More On Color Management

by James Duncan Davidson

Two weeks ago, I wrote that Color Management is Essential. The resulting comments, as well as personal discussions, I've had since then have been interesting indeed. One of the biggest questions that I've gotten has been: "So, what exactly makes a more expensive calibrator better? Why does it make better profiles?"

There are two parts to answering this question. The first is that you'd expect that the more expensive calibration units, such as the Gretag Macbeth Eye One Display 2 would have better hardware than the lower end units, such as the huey. It's not necessarily the case, but you'd at least expect it.

The second part of the question is on the software side. When the heuy profiles a display, it samples fewer colors than when the Eye One Display 2 does its profiling. I've not compiled a list of the color swatches being used as they go by, but from casual observation the heuy seems to spend most of its time profiling luminance values by using grey swatches and then uses a few red, blue, and green samples to catch the color information. By contrast, the Eye One Match software for the Display 2 calibrator seems to roll through an entire Pantone swatch book. Well, not really, but its sampling a lot more colors than the heuy does. By definition, more samples should equal a better profile.


Daniel Mendez
2006-12-05 06:57:24
It is my understanding (which could be incorrect) that Apple profiles their displays and LCD panels on the laptops right from the factory. Do you find that you need to calibrate yours right away or even after a few months of use?

Let's say you are taking photos at an event and you have your laptop with you. The hotel room's lighting is different from another room you may be at during the day, etc. Do you calibrate everytime you go to a different location? Would that not take a long time?

James Duncan Davidson
2006-12-05 19:08:12
There are profiles for the Apple displays built into the system, but those color profiles are just a first step. They'll get you into the door, but they won't do the job for making sure that you can reproduce the colors you'll get on prints and on other calibrated monitors. Also, monitors "drift" over time. Some people I know calibrate every week. Some every month. I do it every time I change conditions or every couple of weeks.

As far as calibrating laptops--I do it because I do so much work on them. But, laptop displays are horrid for rendering accurate color compared to desktop sized displays. They don't have anywhere near the brightness range nor the color gamut. At least not in my experience. But, when you're in the field, the laptop is what you have. I profile the laptop mostly to make sure that I'm not doing anything too crazy with adjustments.

Calibration doesn't take long. The huey calibrates in just a minute or two. The Monaco Optix and Eye One Display 2 take a bit longer, but no longer than it takes to go grab a coffee.

2006-12-06 18:04:57
Per this and your last blog entry on the subject.... I'd love to see your/others thoughts on color calibration for glossy screen MBPs. I currently don't have one, but am thinking that's my route for upgrades when Santa Rosa/Blu-Ray are available (I have my reasons...). I do some amateur photo shooting and editing with Aperture and a Canon DSLR, and would love to imagine that I could use this machine to do more than "workable" with it. From my test experience at apple stores, I prefer the glossy as the colors look more "True;" less washed-out. But others seem to say nay-nay and that color management is bad?

So what's the REAL deal?

James Duncan Davidson
2006-12-06 23:21:47
The glossy screen appears to me to be more contrasty and give more "pop" to colors. But, as I've only looked at one briefly in a store, I can't really speculate on the REAL deal. Hopefully, somebody else can chime in.
Ask Bjørn Hansen
2006-12-07 00:41:47
It is my understanding (which could be incorrect) that Apple profiles their displays and LCD panels on the laptops right from the factory. Do you find that you need to calibrate yours right away or even after a few months of use?

FWIW, I noticed that the Huey didn't change my colors much on my MacBook Pro whereas on my Dell 30" display it made a huge difference.

- ask

James Duncan Davidson
2006-12-07 23:56:31
Ask: That's an interesting observation. It means that, at least at this point in the life of your MBP display, the Apple provided profile is somewhat close.

BTW, I've posted a bit more about the differences betweeen heuy created profiles and ones from an Eye One: