GEAR REVIEW - XRITE COLORCHECKER PASSPORT
Colour consistency and accurate recreation isn't something the casual photographer pays that much attention to. Most leave the camera in auto white balance and they're content with what it produces and quite often are unaware of the variations in colour temperature from shot to shot.
For those that are interested, their job demands it, or simply fed up spending ages in post production trying to get a series of images to look the same colour, the Xrite Colorchecker Passport can help. It's an excellent addition to your kit bag and your creative workflow. Lightweight, highly portable and incredibly simplistic, the CCP takes the headache out of colour accuracy.
Once you have your exposure dialed in and are ready to shoot, just place the Colorchecker Passport in the frame and take a picture at the beginning of your shoot. Have your model hold it or place it on something so its clearly visible to the camera and the light source that will be illuminating it.
You only need to repeat this if the light changes. Not so much in position but, rather in colour. For example, you may switch from a daylight balanced speedlite to fluorescent lighting. Another scenario is you are shooting outside all aftenoon into the evening. Here the light temperature changes quite dramatically. Midday Sun is 5400K. Evening light can be in the region of 2000-3000k, which is substantially warmer. The later in the day, the more rapid the colour temperature change. Likewise, moving location from full Sun into shade also has a big impact on colour temperature, pushing it into the blue tones.
Another problem that can arise for those wishing to have colour consistency throughout a series of images, is changing cameras. For example, you have two bodies (lets say a D800 and a D7100) with you on a shoot, each with a dedicated lens fitted. Rather than spend time swapping the lens out and risk getting dust on your sensor, you simply change camera. Unfortunately, every camera sees colour differently and simply taking a white balance reading and dialing the same colour temperature into both cameras, doesn't mean you are going to get the exact same results. This is why the CCP contains the Macbeth colour charts that it does, to act as a yardstick.
After you have your target images for each lighting scenario, you can focus on your shoot. Once you're back on the computer you take each photo containing the passport into your editing suite and export them without making any changes as a DNG or "Digital Negative". Using the Xrite software you load the DNG files and create accurate colour profiles for each lighting environment. The software knows the values of what the colours in the Macbeth chart should be and so will shift the colours that your camera interprets accordingly. These are then saved inside Photoshop for you to apply later as a preset. This allows you to apply the alterations to the entire batch and means you no longer have to spend ages correcting each individual image for white balance or colour casts. The differences can be pretty significant. Obviously you can apply any colourization/grading effect you like to the images afterwards but what the CCP is intended to do is give you a standardized platform to work off of, which can be vital for editorial, corporate and product photography.
Aside from accurate colour recreation, the chart also enables you to make colour gradings quickly and easily by having a set of cooling and warming squares. By selecting the white balance tool, you can click these squares to shift the colour temperature to warm up or cool down skin tones, depending upon the look you want to achieve. If you're not happy with them, simply click the pure white one to return to true colour, or pick another white balance to suit.
At just under £70 it does seem somewhat expensive for what it is. However, what it delivers in time savings and convenience is huge. If you're a busy photographer, you don't want to be spending hours behind a computer screen colour correcting. This handy little gadget slashes that time, leaving you free to work on other things or even relax after a hard days shooting. It is small enough to fit inside your pocket and comes with a lanyard to carry it around your neck. Newer versions are fitted with both a grey card and white balance card in the back, to speed things up for Sekonic light meter users. The CCP will quickly become part of your work-flow and you'll wish you had discovered it sooner.