If you're using a color checker to only correct white balance, then you're not getting the most out of it. A color checker is the only way to replicate true to life skin tones accurately.
I write articles and blogs that I wished existed when I first started photographing people. Achieving accurate skin tones was one of those. Unfortunately, most YouTube videos spent 45 minutes discussing and dissecting color checkers and somewhere in-between the science behind the way our eyes interpret color and camera technology, my eyes would glaze over. So, the video above is a quick 2.5-minute video on how to accurately use the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport everyone owns and uses incorrectly.
What a Color Checker Does
There is a difference between good color and accurate color in your photographs. Most digital photographers are stuck on good color. The difference is simply this: achieving accurate color is like saying 1+1=2. Reds are red, blues are blue, etc. Using the software that X-Rite provided with their ColorChecker Passport analyzes the color checker in your image for overall color and tone and creates a custom DNG profile for your camera, lens, and lighting combination. This way, you can be sure that your colors are accurate to what they look like in person.
Remember, good color is not often accurate color and vice versa. Accurate color, however, can save your subject from looking too blue or too orange in an image, as you'll see in the photo below (corrected color below).
What Affects Color
- Your Camera: Every camera has its own interpretation of accurate color, and those colors can shift from manufacturer to manufacturer, even from camera body to camera body. If you're using a color checker in your workflow, all cameras will achieve the same colors and tones in your images. It doesn't matter if you're using Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, or your iPhone. Color is color. The software that X-Rite provides analyzes the color checker in your image and creates a profile for that specific image, not what camera you're using.
- Your Lens: Believe it or not, your lens can also impact color. Not all lenses are built equally. Depending on your lens manufacturer, quality, transmission, color, and saturation can directly be influenced. Cheaper glass is usually notorious for slight shifts in color.
- Lighting: If you're shooting raw, there's really no reason to worry about white balance if your color temperature is set accurately to begin with. Unfortunately, our cameras do a pretty crappy job at selecting the right white balance automatically, and if you're using cheap strobes, you could see a slight shift in color from image to image.
A grey card while help you get accurate control white balance, but doesn't necessarily account for every single color in your image. A grey card accounts for the overall temperature and tint, not every color individually. Using a color checker helps you account for the individual colors as well as overall color in your image simultaneously.
Want to learn more about the difference between a color checker and a colorimeter? Look no further.