Color matching problems

Hi friends

I need to find out a solution for our photgraphy needs.

We are involved in certain photography of product samples straight from the customers' warehouse. The color of thje product is the major issue, and it is of paramount importance for us to preserve it and display that on the system (monitor) - Butthe problem is, we cannot shoot the pics in ideal studio environment and lighting - but have to shoot straight off the warehouse.

1. What steps can we take to ensure max compatibility and retention of original colors?
2. What eqpt (softwrae) is required for the above job?

I'll look forward to everyone's inputs and suggestions

thks
Zom
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zombeenAsked:
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lherrouConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Zom,

There are a lot of variables in your question. Are you shooting film or digital? SLR/Pro camera or point-and-shoot? Flash or only the warehouse lighting? Is the lighting incandescent, flourescent, or a mix? What software are you using after you obtain the photos? I assume part of your problem is that once you are back at the computer, you can no longer see the product, so the color correction is based in part on judgement calls on what the product looked like.

Here's a couple of thoughts for you:
1) In every shot, include a color target of some form - a element of known colors that can be your goal for color correction. When you get the photos corrected to the colors on the target, you'll know you've corrected to the correct color for the product.
2) Use a couple of cheap studio slave flashes (something like  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=50022&is=REG), which will provide you with known lighting. The item I've shown screws into a standard light bulb socket, you can easily make up your own mounting system, or for a little bit more, get a cheap light stand and bracket like http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=127532&is=REG. The slave flash will fire automatically with the main flash on your camera, and provide color-controlled lighting for you. You'll need to experiment with exact placement and distance (especially if you are using a point-and-shoot camera) to keep from overwhelming your camera with "unexpected" light, but it will help a lot. Also, you can bounce the flash off of a white surface to get a more even, softer light to prevent shadows.

If you can answer some of my questions above, I can give you some more specific pointers as well.

Cheers,
LHerrou
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Lobo042399Connect With a Mentor Commented:
Greetings Zom,

First as much daylight as possible. Not direct sunlight but daulight. If that's not possible then a couple halogen lamps with soft diffusors, amount of lamps depending on how big the items are. I don't know if we're talking candles or forklifts.  If you have a photography equipment rental business in your area you can give them a call or visit them, they should be able to recommend  the right lamps and you won't have to buy a whole bunch of expensive equipment.

A good digital camera is vital. The latest Canon and Pentax are excellent. I don't know if you already have a camera but if you don't then renting a good one is also an option to spending a load of money on one. In Toronto, Vistek (vistek.com) is the leader in photography rental equipment.

Photoshop. I wouldn't use anything else. You'll probably need to do some colour adjustment but it'll be a lot less if the photos are taken with the proper light.

You'll also need to calibrate your monitor for proper colour display. I've been using Monitor Calibration Wizard and love it. It's free and can be downloaded from:  http://www.hex2bit.com/products/product_mcw.asp

That should have you covered.

Good Vibes!

Lobo
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zombeenAuthor Commented:
Thks a lot for your comments

Here is some more information:

1. We are shooting digital, point-n-shoot
2. lighting is mix
3. We use Adobe photoshop for post prodn.
4. we are shooting big items - 12 ft x 10 ft kind of size

Apart from your suggestions which are surely worth considering, and you can confirm after this information, I have a couple of more questions:-

a. Is the color mgmt eqpt available with guys like Pantone any good?
b. what about the gama correction logic - how can we use this to ensure every monitor sees the image the way we want to show it

Thks once again
Zom
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Lobo042399Commented:
Hi Zom,

For big items like that you may need either 3 or 5 lamps with diffusors, yup. 2 or 4 for side lighting and one for top frontal lighting and you may still need a soft flash or use only flash instead of the front lamp.

Everything Pantone is good. Since you're shooting for Web (I would keep backup copies of the hi-res photos in case they're needed for print in the future) there's no need to bother with PMS colour matching but you need correct RGB calibration. As per gamma correction, there's no way to ensure that everyone will see the right colours on their monitors; that will depend on each viewer's particular settings and experience shows that most people don't bother calibrating. You can ensure that the colour in the images is the right one, but if a user's monitor is set to too much contrast or it doesn't have the proper colour balance that's beyond your responsibility as a designer.

Good Vibes!

Lobo
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lherrouCommented:
Zom,

If indirect daylight is a possibilty, I would certainly go with that - but if you have to stay in the warehouse setting, do not use halogen lamps - they are in the "warm" to "neutral" range, 3000° to 3500° Kelvin, compared to 6500°K for daylight. This will add a yellow-ish tint to all of  your photos.

I agree with Lobo on getting a good quality digicam, via purchase or rental, and also Photoshop - not the easiest to learn, but better than any other product currently on the market for getting your colors normalized.

Lobo, glad you liked the MCW, it's a great tool!

LHerrou

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Lobo042399Commented:
Hey Lherrou, yeah... and as a freebie the price is right! ;o)
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lherrouCommented:
Zom,

a. Is the color mgmt eqpt available with guys like Pantone any good?
b. what about the gama correction logic - how can we use this to ensure every monitor sees the image the way we want to show it

The Monitor Calibration Wizard Lobo suggested will go a long way towards ensuring your local monitors are displaying the image correctly. Pantone's products are fine, but for web photography, you really don't need them - they are critical for print work (we've assumed that you're doing web work, but reviewing your comments, I guess we jumped to that conclusion) - otherwise the MCW will be fine.

I've done a lot of web catalog photography for various customers using point-and-shoot digitals, and have had a lot of success with them. I have a full Nikon setup for film work, but the digicam works great most of the time - I've done everything from tea tins to 6' tall pottery with a Fujifilm Finepix 2650. The issue with the digicams is that their built-in flash is pretty weak and directional. You need to supplement it with slave flashes as I suggested - they will provide color balanced light, and fire by being triggered by the flash on your point-and-shoot. For objects as large as you mention, you will probably need several, as Lobo mentioned.

Here is a good basic discussion of light, light direction, etc: http://www.itchy-animation.co.uk/tutorials/light01.htm You might also look at a good photography book, there are many in the bookstores and library - just pick one up and skim the lighting section. Believe me, if you get the lighting right, most of the color problems will be solved.

Cheers,
LHerrou
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zombeenAuthor Commented:
Thks a lot for your excellent tips - I m sure I 'll be better equipped for our projects with these and will take the necessary steps, specially the lighting, and placing a color cue around eacxh picture to  help in color matching

Thks once again
Zom
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lherrouCommented:
Zom,

Thanks for the points and the "A". Good luck with your projects, and don't hesitate to post again, Lobo and I are here just about daily, and are always happy to help out.

LHerrou
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Lobo042399Commented:
Thanks Zom. Glad to be of help.

Good Vibes!

Lobo
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