Understanding Colour - the Girivalam photographs and how to get a good print

Producing consistent colour from Photographs for use on the Web is a thorny issue.

Just obtaining well-balanced, detailed photographs of a difficult subject like Arunachala can be very hit and miss, but the advent of high-resolution DSLR cameras has made it much easier, because the dependency on proper film development has now been removed.

Every photograph of Arunachala on this site has been edited to some degree or other, to provide a uniform image on the majority of computer screens, but there is no guarantee that your screen will display the images with the same colour and tonality as my screen.

The images are prepared and uploaded with an embedded sRGB colour profile. This is the profile used by most computer operating systems, purportedly to provide consistent colour. However, that is not the entire truth. My own system is colour-calibrated using calibration hardware and software, the images are produced in Photoshop and look fine, but if I open them with 'Windows Picture and Fax Viewer', or any of the Microsoft picture viewers, they look over-saturated with colour; this is because the operating system appears to interpret the colour 'in a box', ignoring the monitor calibration and defaulting to a preset which the operating system and all Browsers use - I might be wrong, but that is how it appears. The solution would be to force Windows to use my screen calibration and everything would appear uniform throughout.

That would be fine for me, but not necessarily for the majority of visitors to this site who do not have calibration tools. So for web use I have desaturated all of the photographs by 10-20% and these should appear fairly well-balanced on the majority of monitors without calibration.

JPG format for the Web

For web use, the photographs are compressed using the JPEG format. This produces small file sizes so that the pictures load quickly, even on slow connections. High-compression JPEG however is 'lossy', meaning that information is thrown away during compression. There is also a tendency for the most predominant colours in the original TIFF file to overwhelm the JPEG version, so the image looks oversaturated with one colour - usually cyan or yellow with regard to Arunachala. I have corrected this problem as much as possible, but cannot guarantee how the images will look on your screen.

The thumbnails are all approximately 3-5kb in size, the intermediate photos average 70kb and the 'full' versions average 750kb each (the full versions have not been desaturated).

Large format print versions available for purchase

These are the original TIFF versions, compressed for transmission using the highest JPEG quality setting, which produces an image with almost no loss. They have an embedded 'sRGB' profile. The sRGB profile is best for single print production by Photo Print Houses, using laser or inkjet technology. The Adobe RGB profile is best for use with production printing ... providing that the print house actually uses calibration - many do not, especially in India.

Desktop printing and WYSIWYG

This means 'What You See Is What You Get', this is the buzz phrase for image editing software and small desktop publishing programmes using desktop printers - usually you get just that, or very close to it.

If you download the 'full' size images from the website (the original size is 12 inches by 8 inches at 200 dpi) and want to print them on your desktop printer, you should open them in your image editing programme and output them from there if the colour looks balanced and then everything should be fine; if they look oversaturated (too much colour) then reduce the overall saturation by 10% or more - do not attempt to reduce iindividual colours unless you know what you are doing. If they look too dull, then increase the saturation by no more than 5-10%. Alternatively select "Print from File' if it is available in your printer setup.