Keeping colors controlled as in reality, is since the beginning of photography a most difficult issue. Our brains see the difference between different types of lights, but cameras don’t. That’s the main reason for instance that a person will see the light from a TL light as a white light, but when a picture is taken, this light will be green. The X-Rite ColorChecker Passport will help you to correct the green overlay to a picture with real colors. Let’s see if that is correct.
Since the beginning of digital photography, you have probably seen photographers with their grey cards, usually from Gretagmacbeth – the old name for X-Rite.
These photographers started their shoot by taking a shot from the grey card. At home, they can correct the white balance easily on the computer. The two main disadvantages of these cards are that they only correct the white balance and that they aren’t always available in handy formats. Two strong points for the ColorChecker Passport: aside from the grey cards, it also has two cards with all different colors to make a special profile for each of your cameras and they come in a really compact size.
Color- and greycards
The X-Rite ColorChecker is 12cm wide, 9cm tall and only 7mm thick. You can always put it in your photo bag or in one of the pockets of your jacket. The product is made in hard plastic and can absorb a hard shock. X-Rite advises every owner to change this product every two years, because the colors might change. Personally, I think that is more a commercial argument, but still I don’t recommend to use these cards five years or longer. The colors aren’t protected against nature. You can’t change or compare the colors of your pictures with something you can’t trust.
The ColorChecker Passport has 3 cards: the grey card, the X-Rite ColorChecker Classic Target and a Creative Enhancement Target. The product is build so you can put it everywhere. If you are a model photographer, you can simply give it to your model, but be sure she/he doesn’t touch the colors with their fingers. These colors are really sensitive!
Software and profiles
The major advantage of the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, is the software. It allows you to easily create profiles for your type of camera out of a DNG-picture. You can use this in Adobe software, like Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW. It’s important to know that only Adobe can handle DNG-profiles, all other software will work with ICC-profiles.
Exposure and white balance
Before creating a profile, we need to adjust the settings. We need to start with the correct exposure. Keep in mind that a correct exposure is needed to have the best result. If the original (the source) isn’t good, nor will be the result.
Picture from the grey card
Start by taking a picture from our grey card. With this picture you can adjust your white balance. Inside the RAW program, you can take the pipette and click once inside the natural gray. The program will automatically adjust your white balance. It’s that simple! Some camera’s can do that already inside the camera, but it isn’t a simple job.
The next 2 pictures you take, are from these 2 color cards. You need to repeat this when the light situations change. As said before, our eyes don’t see the difference, but our camera does. Now you are almost ready. Save those 3 picture to use them on your computer.
Creative Color Enhancement Target
Once you get home, you need to start with those first pictures of the grey card and the 2 color cards.
When you don’t use Adobe software, you don’t need to make a profile, but this product can still be very helpful. It will show you all different grey types to check if the exposure is correct.
On the Creative Color Enhancement Target color card, you’ll see many different sorts of grey with a warmer or cooler type of grey. Personally, I think you need to find what’s best for your purpose. Generally you need to take a warmer color for pictures your take in the evening/night. To change the grey balance with Adobe software, is very easy.
Please be careful when choosing the row, as there are rows for portraits and other rows for sceneries.
Export the picture (in DNG format) to the X-Rite Colorchecker Passport software installed on your computer and drop it into the software. Click “create profile” and wait until the program asks to give a name. Click ok and you are done. Restart your RAW program now.
Now you only need to select the profile and copy those setting to all your pictures with the “Sync” function and you are done.
Recalculate small changes
Each camera will act different on colors. You need to make a profile for each camera - even when you have 2 identical cameras. This has to become a routine handling and it is fast and easy to do. You take a picture from the color card and create a profile with the software – the only thing you can’t forget is to change the JPEG or RAW picture into a DNG format. When you drag the picture into the software, it will automatically detect all colors. Just make sure you take a picture from the color card as close and as straight as possible. The software can handle slight differences, but when the card is too small, the software won’t be able to produce a profile. The best way to photograph these cards is explained in the manual.
After creating a profile, the software automatically adds the profile to the correct folder on your computer. Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom will also add them automatically to their system. When you correct your pictures, you only need to select the profile. The grey balance needs to be corrected separately.
Digital photography becomes every day more easy, but still you need to focus. Products as the X-Rite ColorChecker are very useful for almost every photographer. The software is good, fast and easy. For me, this product is an awesome discovery and I even consider buying it – costs only around 100 euro.