David Cardinal: PDN PhotoPlus Expo: It’s all about color
Nov 2012 13

PDN’s PhotoPlus Expo isn’t nearly as large as the massive Photokina tradeshow that just ended, but it is one of the largest regional photography shows in the country. Its prime location at the Javits Center on New York’s Manhattan Island make it a frequent destination for both pro and amateur shooters.

Fortunately the show open, and closed, before hurricane Sandy hit, or else this would have been a very different tale. While the weather was overcast, it was fairly pleasant and warm throughout. As I wandered the show floor I was struck by the one thing that every booth had in common – color.

Whether it was the sample images being displayed on large screens, massive poster-sized prints, banners, or set pieces designed as subjects for the various demo cameras, color was a crucial part of every vendor’s success at the show. That, of course, led me to think about the key role that Datacolor and its products plays in the art and business of photography. Without accurate and repeatable color, a tradeshow like Photoplus would almost not make sense.

Nikon lit its “demo” flower garden and its dancer exhibit carefully – with full-spectrum light mimicking sunlight. That made it easy for show attendees to get lifelike shots of the scenes.

How else can we evaluate cameras, monitors, printers, and labs besides seeing their results? Crucially, for those staging the show, or exhibiting, it is also essential not just to be able to render color well, but to be able to communicate color to others in their workflow. The sign printer needs to match Nikon Yellow perfectly with the output from the promo bag printer, the T-shirt silk screener, and the logos on the product boxes.

Nikon’s signature bright yellow color was all over its booth, and it all had to match – on a variety of media. In this theater where Nikon was describing how to get great color in your studio, the monitors needed to be carefully calibrated and matched with each other and the show lighting for the talk to have any credibility.

Our own David Tobie walked participants through how to extend their color management techniques to video – a rapid-growth area for DSLR photographers.

If anyone is a color fanatic, it’s these guys. David Saffir & David Miller going over some exhibition prints with a fine-toothed comb, seemingly checking them pixel by pixel for color and clarity.

David & Ben enjoy a rare slow moment between visitors at the Datacolor booth. In the brief time I spent in the booth we had paper vendors, printers, and photographers stop by to learn about the latest advances in color management.

You Can’t Have Color Without Light

It’s easy to forget that color sitting on paper, or even colors coming off a monitor, don’t exist in a vacuum. They are both heavily affected by ambient light and lighting conditions. That makes color management all the more important. Eyeballing prints, monitors, or banners isn’t going to do you much good if they are eventually going to be used in different lighting conditions.

In the case of a tradeshow the issues are obvious. Show floor lighting – unless custom-installed by the vendor like at the Nikon demo displays – is typically poorly balanced and far from full spectrum. Even if you’re not printing for a show floor, the same issues exist for almost any type of image display. A print that looks great under your expensive full-spectrum studio light booth might look dark and dreary displayed in a client’s hallway.

One thing I love about having a fully color-managed workflow using Datacolor’s SPYDER line of products is not just that I can create prints that look good under ideal conditions, but that I can tweak my profiles to allow for display under less-than-ideal conditions

is a veteran travel and nature photographer who specializes in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia as well as North American mammals and birds. His images of creatures in the wild help communicate the importance of our natural heritage and our responsibility to preserve it. You can learn more about David on our Friends with Vision page, or on his own website, Cardinal Photo, and its sister site, Nikon Digital, which are both full of tips, reviews and forums where photographers compare notes and tips. Or you can follow David on Facebook or join him on one of his Photo Tours and Safaris for plenty of experience