Profiles Help Manage Digital Color Workflow

Opinion: Most devices aren't self-calibrating yet, but the profile approach developed by the International Color Consortium helps bring some uniformity.

Editors Note: This is the second installment of a two-part piece on color management in photography.

Last week, we saw that color issues are more challenging in the digital world than exposure issues are. This week, well approach the issue of color management.

Without a physical reference, color becomes very slippery and hard to pin down and define. With film, people could and would hand around a physical reference, such as a slide or a test print. With digital, its often bits and bytes all the way. But who says how bytes specify a color? Who sets the standard?

In order to get a guarantee of color consistency in electronic imaging, a whos who of companies in the imaging field has established the ICC (International Color Consortium). Its founding members are Adobe Systems, Agfa-Gevaert, Apple Computer, Eastman Kodak and Sun Microsystems. You can see their work in progress here.

The central feature of ICC color management is the "profile," which describes a devices behavior. But the profile of a device often depends not only on the device but also on being unique to each environment in which it is used.

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