The New ColorChecker Passport 2: Every Professional Photographer Needs One

Since starting my career as a photographer, one of the more challenging things I found was producing relatively accurate and pleasing looking colors. For a long time, I've been using the ColorChecker Passport from X-Rite because it consistently helped me to produce better-looking colors.  

Recently, X-rite updated their popular color reference tool and released the new ColorChecker Passport 2. In light of this, I decided to produce a video that demonstrates how to use the passport and also why I think it's important for every professional photographer to have and use one. 

Camera sensors have their respective limitations when it comes to color because most of the colors that are produced are interpolated. Essentially the colors that most camera sensors produce are based on a combination of three color pixels, red, blue, and green. Colors like yellow, for example, don't actually exist on your sensor and are produced based on some very capable algorithms. For the most part, your camera does a fantastic job at producing color; however, it's not perfect and things can go wrong at times. For this reason, I highly recommend using a ColorChecker Passport because I firmly believe better and more accurate colors will inherently improve your photography. 

Ultimately, colors or the use of colors are a fundamental of photography and art for that matter. I think it's important that we focus on that aspect as much as we focus on things like composition and lighting. A ColorChecker Passport is a great tool to help towards that aim. 

Please check out the video linked above and let me know what your thoughts are on the Passport. 

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24 Comments

Rob Davis's picture

I’ve always been curious about these. It makes a lot of sense for product photography, but I’m curious what advantages there are for “people photographers” where we often distort colors for creative effect.

Does this fix any issues with Bayer color rendition? If I got better color transitions from Bayer sensors that would be interesting.

Daniel Medley's picture

I use it for people/portrait photography. One thing to keep in mind is that these don't really help you produce "accurate" colors so much as color "consistency".

Once you create a profile for your camera, that's pretty much it; you just apply it. Then it's just a matter of shooting the white balance reference for each shoot in the given lighting conditions, then, in post, sample the WB reference, and sync it across all the shots from that session. Then you have a consistent baseline on all of your shots from which to begin post processing.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Which would you recommend, stay with the original if we have one, or upgrade to the new version?

The back half of this review infuriates me. The ColorChecker Passport is a precision device designed to help you manage your color starting at capture. It gets you to a neutral place quickly but also lets you profile specific camera/lens combinations and based on specific lighting conditions. The 18% gray card is a must-have for quickly setting camera exposure and removing color casts. Even more important is the updated camera calibration software v2.0. You can now create and save custom ICC camera profiles for virtually any lighting situation utilizing either an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo 2, ColorChecker Classic or ColorChecker Digital SG target in conjunction with the X-Rite Camera Calibration software v2.0
Back to why else you would want a new version: Like any precision tool, it can degrade with wear and how it is stored. I'd recommend updating your CC Passport every 2 - 3 years.
I suppose you have to each ask yourself how much your time is worth and then see if the hours you'll save isn't worth the pricetag. Is it worth it to me...absolutely!!!

I see nothing inside my version doesn't have...

Tony Northrup's picture

I know people swear by these, but I have one and never use it, nor do I ever feel the need to use it. I understand there might be some technical photography gigs where color accuracy is worth a little extra effort, but 1) I just never struggle with color accuracy with any modern camera, and 2) I edit published photos for pleasing color, not necessarily the most accurate color. Also, $120, WTAF.

Spy Black's picture

It comes in handy in product photography where you need to match product as best you can for print and web. As someone else said here it helps maintain reproductive chain consistancy. This is especially so if you deal with more than one print house if you're dealing with press runs.

If your monitors aren't calibrated your color edit style is adventurous, and if they are calibrated then it's funny you don't think much of the color chart. ;-) I agree the price is highway robbery, but that's what happens when you're an industry standard. Just look at Adobe.

Pablo Santos's picture

Agreed. I purchased one and ended up selling it because it was gathering dust at home. I understand it comes in handy in certain applications, but as a landscape photographer I found it useless. Most professional landscape photographers I know have never used it, so I don't understand the "every professional photographer needs one".

Bibi Haribi's picture

...you don't use it because you are not a photographer, but just a youtuber who likes to talk about gadgets and photography.

Good thing that nobody cares if you are sloppy with your work, mr. N

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

Colorchecker really important for product photography, fashion-lookbook, where the original color really does matter. But for portraits, weddings, not important, we shift the original colors anyway to where/how we like it. Trendy presets do not care about real world colors, they represent mood. IMHO.

I got the original colorchecker in 2012. Beware the color swatches only seems to have a couple of years shelf life according to manufacturer. I still use it for the gray card though and I find the folding case is useful for keeping the graycard clean and protected. Even when I was using it with Lightroom to create specific profiles I found I was always adjusting the final results anyway.

Johnny Rico's picture

The profiles actually arent true. If you shoot product and color match in a light booth on occasion you can see this. In theory it should work but it over-saturates and just doesn't work. Just hit a gray card. Also I've found the canned C1 Pro profiles more color accurate than when I used to try and DNG profile way back when with these in Adobe.

EDIT: and I still own one cause it's robust and can survive in a back pocket on location. Still prefer QP Cards as I've had better tolerance with them.

Jay Jay's picture

Bought the orig X-Rite version years ago and hated the fact that it shifted skin tones and temp to either an unnatural warm color, or shifted everything where it didnt look natural. I got far more realistic color by setting the camera temp to auto. And in cases where you are under a yellow or colored scenes (clubs or buildings using older lighting), i find a $5 credit-card sized grey card from Amazon put in my wallet corrects that just fine. Way too pricey for what it is.

Your EYES are used to wrong colors so you do not understand that is not the X-rite giving bad colors but your own bad perception. Nothing we can do to fix you if you dont flush out the bad color "habits" in your brain and start over

Jay Jay's picture

Our eyes correct for color discrepancies. When the Passport makes the temp 5800 and everything is reddish, it doesnt take an expert to see that everything is way too red. The passport may think it's accurate, and it may be to an extent, but i know what colors look good and i also know when there's a problem with it and don't need to flush out any perceptions in my brain to know that colors or tones are off in a photo. My perception of color is quite accurate, but thanks for your concerns though.

I might be pedantic but it looks to me like the image have to much green tint, would not using the color checker to adjust white balance and tint, before anything else. Thats what I use it for mostly, anyways.
I only use it for color temperature and tint, it is a good idea to get the tint and temperature adjusted in post:)

I have had the big 9x13 inch Macbeth color checker for like 25 (?) years.
Just about the only time I use it these days if there is a client on set.
And then I make a big thing about it with my assistant. I take like 5 shots from various areas...high - low - left - right - shadow side - lit side...
I shoot products that need to be color correct but either I am blessed with a very good eye or just plain lucky but I used my MacbethColorCheckerColorRenditionChart maybe 2 times in the last year.

Whenever I see a post about the colorchecker I'm surprised by how wooly the discussion is. Here's my TL;DR- the software is junk, but the target itself is a useful tool in certain situations.

First, I think it's valuable to think about the physical colorchecker and the x-rite profiling software separately.

The software produces one flavour of profile only and, while it prevents anything crazy happening by locking what it's doing away from the user inside its back box, it does not produce accurate colour- rather a subjective profile.

I don't know which genres they had in mind when designing the profile, but I have been working a lot in both Fine Art reproduction and product in the last 5 years and for these applications, the x-rite look is not useable. By which I mean not accurate and also , to my eye, ugly. Too much pop. In particular the reds are overcooked and I found that even neutral tones ended up being contaminated with red.

The out of the box profiles have always been better in my opinion. I found Adobe to have the more accurate and neutral colour, while capture one looks the most pleasing out of the gate. The standard capture one profile varies between cameras whereas Adobe seem to be aiming for consistency. With these caveats in mind, I have found using no custom profile better than using the x-rite profile.

However as much I would argue against the software, I use the card itself. The grey card patch, I use frequently and is the most neutral one I have used.

Even if you are not making a custom profile there are still advantages to using the large target. For downstream processes, it provides a known set of values that retouchers and printers for example can use to make decisions. I also find it useful to shoot a card to cover my back: helping argue my corner with I'll informed clients, or troubleshoot difficult colours for example.

All this said, I do have custom profiles that I use- just not ones made with the x-rite tool.

There are other profiling softwares, but it seems like a difficult area to make money in and the range reflects this. This is also probably why x-rite have gone with a more lowest-common-denominator look.

I have tried QP card, basiccolor and lumariver profile designer and found lumariver to be the best option in terms of both reprographic and general use profiles. I have a spread of profiles I have created which are balanced in various ways between objectivity and subjectivity. Between them, I normally have one which is suitable for a given use case. For example, a clipping colour or muddy neutrals.

If anyone is really interested in the subject of camera profiling in general, I would strongly recommend reading the documentation at lumariver which is excellent regardless of whether you plan on using that software.

http://www.lumariver.com/lrpd-manual/

Lumariver sems like the best program..

Usman Dawood's picture

I agree Lumariver and capture one still produces some of the best results.

but i have not tried RawDigger Profile Edition..

Do you see any diffens from the old one?