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Ashley Karyl

When did you first understand the importance of color to the photographic process?

It was back in the mid 1990s when I first started working with a digital workflow and a photo lab error ended up losing me a lot of money. The images looked fine on their monitor but came out much too bright in print and it cost me the equivalent of a whole month’s rent. This was the turning point that pushed me to learn more about colour management.

What is the most important aspect of color management that an aspiring photographer should know?

Consistency is vital and the monitor is your visual reference point for the entire workflow, so it’s worth investing in a good one but even the most expensive monitor is no good unless it has been properly calibrated and profiled using high quality hardware calibration. It cannot be done accurately and consistently by eye.

Give an example of the ways in which a solid knowledge of color management (or an accurate color environment) helped you – on a project? In a consultancy situation?

I suppose the obvious answer would have to be the book I am currently writing on colour management, however to give a more tangible example I recently created a panoramic montage with a dozen photos that were merged to form a single seamless image of a fishing village in Cornwall.

The file was uploaded by FTP to a Lab in London who produced the final print that was almost 2 meters long, however thanks to good colour management at both ends it came out perfectly the first time with no need of any adjustment.

Why are you committed to using X-Rite products?

X-Rite is synonymous with colour management and respected throughout the industry as the choice of professionals, so sticking with their products is above all a very practical decision for any photographer.

How important are the latest color management tools in today’s industry?  Why?

At one time colour management was a total mystery to photographers, while even the majority of printers were making adjustments based largely on guesswork, though they were always quick to blame the photographer!

Nowadays we have incredibly accurate tools at our disposal that can make colour work very reliable and fairly straightforward as long as you maintain a consistent approach. Being able to send images to a printer or client and knowing you have prepared everything correctly according to industry standards is essential because otherwise the entire job is at risk.

What does the (near) future hold for the photo industry, in your opinion? Do you think color management will be more or less important – why?

I believe there will be major advances in the technology available to photographers at all levels in the near future that will substantially raise expectations of image quality and for that reason accurate colour management will be more important than ever.  

How is color management related to your artistic process?

When you shoot beauty images clients want to show the colour of a product very accurately and without proper colour management you are completely lost. The same rules apply to other areas though as well, such as fashion and products for example. Good colour management starts before you even click the shutter button and carries on throughout the entire process until you see the finished result.

Do you see color management as an advantage for saving money?

Absolutely; the shear amount of wasted time and materials not to mention credibility is astounding without good colour management, so having full control over your colour output is the most effective investment you can make in photography.