Color management is a very complex subject, which we could talk about for days on end. In this post I’ll be talking about X-Rite’s ColorChecker Passport. This handy little tool helps you get the best, and most accurate, color out of your digital cameras. The two images below show the difference between the standard Adobe Camera Raw conversion (top) and that using a profile made with the ColorChecker Passport (bottom). As you can see, the bottom image’s colors are much richer and pleasing, and are more correct to the true hue of the orchid.
So how do you use the ColorChecker? You need to take a shot with the ColorChecker in the frame for each lighting scenario. So for example, if you were taking a few shots inside and a few outside, you’d need to take two shots with the ColorChecker. In this case, all my shots were taken with the same strobes under the same lighting conditions, so I only took one ColorChecker shot.
I should point out that you use this when shooting in RAW format, and that you should be viewing the results on a recently calibrated monitor*. I don’t think it works if you shoot JPG or TIF.
So after downloading all the images from the shoot to Adobe Lightroom, you export the ColorChecker image to the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport preset. It churns a bit creating a profile, and once it’s done you need to restart LR to pick up the new profile. This is one area I’d like to see improved. Restarting LR is a bit of a hassel. After the restart, enter the Development module of LR and apply the newly created profile to your image under the Camera Calibration tab. Boom, that’s it. Your image is now calibrated.
You can use the grayish looking blocks on the left side of the Passport to adjust the color balance of the image. The left column is for portraits (warms the image), the middle is for landscapes (brings out greens), and the right column is a generic gray scale for a neutral color balance. I find that most of the time I use the neutral scale.
I think that the look of a calibrated image is definitely better than the what ACR does by default. I do think however, that the profiles created with the ColorChecker tend to saturate colors a bit. Not that this is bad, but if you were looking for exact color reproduction, you’d be off the mark a bit. This could, as often is, my inability to use the product correctly.
*note: I use the X-Rite i1 colorimeter to calibrate my iMac’s monitor.
Yea, what are lighting ratios all about? 1:1, 2:1, 8:1, etc, etc, etc. When I first came across these, they didn’t make much sense to me, but I’ve been playing around with flash lighting for the past week, and it’s much clearer now.
One thing you really need is a flash meter, or a multi-meter that also has flash metering abilities. I have a Gossen Luna Pro F. It’s pretty old, but seems to work well. I use it mainly for meter when shooting with my Mamiya RZ67. That camera does not have a meter, so you need an external device (or, you can buy the AE Prism Finder). Any way, I’ve always used it in either reflective or incident modes, never as a flash meter. My suggestion is to RTFM, and actually remember it. I read the manual a while ago, and forgot a few key points on how to use it in flash metering mode. I managed to slowly remember them, but perhaps a quick review of the manual would have been in order.
OK, so back to lighting ratios. This is basically the difference in relative lighting strengths between two light sources. It could even be the difference between the light reflected off of something, like a reflector of some sort. If we’re using F-stop as the indicator of difference, the ratio would be 2^<f-stop difference>:1. Lets use some examples, as I find that easier to understand myself:
0 stop difference = 2^0 = 1:1 lighting ratio
1 stop difference = 2^1 = 2:1 lighting ratio
2 stop difference = 2^2 = 4:1 lighting ratio
3 stop difference = 2^3 = 8:1 lighting ratio
Does that make sense? Perhaps some examples will further illustrate the difference.
An even amount of illumination from both sides of the flower. Notice that there are very little shadows, and that features don’t really stand out due to the lack of contrast.
In this image, the left side is one stop under exposed. Shadows are a little more pronounced, and the image has a better ‘feel’ to it since there is a more natural feeling to the lighting.
In this image, the left side is 2 stops under exposed. The monolight to the left was turned off, so the only light coming from that side was the light bouncing off the left softbox when the right monolight fired. I measured this by pointing the light meter to the left, and firing the right monolight. The meter reading indicated that the reflected light was 2 stops under exposed. The shadows are quite pronounced in this image, but still not too dark. This would be good for a moody scene.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of lighting ratios.