Is This A Better Way To Shoot RAW?

I know many of our readers do not like being told how to shoot their images and many more even hate watching promotional videos for companies trying to sell them on a new way adjust their workflow. That being true, this video of photographer Seth Resnick explaining the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport made me stop and think, "are photographers who shoot RAW this obsessed with perfect color?" Maybe I just take for granted being happy with my tones and color enough to actually burn them in permanently by shooting JPEG. Most of the advertising photographers I see these days (and even many within the wedding scene) are taking very liberal approaches to color which I think is great. Obviously not everyone agrees with me, and many more still take the traditional approach to getting every detail perfect and clean. What do you guys think of Seth's approach and do any personal use this product? Nothing drives me more crazy personally than color space and color calibration and I've heard this actually works. Maybe I'm missing out?

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48 Comments

This just seems kind of anal to me.

i hardly shoot raw. matter fact i have never shot raw. i guess it depends on who the client is and how picky they are about colors looking exactly the same. I dont think my clients at this point in time really care plus raw file are so fricking large. :)

Patrick Hall's picture

Before the comments build up, I will say that the reviews on BH are off the chart for this item...it's one of the most well reviewed products I've seen on there.

Looks really good to me and maybe i could boost my Workflow with it. I am at little bit concerned about the size of the fields if they catch enough light and if the angle the light hits the Fields fits.

We learn about this in Art School. It has a lot to do with color spaces and how chips have certain biases to them. Like in the film days when Kodak would release a batch number and you would look up the biases to that batch of film and process accordingly. If you're just trying to get images out the door and you have a lot and yes I know as a wedding photographer you have A LOT, then jpeg and just make sure you white balance is set and you should have the majority of your work done. But if you're taking that photo that you will get paid a couple grand for, then you'll want to make sure the tones are perfect. Say Scarlett Johansson was modeling for a makeup product, damn straight you're gonna' shoot raw and make sure those tones are right, thats what you're selling!

Jay Malone's picture

I have one of these...because I was at a seminar that really praised this item. I think outdoors it will give you good color, however indoors I cannot seem to get it to give me the color I'm after...too yellow or too blue. I think the best uses would be if you were shooting in variable light situations, and you didn't want to set a custom WB for each one. Pick a kelvin number to shoot on, take a snap of the passport in each situation, and do your WB in Lightroom or ACR..just my 2cents!

As a side bit about JPG vs RAW: RAW is like shooting with film and having a negative, its incomplete until its processed in your digital "darkroom". Shooting JPG is like having your film processed by Walgreens so you don't have to deal with it. You just have to decide what kind of quality you want.

I have this product and use it for all my shoots. Just as Seth in the video says, you can simply sync all your files in Lightroom with the custom color profile you made. This is especially useful if you're doing little post processing that alters the colors since it would be useless to obtain accurate color with the ColorChecker to only change it in your final output. For me though, I use it regardless to get an accurate "baseline." I actually stopped using my WhiBal card after using purchasing this. Although when I want portability that can fit in my pocket, the WhiBal is perfect. Main difference though between the two products is obtaining accurate color AND white balance versus just color. Bottom line, the ColorChecker is a great investment in my opinion.

+1 to StefanC. Completely agree.

I use it and finally have decent profiles for my 5dmk2 which blows Lightroom's defaults out of the water, especially regarding studio portraits and fashion.

I can't vouch for the product enough I have done some tests here on my blog and now use it for every shoot. It's essential to my color workflow. It does to color what white balance does to white. http://davidreidphotography.com/index.php/blog/2010/11/do_you_need_a_col...

I always shoot on jpeg with my nikon but when i used to shoot on raw always seemed to get my pictures alot darker than jpeg.

Ghislain Leduc's picture

It's a tool, you can use it or not use it. Does it makes our pictures better? Maybe in some occasion but to me it's just too long to use on each photo. You don't always want to apply it to your entire photo session and it takes way too much time to make it on each. Plus on top of that, it's very hard sometimes to see the difference before and after. The difference is way too hard to see to justify the use.

Of course it will have good reviews because it does what it's supposed to do, but honestly, I think it's more a buzz thing than anything else. Pros who says used this all the time to me are just pros that wants to look like super pros...

:) :)

Ghis

You should shoot RAW because we don't always get our exposure and colour balance 100% correct. Shoot in JPEG and you'll never get back the lost detail in the shadows or highlights at least RAW gives you a good fighting chance of recovery. Correction of colour balance in RAW is easy but with JPEG it is a pain in the butt.

Colour checker cards are only important when the client wants super colour accuracy of there product (clothes, paints, etc) especially when printing for magazines, etc using CMYK.

Conversion from adjusted RAW to JPEG isn't that time consuming when you have got used to the controls in programs like Lightroom, Capture One or Aperture.

If you want the best color, shoot JPG.

I'd think that the camera is the best RAW converter because it's the camera manufacture doing all the degaussing, sharpening, and tone adjustments ect and not some third party taking an educated guess on how it should look.

But, I shoot RAW because I do a lot of post and I like having all that information. Having the color checker is really nice and you get a hell of a lot more accurate colors than the Adobe Standard calibration. I got a post in the forum somewhere with a photo that shows the difference.

And I don't use if for every shoot because once you have a profile for that lighting condition, your set and can use them later.

I can't believe the apathy of some people. We are supposed to be professionals. Digital photography is our life now and color is a part of that. Get your colors right! Get your exposure right! Then manipulate the oho to all you like.

If you shoot commercial work your client will want the right colours. They pay a lot of money to get their colours right. If you shoot McDonalds you can't get just any red and yellow it is their specific colour with tm. Same goes with Cadbury. They have their own purple.

Not doing it because it takes longer is second rate in my book. On the other hand, please keep it up because it will make the rest of us look better.

I use the x-rite color passport on every shoot I do. It's small enough to fit in my back left pocket and is easy to flip out and have the client/model hold for me while I snap a shot of it.

I like the idea of having a standard of color to work within. We go through countless hours making sure we have the right light and this insures that I can capture the perfect shade of color we saw that day. It's great for commercial clients who want to make sure that their shade of red they have put painstaking hours in picking out for their new clothing line, is actually the same red. Clients who deal in color themselves LOVE to know I use this product.

@Jay, it will not work well indoors if you are not balancing strobes with ambient via color correction gels. I've made that mistake before too.

@Dave, So your saying that Canon and Nikon do a better job processing your images than Photoshop/Lightroom/Camera Raw? That's just not so.

I've never been so into color calibration.. only in lightroom i adjust my colors to what I think they might look right. This method used in the video is very interesting.. will try it out someday..

For what it's worth I don't know a single professional photographer outside of the news business that shoots jpg. RAW gives you a huge increase in available options, and not just to achieve 'correct' color. As an artist color is a tool, and having control over color is important. With a jpg every change you make to a photo is destructive, and every time you resave it the quality degrades a little more. With a RAW file the changes you make in a parametric image editing program such as Lightroom or Aperture or even Adobe's Camera Raw plugin don't change the actual pixels in the image. The image is not 'fixed' until it is then opened in a pixel editing program such as Photoshop. So you can have one RAW negative and change it as many times as you want with no loss in quality. RAW also allows you to easily apply a camera specific profile to your images which can greatly improve color, and not just the white balance. I realize this post isn't about RAW vs jpg, but the comments seem to have become that. The color checker passport is a great tool, as is the Whibal card that I keep in bag as well. I usually shoot a reference image with a card, but with my Nikon D3s I find I don't use them nearly as much as I used to. But for critical correction the image is there if I need it, and can save a lot of time over manual color correction. Just my 2 cents worth....

well what's the difference in buying that and buying a $5 kodak color card with the same pattern at the bottom for color accuracy? just use the eyedropper tool select the white area or neutral grey and it's the same thing correct??

Patrick Hall's picture

I guess at the end of the day it still seems like you are just picking an arbitrary WB color that you COULD have picked on the camera. I view shooting JPEG like shooting a specific film not like having a Walgreen's print. You can still change a lot of data in JPEG but if you use a color setting like Standard, Landscape, Vivid, etc it seems like it's more similar to choosing Reala, Kodak Royal Gold, Portra, etc. Remember back with film you couldn't set WB, you had to set the film....and that was permanent too!

Jay Malone's picture

@Keith I am not familiar with the Kodak Color Card, however the Passport is actual paint. Not color printed on a card, but real paint for each square. Again the Kodak might be as well, I just know this is a major difference in most other options. It also comes with the software to set custom profiles.

This is almost exactly how I work! Pretty spooky that I'm not the person that anal about color and control. While I do not use the passport system, I do have a similar work flow. I originally was a Canon shooter and used Adobe Bridge to do some of the same things Seth was doing in Light Room. As long as my locations didn't change or my lighting setups were consistent, I would only have to calibrate once per location or setup. I shoot retail "lifestyle" images for the most part and my clients are the reason I have to be so particular about color. For example, if their "athletic gold" isn't remotely close to PMS 130: FAIL! Their attention to color detail is just as particular as mine and as Seth mentioned, shooting RAW has been the best workflow I have discovered, to gain the greatest and most efficient use to gain a consistent control over it with predictability and proven results. Color is such a subjective thing, much like beauty. But with tools like this, it has (or should I say can) become a science and become less subjective and take the guess work out of the equation.

@ Patrick I like having a reference as to what should be considered a "true" white, black and neutral gray. The human eye can be fooled (very easily I might add) as to what is perceived to be any of the three. With a card (not just a Color Checker passport) in place, one could gravitate to any "film" style he/she could possibly want given that they had a blank (neutral) slate to start with. I will admit though, That this is probably the most creative color balance card I have seen to date. As I start forming my budgeting of needs and want for this upcoming year, I must admit I will giving this system a try.

I've used the ColorChecker Passport and their calibration workflow, and it is a great tool if you really need to be spot on. As Tim Colston mentioned, in some cases you just need to be 100% accurate. That said, at one occasion I was shooting fine art reproduction and despite having a meticulously calibrated system the prints still needed a little extra love to be *just* right. So while the X-Rite system put us fairly close to the target, it's not always perfect.

But it really depends on what you're shooting, who you're shooting for, and what your personal style is. If you're going to go nuts with photoshop or LR afterwards, who cares if the color balance was accurate? You're going to change it until it suits your fancy anyway. The additional bit depth and exposure latitude of RAW vs. JPEG sure helps though.

Oh, and if you're going for a fine art print and have very smooth gradients? In my opinion, forget JPEG. The compression artifacts WILL show in the print, and have ruined quite a few otherwise great images I've printed for clients. Or maybe I'm just way too anal about these things (they liked their prints anyway).

Anthony Tripoli's picture

I always shoot RAW. This product looks interesting and like it could definitely reduce workflow... But this dude is running around with lenses strapped to his back with no rear lens cap, and that shit drives me nuts haha.

I think this is a bit absurd. I'm all for white balancing and I use an 18% grey card for exposure and white balancing, but I find myself changing the white balance all the time. What's this obsession with replicating EXACTLY what we see in real life? As an artist, I want to convey the image I want, not necessarily exactly what it was like in real life. I'll often throw the colors around so it looks like a dark shaded area when the sun has just come up, when in fact it was a rather sunny place in someone's backyard.

I always shoot RAW, I would rather process the images myself and have them look exactly as I saw them with my eye than to have the camera process em on a generalized program than does not fit every situation.

If one does not post-process, this can come in handy.

I, however, post-process all of my photos to the light and colour that I desire, not to what it was at that moment. So, to me, this tool is of no use.

Patrick the whole point is that it's NOT arbitrary. It's the same white no matter where you go, what the light is, etc. If color accuracy isn't important in your work then don't bother with this, but for a lot of people it is and these kinds of devices are necessary to get it consistently correct. It's not a matter of being "obsessed," I'm sure this guy and many others have run into a problem where colors weren't balancing consistently and wanted to not have that problem anymore, so they solved it.

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