Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Color Accuracy and Workflow

(being a better photographer while documenting 2 dimensional art work)

This is the beginning of a focused experiment which aims to improve my own photographic skill set for documenting my work more accurately. ***

I have the artist's proofs of 23 different screenprints.
They have been documented in the past with a Canon EOS 20D, and edited on whichever computer I had at the time. Both lighting conditions while shooting, and the calibration of the monitors while editing were not the same. I will control that in this project with the following experiment...

Phase 1:
Shoot the 23 screenprints in 3 different lighting environments with a Canon EOS 50D.
Lighting environment #1 is outside on a an overcast day.
Lighting environment #2 is inside with a bank of fluorescent lights with bulbs rated 5000K.
Lighting environment #3 is inside with 2 halogen lights on either side of the art work.

Phase 2:
Adjust the while balance from the RAW images on 3 different computer monitors and save each version as a TIFF.
Monitor #1 is a laptop: MacBook Pro 13"
Monitor #2 is a Dell 2009W 20" that I think is a bit on the green side (no matter how much I try to calibrate it)
Monitor #3 is a Dell 30" that is used by many people at a university (so the calibration is questionable)
Compare the three versions, side by side, on each of the 3 different monitors.
This should give me a good baseline to start the next phase of the experiment.

Phase 3:
Using an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer, print all 3 versions of an image with standard Adobe sRGB.
See which version is most similar to the original screenprint. That should reveal the best workflow for the photography phase.

Phase 4:
Using the best version from phase 2 & 3,
experiment with different ICC profiles so that the computer, printer, and paper are coordinated for best color output.

*** I've had a good grasp of basic photographic elements since middle school. Exposure, aperture and shutter speed, ISO, composition, lighting, etc.; enough to allow me to take some photos that do a bit more than satisfy just myself. Throughout my career as an artists, I have documented my work with a camera. My first efforts involved waiting for an overcast day the would provide an even light source outside. I set up the tripod, made sure everything was centered, parallel, perpendicular to reduce lens distortion, and shot brackets like crazy to make sure I could have a at least a few good slides for the portfolio. That was an expensive process. It would have been more expensive if I had to pay someone else to do it. Sometimes, when discouraged or frustrated by my own work, I looked to other artists' portfolio slides. Most of the time, the people who they paid as "pro" photographers did not do any better than me. It both encouraged me to keep taking my own pictures, and frustrated me with the thought that I was going to have to invest a lot of money in studio equipment, and time in research. I went the digital route as soon as I could, but feel that DSLR imaging technology has only recently become sophisticated enough to reproduce the subtle color shifts that I want. (note: the technology was probably there a bit earlier, but I could never afford the cutting-edge cameras, and have had to wait until the pro level equipment technology trickled down to the prosumer level equipment).

Results of Phase #2 (click on image to see it larger) note: paper is Canson Edition Cream

These were shot outside on an overcast day.
Adjusted with MacBook Pro (left), Dell 2009W (center), Dell 30" not quite sure of model (right)

These were shot inside with a bank of fluorescent lights (bulbs claim to be 5000K)
Adjusted with MacBook Pro (left), Dell 2009W (center), Dell 30" not quite sure of model (right)

These were shot inside under two halogen lights (not floods or spots)
Adjusted with MacBook Pro (left), Dell 2009W (center), Dell 30" not quite sure of model (right)

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