Review: Color Confidence: The Digital Photographer’s Guide to Color Management

Color Confidence coverColor Confidence: The Digital Photographer’s Guide to Color Management by Tim Grey from Sybex cleared up a lot of questions for me. Now I feel confident about selecting a working space when bringing my digital photos into Photoshop. Now I understand a whole lot more about color profiles, Photoshop settings, and color settings for my camera, my monitor, my printer and my scanner.

Teachers of digital imaging, electronic publishing and photography classes will find this book a wonderful resource, and Web design teachers will find multiple uses for it as well.

It begins with an explanation of color itself. Then there is a detailed inspection of how to set up Photoshop with color settings, working spaces, profiles, gamut settings and other color-related information explained in most helpful depth. Even so, this isn’t a Photoshop book, despite the fact that a lot of what a photographer does with digital photos happens in Photoshop. Grey gives equal attention to selecting the best monitor and setting up a color profile for it, to selecting a scanner and setting up a color profile on it, and to how to select and configure a digital camera. He suggests utility programs and hardware that are helpful to the digital photographer throughout and give reasons why various adaptors, devices and software programs are useful to color management.

Grey explains color optimization and various output options depending on whether the image is destined for print, web, projection or e-mail. The final chapter is about workflow, and suggests workflows that will help the photographer achieve predictable output with several process specific workflows including web, e-mail and digital projection. In addition to an index, the book also contains a glossary.

Tim Grey has written other books about digital photography and teaches at the Lepp Institute of Digital Imaging.

Tuesday at SXSW Interactive

Drop that MP3 – Musicians Sound off on the Web was the first panel I attended today. It featured Kevin Arnold of Noise Pop, Scott Andrew LePera of scottandrew.com, Annie Lin of annielin.com and Chris Wetherell of massless.org. They all seemed to agree that no model for music downloads will ever completely eliminate free file sharing by whatever means. At the same time they praised efforts such as Apple iTunes and Magnatune as finding good methods for downloading music online and getting money to the artist in the process. Wetherell is in three bands and also works for Google. He said that musicians need some format where venues and bands can aggregate information and share it to make booking easier. Openmikes.org was mentioned as an example of this concept. Lin is a law school student studying intellectual property law and also a singer and musician. She said that blogs by musicians were very helpful in building a fan base and in getting attendance at performances. Arnold talked about music subscription services that would allow you access to any music anytime and it wouldn’t have to be stored on your own hard drive.

I went to the Bruce Sterling presentation, or what Sterling called “The Bruce Sterling Rant-a-thon” because he basically is given 45 minutes to rant about whatever is on his mind. His rants are always well-attended and are a SXSW tradition. I don’t know if that is because he is so right on-the-mark with his musings, or because he always invites the entire audience to his house for free beer the evening of his talk. Sterling is now writing a periodic column for Wired Magazine, and also has a new nonfiction book about the future as well as a recent novel. He talked about globalization and about computer security and about the horrifying torrent of scams that pour into our inboxes every day.

The keynote speaker today was Jonathan Abrams of Friendster. Even though Friendster claims to still be in beta, it has six million members now. It is not anonymous. People use their real names. And people take their real-life social set and bring it online, where they connect to friends through friends through friends. Abrams said they have used a very simple design to appeal to a mainstream audience and that the site has proven the six degrees of separation theory. In fact, Abrams said in some places it might be four degrees of separation.

In the trade show today I talked to Mike Slone of inknoise, which is providing the SXSW blog site and has all kinds of personal publishing tools. When I reached the inknoise booth an woman from Baylor University was there ahead of me and I watched her build and configure a blog on the spot with Slone’s assistance. The interface was wonderfully easy and powerful.

Monday at SXSW Interactive

The day began with the Hi Fi with CSS panel. The panel included Doug Bowman of Stop Design, Dan Cederholm of Simple Bits, Christopher Schmitt of christopher.org and Dave Shea of CSS Zen Garden. Since I think CSS Zen Garden has transformed web design by showing people the power of CSS, I was glad to hear that this site won the award in its category in the Web site judging for SXSW. I haven’t heard if CSS Zen Garden won the SXSW people’s choice award, but if my daily vote makes any difference it surely will. Shea described how he wanted to make visually inspiring CSS designs, but also wanted to get community input into visually inspiring CSS designs as the impetus for CSS Zen Garden. Doug Bowman said he was experimenting now with the sliding door technique. He mentioned that experimenting with new techniques, even when they prove undesirable over time, helps to expand options and helps develop understanding that can be used in other situations.

A second CSS panel I attended was called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and featured Brian Alvey of weblogs, inc, Kimberly Blessing of AOL, Doug Bowman of Stop Design, Tantek Celik of tantek.com and Eric Meyer of meyerweb.com. Celik announced that CSS 2.1 is now a full recommendation on the W3C site and contains many fixes and should be used instead of CSS 2. Celik, who is famous for some of his hacks, said to avoid hacks when possible. He suggested that when you absolutely have to use a hack to keep it as far as possible from your markup or isolate it in a separate style sheet. He had some examples at tantek.com/CSS/Examples. His presentation is at tantek.com. Eric Meyer handled the “Ugly” part of the presentation and showed some sites that had a number of common CSS errors, especially the overuse of classes. Doug Bowman, who originated some of the commonly adopted image replacement techniques said that they have proven inaccessible and he would prefer that people did not use them. Brian Alvey talked about using CSS in Content Management Systems and Kimberly Blessing described how AOL has moved to using CSS for formatting their pages.

Howard Rheingold was the keynoter today. His latest book is Smart Mobs. He talked about mobile computing, pervasive computing and collective action through technology. He is a supporter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and spoke about the need to support that organization. His speech was highly intelligent and wide ranging. He talked about the effect technology that is mobile and even more powerful that many older computers is having on collective action.

I went to a User Experience workshop lead by Jeff Veen of Adaptive Path. He described a process for finding users’ goals for a site and then making sure that a site’s navigation and content match those goals.

It strikes me that many of the speakers this year have been deep and incisive thinkers, as much as they are technologists. Most of the speakers and panels have dealt with topics at a very high level of discourse that covered social interaction, political interaction, historical references, and scientific relationships in ways that expanded the discussion far beyond the boundaries of the Web or current technology.

During the evening, I went to the AIR Interactive awards party. My team did not win any of the AIR judges’ awards for accessibility, but we did win the People’s Choice Award (by an overwhelming majority!) Check the Knowbility web site for the list of winners in a few days, as I don’t want to mention them here until all the sites are available on the Web. Some of the sites in the contest haven’t gone live yet. There were 12 teams, not 10 as I thought yesterday.

Sunday at SXSW Interactive

I didn’t attend quite as many sessions today because I worked a booth on the trade show floor part of the time. Also, I cruised by the huge and wonderful Knowbility booth at the trade show to check out the competition my team has in the AIR Interactive accessible Web site redesign contest. My team worked on remaking singer Sara Hickman’s site. I’m proud of the fact that our four-person team produced a site that is beautiful, uses CSS layout, is accessible (even the Flash) and is comprehensive. Some of the other sites that were redesigned for the contest still have the old inaccessible site up on the Internet, so it is necessary to go by the Knowbility booth to see the new ones. After SXSW ends, I’m sure the entire list of reworked sites in the contest will be available on Knowbility’s Web site. Winners will be announced tomorrow night. If you are interested in accessibility in action, it would be worth your time to look at all ten of the sites, since about 40 professional Web folks went through Knowbility’s training and turned out these 10 accessible and beautiful sites during the contest.

The first session I attended today featured Virginia Postrel, a New York Times economics columnist. She is the author of The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness. Apparently the SXSW organizers thought there would not be much interest in her talk, because she was in a small room, but people crammed in and filled every available chair, wall and floor space to hear her talk about aesthetics and style. She didn’t say much about the Internet, but talked in extremely interesting but more general terms about aesthetics. She stated that there is an increasing awareness of aesthetics and an emphasis on the look and feel of people, places and things as an object of cultural value. A design becomes valued because it gives aesthetic pleasure and because it provides a way for people to express themselves. She said that with technology, the outside of something IS the thing, her example being computer chips. The chip is one thing, but then there is the thing the chip is in. So the outside aesthetics of the thing the chip is in become the thing. And because we seek novelty and notice the new as a natural human behavior, there is always pressure and competition to create new and more pleasing containers for our technology. She talked quite a bit about how novelty is an important aspect of design. I asked her if she thought that meant that Web sites should be redesigned regularly in order to keep people coming back. Her opinion was that the Web is still more about function, so redesigns should not be done unless functional systems from the previous design were maintained or made easier.

Another session I attended was called Moblog Nation and was about mobile Web logging, mostly from cell phones. People use their phones to email images and text directly to the Web on a blog. This new technology is not quite two years old. So far there is no ability to publish instantly from mobile to mobile, just from mobile to Web. The panelists were Mie Kennedy, Mike Popovic, Molly Steenson and Adam Greenfield. Because typing text using a phone or other email capable handheld is not easy, moblogs tend to be highly visual while still giving people a way to document events to the Web instantly.

The keynote for today featured Zack Exley and Eli Pariser of moveon.org. The duo was introduced by Texas political columnist Molly Ivins, who received a huge outburst of applause and general loud approval when she came in. Ivins commented that Move On has “almost single handedly put people back into politics.” Exley and Pariser were quite humble about their accomplishment with Move On and claimed to have accidentally tapped into people’s desire to create change, be involved and be politically active at the exact moment when the technology (chiefly email and databases) to make it easy was ready. Their first action to get petitions signed immediately after 9/11 resulted in hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions within just a few days, and completely overwhelmed the server and web site that Pariser had put up in his desire to do something helpful after 9/11. Following that, they began the email and database work that has resulted in connections created between people and events like organizing candlelight vigils by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world in only five days from the first email to the actual vigils. And, of course, most everyone knows about the money Move On raised for the Dean campaign, which most pundits claim has changed the face of political fundraising forever.

Saturday at SXSW Interactive

The SXSW Interactive Conference got underway in Austin, Texas today. I was on hand for a few of the events.

Brenda Laurel, the founder of Purple Moon and now Chair of the Graduate Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design gave the opening address. She’s the editor of a new book called Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. This is one smart woman. In fact, she is so smart that I’m not at all sure I was able to make every intellectual leap along with her as she compared the evolution of media and technology with the evolution of cells and planetary structures. She says we have reached a point of creating a new type of social topology with technology that creates media that acts as if it is alive. For example, Web pages that change according to our intentions or our interests. She said that media has moved far beyond being “the message” and has become both transformation and transpersonal in terms of human environments.

Looking through the program, the main themes used to organize the various panels and workshops appear to be accessibility, blogging and the democratization of the Web, and the Web as both community and activist tool.

I went to two of the accessibility sessions. The first was moderated by Sharron Rush of Knowbility and featured Wendy Chisholm of the W3C, Dr. John Slatin of the University of Texas and Jeffrey Veen of Adaptive Path. Chisholm said that the W3C recently issued new working drafts for Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG), Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) and urged participants to get involved in the development of these guidelines by offering comments and help in refining the working drafts into recommendations. Dr. Slatin talked about multimedia accessibility. He mentioned captioning, which most people know about, but also talked about audio description. Audio description is an audio track that is added to a multimedia presentation when something is happening that a blind user would be unable to interpret from the sound, such as a scene in a movie where action is taking place but there is no dialog. Some theaters now provide wireless listening devices that give the user access to the audio description during the movie. Veen made the point that good design is accessible design and that a strong business case for accessible design has begun making headway with corporate sites.

The second accessibility session I attended featured Jim Allan of the Texas School for the Blind, Andrea Hamblin of St. Edwards University in Austin, James Craig of Knowbility and Rob Sartin of Knowbility. Andrea Hamblin described the change process that St. Edwards is using to bring their Web site into accessibility. She had a number of excellent suggestions for bringing about institutional change and there was a lot of interest from the audience in her information. Allan said that the tools that disabled users work with get information that is filtered by the knowledge of the developer, the accessibility functions of the development tool, the way the browser interprets standards, and finally the accessible device or screen reader. He said that all these factors have a cumulative effect on the experience disabled users have with Web pages. Sartin pointed out that simple things such as always referring to a link with the same link text and/or title on every page make navigation much easier.

I saw Eric Meyer and Molly Holzschlag chatting in the hallway but didn’t talk to them. (The curse of the introverted – my talkative teacher persona only comes out when I’m trapped in the front of a classroom). However, I hear that Eric Meyer has a new edition of Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide ready for release. I’ll bet this is going to be another must-have book and will try to review it here.