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Monday, January 1, 2007

Common Digital Problems & Their Solutions

Make digital work for you with these easy-to-use tips that solve typical challenges faced in the digital darkroom

Common Digital Problems & Their Solutions3 Oversaturation >> The saturation control of Hue/Saturation is like the mythological sirens calling photographs to their death on the rocks of harsh, unnatural and too intense colors for the scene. Because digital images direct from the camera often don't match what photographers were used to with colorful print and slide films, they often jumped on the saturation adjustment to try for a "Velvia look." A little seemed good, so more was seen as even better. Unfortunately, this often led to garish, unnatural-looking images. Saturation shouldn't be used blindly in an attempt to find Velvia colors.

Solution: Limit saturation increases and use individual color controls.
When used right, Hue/Saturation (Image > Adjust > Hue/Saturation) offers a lot of power to get superior color in your photos. It simply isn't the first tool to use. Additionally, it works better if you use it to adjust specific colors rather than making the whole photograph jump with saturation.

I recommend keeping any overall saturation change to 10 to 15 points or less. If individual colors need help (and this is a common problem with digital cameras; they don't capture all colors in equal proportions), go to the Edit > Master part of the Hue/Saturation dialog box. Click on the drop-down menu arrow, and you'll get a list of colors.

Select the color closest to the one needing adjustment. You can even refine Photoshop's color range by clicking on the color itself in the image. Now you can adjust Hue to correct color and Saturation to change the color's intensity without overadjusting the rest of the photo.

Monitor Calibration >> It amazes me that many people still don't calibrate their monitors. An immediate step for gaining control over the process, monitor calibration gives you a constant, predictable workspace. It doesn't guarantee perfect prints (that's a different issue), but it saves you money by helping you get good prints faster, plus your color and tonal adjustments are more accurate and predictable. It makes your monitor work for you.

Solution: Get a monitor calibration kit and use it.
Monitor calibration kits include a colorimeter or tristimulus device that gets mounted on your monitor, plus wizard-driven software to allow you to easily and efficiently calibrate your monitor. A good example is Datacolor's ColorVision Spyder2 Suite™ for $149, which includes everything you need to calibrate any type of monitor, CRT or LCD (www.colorvision.com). You need to regularly recalibrate your monitor as it will drift in color and tonality over time. How frequently depends on how often the monitor is on and the type. (CRTs need calibration fairly frequently, while LCDs could go for months without recalibration.)



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