Over the years I have become not so much a pixel peeper but color calibration creeper. Trying to get accurate color as you saw it can be a nightmare in itself. I’m sure you’ve heard about calibrating your monitor and printer. These are very important when it comes to getting that perfect color but color calibration should begin at capture! Recently I have invested in a tool that is totally freaking awesome for calibrating your camera’s color. It’s call the Xrite ColorChecker Passport
Here’s how it works. Cameras all have a certain color characteristics. This color can vary for brand to brand and model to model. Even to identical camera models can produce slightly different color. To get all your cameras on the same page you can create custom camera color profiles with the X-Rite Color Checker Passport. It is extremely helpful to shoot in RAW when using the passport. If you shoot in jpeg you color settings are baked into the file and once they’re set they can’t be changed. Shooting in Raw allows you to change the color profile settings after the fact. Start by custom white balancing your camera. There is a white balance target that is part of the color checker. Simply photograph the target and make sure you properly expose it! You can then go in to camera’s menu and set a custom white balance using the image you just shot. Next you want to photography the color checker target itself. Try to fill as much of the frame as possible and again it is highly important that you expose the target properly. If you overexpose the target the software won’t be able to create the custom color profile. You’re pretty much done for now. Have fun on your shoot!
When you get home here’s where the magic begins. After all you images are imported to your computer you can view the targets you shot either in Lightroom or Photoshop Camera Raw. The passport checker software has plugins for both. I prefer to use LR. I select the target and export the image as a DNG file using the Passport software plugin for LR.
After the image is exported the software will automatically create my new camera profile. I do have to exit out of LR and go back in for the new profile to load. Finally I go to the Develop module and select the new profile under the Camera Calibration section. I can sync the rest of my images to the new color profile and I’m done. You may notice a night and day difference especially in the blues and reds! The color of your images should now look more true to the actual colors of your subject(s)!
Take a look at these image below. The one on the left is before the calibration and the one on the right is after the calibration. Use the slider to change to see the differences between the left and right side of the image. The blues are more saturated on the right side as well as the football.
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Here’s a cool thing about calibrating camera color. Say you have a Nikon shooter and a Canon shooter. The color will never look the same from these two camera systems but if you create profiles for each they will look exactly alike!
I never fly without my passport whenever I now go on shoots. It’s amazing how accurate it makes the color in my workflow. If you want the best color representation at the point of capture the ColorChecker Passport is a must! It will pay for itself after it’s first use!