Using an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport in Lightroom
When it comes to color photography, sometimes the best color is what you have in your head… in your vision… in the mind's eye. And sometimes, the best color is the right color. When the client has a a product printed in Pantone 293C, and you're being paid to photograph it, you had better be sure that it looks like Pantone 293C on the other side!
For our members only, watch the video tip and see this process in action!
Last weekend I was hired by a PR agency in Tennessee to shoot a nearby opening of a new Dollar General store. Nothing fancy, just some shots that would highlight the crowds, the sponsors, the “Tony the Tiger” they'd have walking around… that sort of thing. In this case the client would be perfectly happy with good looking color images and certainly wouldn't be looking for color accuracy, but I figured this was a perfect opportunity to try this X-Rite ColorChecker Passport out, see how it performed and then of course share the results with you folks!
One of the reasons I was really interested in using this is because I'd be shooting with two cameras. I put the 35–100mm f/2.8 (70–200mm equivalent) on a LUMIX G7, and the 12–35mm f/2.8 (24–70mm equivalent) on the LUMIX GX8. The two cameras have dramatically different sensors, so I expected some color disparity between the two.
I went through both cameras side-by-side ensuring they had all the same settings, and that the clocks were synchronized, so I could easily chronologically sort all photos from both cameras.
I shot RAW+JPEG because I always do (in a case like this, the JPEG is at minimum a backup file), but ultimately all I needed were the RAW files. The X-Rite software requires a RAW file to create the color profile.
I knew I'd have at least two different environments to shoot under; outdoors in full sun, and inside the store. I also ended up shooting in the store near the doorway which made for a mix of overhead and natural light, so even though it was probably overkill, I considered that a third environment.
Shooting the Passport
The steps to using the Passport are quite simple.
- Take a photo of the Passport with the camera/lens combo in the environment that you'll be shooting in.
- Process that photo in Lightroom using the X-Rite plugin.
- Apply the resulting color profile to all matching photos.
As soon as I got out of my car, I laid the Passport on the ground and shot a few photos of it with each camera. I shot more than one because in the past I've run into problems where the X-Rite software reported “no color checker found” even when the color checker took up 90% of the image (yeah… “it's right there, dummy!”). I think that was a bug though because there's been a recent software update, and I haven't had this problem since.
(If you have a ColorChecker Passport, you can get the latest build here. Click the Support tab, then the latest version of the ColorChecker Camera Calibration. As of this writing, the latest is version 1.1.0, released 2/14/2016.)
I nearly forgot to shoot the Passport indoors, but fortunately I remembered last-minute and dashed back in to grab the shots. I just held the Passport up in the light I'd been shooting under earlier, and fired off a few frames with each camera.