January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

Most photographers who are also printers (either desktop or chemical) know the importance of judging prints under conditions with standardized colour temperature and light levels. For many judging a colour print means holding it under a quartz halogen lamp or possibly also walking over to a window to see how it looks in daylight.

During late 2000 and early 2001 I found myself doing a great deal of portfolio-sale printing using theEpson 2000P, an archival printer which uses pigment-based inks. While these prints are rated to have a 200 year life before noticeable fading, making them the longest lived colour print process available, they occasionally suffer from a problem calledmetamerism. This causes some images, on some papers to display with different colour characteristics under incandescent bulbs and under daylight.

My work-room has large windows, and walking back and forth between my desk, with its quartz-halogen illumination, and the window is no hardship. But when working at night I had no way to judge print colour under daylight conditions. This lead me to explore daylight color evaluation devices and lamps at a local graphic-arts supply center. For the most part I found these units to be large, ugly and expensive, and frankly, overkill for my purposes. 

The solution that I discovered is theOtt-Lite.  Available for only $59.95, the Ott-Light is small, inexpensive and provides a colour temperature of 5300 degrees Kelvin, a very close match to the recommended D50 standard for daylight print evaluation.

If you’d like to learn more about setting up your workspace for proper colour evaluation you might be interested inan articlebyGeorge Weddingon this topic. The recommendations are likely a bit over-the-top for most people but it gives you some idea of the lengths that graphic arts professionals go to to ensure accurate colour reproduction.

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Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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