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Standard color card to include in documentary images?

Is there a reference card to use in digital photos?

2:55 am on Oct 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

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If you're taking a set of digital pictures for documentary purposes (product manufacturers might do this, or scientists documenting specimens), the resulting image might obviously be subject to who knows what alterations in getting transmitted, edited, etc. Is there any standard card (a physical piece of paper) that people include in digital photos as a color reference? When such a card is part of the image and you need to check for color fidelity, you just adjust your monitor or printer to match the known physical standard (which presumably all parties have access to). Is this what the "Pantone system" is? I'm clearly not a graphics person. :)

Recommendations in this area are welcome.

1:24 pm on Oct 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member korkus2000 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Not to my knowledge. Have been at shoots for scientific documentation and have not seen really any color key. Adjusting the color is usually up to the graphic designer.

The pantone color system is perfectly matched color for print. If you use a pantone color that you have found on a pantone color swatch, you will be gauranteed to get the same exact color when it prints. Printers have pantone ink which they will mix. It is like color chips you get when mixing house paint. So no matter what printer you use your pantone color will look exactly like the color swatch. This is always more expensive alternative than cmyk.

Why do you need exact color match?

1:25 am on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I don't work with digital photos, etc., so I'm sure someone will jump in and correct me if this is wrong.

If you're simply talking about taking a photo and sharing it between/among parties, in order to be assured the color is being represented properly, you would have to make sure the digital camera is calibrated correctly to begin with and that all the concerned parties monitors are calibrated correctly too.

I don't know that much about the technical specs, etc., but, provided it was compatible with the equipment involved, couldn't you just make sure you were using the same ICC profile and make sure the monitor was calibrated for every party involved?

The Pantone Color Matching System is a set of special inks that allow you to be "sure" the printed material produced using those ink colors will be consistent no matter where you get your items printed.

Of course, there are so many variables that you can't really be 100%, absolutely sure: you have to pick your colors from a formula guide or chip set that is new enough and been taken care of properly to avoid faded colors, you assume that the printer will manufacture the custom inks to Pantone specs, you must make sure to see the ink color on the type of paper your material will be printed on (coated, non-coated, etc.) -- as you can see, there are a lot of variables that come into play. :) That being said, you're very safe in assuming the printed material will be a very good match if you specify PMS colors.

I'm not sure if there is anything of this sort for photographs or not; although I'm sure there probably is.

Pantone colors are also used in plastics, interiors, etc., so you might check their site to see if they have something that will help you in your project.

As korkus said, knowing what you're photographing might help too.

1:55 pm on Oct 22, 2002 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you might try the old standard for film photography: an 80% gray card stuck in a corner of the photo. That won't insure that "Coca Cola Red" is reproduced perfectly, but it will insure that there is a standard reference in the photo to correct for things like variations in the lighting temperature, etc. I assume photo shops still sell the cards, though I haven't bought one in years. (The back is usually pure white, BTW, and makes a handy flash bounce diffuser...) One question to which I don't know the answer is whether photo manipulation software has a feature to balance the colors if you select an area of the photo and identify it as 80% gray.