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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Patrick Hall's picture

@Jeremy, but it is arbitrary if you are picking different warm values of white on the card right? I guess you could just always choose the one 2 from the left but chances are that isn't going to be correct every time. I find as a JPEG shooter, I'm changing WB more than any other setting at times and what is 'correct' isn't the value that I want.

I use one of these for my studio shots and I love it. When I process my images I don't necessarily always want to get 'accurate' colour in the final image but this gives me a nice neutral starting point to work from.

Once you understand and appreciate how colour spaces and calibration works, you'll see how one of these is very useful. If you never calibrate your monitor one of these probably won't do you much good.

I always shoot raw (if you only capture JPG's, it's like throwing away the negatives after the local drugstore gave you sloppy prints), and I use a passport colorchecker in at least one sample frame for each shot. I don't always have to use the colorchecker to calibrate, but it's helpful to know that I have that frame to refer back to if necessary. By all means, for artistic reasons move the color balance one way or another on purpose. But if you're not paying attention to the details, please don't try to tell people you're a professional.

I'm not trying to start an argument here but I have a simple question to all of your color Nazis; If shooting perfect white balance is what makes you a pro then how were there any professional photographers during the days of film? Are you telling me that any part of the colors on Kodachrome film are "accurate"? Of course not, but people loved it because it was larger than life. Some photographers (like product photographers) have to be exact, but for portraits this is a personal option. I'm not going to rag on you for using one, don't tell me I'm not a real photographer for not using it.

I would suggest checking out my work to decide if I am a pro rather than looking through my bag for a WB chart.

@Lee woah woah woah, I don't think anyone is accusing anyone, especially you, of not being a professional. I think some people just believe that using a color correction card in RAW and knowing for a fact that you are getting exact colors is just the MOST professional way to photograph for a client, not saying that you're aren't a professional if you don't as long as you're ensuring a quality product and have considered color correction in your workflow at one point. Its like saying the MOST professional thing to do on a portrait photoshoot would be to have 2 camera bodies say 40D's in case one goes out. Another option would to have only one really solid camera body 5DmkII or 1DmkIV and take the chance at having to do a reschedule. There are assumed risks with going without an extra body, but you've addressed those concerns and are satisfied with your resources. RAW vs JPG, always an argument where someone gets hurt.

@Stefan, I agree. It's a tool like any other. One photog may say a t2i is a pro camera and another may say a hassleblad is the standard. My only point is that there is not only ONE way to do anything, especially in our field.

I've seen some crap taken on a 40k camera and I hear you can take pretty good shots with an iPhone ;)

Hal Cook's picture

Used many calibration devises and love the passport. It is true that 18% gray is just not enough to get accurate consistent color. Having dealt with over 20 different cameras at a time, not having a baseline is extremely difficult to work with. Many portrait, wedding, and art photographers cover bad color with affects, but in portraits for traditional clients and also in product where accuracy rules good accurate color is imperative. I do recommend the passport system... it's saved me from a mess more than once.

I have a color checker passport and have used it for some months now.

Here are my findings:

Most of the time the profile created from color checker passport is more pleasing than any other when using my Nikon D300. When Using my Canon 5D MKii the color checker produces my most pleasing result around 50% of the time... The Adobe Standard profile seems nicest about 30% of the time.

Now I am not saying the "most accurate result", that I am sure is probably the color checker, I am just saying what looks best.

It is NOT the same as getting good white balance, use it and you will see... certain camera's chips will have a slant for CERTAIN colors... apply the right profile and the colors often seem to pop the way they 'should' or the way you want them too.

Color accuracy is by no means the most important part of being a photographer, and you could surely get by without one. Don't turn it down just because the color geeks put you off it, it's a useful little tool at times.

I don't really see how this would help with my images. But what I would like to see is one of you guys how say you use it to post a few samples in the forum, like 2 images of the same scene one calibrated with the passport and other not.

Funny thing, I had a workshop yesterday and the teaching photographer showed me this thing. He told us it's a handy tool, but it should never limit your creativity. Decide what look you want and go with that.

But one thing he did say was the following: he shoots a lot of fashion, and by using this he never messes up the colors of the clothing, they are accurate. Because of this, he never has any problems with the designers, which he did have in the past on some occassions.

Anthony Tripoli's picture

Perfect white balance or die. Hail Satan.

These are only good if you are a professional advertising photographer. If your shooting for the cover of a product, you better believe that you have perfect color calibration, because if your colors don't match the actual products then you start to loose credibility. It's just something that separates a very professional product/advertising photographer, from an amateur. Is it necessary for everyone? No. Is it something people should consider if they are thinking about going pro? yes.

Whaooooo, is it an impression or people are getting very emotional and challenged by this topic and by the comments?? peace guys, peace ;o)

After reading most comments I re-watched the video to confirm my understanding.
Most commenters seem to have missed a few points:
1- Seth cares about color management both in his workflow and in his creative process,
2- he shoots with multiple bodies within the same photo shoot and observes color inconsistencies,
3- in his case and for his workflow, the color checker fits in as another-good-tool.
4- by allowing him to align the color of all his shoots in about a clic, it saves him time in post to focus on the artistic side.

Lets talk video.
Imagine yourself at a soccer match, 10 to 15 live cameras, sometimes from different brands, each shooting from a different angle, with different lenses, receiving a different light. And when you sit in front of your tv, all looks consistent. How? Color management and calibration.
As a video cameraman, I can tell you that without color control and calibration it's impossible to shoot a multi-camera event and have consistent rendering. Even with only two camera.

Continuous color management doesn't restrict us creatively, it's just the opposite. And btw, by giving us a consistent and known base, it saves us an insane amount of work in post-production.

It doesn't mean color management is for everyone or for you. It just means that in some industries it is a must and that the color checker is a nice-to-have tool if it matters to you and your business.

Shannon Wimberly's picture

How many here will order this after watching this? I am tempted... in camera white balance seems to be varied for me..... do you think this will help?

Shannon Wimberly's picture

How many will order this after watching this? I am tempted to. In camera white balance seems to be difficult to get just right for me.... will this help me? Its not expensive at all...

Shannon Wimberly's picture

wow... I guess I should have read the other posts before I put my foot in my mouth.......

Great discussion... white balancing, JPEG vs. RAW...

This is not the first time I see a pro with a big camera who does not use the vertical grip release button...any reason why?