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Apologies if this is a stupid question but I haven't been able to figure it out. In both cases the images are adjusted such that the color aren't influenced by the color of the illumination right? Or am I missing something?

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Color calibration usually refers to adjusting a device, such as a monitor or printer, so that digital colors appear in a standard way. An image should look as close as possible to the same across different displays and media, and calibration is a necessary step for that.

White balance, as you say, is adjusting an image so that the illuminant appears neutral (or, if not neutral, to a color temperature shift from neutral as desired by the artist).

  • So the improved real world color accuracy is just a byproduct of color calibration? The intent is not to match the real world colors but to ensure that the colors appear the same between devices? – chibi03 Feb 16 at 20:21
  • @chibi03, no, the intention is to make colours as close as possible to the reality (with colour calibration). – Romeo Ninov Feb 16 at 20:25
  • Ok, so white balance removes the influence of the illuminant, while color calibration adjusts how the colors are registered, right? – chibi03 Feb 16 at 20:36
  • @chibi03 In the case of a color profile for a camera, for instance, the purpose is to allow you to get the coloration of the scene back out of the camera, including any effects of illumination. In practice, though, we often also adjust white balance to additionally correct for illumination (make white objects white)... but this isn't always desired, or even possible (in the case of mixed lighting). It's a more subjective creative choice. – junkyardsparkle Feb 16 at 22:59
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So the improved real world color accuracy is just a byproduct of color calibration? The intent is not to match the real world colors but to ensure that the colors appear the same between devices?

There is no spoon real world, only perception. A white piece of paper stapled to a tree will look different to you based on time of day, illuminated by a street lamp or flashlight, or the moon. You've lived enough in this world to where you have developed a sense of what's natural and what is not.

So, when photographing that paper, you get to decide what the white balance is and shift the captured scene anywhere along the warm-cool axis. It's completely subjective. That's not to say that all choices will appear natural - they won't. But, it is to say that you ultimately have control over the color temperature of your shot, and that control is called white balance.

the images are adjusted such that the color aren't influenced by the color of the illumination right?

This is not always true. The color of illumination is sometimes desired. Warm morning light or incandescent bulbs for example. Or, to your point, we'd want to correct for a sterile feeling fluorescent. Or maybe not. Again - it really depends on the photograph that you are making.

Color calibration?

Color calibration is the process of calibrating disparate devices so that what's seen on one is seen on another, so that one can expect accuracy throughout the workflow. Generally, this means calibrating a monitor to display accurately and a printer to print what was displayed, accurately.

  • "calibrating disparate devices so that what's seen on one is seen on another" ...or, going back a little further, "what the scene actually looked like". ;) – junkyardsparkle Feb 17 at 0:55
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    @junkyardsparkle i disagree. Capturing a scene as a human perceived it is but one of many possible captures. We don’t perceive black and white, yet the color balance plays a part in the tones captured. Or uv. Or ir. Or even just one’s want to change the colors in a color image. – Hueco Feb 17 at 2:49
  • It’s important that the monitor displays what the camera captured. Less so that the camera matches your individual perception. – Hueco Feb 17 at 2:51
  • The desired final outcome can be just about anything, but there's a baseline expectation that modern color cameras are able to produce essentially scene-referred output when it's desired (art reproduction, many kinds of product photography, showing of your new blue-black-gold-white dress, whatever). – junkyardsparkle Feb 17 at 4:04
  • @junkyardsparkle that’s just the point, “if desired.” Velvia captures an oversat world we’d never see. SFX200 with a red filter captures a black sky we’d never see. We assume that the camera will capture a likeness of an object given a white balance that is in line with our perceptions. That calibration would take place at the factory. Yet even here different manufacturers play with the software to tweak color output, even at a specific color temp. And as far as that goes, there’s no consumer way to calibrate your camera. You use what you have to create a subjective representation of the world – Hueco Feb 17 at 18:18

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