Color management is a serious— if not downright painful— business. Without good color management, the hues you see on your computer screen won’t be anything like the ones you thought were in the photograph, and what winds up on your print will look even worse. If you’re sharing files with someone else, they won’t see the photo you do.
X-Rite’s long been a serious player in the photographic control business, from traditional densitometers and sensitometers through computerized control. They now own Pantone, long a source of “off icial” colors. The fruit of their joint labors is ColorMunki Photo (Figure 1). It’s compact! It’s cute! (It doesn’t look anything like a simian, though.)
The $499 package includes the ColorMunki puck, case, USB cable, and installation CD. It runs under Windows (XP or later) or Mac OS X (10.4 or later, G5 or Intel). ColorMunki makes profiles for people who loathe color-management theory (nothing wrong with that) and may not even know what a profile is good for.
Until you start using some form of color management, you can’t reliably produce good images on your computer monitor or good prints from your printer. That’s true whether you’re doing color or black-and-white. In fact, it’s probably easier to understand in black-and-white terms.
Monitors and printers aren’t perfect, but they get better with each successive generation. Unfortunately, better means different and different means that the photographs won’t look or print the same way on a new system as they did on your old one. Let’s suppose you’ve got a photograph that looks beautiful on your current monitor. Suppose you get a monitor next year that’s twice as bright and has twice the dynamic range. If you display the same photograph exactly the same way, will it look the same? No, because the whites will be twice as bright as they were before, but the blacks stay just as black and everything in between will get stretched. Your brand-new monitor shows a brighter, contrastier photo than your old one did. Similarly, a photograph that prints beautifully now can look way too dark if you get a printer that can print deeper blacks and shadow tones than your old one.