A Passport to Great and Accurate Color by Coloratti Ian MacDonald-Smith
by Sandra Kehoe – July 10th, 2015
Who wants bad color? If you’re one of the few then read no further. I, however, always want to have the option to start with the best possible color from an image. My genres of landscape and abstract perhaps allow more latitude but a fundamental understanding of light, color temperature and profiles has profoundly influenced and helped me produce images that are within the acceptable bounds of reality.
In the digital age there are so many images that reside in the digital art genre rather than the digital photography realm. I have admiration for those artists who are realizing their vision and manipulate their images heavily and are using photography as their starting point. No doubt, the history of photography has been about manipulation and many of the masters of the film era pioneered their particular form of it; however, they had a mastery of traditional techniques from which to build and evolve their own alchemy. Ansel Adams is probably the most famous example. It is said that Adams didn’t enjoy color photography that much because he was not able to manipulate it in the way he could black and white. What would he be producing in color today?
The digital age has highlighted the importance of color management for rigorous and accurate printmaking and reproduction. The deeper your knowledge the more you have the ability to play. The revolution has been heady and the tools at photographers’ disposal is sometimes overwhelming but once in a while a tool comes along that is so simple to use and so effective it makes you wonder why so many photographers are not a aware of its awesome ability. One of those tools is the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. And it is just that – a passport to great, accurate color from your camera’s sensor.
The X-Rite ColorChecker Passport is small, light, and powerful enough to want it in your camera bag all the time, it is one of those ‘must have’ items that punches way above its weight. And this is the start of the color management process. The sensor in every camera is different, much the same way that film emulsions differed from batch to batch. Even the same model camera has sensor variations that will inevitably affect the end result. With the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport each camera sensor can be profiled.
There are a series of color patches that are known values to the accompanying software. When the software is applied to the photographed X-Rite ColorChecker Passport a specific profile is subsequently created. The profile can then be applied non-destructively to the image in the Camera Calibration section of the Develop Module of Lightroom.
An added benefit to creating a profile for each shoot or scene is that a custom white balance can also be applied by using the dropper tool and clicking on the medium grey patch. Easy as that!
I also find that applying the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport sometimes becomes a form of sharpening; the colors become more delineated. The selected photographs show the difference before and after for the quality of color at least. To adjust the ‘before’ image to produce the ‘after’ image without universally affecting the image negatively would be tricky so why not have the option to adjust the colors to what appear to me to be much cleaner and more accurate. One caveat is that the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport only works on raw files.
IMAGE WITHOUT PROFILE IMAGE WITH PROFILE
So don’t throw away your obsolete cameras until you’ve made some basic color profiles! I was fortunate enough to still have my old digital cameras and have been able to transform my archive now with much more accurate color. This process is easy, does make a profound difference and regardless of whether you are an expert in color or color management, with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport you will have more choices and a great starting point that will ripple through your whole process – even if you want bad color!
IMAGE WITHOUT PROFILE IMAGE WITH PROFILE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
X-Rite Coloratti Ian MacDonald-Smith: Bermudian Ian Macdonald-Smith has been capturing the world on film for more than 25 years. Ian’s island home has been his biggest inspiration, and through various subjects he captures the island’s natural beauty, romantic colours and unique architecture. He has also traveled extensively, photographing landscapes and architecture around the world.
Ian specializes in abstract and graphic photography, as well as subjects in landscape, architecture, travel, history and the environment. Passionate about preservation and the environment, Ian has dedicated much of his career to documenting both on film. He has systematically recorded derelict cottages in Bermuda; photographs that capture not only the romantic feel of the subjects but also the historical significance of these old buildings. He has also recorded the island’s environment over time, to record its alarming decline.
Combining elements from all his favourite subjects, Ian concentrates on colour and composition to develop abstract series of reflections, clouds, water, rust, sand, faces, plants and all aspects of architecture. Some of these abstract series can be found in Ian’s book ‘Bermuda Triangles’.
Ian’s work is highly respected throughout the photographic community and he frequently consults for photo industry companies including Olympus, Fuji, Pictorico and Phase One, testing new products and equipment.
In Bermuda, his work has been exhibited at the Bermuda National Gallery, the Bermuda Society of Arts, and the Windjammer Gallery in Bermuda. Internationally, Ian’s work has been seen at the Worlds within Worlds exhibits in San Francisco, New York and Hawaii and the New York Digital Photography Exhibition.
Recent Exhibitions include ArtHampton2 2014, Bridgehampton, New York,
2014 Voselgang Pop Up Gallery, Chelsea, New York and a Solo Exhibition ‘Half Life’, Edinburgh Gallery, City Hall, Bermuda. Ian has also been published in magazines, including: Photo Techniques, Urban Age Magazine, Boat International, BBC Wildlife Magazine, as well as local Bermudian publications, stamps and posters.
He has produced several books including; 2012 ‘Hooked on the Rocks: Panoramic Bermuda’, Just Clicked Publications, Bermuda, 2010 ‘Arts & Crats Master: The Houses and Gardens of M H Baillie Scott’, Rizzoli International, New York, 2009 ‘Black and White?’, Just Clicked Publications, Bermuda ‘Setting Sail for the New Millenium’, is the only complete photographic account of the historic 2000 Tall Ships race, ‘Held in Trust’ in conjunction with the Bermuda National Trust; ‘A Scape to Bermuda; ‘Bermuda Triangles’; ‘Bermuda: Houses and Gardens’, in association with Rizzoli International, New York. Awards include; ARPS: Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, Best in Show, Bermuda Society of Arts Photographic Competition, Award of Excellence, Mean Annual Report Show, and Ballantine’s Good Life International Photography Awards.