Photographers often go to great lengths, and expense, to ensure they have the latest camera gear as well as the best lighting for a given project. Some, like us, provide portrait photography tips to help people prepare for their shoot. Sadly, many often miss some basic steps that can also impact the final image. From monitor calibration to colour management; many do not work to a process that allows for the capture and delivery of consistent results.
Calibration and Colour Workflow
Below is the workflow we follow in our corporate headshot photography sessions. We use this system whether in our Singapore photo studio or on location at a client office. Hopefully this will provide a starting point if you don’t have your process dialled in yet.
Multiple tools available in the market will allow you to follow the steps detailed below. Our workflow is based on the Spyder5CAPTURE PRO. This bundle allows us to take control of every stage of the process from capture to final retouch.
The Spyder5CAPTURE PRO kit contains the following items:
- Spyder5ELITE Colorimeter
- SpyderLENSCAL AF Calibration Tool
- SpyderCUBE 3D Calibration Cube
- SpyderCHECKR Colour Management Tool
Here is a step by step breakdown of our workflow using these tools. This allows us to consistently deliver images that are true to life.
- Monitor Calibration
- Lens AF Micro Adjustments
- Set the Exposure and White Balance
- Create a Custom Colour Profile
- Apply White Balance & Colour Profile
Step 1 – Monitor Calibration
First things first, you need to be working on a calibrated monitor. Whether shooting tethered or making final retouch adjustments, you need to know that the colours on screen are accurate. The Spyder5ELITE is a great tool for the job. Display calibration is an easy to follow, step by step process. There are also countless tutorials online. The “Before and After” comparison at the end of monitor calibration reinforces the importance of this first step.
Step 2 – Lens AF Micro Adjustments
Once the lights and camera are all setup in the correct position, the next step is to place a light stand where the client will be. The SpyderLENSCAL is mounted on top of this. It is important to check the accuracy of the lens autofocus on a regular basis and make any micro adjustments within the camera settings.
Step 3 – Set the Exposure and White Balance
Using the same light stand, the SpyderLENSCAL is replaced with the SpyderCHECKR. This allows us to create a custom colour profile for this specific lighting setup as well as a white balance option. The SpyderCUBE is mounted on top of this using the push-up screw at the top of the SpyderCHECKR. This not only provides an accurate white balance but also gives a precise contrast range.
Camera settings are adjusted for exposure until the E1 grid on the SpyderCHECKR is 90% white. The tethered image also allows us to set an accurate white balance . This white balance is just a starting point. Any fine adjustments can be made once a person is in front of the camera.
Step 4 – Create a Custom Colour Profile
This correctly exposed SpyderCHECKR image is then adjusted for white/black points with the aid of the SpyderCUBE and cropped to just the grid. The resultant image is then exported to the software that comes with the device. This allows us to create a custom colour profile for this exact lighting scenario.
Step 5 – Apply White Balance & Colour Profile
Following on from the steps above, we now have an accurate white balance as well as a custom colour profile for this specific lighting scenario. It is then possible to add these settings as a preset to the captured images on import during the headshot or portrait session. Shooting tethered is a great coaching aid for the clients in from of your camera. Being able to show true-to-life images ‘straight out of camera’ will only help to enhance their confidence in your abilities, as well as in themselves.
These two images show the difference between the out of camera, as compared to the image with white balance and colour profile adjustments. They are straight out of Lightroom with no other adjustments.
Hopefully there is some information above that can help with your calibration and colour workflow. Please note that this is not a sponsored post. We purchased this kit after a lot of research and are very happy with the overall results. Feel free to share your thoughts or ask any questions about any of the points raised in this article.