View Full Version : Book printing and getting true colors

2-Jan-2005, 10:03
I'm doing a series of 4x5 table top photographs that will be published in a book. I would appreciate comments from those who use color charts and gray scales on two questions:

Do you use a color chart and gray scale on the margin of each photograph, giving up part of the image area, or do you take two photographs, one containnig the chart and gray scale and one without?

If the former, and if you are taking the photograph at an angle of 90 degrees to 30 degrees to the subject, do you lay the chart flat on the table or do support it and angle it to the lens?

Also, I've read the new edition of Marshall Lee's Bookmaking. It is excellent, but it does not focus specifically on reproduction of color photographs. Can anyone suggest a book that discusses this subject at a level of detail that would help a photographer understand the printing workflow?


2-Jan-2005, 10:07
I should add that I expect that the transparencies will be drum scanned and submitted to the printer in digital form.

adrian tyler
2-Jan-2005, 10:44
send the printer an accurate hard copy proof print, write any special instructions, it is his job to match the print.

Gary Samson
2-Jan-2005, 11:41
Hi Stew,

I would include a Macbeth color chart in the shot at the edge of the frame so that it can be easily cropped out and angle it as square to the camera as possible in the same light as the subject.

John Caruso
2-Jan-2005, 12:33
I photograph art with my color charts in each shot. It does take up room on the negs and transparancies, but it's very helpfull with color management. Especially with tri-color work.

I pin the chart up just above the canvas, on the same plane. The chart is then photographed at the same angle (90 deg) as the canvas.

Sorry, no books to suggest, but one other comment...

Contact the printer about color profiles before you scan, perhaps you can work in the same profile they do.

Hope that helps

chris jordan
2-Jan-2005, 14:00
Stew, when you choose your printer, make sure that they will let you attend the press check. That is the day they print the actual pages of your book in final form, and you should be there with proofs in hand to make sure they are getting it exactly right, page by page. They have amazing control over the presses-- they can alter color with just the same degree of precision as you can with the image in Photoshop. So for each page of your book, they will make you a proof on the actual press with the actual paper and inks your book will be printed with, and you can check it. Then they make another proof, and so on, until you give them the go ahead to run the whole batch. If you attend the press check yourself, you will be guaranteed to get exactly what you want. I just printed my first book, and was very glad I attended the press check because what the pressmen thought was "spot on" was in some cases quite different from what I wanted.

Considering the investment you make in a book, and how many people will be seeing it, you want to make absolutely sure the images look right, and the only way to do that (in addition to all the other pre-press steps) is to attend the press check and be a real stickler about the color and density of your images.

good luck,



Frank Petronio
2-Jan-2005, 19:42
An experienced book designer will help you avoid some of the unforeseen situations that sting many photographers. Images that cross over pages that fall on different parts of the printing form are extremely hard to match. Large areas of color will leave trails into following areas. A good pressman can do a lot, but it also depends where the images fall on the form, and a smart designer will consider this ahead of time.

adrian tyler
3-Jan-2005, 11:24
frank is right about a designer, but be sure to work with a designer who specialises in book production. you do not specify what type of book commision it is, if as chris is interpreting it, it is a personal monograph then yes you need to go on press, but if you are providing some images for a larger compilation with other illustrations or photographers it is unlikely that you will be even welcome, so your best bet will be to provide accurate proofs with the scans. as frank mentioned press proofing is a specialised business and in my experience there are many first class pressmen but few real artists, if you don't get an artist, who will subtly build up the whole sheet untill your hair stands up on end, then the secret is to know what you want and make sure that it is clearly explained.

a good designer will help you with layout, paper stock, screens, inks, the printer and all the rest of it.

remember good offset litho printing requires 3 things, if any of them are sub standard, it'll efect the rest:

good originals

good repro

good printing

oh, and striving for the best is often the enemy of getting someting good, that is to say that photomecanical repro and offset litho is not a photograph, it is something else and should be conceived as such.


3-Jan-2005, 12:39
Thanks very much for the replies.

The book consists of text and photographs and I believe it will be taken on by a mainstream publisher. My sense, reinforced by the above comments, is that it is important to be hands-on during pre-press and just before the run.

I'm fairly convinced that using a color chart and gray scale will make the scanning and printing processes easier. The downside is that the MacBeth charts, even the small one, take up quite a bit of room in the frame that I'd rather use for the image. That's why I was thinking, in the case of each photograph, of doing one photo with the chart and one without, and trying to make sure that the photo without the chart matches the photo with one at the scanning stage. I'm just not sure if this overly complicates matters.

Erik Sherman
3-Jan-2005, 14:58
>> The downside is that the MacBeth charts, even the small one, take up quite a bit of room in the frame that I'd rather use for the image. That's why I was thinking, in the case of each photograph, of doing one photo with the chart and one without, and trying to make sure that the photo without the chart matches the photo with one at the scanning stage. <<

That's the approach I've taken when color fidelity is critical. If you work with a regular publisher, push to get introduced to the production people and discuss such considerations early on. You don't want an editor getting between you and them.

3-Jan-2005, 22:07

Do you do copywork or three dimensional ob jects? If the latter, do you orient the chart to the camera or let it lie flat on the table?

If one does one photograph with a chart and one without, is it necessary to repeat this process if one brackets? Or is one photo with a chart sufficient if one brackets?

Erik Sherman
3-Jan-2005, 22:16

I've shot objects, and orient the chart so that it faces the camera. It would probably make sense to include a chart image for each bracket, though you might be able to get the chart into the frame and plan on cropping to take it out again. However, I'd suggest to do some trials, so you know what will work. Then you should be able to put the chart in once (or once for each change in lighting).

But you should start talking to the book production people first. Ask them what would work for them. After all, they'll likely have dealt with the issue before.

adrian tyler
4-Jan-2005, 00:51
i think that you may be making life a bit complicated for yourself and perhaps even cutting some profesionals out of the print production process. why not just give them the chromes or the prints and let the book production peope handle the repro? after all, all reputable repro houses have scanners in the 50.000 buck range, do you have one of these? thay will be capable of matching and even bettering your originals for print purposes, and you can see the proofs and make corrections if nescessary. they will likeley make cmyk scans too, so if you do choose to "do it yourself" be careful as to rgb-cmyk conversion issues.

giving chromes/prints takes the colour chart worry away assuming that they just have to match the image.