Image Color Correction Philosophies - Which Should You Use?
One says you should trust what you see on your display. As photographers, we are generally visual people, so color correcting based on what we actually see on our display seems very intuitive and reasonable. We see a colorcast or lack of contrast in the image on the display and then we make adjustments until the colorcast is removed and contrast is corrected. This should be a good strategy, as long as you have taken some important steps: set up a good working environment that includes subdued, indirect, and consistent lighting, neutral walls, and a hood around our graphics quality display; use a middle gray background for your desktop and imaging applications; calibrate your display to a reasonable luminance (80– 120 cd/ m2) and an appropriate white point for your application; profile your monitor, so Photoshop, Lightroom, and other applications can correctly use this characterization from the operating system level of our computer to translate and display colors accurately.
The other says you should never trust what you see and that you can only trust the RGB or CMYK numbers that make up your image and correct based on this, more objective, information. By this method, there are target values for white, black, neutrals, and skin tones within an image, so overall adjustments are made to bring the values of the image to the specific aims. The main arguments on the limitations of visual color correcting should be familiar to you: our visual system and color judgment are too variable and subjective, and our displays are not of high enough gamut and quality to accurately show how the image will look on the printed page.
What’s a good compromise? Use the best of both philosophies. Trust what you see on your display, within limits, and use the numbers to examine your images and verify what you’re seeing. However, the trust in your display will be increased by doing the following things: setting up as good a viewing environment as possible; using a graphics quality display; and calibrating and profiling your display, while remembering your visual limitations and the limits of your display.
Tom P. Ashe. Color Management & Quality Output: Working with Color from Camera to Display to Print. Focal Press, 2014.