Color Management and Photography

Free/libre software doesn't write itself. If you use free/libre software, there are many ways to contribute:

If I may single out two projects for special attention: ArgyllCMS needs monetary contributions. And GIMP needs programmers.

The philosophy behind the color management articles and tutorials

Many times, articles on color management assume that all the reader really wants to know is which buttons to push. On this website the first assumption is that you want to understand enough about color management to make your own intelligent decisions.

The second assumption on this website is that you run Linux and use free/libre software. Most articles on the internet that discuss color management assume that you run a proprietary OS and use PhotoShop.

Fortunately the principles of color management are the same regardless of which operating system and which software you use. If you use a proprietary OS and you want to try any of the concrete examples provided in the articles, most free/libre imaging software also runs on Windows and Apple. The only difficulty you might encounter is with some of the command line examples, as the exact syntax does vary slightly from OS to OS.

I have no particular philosophical quarrel with proprietary editing software. But I do object to the idea that the artist's own work should be locked into a proprietary file format such as PhotoShop's PSD. Adobe's move to the cloud has made this issue of who controls access to the artist's work crucially important. The Creative Cloud license agreement itself is onerous and one-sided. Once the artist stops paying the subscription fee, she loses access to the software that unlocks the proprietary PSD format that contains her creative work.

Recent and featured articles

Recent articles

  • How to Make a Camera Input Profile Target Shot

    When making a camera profile, the better the target chart shot, the better the resulting camera profile. This article explains how to make a good camera input profile target chart shot, including picking the right target chart, choosing the right lighting, preparing for and making a series of target shots at increasing exposure values, and picking the target shot with the best in-camera exposure.

  • Patching GIMP for artists and photographers

    High bit depth GIMP 2.9 from git has the potential for being a very useable and serious high bit depth image editor. But high bit depth GIMP as it currently exists in git is, in my opinion, not very useable unless you are editing sRGB images (and even then it's a bit iffy). Patching GIMP for artists and photographers is the third in a three-part series that tells you how to build, update, and patch GIMP from git to better meet the needs of artists and photographers.

  • A tutorial on GIMP's very awesome LCH Blend Modes

    Aquarium fishThis tutorial introduces the very awesome GIMP LCH blend modes and provides examples using the LCH blend modes first to repair a color image, and then to colorize a black and white rendering of the repaired color image. Results using the LCH blend modes are compared to results using the old HSV blend modes.

  • Photography Workflow using High Bit Depth GIMP

    GIMP XCF layer stackWhen editing photographs, it helps to have a well-defined workflow. My workflow consists of four sequential modules: preliminary color management steps, interpolation and image repair, image manipulation to meet artistic goals, and preparing the final image for display. High bit depth GIMP is my image editor of choice.

  • Models for image editing: Display-referred and scene-referred

    sRGB and ProPhotoRGB in the xyY reference color space.This article explains the similarities and differences between display-referred and scene-referred image editing. Even though the two models serve very different image editing goals, both models work with bounded RGB data. Display-referred RGB data is bounded by Color, which is to say by both Luminance and Chromaticity. Scene-referred RGB data is bounded only by Chromaticity.

  • How to Make a Better Custom Camera Input Profile that's also an RGB Working Space

    IT8 target chart shot for profiling a camera.This article shows how to use ArgyllCMS and a target chart to make a better general purpose custom camera input profile that is color balanced and normalized. The resulting camera input profile is well behaved and so can also be used as an RGB working space for editing your interpolated raw files.

  • From sRGB color space to sRGB profile: how to calculate the ICC sRGB profile primaries from the sRGB color space specifications

    D65 and D50 white points viewed as relative and absoluteThis article provides a step-by-step worked example of performing a Bradford chromatic adaptation to calculate the D50-adapted ICC sRGB profile red, green, and blue primaries from the unadapted red, green, blue, and white xyz values given in the sRGB color space specifications.

  • A Review of FLOSS Raw Processors, Part 1 (revised and updated)

    Flat and enhanced raw renderings of a yellow dandelion.Part 1 of a review of free and open source raw processors compares seven free and open source raw processors — dcraw, darktable, the digiKam raw processor, Photivo, Rawstudio, RawTherapee, and UFRaw — "by the specs", without looking at actual interpolated output. This review only considers features relevant to radiometrically correct raw processing and not other features such as image enhancing algorithms or digital asset management.

  • What are 'Clipped Colors' from ICC Profile Conversions?

    A bright red flower with clipped colors in the petal highlights.You've been told that converting an image from one color space to another can result in clipped colors. But how, why, and where does the clipping actually happen? This article shows you a real-world example of clipped colors in the image itself, in the image color gamut as seen from inside the CieLAB reference color space, and in the image's individual red, blue, and green channels.

All the color management articles and tutorials, arranged by topic

Articles & Tutorials on Color Management and Photography has links to all the color management and image editing articles on this website, arranged by topic:

  1. Tutorials on ICC Profile Color Management
  2. Calibrating and profiling your monitor
  3. Profiling your digital camera
  4. Choosing the right RGB Working Space
  5. Working in bounded and unbounded color spaces
  6. Interpolating camera raw files
  7. Digital Asset Management
  8. High bit depth GIMP

The About page has a little bit of information about why I switched to using Linux and started the Nine Degrees Below website, and the Galleries have a few of my photographs.

If you have questions or comments about any of the articles or photographs on this website, I'd love to hear from you (even if you run one of those other operating systems 😉). You can reach me at ellestone (at) ninedegreesbelow (dot) com.