If you would like to reproduce color in photography and art, you can either try and reproduce the color of the subject as accurately as you could, or do it the professional way to obtain color that is eye-pleasing rather than just accurate. If you have a photograph of a lady wearing a purple dress, you don’t want anything except the exact same shade that was in reality.
A professional photographer, or even an amateur, knows that it’s not the camera’s function to produce accurate color, and the reason is obviously that the manufacturers of these cameras want the photographers to be happy with the photos, which requires some color tweaking to look catchier.
Your camera records color, which is determined by the color and white balance settings selected while taking the photograph, which is especially true for JPEG files. While for the raw format, the freedom of changing the color settings is given. These settings are name differently according to the camera manufacturer. For example what Canon calls Picture Style is what Nikon calls Picture Control.
It’s exactly the same concept as Instagram, you know the filters look great, but what if you just want the exact true colors? #nofilter!
Sometimes, this is necessary, because a commercial client doesn’t only want the photographs to look appealing, but also accurately reproducing the color. Or, when photographing flowers, it becomes very hard to the eye to determine if the colors are accurate.
But what if you simply want accurate color? There are a number of reasons why you might want to do this.
The X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
As a fact, if you want accurate color, you can’t rely on the camera, but some external assistance is needed, and X-Rite ColorChecker Passport will do it best. It’s a simple-to-use, relatively inexpensive device that integrates neatly with Lightroom.
ColorChecker Passport is a powerful ‘capture to edit’ colour solution for any photographer looking for more accurate, consistent colour and creative flexibility. ColorChecker Passport combines three photographic targets into one pocket size protective, self-standing case that adjusts to any scene.
The ColorChecker Passport is easy to use. Simply take a photo of the Passport in daylight (using the Raw format), convert it to DNG (use the Export option in Lightroom to do so) and drag the DNG file to the ColorChecker Passport software.
The software creates a profile, calibrated for your camera, and stores it along with the other profiles found in Lightroom’s Camera Calibration panel. You’ll need to restart Lightroom to see it, but once you have done so, you can apply that profile to any photo taken in daylight with that camera. The profile is also available in Photoshop’s ACR if you need it.
Dual Illuminant Profile
You can also create a different type of profile called a Dual Illuminant Profile. To do so, you need two photos of the ColorChecker Passport taken with the same camera at the same ISO setting, but under different light sources. One should be daylight, and the best light source for the second one is probably tungsten. A Dual Illuminant Profile is more accurate as it takes into account the way sensors record light differently, under different light sources.
Using the ColorChecker Passport for White Balance
The final part of the color accuracy equation is white balance. You really shouldn’t rely on your camera’s auto white balance setting, as it can be misled by scenes that have more than average amounts of colors like red or blue in them.
Alternatively, you can take a photo of the Passport’s color swatches in the same light as the subject, and use it to create a new profile. Then, in Lightroom’s Develop module, you can use the White Balance Selector to click on the 18% grey swatch second from left on the bottom row (indicated below). This method ensures both accurate color (from the profile) and accurate white balance (from the 18% grey swatch).