Color Correction – Guide to Taking Better Pictures – Part 6

Have you ever wondered when you look at your photo’s on your computer or after they have been printed don’t look right?  Or have you looked at the back of the LCD on your camera and the color looks different than on the computer?  Or perhaps you have noticed that your photo’s that you shoot in Camera Raw don’t look the same as JPG?

Well your not alone!

When we take photo’s with a Digital Camera, the camera can’t capture color as well as we see or perceive color with our eye’s.  So when you review the pictures on the computer, the photo’s just seem to be a little off.  When you take photo’s and save them in .jpg, the camera will automatically set color for you based on which settings you have selected on the camera.  In Camera Raw the photo’s don’t have this color calibration set by the camera, it has to be set in the Software (Aperture, Photoshop, or Lightroom).

Even when you manually try to setup your color’s they can still be a little bit off.  I use Lightroom and there is a menu on the right side called Camera Calibration.  Within the Profile drop down you can see many different options here.  If your camera manufacture is supported you may see some ‘Camera ….’ settings. What these setting do is allow you to choose one of the in camera options that could have been selected before you took a photo.  Generally on my Nikon D800, I leave this setting to Standard or Neutral.  Since I shoot in Camera Raw, I know that I can always come back here and select a different profile.  The Default profile is Adobe Standard.  Once you select one of these profiles it will change the color cast and hue and even contrast of your photo.  you can select different ones and compare the results to what you like.

The problem with this approach is you are opting to select what the Camera was setup to use.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is color correct.  I used to use one of these methods and then change settings in lightroom until I got the result I wanted based on what “I” liked, using my eye balls as a calibration device.  Now the upside is that the photo’s look good to me.  But I’m Red/Green Color blind, so what looks good to me may not look good to anyone else.  Except maybe to a another color blind person.  So how do we get correct color from our camera so we can share online or print?

The only way to get correct color is to let the Computer software compare ‘known’ colors and do a color correct profile that can be applied to the photo’s that you took.  To do this we have to use our camera and take a photo of known color.  In my case I use a product called x-rite ColorChecker Passport.  I take a photo of the passport when I’m on location or before I take photo’s so I can have a reference for the color based on the shooting conditions and settings of my camera.  See example to the left of what the ColorChecker Passport looks like.

Once I have this photo all the rest of my photo’s that I take a picture of, I can apply the camera profile to the remaining pictures so that my pictures come out looking correct.  I’m including a couple of examples of photos I took and color corrected in Lightroom from the Passport.  Notice the color change especially in the grass and sky.  I can tell you, that the color correct image looks much closer to real thing.  The colors are more vibrant and accurate.  Also I had to do no other corrections in side of lightroom.  The only change I did on these photo’s was the Camera Calibration.  The rest of the photo is exactly how it was out of the camera.

Before

After

 

Before

After