Creating Custom Camera Profiles

Creating Custom Camera Profiles

Color often can be the most important element in your photograph.   I wrote last week about Correcting White Balance using a calibrated color target such as the Color Checker Passport from X-Rite.   I wanted to follow up with a bit more on what else you can do with these targets, specifically creating Custom Camera Profiles in Lightroom to help you ensure you are rendering color correctly. In your development panel in Adobe Lightroom you will see some presets called Camera Profiles under Camera Calibration.   These are similar to the Picture Control settings y0u can set in most DSLRs; Landscape, Portrait, Neutral, and Vivid, or some variation thereof.   These settings in your camera are helpful if you shoot JPEG to achieve a certain look for each type of photograph you take.  However when you shoot RAW the camera is not applying these to your images so Lightroom provides them for you so you can apply them to the raw file.  Using my Color Checker Passport I can also create a custom profile for the specific lighting condition I am working in to assist me in ensuring that colors are being rendered correctly.

This is an extremely helpful tool if color, specifically accurate color, is an important part of your image.  If you remember from my Correcting White Balance post I am borrowing an M8 from Leica Ginza while my M9 is being repaired.  I took a photo of my M8 so I can remember the camera and perhaps I might do a little write up on shooting with the M8.  What if Leica had hired me to photograph the M8 for them?  How important would it be to ensure all of the colors in their product are rendered correctly?   How important would it be to get the Leica 'red' correctly?   Marketing Executives are fanatical about ensuring the accuracy of the color of their logos.

Our starting point is going to be the picture I took of my Leica M8 along with a picture of my Color Checker Passport taken in the exact same lighting condition.

The Leica M8
The Leica M8

The first thing I am going to do is export the raw DNG file out of Abobe Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Lightroom

Then I will drag and drop my DNG into my Color Checker Passport software.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
X-Rite Color Checker Passport

My Color Checker Passport software will automatically identify my 24 color target and build me a Customer Camera Profile.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
X-Rite Color Checker Passport

Now my Custom Camera Profile is ready for export.   I suggest giving it a meaningful name as you will collect a lot of these.  I always named them starting with cc, for Color Checker, and then something meaningful.   Now I know whenever I shoot my Nikon D3S in my Home Office at Night I can use this Profile to correctly render color.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
X-Rite Color Checker Passport

Now I need to restart Abobe Lightroom if it is still open...

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
X-Rite Color Checker Passport

You will now notice in Camera Profiles I can now see my 'ccHome Office at Night' profile so I'll change from Abobe Standard to cc Home Office at Night.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
X-Rite Color Checker Passport

You'll notice a subtle yet noticeable shift in some of the colors.   Then I am going to go ahead and adjust the white balance as described in Correcting White Balance post.  Now we have a image that is correctly displaying colors with accurate White Balance.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
X-Rite Color Checker Passport

Let's go ahead and 'right click' on the image of the Leica M8 and click 'Create Virtual Copy' and create two virtual copies of the image.  This will allow us to compare the initial image against one with only the white balance adjusted and one with both the White Balance and Color corrected.

The Leica M8
The Leica M8

Next while selecting my image of my Color Checker Passport (that is both White Balance and Color corrected) I am going to select the 2nd and 3rd images of my Leica M8 and select 'Sync Settings' and sync only the 'White Balance' setting.   Now all three images have the same White Balance and the first image has the White Balance captured in camera.

Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Lightroom

On the 3rd image of my Leica M8 I'm going to change my Camera Profile from Abobe Standard to cc Home Office at Night.

The Leica M8
The Leica M8

Now we have a image of my Leica M8 with the correct White Balance and Color.

The Leica M8
The Leica M8

Here are the three images together with the left 1/3 of this images straight out of the camera, the middle having only the White Balance correct, and the right 1/3 correcting both the White Balance and Color.   The issue was mainly White Balance it appears but let's have a closer look.

The Leica M8
The Leica M8

The left half of this image has only had the White Balance corrected while the right half has had both the White Balance and the Color corrected.   Have a closer look at the Leica Logo...

The Leica M8
The Leica M8

If you were shooting for Leica they would not be happy with the image on the left...but with a few extra simple steps in my workflow I can ensure I have accurate color in my images.

The Leica M8
The Leica M8

I know many of you are probably not photographing Leica Cameras so let's have a look at more practical example that many of you might encounter.    I was out having a beer with my friend Adrian the other night and decided to take his photo.    The mix of lighting coming in from outside mixed with the light in the bar we were in was throwing off his skin tones and giving him an 'orange' look to his skin.  It is a bit of an extreme example but when shooting portraits of people it is easy to have skin tones shift and it is important to get them correct to ensure your subject looks healthy.

Adrian Lee
Adrian Lee

Thankfully I had my Color Checker Passport with me and took a shot of it.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport
X-Rite Color Checker Passport

Following the steps above I was able to easily correct the image.

Adrian Lee
Adrian Lee

I hope you like what you saw today... Thanks for stopping by!

The simple things in life

The simple things in life

A walk with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

A walk with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

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