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Photographic Color Management and Color Vision Problems

In post processing photographers spend a lot of time adjusting colors.  We also profile cameras, displays, and printers in an attempt to obtain the same appearance of an image on all of our devices.  All of our tools are based on the concept of the standard observer who represents an average of individuals with normal color vision.  Unfortunately, up to 10% of the male population and 0.5% of the female population have color vision anomalies.  This is seldom, if ever, mentioned in articles on color adjustment.  To fill in this gap, I have prepared an essay on the topic.  You can find the complete text here:

Coloranomalies.pdf  (726 KB)


Hmmm. Don't forget that during WWII it became widely realised that men with RG colourblindness were able to 'see through' camouflage and indeed were widely used to interpret the new generation of colour aerial reconnaissance images, seeing patterns that those with 'normal' colour vision could not. The genetic explanation for colour blindness is that it confers an advantage to a group, for this very reason. So whilst I agree that 'normal' colour vision could, as a tautology, be described as 'that perception of colour with the highest incidence in a population" it is I feel wrong to call it 'anomalous' since it recurs at a certain predictable rate and serves a useful function in terms of survival. It isn't 'wrong' (as you imply but don't quite state) - it's just different.

Posted by Tim Ashley on December 13, 2014 at 04:48 PM EST #

An interesting read. Good to have a scientific discussion of perceptual issues. One obvious problem that is suprisingly overlooked is the color shift caused by cataracts in older individuals. A few years ago I had cataract surgery in both eyes, and as standard procedure the doctors only do one eye at a time, in case of some problems. So for a few weeks bewteen the two procedures I had one " natural " eye with my native lens, and one " new " eye with a plastic replacement lens. While I was astounded by the difference in image quality, I was even more surprised by the color difference between the two eyes. The doctors tell me that its a natural part of the aging process for your eyes to change
color vision with them becoming more brown as proteins and amino acids build up in an older lens. But this all begs the question of perception of color by photographers doing their own printing and how they calibrate their monitors. I think we all can do the routines suggested by the calibration devices, but finally I think everyone naturally will " tweak " the performance of their printers to make a more pleasing image. So it stands to reason that a person with " brown " cataracts in their eyes will inadvertently color correct their prints to accomodate their personal vision, and by doing so produce prints that are off color to a younger person. I have never seen this issue addressed in any discussion of monitor calibration or printer profiling.

Posted by David Metz on December 26, 2014 at 02:04 PM EST #

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