Tips for Stock Photos: Matching Color From Screen to Print

Make sure your stock photos look their best.

One of the challenges in working with digital stock photos is knowing how colors will translate when printed. The potential issues with color matching are fairly complex. Image files, screen displays, and prints are three different beasts, with three separate color profiles. Particularly near the edge of the color spectrum, you may find that your stock photo contains colors that can be printed but can’t be displayed on your screen, and other colors that can be displayed on your screen but can’t be printed.

If that isn’t confusing enough, monitors don’t all display the same color profile, and neither do printers. And mundane reality can affect viewing as well: the white color of your paper (on which you print your photos) will never be bright as the pure white light emitted by your computer screen, and your choices of ink and paper will play a major role as well. Even interior lighting can change the way your eyes see color and confound color matching- ideally, use full-spectrum light bulbs, but keep distracting bright colors out of your field of vision.

Even with all those issues, some tips on “color management” should help you ensure that your stock photo prints will look as close as possible to what you see on your screen:

• Newer monitors and video cards often increase onscreen color saturation to improve the look of games and DVD’s, which makes color matching near-to-impossible. You can adjust these features (and turn them off) under your video card display settings, usually under an “advanced” button. Next to options to adjust color, gamma, or contrast, will be a “saturation” or “digital vibrance” slider, which measures the amount that the screen is enhancing the saturation. Set this slider to zero.

• LCD Monitors generally need to calibrated before they can match colors well. If you can, find a monitor that’s already calibrated correctly, and mess around with the color matching features until yours looks about the same. In general, most screens are pre-set far too bright and intense for color matching, and need to be dimmed somewhat. Monitor calibration is usually under System Preferences.

• If you’re serious about color matching, get a hardware/software package to color profile your monitor, such as Eye-One. You’ll probably want to run the software once a month, as monitors change their display as they age.

• Also, make sure you convert your images into the correct color profile for your printer. If you’re using your own printer, that profile should be in the included documentation. If you’re sending stock photography to someone else to be printed, ask them what color profile they use. If you send them images in a different color profile, it will affect the saturation.

New Royalty Free Music Podcast Episode on iTunes

It’s that time of the month! A new episode of the New Royalty Free Music Podcast is online at iTunes. This episode features the newest (and we think some of the best) royalty free stock music posted to Productiontrax as of May 14, 2012. As always, the music in the podcast is available for further preview and instant download for use in any multimedia project, and most tracks are now available for download in WAV or FLAC format.

Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes

Here’s a run down of the music in this month’s episode:

We started off with the hard hitting Lunch Time by Vladimir Khokhlenkov, which worked great for an opening underscore, thanks to it’s high energy level, but unobtrusive vibe. We kept things rolling with a surfer rock track called The Wave Chasers, by Gary Wolk, followed by a pretty cool hip-hop background music track that would work in just about any kind of project, What’s Up? by Tony Lopez.

On the softer side, we explored the Jewish sounds of The Wailing Wall by David Hollandsworth, an emotional waltz featuring haunting piano and strings. My Guitar Is So Happy, by Benjamin Lindholm, is a quintiscential folk-pop guitar track that would make a great soundtrack for any television advertisement. It’s hip, fun, and accoustic — a great mix, and super usable. Fivestep, by Running Dog Music, is an ambient, yoga-like track, that features smooth, lush pads and very light percussion. Makes us want to meditate, or start stretching.

We start to pick up the energy at the end of the podcast, moving into Dawning and Sundown by Ruslan Minin, which features a medium tempo smooth jazz feel with an interesting use of asian pipes for the melody. Content and Happy by Tim Brown is a fun, upbeat, pop-rock bed that just screams corporate, presentation, and pop-culture advertising. But before you get to excited, spice things up with a little latin romance with Latin Lovely main by Alec Makinson — it’s a smooth latin jazz track that will make your heart melt.

Our last two picks for this podcast were Private Pool (Full Length Loop) by Score Weaver, a nice hip-hop infused nu-soul production track along the lines of SouLive, and Rules of Attraction by Tim Brown, which provided the perfect outro bed.

How will you use these royalty free stock music tracks in your next project?

Stock Footage: We Got That B-Roll!

This video was introduced to me at SXSW this year. It’s not a viral ad by a stock media company (which would have been uber-clever), but rather a sketch by a sketch-comedy troupe. I thought it was hilarious — pretty much sums up the stock footage marketplace.

I should note however, that most of the footage, just because it is stock footage, isn’t just cheap B-Roll. Productiontrax (and several other sites as well) has a large library of incredibly usefull, high-quality, thoughtful, and well produced footage. The video clips range from high-tech animations that would fit into any sci-fi film to useful charts and graphs, to yes, B-roll footage of sad guy leaning against a wall.

I think stock media serves a useful purpose in media production. All joking aside, stock footage increases our productivity and frees us up to be even more creative, if you can follow that — the footage by itself is overused and mundane, but it keeps getting used in new, and innovative ways. Don’t let the B-roll label throw you, or keep you from being innovative in how you use stock footage — just remember it’s a tool in your editor’s bag of tricks to help you get your job done, and tell the story in new and interesting ways.

Oh, here’s the video (the owners didn’t want it embedded) —