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Large Format, Big Color Management

Photographer and lecturer realizes the importance of color management with Monaco software By Bob McIntosh
When you talk with Michael Gilbert of Limited Editions Maui about color management, you get the feeling that he thinks photographers who produce their own prints without using color management are missing the proverbial boat. Or that trying to produce quality prints from an original photo without color management is like riding a horse without a saddleit can be done, but more often than not youre likely to fall on your head. Thats why when he travels to the four corners of the world, lecturing photographers on photography, Photoshop and large-format printing, he includes color management in the curriculum. His system is MonacoEZcolor. "Anybody whos really serious about photography makes color management a priority," he says enthusiastically.

Gilbert, co-owner of Limited Editions Maui, is a world-renowned photographer with 20 years of experience under his belt. His credentials are impressive. He serves on the Board of Directors at the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center and as Curator, 19th Century, of the Canadian Center of Photography. He was the youngest photographer ever to receive the Craftsman Degree. He also published a children's book, From a Child's Heart. His love for photography started at an early age when he picked up his first camera at the age of five. By the time he was 18, he started lecturing to aspiring photographers.

In addition to delivering seminars on photographic fine art print, Gilbert teams with his partner Randy Hufford, who is president of Maui Custom Color Lab, to provide a service that delivers the full spectrum of high impact images for display, presentations and fine art reproduction. A large part of their business is selling large-format printers, which requires the occasional visit to the owners who need their devices set up and a color management solution implemented. For the workflow involving large-format printers, the team suggests MonacoPROFILER as the software.

Color management saves resources and frustration
To Gilbert, color management is one of the most important elements of photographic fine art print. It is also one of the most neglected elements of the trade. When asked the most obvious problems of a workflow that does not include color management, he quickly answers, "waste of paper and ink." According to Gilbert, paper and ink can cost $5 per sheet, which includes time. "When you factor the time you put into it, it can get quite expensive," he explains.

Another problem is the frustration that accompanies multiple prints. When Gilbert helps a client install a large printer, what usually pops up are color management issues. "Once you get into larger printers," he says, "making large prints takes a long time. Without color management, you can go through five or six test. It defeats the purpose of buying that printer because you could have outsourced it to someone else and avoided the time and energy of doing the job incorrectly."

Gilbert finds that Maui Custom Color Lab often needs to guide owners of large-format printers through the color management process of calibrating and profiling their printers. But color management doesnt end with the printers?scanners and monitors must also be calibrated and profiled. Says Gilbert, "Once the photographers have their monitors calibrated at least once a week, theyll have greater chance of success in their printing. We recommend calibrating the monitor once a week because the monitors drift. Profiling the scanner is equally as important."

Color management system eliminates headaches
The message Gilbert delivers to his seminar attendees and customers is that the benefits of color management are great. A proper color management system (CMS) eliminates the costs associated with print, ink and time. "Theres no guesswork involved because when you see the image on the monitor and you like it, thats the way it prints out," says Gilbert. Without a CMS, producing quality prints is like shooting in the dark; and at $5 a page, the costs add up.

Color management is necessary to maintain input and output devices profiles and calibrations. Printers come with their own profiles, ink and paper, but as soon as the photographer changes the ink or paper, the profiles for that printer are no good. "We found fluctuations between ink manufacturers cartridges to be enough to throw off the profiles built into the printers far enough that people would not produce good prints," states Gilbert. Profiling and calibration of devices are not talked about in the industry, so Gilbert gets many e-mails from photographers complaining about poor prints.

When Limited Editions Maui, Inc and Maui Custom Color Lab got involved in the sale of large-format printers Gilbert and Hufford recognized "you cant sell someone a printing system without selling them a color management program."

The growth of large-format printers
Gilbert saw the escalation of large-format printer coming years back. He knew that as soon as the larger printers came down in price and the quality improved, an estimated 58,000 portrait and wedding photographers would purchase the large-format printers. He knew that printers with pigmented ink would be ultimately preferable. Many printer manufacturers, however, didnt agree with him. They thought photographers would use printers made for home use. Gilbert says Epson, specifically, realized that photographers would be using printers for more than home use, and thats why he promotes their products.

As Gilbert travels the world, he makes sure to show everyone his photographs and tell them that they can accomplish the same type of quality. He tells them that not only can they take nice portraits and photos of sunsetsthey can print and sell them as fine art and make quite a profit. But it is very difficult to do this without a color management system?as difficult as riding a horse without a saddle.

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