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.