color manual The Essential Colour Manual for Photographers:

A fabulous volume dedicated to colour in photography. This book is a must for anyone working in colour, it covers everything from light to calibration and all things in between. Its broken into 10 chapters that thoroughly tackle the subject of colour. There is a lot in this book and it left me feeling that it was one that I would keep on my shelf and dip back into for reference in the future.

Unlike many of the books I have read lately there was a lot to learn in it, and while there was much I already knew it tended expand on that knowledge or present new ideas for me to consider.

01 – The Colour Image

In the first chapter the book examines what colour is and its relationship to light. It explains the difference between additive and subtractive colour and contains some useful explanation of the relationship between light waves and the colour perceived.

This chapter provides a really useful baseline for the rest of the book giving us some common ground on which to base our understanding of the way colour works and how we use it in photography.

Further it gives us a way to describe and measure colour, finishing with a discussion on how we see and perceive colour.

02 – Capturing Colour

This chapter was one for the “Techies” amongst us, it describes how digital sensors work and how the camera effect this data with its settings, it also looks at how the camera records this data. It goes on to look at Film and the place it still has in a digital world. A relatively short section designed to expand the base line provided by the first chapter.

03 – The Quality of Light

In this chapter the author considers the light we work with, beginning with some theory about colour temperature giving us a useful scale that relates the colour temperature with the type of light/ time of day, for those who don’t know what 5200k light looks like this is a great chart. The author also provides example photos that demonstrate the colour temperature in action.

The book gives us the Kelvin scale but also introduces the mired scale for comparison. Having covered colour temperature it moves into the topic of white balance and its use both normally and creatively.

The chapter concludes with colour filters providing us with a chart of filters and their effect, and talks about their use in both colour balance  and colour enhancement.

04 – Digital Considerations

This chapter begins by explaining colour space and compares the sRGB and Adobe 1998 standards listing their advantages and disadvantages. It explains, quite succinctly  the differences and talks about why being technically superior does not necessarily make Adobe the best choice, especially for printing directly from the camera.

It then moves on to bit depth explaining what bit depth is and how it effects the number of colours available to the image. it compares 8bit and 16bit files and explains the advantage of the largest bit depth. The section uses example images to illuistrate the points it makes and uses some histograms to further push home the concepts.

From bit depth the book moves on to Colour Gamut, it explains the concept of a Gamut and relates it to the various devices we use as photographers such as our screens and printers and emphasises the fact the the two my have different colour ranges and prevent us printing what we see on the screen. It looks at some of the tools used in photo shop to see this problem and repair it.

05 – The Digital Darkroom

The first part of this chapter looks at the technology, it talks about how the screen displays colour, compares different monitor types and how to calibrate them via hardware and software. It then moves on to printers, looking at the different types and comparing them. The book then moves on to talking about colour profiles and embedding them into the image. It looks at how we transfer the colour between applications and devices to maintain consistency between them. The next part deals with matching your monitor and printer so you get what you see when you print. It even goes s far as creating your own profiles. The last section adds scanners into the mix making sure you get proper colour from your scanner.

06 – Software

This section looks at how software packages interface with colour in your images. It starts with a discussion on hue and saturation and looks at how editing software uses and controls these elements of your digital photograph. The it shifts to levels and looks at how the levels / brightness / contrast effect the images colour. Next it deals with curves and looks at how this has powerful effects of the final image colour. Finally it covers colour channels touching really ion the surface of the topic but not really getting into the depths of what is possible using the channels tools. All in all this section was an interesting overview of software tools but lacks the depth to help you do anything really powerful, it is more of a primer.

07 – Practical Techniques

This chapter is more on the theory of colour and how we practically apply it to our work, there were many parts that cast back to the colour assignment in “The Art of Photography” and I think this book would have been very useful while doing that work. It runs through the different colour combination’s and how to use them to create the right mood for your image. There is a section looking at colour and where you find it in nature. It looks at skin tones and how to get them right using two case studies as a demonstration. it looks into mixed lighting and also what effect colour has on the background of your image. There is an interesting section on limited pallets which liken them to monochrome opening up the idea that some of the technique used to make monochrome images striking may well apply to an image where there are a lot of different shades of a similar colour.

The book then looks at how we can use colour to effect the mood of an image and gives a number of examples and case studies to illustrate the point. It ends with a look at how all of these theory’s can be used when capturing seasonal colours and takes each of the four seasons in turn illustrating its points by example and case study.

This is quites a big chapter and it is made clear by the book that this is a pivotal topic in the colour debate and is at the heart of using colour creatively.

08 – Digital Manipulation

This section is really an extension of the section on the digital darkroom, it takes the elements discussed in that chapter and extends the debate a little into how some of the factors discussed can be used to alter images. It also covers black and white conversion and how to make an image have the qualities of certain film types.

09 – Beyond Visible Colour

This section looks at techniques that extend the use of colour such as colour popping, it shows some rudimentary ways of creating a black and white image with colour accents. It looks briefly at solarization and cross processing and closes with a discussion on infra red photography.

10 – Photographers Profiles

The book concludes by looking at a number of photographers and the way they have handled colour.

Covered are: Martin Barraud, David Churchill, Andrea Jones, and Jeremy Walker.


To Conclude

This is a great book, it manages to take one facet of photography “Colour” and discuss all of the key related topics, occasionally it feels like a science text book and at other times I was left gagging for more. I suspect some topics were easier to write about, however I think it was the more difficult topics where the interest often is as we all clamour to understand more.

This book is definitely worth a read and should be on the shelf of any OCA student, for those doing colour in TAOP buy it and read it, I will keep this book in my library as it is one of those books that you may well dip back into for inspiration.