managed (e.g. Photoshop) for displaying/printing images. Various modern web browsers are now color managed.

There are tons of information about this on the Internet (search for monitor calibration). Here is one place as a starter: Monitor Calibration for Photography
04-29-2015, 05:17 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
But of course, what good is all that when the person looking at the jpeg online uses an 8bit, glossy, uncalibrated monitor with their own saturation and contrast settings? When they view a print in slightly orange light?
This always gets me. I recently did some photos from a work get together. They looked pretty good on my PC. Took them to work to share over network and...yikes. They looked *horrible* on my work monitor. I was embarrassed to hand such things out. They were good on the MacBook from work, though. I was really tempted to tell people... "Please view on your laptops."

04-30-2015, 02:01 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by DJS22867 Quote
My "new to me" K5 seems to add a slightly cool cast to the photos.
Are you using Auto white balance? If so, try to add +1 or +2 amber in the AWB fine tuning menu.


I also found the K-5 AWB a little bluish. I assume that's what you mean by "cool".


Regards,
--Anders.


PS: It still confuses me sometime how "cool" and "warm" is used seemingly backwards for colour temperature,
because strictly, the high colour temperatures (Kelvin) are the blue ones and the low colour temperatures are yellow.
I suppose it's because ice is blue and fire is yellow?
04-30-2015, 02:22 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by asp1880 Quote
because strictly, the high colour temperatures (Kelvin) are the blue ones and the low colour temperatures are yellow. I suppose it's because ice is blue and fire is yellow?
Haha, good observation! Its because to people, at least in the western, European cultures, warmth is associated with orange, yellow (sunshine, fire), and coldness with blue/white (snow, ice). We rarely get to see actual white-hot flames, but you do have a point.

Oh, and yes, some cameras and some lenses tend to be slightly colder or warmer than others. This has to be taken as "the character" of the gear. It can still be corrected in post by camera calibration (WB can mask it to some extent, but WB is meant to fix other problems)
05-03-2015, 05:44 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by asp1880 Quote
I also found the K-5 AWB a little bluish. I assume that's what you mean by "cool".

PS: It still confuses me sometime how "cool" and "warm" is used seemingly backwards for colour temperature,
because strictly, the high colour temperatures (Kelvin) are the blue ones and the low colour temperatures are yellow.
I suppose it's because ice is blue and fire is yellow?
QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
Haha, good observation! Its because to people, at least in the western, European cultures, warmth is associated with orange, yellow (sunshine, fire), and coldness with blue/white (snow, ice). We rarely get to see actual white-hot flames, but you do have a point.
Just to add clarification or perhaps confuse people even more:
Warm colors = low temperatures
Cool colors = high temperatures

Because that makes sense, right? But we often get lazy and speak of the colors themselves instead of the temperatures.


As for why high temperatures are blue, it's related to wavelength and black body radiation. A black body at a low (physical) temperature will glow red and go from orange to yellow as you heat it up. If you *really* heat it up without melting it, it will start to become blue. Think of flame, like a blow torch: the hottest part of the flame is blue because this part is burning without carbon or char. The body emits radiative heat, which has a wavelength. On the optical spectrum, red is the red wavelength and blue is the shortest. That's what makes the color temps as they are: physics for the end points, some association, and then some interpolation. (Because no black body emits waves in the green region...)
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