Thursday, March 28, 2013

(Color) Space ... The Final Frontier ~

There are few subjects in photography less well-understood by the average shooter. Color Space. Or Gamut. It's an understanding of the range of colors a given device, like a camera, can "see" and record, or what a printer may be able to produce. Obviously you don't need to be an expert on color (I certainly don't claim to be) to be a good photographer, but since our digital cameras want us to make a decision on which color space to shoot in, we should try to distill down a few of the essentials here to better understand what we're doing.

In other words, what on earth is the difference between using sRGB and Adobe RGB??

Most of what we shoot will be viewed on a monitor, either as we share our photos or post them to a website. This world sees in sRGB; shooting in this mode generally reproduces better saturation, particularly in the reds (at one end of the spectrum) and the deep violets (at the other). But why? Isn't Adobe RGB a larger color space?
Technically yes, it is, but it doesn't actually make more colors, it spreads those colors over a wider area. Since our monitor "sees" these colors in the smaller, more compressed sRGB space, those reds and violets get "cut off" and the program we're viewing the image in has to figure out on its own what those colors are. As a result, you end up with images that, by comparison, looked a bit washed-out. The reds don't pop, everything can look a little flat.

Alright, so when do we use Adobe RGB? I have usually recommended this to dentists who were shooting for high-quality shade matching, and working with labs that were using software which took advantage of this color gamut. It's also preferred when you're making custom prints and likewise are familiar with the imaging and printing software involved; typically you'd be shooting RAW files to fully take advantage of this. (A topic for a new blog post!). So, as I've always said, there's no more effective tool than communication. Work with your lab to see how they would prefer the image files you send them.

Are you getting the color quality you want in all your shots? You might not be, and maybe it's because you're not shooting in the appropriate color space. Check it out.

And let me know. I'd love to hear what's been working for you!

later, amigos!         Dave            

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Keeping Your Photos Safe, Safer, Safest ~

As a photographer, I know of one particularly scary horror story: a crashed hard drive, photos not backed up anywhere, photos gone...forever. In the past, we had been meticulous to the point of obsession about the care and archiving of our negatives. We had to be; they were our bread and butter. We don't use negatives much any more, but instead we have digital files. And I'm afraid too many of us have become complacent about how we consider their long-term care. Any good computer you buy these days will have at least a half-terabyte (500 Gb) of hard drive space, so it's easy to save our photos there with little concern to running out of room for them. But room isn't the issue. Just ask anyone who has lived through that crashed hard drive horror story.

So, let's talk about some good digital archiving strategies. In the not-so-distant past, we commonly burned our files to CD's (and later, DVD's) to store them. They stacked pretty easily on our bookshelves. But even back in the day there were suspicions about the long-term stability of this media. And -- have you looked at new computers these days? Solid-state is the state-of-the-art, due to greater speed and efficiency; this means no more optical drives for CD's (unless you buy additional hardware. Blech!) So I don't look at this media as a good solution any more. 
Besides, they don't have a lot of capacity. A CD only holds around 750 Mb of data, a DVD around 3Gb. Your typical thumb drive? Easily 8, 16, 32 Gb's. I recently saw a 64Gb thumb drive on Amazon for around $30! I use these all the time to upload everything from entire folders to my Keynote programs. They're especially good if you need to share those files, too, since the USB port is universal. So yes, these are good solutions. But.....

They are not the best alternative, mainly because the very quality that makes them so convenient also makes them vulnerable: if they're easy to carry around, they're easy to lose. What you'll find every photographer relying on are external hard drives. They're stable, have high capacity, and can easily be transported. Plus, they're fairly inexpensive. I use several. As a Mac guy, I have a large (1Tb) external HD dedicated to Time Machine, which keeps my computer's entire content continually backed up. Additionally, I use portable HD's to upload all my photos, Keynote programs, Word documents and other data in a way that makes it easy for me to retrieve them later on when I need to work with them. Since I know that all my important data is redundantly stored (on thumb drives, on Time Machine, and on portable HD's) I can confidently delete them off of my computer's hard drive and not take up space there. 

Yeah, it would definitely be a drag if my computer hard drive crashed. Those are never inexpensive events. But losing my data? Never. I sleep well at night.

Your thoughts? Let's archive them here!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Accurate Color ~

As a commercial photographer and printer, I have always taken color very, very seriously. Capturing it on film, in a print, or in a digital image requires precision on many levels.
This is all the more critical in shade-matching, where we convey color information to the dental lab. Using digital technology, this task is much more reliable and accessible. Quality camera equipment -- a good digital SLR camera, macro lens, twin-light flash source  -- makes this possible. Other essential tools are the grey neutralizing tab and a reliable shade tab.

Dr. Dave and I normally shoot RAW files, and this totally unposed (!) picture shows the software we use to process them. But since most labs require jpeg images (they're a lot easier to email and work with) it's good to know that critical color accuracy is just as reliable with these.

Are you getting the color results you need? I might not be rosy, but I'm all ears!