Digital Imaging Continues to Change

Today, a handful of digital photographers are feeling they are losing control over their images when they supply RGB files. Their concern is that someone may inadvertently convert their images using incorrect profiles and /or not honour their embedded colour profiles when opening and converting their files.

Personally, if I were sending files to be printed on press I would not feel comfortable supplying RGB files – I would not want to take the chance. But I have worked in prepress and printing for years and understand enough about the process to do the CMYK conversion myself. Conversely, most digital photographers are not comfortable with working in CMYK; working in CMYK adds additional responsibility on their shoulders.

But things are changing and responsibilities are changing. I see this as a significant shift in our business models, as digital photographers start to assume some of the roles traditionally reserved for prepress and printers. Digital photographers are now starting to do proofing in both RGB and CMYK, retouching, close cropping, colour correction, and CMYK conversions, all in-house. So what are the answers?

First, let’s start by accepting that images captured via high-end digital cameras are compatible and in some ways, better than most drum scans.

I am a strong advocate of using the supplied ICC profiles located in Photoshop for making RGB to CMYK conversions. I have personally seen excellent results with these profiles and I never have trouble on the press.

The profiles are supplied with every install of Adobe Photoshop and were created by Thomas Knoll. The names of these profiles are: U.S. Sheetfed Coated v2, U.S. Sheetfed Uncoated v2, U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2, and U.S. Web Uncoated (SWOP) v2. There are circumstances where it is better to use a Custom CMYK table but for the majority of images the supplied ICC profiles are sufficient.

Lastly, we need to accept that the landscape of digital imaging is changing and during this change responsibilities will change hands. This change is not the choice of most digital photographers; rather it is the result of new technology that has forced a change in our workflow. If you were to ask a photographer today if he or she would rather hand off a transparency or a digital file, I think the majority would prefer the transparency. Clients are demanding digital files and prefer the immediacies of the medium.

I will stand down from my soapbox and let the chips fall were they lie.