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ColorChecker fever

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The 24 Patch Classic ColorChecker has been in use in photography since 1976 and sometimes I would swear it just came out yesterday because very few professional photographers and retouchers have a clue how to use it and read it. I’ll go over the most popular uses of the ColorChecker in detail below.

The Classic ColorChecker has 4 main uses, White balancing (neutralizing/color correcting) images, Judging exposure, setting highlight and shadow points, and confirming correct monitor profiles. It can also be used to create camera profiles and to set key and fill light ratios. However the 24 patch target is best used as a reference color check. We recommend the ColorChecker SG for building critical digital camera profiles.

Save yourself the headache! Color Tips that will serve you well:

White Balance: click on the 3rd grey square from the left, Patch #21
To further neutralize color shifts: color correct (not using the temperature and tint sliders) the white and black patches to read Equal RGB values 243, 243, 243 and 52,52,52 respectively.

Note: Perfectly neutral images can be great for color reproduction and still life imagery but I’ve found that with portraits and landscapes I prefer images with color shifts. Our split-toning tutorial Covers creative shifting of highlights and shadows in ACR.

Signs of color balance issues, from X-rite: ( formerly Gretagmacbeth )

- Check patch numbers 6 and 11.  If there is a problem in the blues or the yellows, these two patches will reverse.

- Check the blue patch number 13.  This patch will turn purple very easily if there is too much red (warmth) in the lighting.

- If the greys remain neutral but the above patches have changed, then you have either a blue, yellow or red problem.

Checking exposure/ highlight and shadow points:

This is done simply by comparing the color checker numbers with the readout numbers in photoshop or your digital capture software. Examine the photographed ColorChecker’s white and black patches to see if your exposure is close to their values 243 and 52, if not adjust the exposure on the camera to get closer to those values. Again these are only guidelines and you may aesthetically prefer the image darker or lighter than these “correct” values.

Note: That i listed RGB numbers for ease of use in digital capture software. Whenever possible I recommend using LAB. This is the data pulled from the GretagMacbeth L*a*b* D50 data instead of the sRGB values they put on their pamphlets.

RGB/LAB numbers and Reference images

For a full list of ColorChecker numbers check out these handy digitally rendered ColorCheckers in RGB and LAB from Bruce Lindbloom. ( click on info, then RGB reference images)

Babelcolor Also has corrected LAB values for 16bit Profoto color space for all you high-end retouchers out there. download here

Note: all colorchecker values are relative to D65 illumination. So if your chart is lit heavily with another color temperature, like tungsten, your numbers may stray from the target values. This is why using spectral data is important. Because spectral information gives you the ability target the numerical color values more presisely no matter which type of light you’ve lit your ColorChecker with. Warning, this can be a little confusing if you’re not familiar with color management. You can download the spectral data here

Happy color checking !!