What happens between 245 and 255.

I was watching American Idol and was interested to hear every contestant singing 'flat out'. These are very talented, very inexperiened kids, belting out songs. They are packed with singing power but they are lack subtlety. They go from 245 to 255 in one giant leap.

By 255 I am referring to the maximum RGB value, which is pure white. 245 is a very light tone it can appear white, but it will contain detail. The zone between detail and no detail, control and out of control, is where greatness lives.

The "Idol" singers think the audience want their 'everything' in each performance, but it starts to resemble yelling. Enticing listening involves subtlety. You need contrast and harmony, you need restraint. Show how you can control near your limits.

Let's look at another example, album design. If every page has faded backgrounds under multiple images, the viewer will tire from the visual assault. If every page is full bleed, none will stand out. If every page is a tiny image in a field of white, most will be ignored. Great design follows a rhythm, the viewer will not be allowed to ignore, they will be carried along by subtlety. They will be lulled by harmony, and awoken with contrast.

AtkinsTechnicolour's biggest challenge as print providers is how we manage those last few steps to maximum saturation on our printers. Great colour management is about the subtlety of those last few steps of tone. We remake our ICC profiles regularly to optimize these steps, we don't want you to see the steps. We want to make the best out of the variety of outputs we have, and yet have them perform similarly so you get a predictable 'best'.

So you can wang out some HDR effects, you can hyper-sharpen, whack a vignette on everything and I'm sure you can diffuse glow, but can you hold back? Can you let a great subject hold the viewers attention without laying on the photoshop? Do you even have a professional grade monitor that will display the difference between 250 and 255?

Being great at something, being professional grade, involves doing it long enough to explore the limits of your talent. To expand your limits by constant practise. To have the understanding of those last few steps from in control to your out of control. Being great is being subtle. By Paul Atkins