Xrite ColorChecker Passport: Your search for perfect color ends here!
You have probably been around digital photography long enough to have heard how vital it is to have a properly calibrated display. But just how accurate are your colors from your camera?
There are no set standards for what actually is RED, GREEN, BLUE, YELLOW, PURPLE, etc in modern digital photography. Each camera manufacturer has their own idea of what colors are. To make matters worse, even the individual make and model from a specific manufacturer have slight variations as to what the true colors are. As if that isn’t complicated enough, we must also take into consideration the extensive list of lenses we have to choose from which may also alter color slightly.
Imagine these typical scenarios:
- You have an event to shoot. You have a second shooter, maybe even a third. You are all using different cameras. When it comes to editing these images, you realize it is a HUGE headache getting all the colors to match with each other.
- You have a product shoot. Accurate color is vital; there is no other option other than 100% accurate colors. You have your white balance right but is that enough?
- Maybe you are just someone who is interested in getting the proper color from the start. Whatever the case may be, the Xrite ColorChecker Passport is a tool that will help you create a custom color profile for YOUR camera and will allow you to edit with repeatable results over and over with extreme ease.
What is the Xrite Color Checker Passport?
The ColorChecker Passport is a pocket sized photographic tool that has three targets housed in one plastic case. Equally important is the software that comes with the ColorChecker (DVD or Download) which allows creation of DNG profiles for your specific camera. Since Xrite uses DNG profiles with their color checker, the included software will only work with Adobe Products.
The device itself includes a White Balance Gray Card that is spectrally neutral for in camera white balancing for RAW and JPEG Photography. Some use a white sheet of paper when setting their white balance but this isn’t the best practice for proper white balance. A grey card, such as the one included within, is much more balanced than a simple sheet of paper. Many papers today also contain whiteners which only makes things worse.
This isn’t of great importance when shooting in RAW since the WB (White Balance) can be altered in post production without any loss of quality whatsoever. It is one of the greatest reason why you should be shooting in RAW. In JPEG, however, it is very important to get the WB right IN CAMERA since this cannot be altered properly in post production. Of course when shooting RAW, the LCD we look at is showing us a JPEG preview so if getting the preview right is important to you, then an in camera WB setting is essential.
Next in this handy fold up device is the ColorChecker Classic. It is an industry standard 24 patch color checker target for super fine tuning critical color and building custom DNG profiles. This is of great importance because the Lightroom Plug In or the Color Checker Application will scan these tiles and make sure that these colors are what they are supposed to be in the camera profile which you will assign in either Lightroom or Photoshop’s Camera Raw. These color are produced by the Munsell Color Services Lab – a company with over 75 years experience in the creation of physical color targets and standards. The manufacturing process is very strict to assure exacting color references.
Creative Enhancement Target
Lastly in this device is the creative enhancment target. Here you have all the color tiles that are in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw HSL sliders as well as white balance tiles. You can warm or cool using the little + or – tiles with a simple click of the white balance tool in LR and since these are always the same on the card, you will be able to repeat these adjustments easily at any time.
Since there are also black and white tiles at the far ends of the grey tone line of tiles, you can also monitor highlight clipping as well as shadows.
Why color management?
You have probably heard how important it is to get your display color calibrated. This is essential in getting your prints to look as they did on your display. Why not start off with proper colors from the point of import all the way through to output? Anyone with color critical work can really benefit from color calibration from capture to print. This article is only addressing proper calibration of your camera and creating a custom profile.
How To Create A Custom DNG Profile
Creating a custom DNG profile using the ColorChecker Passport is VERY simple. You must install the software that is included with the package or download it from Xrite (http://xritephoto.com/).
Before using the software, we need to take a reference photo with the ColorChecker in the same lighting situation that the other photos during this shoot will be taken under. The ColorChecker should be placed so that the light is falling on the face of the tiles and none of them can be obscured or blocked in anyway. The entire frame does not have to be filled by the ColorChecker. Xrite recommends 10% of the image or larger. The software does a very good job at picking up on the color tiles. Fisheye lenses and those with major distortion can cause a little problem since the software is looking for straight lines.
It is important to note that the image used to create this DNG profile must be properly exposed. Images that are over exposed or under exposed (clipping in color channels) will not be useable in creating Profiles.
This is the target image. I purposely used the incorrect white balance setting to give this RAW file a terrible color cast. This can be fixed in one simple click within Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW.
Go into the FILE menu and choose Export With Preset. You will see the ColorCheck Passport option since we have installed the software. You can then name your profile. It can be named for the lighting in which you are shooting under for this shoot if you want to be specific and have many profiles which is the best workflow for MAXIMUM color accuracy. In this example, I named it for the lighting and my camera used for the shoot.
In case you are using multiple cameras, this isn’t needed since the profiles shot with that camera will only show up with images from that specific camera. There is a desktop utility application that allows you to manage your profiles, however. Naming these different profiles with the camera type will aid in managing these profiles if you wish to do so.
Once you name the profile, it will be created (takes a few seconds depending on your machine) and you must restart lightroom (You will be told this on screen) in order to apply the new profile. A note here is that once you create a profile in Lightroom or using Photoshop ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), the profile can be used by both applications since they are stored in the same location.
By using the White Balance Selector (W – Shortcut), simply click on any of the grey tone tiles shown. It really shouldn’t matter in a proper exposure which tile you choose here but using the second or third in from the white tile is a great point to set your white balance with. That is it! You’re perfect white balance is now set!
In the Devlope Module, go to CAMERA CALIBRATION. By default, Adobe Standard is chosen. Go into this list and choose the Camera Profile you just created. Once you select this, there will be a shift in colors and now you have much richer, vibrant and lifelike colors and this is without touching any color adjustments or contrast of any kind. (See Slider below). You are starting out with true colors the way they look in reality and not on how your camera says they are. You have true colors that are based on a very precise reference that is correct. For products, fashion and anything where a true color is essential, this is a simple and very effective way to get correct colors quickly.
The beauty of using this system if you have multiple shooters at an event is you could do this with several cameras and as long as you do a target shot at the start of shooting in the same general lighting, you will produce perfect color profiles with ease and have all the images match exactly as if they were the same camera.
Please NOTE: The difference is much more noticeable than the above example in Lightroom and Camera Raw. These are LOW RES/QUALITY images here.
Much more information can be obtained below!
My intention for this article was to introduce the readers of this site information on a product that is really very simple to use and helps photographers get a solid starting point in their workflow where correct color is concerned. Below are some links to information including a video by Joe Brady who is considered by many in the photography world as the go to guy for color. Please feel free to comment below with any questions you may have!