As a professional photographer I have always shot with Nikon cameras. There are things I just loved about Nikon: the build quality, lens selections, camera layout, durability, auto-focusing system, etc but one thing which has always frustrated me is the colours that Nikon cameras/lenses produce. They are often too warm (too much yellow and red) and a bit flat, lacking punchiness! At one point I got so frustrated (particularly with skin tone colours) that I sat down and calculated what it would cost me to sell all of my Nikon equipment and switch to Canon but this was going to be a very expensive change. I decided I had to find a cheaper alternative as I had invested way too much money into Nikon already.
I started by manually adjust the colour channels RGB (red, green, blue) in Photoshop and in Lightroom but found this was incredibly time-consuming and driving me nuts in the process. I couldn’t really find a quick way to do this and sometimes after hours of editing I would go into an “editing coma” where I could no longer trust my eyes for the colours I was seeing as I had been looking at a screen for far too long, so this approach wasn’t a great option either.
Then a friend and fellow photographer told me about a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker card which helps with colour rendition. This was great because I could simply take a photo of the ColorChecker in the lighting environment that I would be working in and use it to help me calibrate my colours and white balance (WB) when I came to edit the photos.
Well, recently I found something better, the X-rite Color Checker Passport. This little baby was a miniature, improved version of the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker. First of all it was much smaller than the Gretag, only the size of a standard passport and easier to carry around. Secondly it was made from durable plastic where as the Gretag was made from some type of cardboard that eventually get’s beat up and tatty. Thirdly and most importantly, it comes with camera calibration software which would do most of the colour rendition work for you!
All you have to do is install the software, take a photo of the ColorCheck Passport in the lighting condition you will be shooting in and import the photo into the software. The software then finds the ColorChecker Passport in the image and creates a custom-made DNG profile (fancy tech talk for a colour profile). You can then save that colour profile and use it again anytime you are editing images shot with the same camera in similar lighting conditions.
This process has probably cut my work flow time in half and so I would highly recommend picking up one of these bad boys! They are a little pricey at around £75 ($100) but well worth the investment. These are the sort of things which start to separate the pros from the amateurs as colour is one of the most important aspects of photography. It doesn’t matter whether you are shooting macro, commercially or portraits, you want your colours to be as accurate as possible, even if later you are going to do some crazy, funky editing which means all the colours change anyway, you would be better off starting with the right colours. I still can’t believe I ever did photography without one of these, it has become one of my most used photography tools.
I hope the before and after pictures help to illustrate just how much this handy little thing can improve your work. If you would like any 1:1 Tuition to learn how to better edit your images, please get in touch.