Getting Color Under Control - Stage 1: The Capture

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The introductory article for this series explained that there are 3 stages to complete color management: the capture, processing and display. In this installment, we'll look at the first stage, in which you capture your image and what's required to maintain accurate colors in this step.

Camera Calibration

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Every DSLR sensor, from manufacturer to manufacturer and camera to camera will exhibit differences in color rendition. That's why camera calibration is extremely important if you want accurate colors in your images. Obviously, adjusting your sensor isn't practical and your camera doesn't provide a means to make adjustments, with the exception of white balance adjustment, which won't address individual colors.

The solution is to create a camera profile that automatically corrects the color in your images. This profile becomes an integral part of your processing workflow, but it has to start in the capture stage, with the creation of the color profile. The process is simple with Datacolor's SpyderCHECKR, which includes a double-sided reference card and the software to create that camera color profile with a few simple steps.

I'd like to encourage you to take the time to watch the recorded webinar presentation below, which delivers a comprehensive look at calibration in the capture stage, including both color and focus calibration:

Balancing Light

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Because exposure value affects how your colors will appear, accurate color rendition is highly dependent on overall exposure. As most photographers know, however, differences in light and shadow throughout an image can make it difficult to find the right balance in the studio or field. What's more, if you shoot in RAW mode, which we always recommend, you're going to need to balance the light in each of your images during Stage 2. So, after camera calibration, how do you make sure your colors stay consistent?

The answer comes down to another important step in this first stage: having and using a reference for adjusting light values. While an 18% gray card has been and still is the standard reference, having a way to evaluate white balance and black level settings in addition to middle gray makes the process much easier and allows you to create a preset in your RAW file processing software that lets you apply the correct settings to each image taken under the same lighting conditions.

Datacolor's SpyderCube is the best tool we've found for this step. You simply take one reference shot that includes the cube for each lighting situation. That's all that's required in this stage to allow you to balance the light correctly in all of your RAW files shot under those same conditions.

Here's another pre-recorded webinar that's worth taking the time to watch, demonstrating the uses of SpyderCube:

Armed with this information and the tools we've mentioned above, you're ready to tackle Stage 1 of the color management process quickly, easily and accurately.



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