We all have times when the colour doesn’t quite turn out the way we want it in a photograph, or times when we’d prefer a faster method of setting an entire shoot to the same settings. Enter the ColorChecker Passport from x-rite. I’ve been thinking about how to write this for a while. There are enough reviews of this gem out there that I didn’t want to write another one to add to the pile. So I decided to give you a rundown on how it fits into my workflow, and what I use it for.
I originally purchased the ColorChecker because I can no longer count the number of studios here in Seoul where I have had to use lights that swing from 3300k to 6000k over the course of two shots. Translate that to Photoshop work. I’ll tell you as much as the next guy that I LOVE the possibilities given to me by Photoshop, but what I do not like is spending time in Photoshop. Especially unnecessary time. Would I spend $100 to cut that colour-correction out of my workflow? Is the Pope Catholic?
So I picked on up and had it shipped to Korea. The package is simple and significantly reduces the time spent on colour-correction. Shoot a photo of the ColorChecker under each lighting condition, create a profile for that on the computer, and sync that profile to each image shot in that lighting situation. Could it be easier?
Let’s roll through a few examples. First up is a shoot I did with the TBSefm NightVibe team. We had a fun shoot working with whatever we could around the station offices. I was using my Paul C Buff Einstein 640 unit, and I know that it doesn’t match Nikon’s preset for ‘flash’ white balance. I was also shooting it through my Westcott 28” softbox, which also doesn’t cools the flash temperature a little.
So I had the boys hold the ColorChecker before the first shot, and this is what we got. Pay special attention to the blacks, whites, and reds in this example. Along with the richness of the other colours in the final profiled image. Despite Lightroom’s auto white balance doing quite a good job with the colour-cast, it doesn’t correct for all of the other colours in the scene.
How does that work in a real photograph. It makes your subjects happy, that’s what it does. They know they look good, and that makes them feel good!
Another way in which I use this is to compensate for the colour-cast caused by ND filters. I have a few cheap ND filters that I’ve finally replaced. But before doing so, I always had to correct for colour. The cast is not a huge deal if you’re doing creative colour correction anyway. But if you’re using these cheap NDs to make portraits with flash and a shallow depth of field, you might just want to have correct skin tones in those portraits. The ColorChecker does a great job with this and makes correcting multiple images at once a breeze.
On this one day, I was out making portraits in the park with my flash. I knew I wanted to make the portraits back lit by the sun and with a narrow depth of field. The ND I had with me was a Hoya ND4, which has a serious green cast to it. I shot a quick frame of the ColorChecker before getting started, and didn’t have to worry about that ugly green cast any more.
Take this gentleman for example. Although I’m sure he likes the sickly green tone the ND filter produced in his skin, he probably prefers the vibrant, natural tones on the right. Also, pay special attention to the blacks in this photo again. On the left, they look very green in tint. But on the right, they are neutral. I like ‘em that way.
For the most part, I use the ColorChecker for portraiture. If I had the patience to set up and photograph still lifes, I’d probably use it there too. But alas, some of us are not endowed with infinite patience for organising fruit. It also works a treat for correcting colour casts from heavy ND filters like the ND400 or ND1000, but most of the time, you’re aiming for something a little other worldly when using those filters anyway.
For less than the price of lunch in Melbourne, why not pick yourself up one of these and know your colour is going to be spot on?