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  • Writer's pictureScott Read

Is Colour Calibration Still Relevant?....

.....A controversial question I know, one that will have calibration practitioners reeling in disgust at the very thought, but it is a subject that I have thought long and hard about and discussed with fellow photographers, and in most instances they understand where I am coming from with my thoughts on the subject matter.

Let me explain!

Having spent over 20 years working in the print and media industry I have have a pretty clear grasp of the importance historically of colour set up with regards to printed media, the changes within the digital era as it has grown and blossomed into what it has become, and it's continuing development at a pace with the impact it has had on the industry. Traditionally colour calibration was the means to accurately replicate in print what was being displayed digitally, and was / is a vital component in how we consumed art media and photography, in this world the printed magazine was king of the hill..... But things change!

It is obvious that printed words and pictures have not died out totally, you only have to look at the shelves of your local news agents to see this, and I honestly can't see it disappearing completely any time soon, but it would also be naive to think that our digital consumption has had no effect. Clearly the industry has taken a hit, well established magazines cancelled, new read's not warranting the time and financial cost to launch and get to shelves. An area of growth within this sector has been the self published 'zines' or books that straddle the border between book and magazine, a specialization for the people who what a more distilled variety of read that really speaks to it's core audience of readers.

So how does all this relate?

Well much as I personally enjoy hard copy media, the sad fact is most people don't, shunning the additional cost and having paper around for the visceral immediacy of digital consumption, and it is this that is the key! Within a closed production system environment like a commercial printers, the colour calibration is vital for keeping a continuity, so that what is printed is what is being seen on screen. For most photographers, especially those who don't really print much of their work, proper color calibration is largely irrelevant, purely on the basis of the screens that a vast majority of people view their chosen media.

Obviously we all try and present our work in the best possible light, putting our spin on a subject matter and getting it just right before presenting it to the world and the people who eagerly follow your work, but the sad fact is that you could easily spend hundreds of pounds on color calibration equipment and software, take hours of precious time getting your own personal screen just perfect......and for what? for your labor of love to be viewed on a phone screen, a tablet, or on an old flickering monitor and such like! Ok maybe this is a bit of an extreme scenario, but needed it to make my point. The truth of the matter is that even if all of your viewers have relatively modern screens to view the presented content, about 98% will not be calibrated, even those that are may not have a calibration set up that is exactly the same as yours due to varying systems, and that is not taking into account the different technology types by the screen manufacturers. The sad fact is that outside of printed media where there is more control in being able to present your work in the way you want it, that most people won't see your work exactly how you see it on the screen in front of you.

So is there any real answer to this? Sadly, probably no. That is not to say it does not have its place, but we as artists need continue to produce the best work we can and to present it in such a way that as many people can enjoy it as possible and not spend too much time and money on something that only you will be able to see in your work.


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