Stripping back the Colour: Getting back back to basics with Colour Management – Ross Grieve
by Dave Mobbs – May 17th, 2019
I am guilty; I used to calibrate (or try to) my monitor by holding a print next to the screen. Our eyes are very good, but they are not that good at perfecting colour. The first time you custom white balance and calibrate your screen, it will seem like a revelation and you will ask yourself why you hadn’t earlier.
So, let me take you back to basics and show you a couple of examples why I do manage my colour.
They say you learn from your mistakes and it’s certainly true. I was shooting an album cover in Sweden and I had lit the subject with a beauty dish as I wanted that classic look. I fired off a few shots and saw the one I loved. Then it hit me; I had my white balance on daylight when I was shooting flash…everything was orange and I didn’t have a ColorChecker either.
So, I tried to pull the colours back in post-production but it was never going to look natural. So, what does every photographer do when this happens? You make the image Black & White.
Use a ColorChecker
Starting off with a ColorChecker is a step in the right direction… Above you can see the difference in colour and colour temperature just by using an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo. All I have done is use the droplet tool on Lightroom develop and select the 4th Grey square (4th from the bottom) to correct the colour. The left is very warm, and the right side is nice and white.
One of the important things with a ColorChecker is how to hold it. Don’t get any fingers in front, just hold it so you can see the whole card clearly.
But just having a ColorChecker is not enough if you want to get those beautiful and accurate colours. Let’s not forget every camera brand has its own colour science and even some models within a brand will change the colour science (normally to improve it). You can see more of this on my Webinar with X-Rite https://youtu.be/WkQQbbYrzlg 1
What happens if your screen colours are out and you are getting frustrated as to why your prints are not coming out of the printer the way you want them too?
This is where you need to calibrate your screen so that you can make any changes, and not just any changes but accurate changes to your colour. You have a couple of options: you can have a look at the X-Rite i1Display or you can go into more detail and create custom profiles with the i1Studio. I have used both and they both produce fantastic results.
You should think of your white balance as your primer or your base layer. It’s a great starting point. These two images have very different looks as it can vary with the client, but they both started from the same WB, using a ColorChecker. I have given them the look that I believe suits my style and looks good for my client. So, think before you begin your shoot and think about how you can strip back the colour to give you the best results.
The rewards for me as a Portrait and Commercial Photographer are huge. Especially when you have amazing clients in a shoot like this,who have thought about what they’re wearing. It’s important to me and to my clients that I get a true representation of what I am seeing.
If you can have your lights all set up and then do a frame with the ColorChecker, this will allow you to carry on then the clients arrive.
Thanks for having a read. There are loads of resources on the X-Rite website, so feel free to check them out. You can follow me on my social channels:
Facebook: Ross Grieve Photography