Color Me Accurate

by Charlie Miller

I was working with a client recently who had been struggling with getting consistent color from his photos in Aperture. Like many other digital photography enthusiasts I’ve talk to over the years, he was mystified by color management, and had grown accustomed to trying to predict what his photos would look like when output, and then making adjustments to attempt to compensate. This is what I like to refer to as “shotgun color management”. It's inaccurate, messy, and can be an incredibly inefficient use of time.

Getting predictable, accurate color in Aperture doesn’t have to be something to stress about. Devices such as the i1Display 2 and the Pantone huey are both known as colorimeters. They cost a few hundred dollars and include software that allows you profile to your display so that your computer is capable of displaying color accurately. Place either of these devices against your screen, run the bundled software, and it will create a custom color profile for your display that you can manage in the Color tab of the Displays System Preference. This is a good place to start with minimum investment.

For anyone outputting photos to a high-quality inkjet printer, you’ll want to look at a spectrophotometer such as the X-Rite i1Photo. This is a more powerful (and more expensive) color metering device that is capable of reading accurate color from paper and other mediums in addition to an LCD or CRT display. With a spectrophotometer, photographers can create custom color profiles for each of their inkjet papers. Combine these custom output profiles with a custom display profile and you have accurate color from top to bottom. You can use Aperture’s built-in softproofing feature — available as the “Onscreen Proofing” option under the View menu — to preview what your photos will look like when output to a printer using a custom output profile.

For more info on color in Aperture, check out this conversation with Joe Schorr or explore the Pro Color section on


Rob Brown
2007-10-15 11:54:18
If you are really interested in getting the most out of your monitor, I'd strongly suggest looking at Color Eyes Display Pro. It comes as a software only package, or with a hardware device (X-Rite DTP-94) and works with most hardware calibration devices and all monitors, INCLUDING Apple displays (due to only having brightness controls, these displays are notoriously difficult if not impossible to calibrate - only Color Eyes can do it correctly).

Go here:
Apple displays:

I was using X-RItes own software for calibration (not good), followed by EIzo's own (not that much better). Since I already had an X-Rite Monaco Optix XR, I just bought the software only and I've noticed a huge difference in the calibration / profiling of both my Eizo CG210 and my Macbook Pro display. This software walks you through the steps, or for the more advanced user it drops the wizard mode.

A great feature of this software is that you can actually track the performance of your display over time. I cannot recommend this software highly enough - it really helps you understand what is going on, but also actually calibrates your display correctly depending upon what your specific needs are. Sheer genius and the tech support is great too. A lot of high end studios are using this software now as it provides a one-stop-shop solution to calibrating several different devices across different platforms. Way, way better than the stock software you get with your display and/or hardware calibration device.

Another problem with encountered with Color Management in Aperture is that of Input Profiles. Aperture is great at handling output color management, but just like Lightroom, there is no way of profiling your camera and attaching that profile to Aperture. Aperture uses its own profile to determine your colors. BUT, all cameras are different - even those in the same model line. OK, so some of you may be thinking that it is way too hard to profile a camera - there are just too many options right? Well actually Integrated Color have cracked that too with their Color Eyes camera profiling product - just take a look at Michael Reichman's video report on this (probably the most unbiased writer out there) - you'll probably change your mind and perhaps even think twice about color management in Aperture:

To me, camera profiling is the real missing link for Aperture. To many people, they just want nice looking colors, but to anyone who has got color mission critical work to do, Aperture cannot be a choice, because you cannot profile your input source and therefore what you see on screen can never match what you are shooting, regardless of whether your display is correctly profiled or not. Everyone shouts out about monitor profiling, but input profiling is just as important.


Phil Binks
2007-10-17 05:44:13
I agree with colour management, but apple have failed to enable Aperture users to get the right colour when printing from Aperture. To get the right colour, I have to print from Photoshop.
The web is full of reports of this issue - my images print very much darker than they are.
BTW - I train in colour management so know my stuff.