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I'm interested in perfecting the 100% ideal method of doing things, keeping the color tones and quality through capturing to the printing and publishing.

This isn't about handling the camera or doing technical stuff with the hardware. This is about practical day-to-day things to follow to produce the end result (print/publishing media) after we have a RAW in hand. Actually, "the perfectionist's way".

I've noted few steps that a photographer follows when doing the job.

  1. Capturing the photo (assume that I have the knowledge of exposure/techniques/composition). Let's assume I've captured the RAW photo correctly with all technical aspects and its ready to take in to editing. Also note I'm using a color space profile. e.g: sRGB

  2. Editing/developing. I do basic or advanced editing. Assume the editor keeps the correct color space profile which is sRGB.

  3. Printing/Publishing

    • A. Printing. Just take JPEGs to the print shop and get printed. I don't inquire about what color space profile they are using. Should I inquire? I'm really worried about JPEGs, Because it is a lossy format. However, I assume print shops doesn't accept any other format. I assume in film photography its 100% sure we are providing the negatives and there's no chance of being lossy or loosing actual color tones we've seen through the lens. What practices do pro photographers follow?
    • B. On-line Publishing. Sending off JPEGs to publishing online media. There's no point of worry about the color space profile, should I?

Please correct or add any points that should follow.

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While this is not necessarily the perfect way, here are some basics for a good workflow:

  • Shoot in RAW: this format allows to restore highlights and to boost shadows above a larger range than jpeg. Furthermore the white balance can be adjusted later without losses. The color space you choose does not matter, as this captures the raw* values from the sensor readout.
    *with some model specific processing

  • Develop / Process your images nondestructive. Programs like Lightroom and Darktable wont change the RAW file but use a history of changesets that will be applied on the preview and the exported (jpeg) file.

  • While developing choose your target format / profile you want to export to. This is called softproofing. For a web presentation or digital sharing the target would be set to sRGB. For printing one needs the printer profile, which is either provided by the manufacturer or the printing service used. These profiles show the color space a printer is capable of reproducing. Make sure that the amount of clipped highlights and shadows can be tolerated. Also watch for differences in color gradients ( most common: blue sky with flat color gradient i.e. only small changes between each pixel). This can lead to artifacts in the final picture.

  • Export your picture to a format and color space that fits to the kind of publishing. Publishing online would call for jpeg in sRGB. Good printing services will state, which format and color space they accept or prefer. The best compromise IMO is to use jpeg with low compression (high quality setting) and the largest color space accepted by the printing service. This could be AdobeRGB or ProPhoto RGB. Note that the color values of your image have to fit into the color space of the printer. A larger embedded color space allows you to use all or most color values a printer can reproduce. sRGB usually is a bad match for the color spaces of printers.

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A Normal workflow

A "perfectionist" will find his own path starting here.

Disclaimer, There are several brands, I'm just linking some products as a reference. (The notation used, X bits is per channel)

Camera

0) Use a good camera and a prime lens.

1) Use a incident light meter. Make a profile of the dynamic range of the camera.

2) Use a target color chart for that color situation. http://xritephoto.com/colorchecker-passport-photo

3) Shoot in RAW.

Monitor

0) Use a High end monitor, not a cheap one.

1) Preparer your working environment correctly, avoid vivid color walls, buy netral color lamps. Use a monitor hood.(It can be home made) http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Monitor-Hoods/ci/10468/N/4028759506

2) Calibrate the monitor with hardware. http://xritephoto.com/colormunki-photo

3) Use lightroom, use your color chart reference to make a profile of your shoot.

4) Play

5) If you are making aditional editing on Photoshop use either Adobe1998 or ProPhoto and use 16 bits.

Print

0) Use good quality printer, paper and ink.

1) Calibrate your printer with the Color Munky. If you are using other brands confirm that can also profile printers.

2) Use TIFF or psd as an output. Stay with the 16 bits. Just in case your printer can not handle that swich to 8 bits.

3) In my opinion for photography, use 200 ppi. Just in comercial offset print use 300 ppi. (I'm not a perfectionist on this point... Im PARANOID about this)

4) Yes, you can use a 8bit JPG if needed. Embed the profile and use almost no compression (100% quality)

Web

1) Use sRGB profile.

2) The compression is tricky, the basic idea is to balance speed and quality. Same with size.


Study and understand each step, becouse there is a lot to learn in each one.


I don't inquire about what color space profile they are using. Should I inquire?

Yes you should

I'm really worried about JPEGs, Because it is a lossy format.

You should be worried about all the process. But if you need a JPG you can send a well prepared one as an output. The "lost" information on a well prepared one, can only be detected using a computer to find it compared to the original one (or some other forensic method) Not by eye.

However, I assume print shops doesn't accept any other format.

Do not asume. Ask. If you are sending pictures for a "pro" output they will accept TIF or PSD 16 bits. A perfectionist do not send files on a "internet caffe".

I assume in film photography its 100% sure we are providing the negatives and there's no chance of being lossy or loosing actual color tones we've seen through the lens.

You loose a lot of information from "reality" to any kind of photographic method. There are people who sees more waveleinghts than other.

Our eyes can not see all waveleinghts! A black and white negative simply do not represent colors. But some can see infrared uv or Xrays. So. This is all relative.

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