How To Use A Color Checker For Photography

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One of the recent additions to my photographic workflow is a color checker. This helps me effigy out how to color friction match reality with my photographs.
It takes surprisingly lilliputian effort. All thanks to a colour checker, specifically the Datacolor SpyderCheckr 24. Some other popular color checker is the ColorChecker Passport and ColorChecker Classic.
In this commodity, we’ll await at how to use a color checker for color remainder and better pictures. You can easily integrate it into your photographic workflow.
I’ll be using the Datacolor SpyderCheckr24 and Adobe Lightroom in this article.

What Is a Color Checker

The Datacolor SpyderCheckr 24 is the simplest and most compact version of a color checker that you can find on the market. Datacolor offers two color checkers: the spyderCheckr and the spyderCheckr 24. The divergence lies in the construction and in the information provided.
The SpyderCheckr 24 is a card in thick cardboard. It takes up little space in your backpack, and it’s very light. I generally photograph landscapes. Keeping my equipment light and portable is central, and the SpyderCheckr is an accessory I can throw in my haversack with no worries.
The card has 24 squares corresponding to 24 different colors on one of the two sides. On the other side of the carte, yous’ll find 6 grey squares that become from white to dark grey. This 2d face up acts as a reference for white balance.
The Datacolor SpyderCheckr is a rigid plastic case that opens in two like a volume and reveals two colour cards. These ii cards comprise 48 squares with color samples in full. They also come up with the necessary squares for a right white balance.
Datacolor’s chief brand rival is the Ten-rite ColorChecker Passport Photo.
Merely once you lot understand the theory behind using a color checker in the field and on your computer, the brand and color arrangement is irrelevant. The same steps will be practical in each case and you will always become fantabulous results without plush mistakes.

The beautiful coastal landscape of Riomaggiore with a bunch of colours
Riomaggiore with a bunch of colors


Each Color Checker is accompanied by software. This software volition read the data of your photo and compiles a pocket-size file with HSL setting. You volition import this file into your photo editor for camera calibration.
Adobe Lightroom will then create a new preset, which will alter only the “HSL” tab. This file can then be applied automatically to all photographs that have similar characteristics.
In this way, the color management will be constant throughout the workflow and volition provide consistent color in all the photographs of the same series.

How to Utilise a Color Checker

Every combination of lens, camera (whether it’s a Nikon, Canon, Leica, etc.), and sensor reproduces colors in its own unique way from a wide range of colors. And this combination can then modify as the lighting conditions modify.
Not to mention that cameras don’t record colour data the style our optics perceive it.
This is why nosotros use color checkers, to human activity as an accurate colour reference. And to speed up our paradigm production flows significantly, at least when it comes to colour management.
To help you understand how to use a color checker, I’ll show y’all how I utilise it for landscape photography. With this pace-by-footstep process, yous’ll encounter exactly what you need to do to include a colour checker into your photography workflow.
You can use a color checker for whatsoever kind of photography. It’s really useful in portrait photography, for example, when it comes to accurately capturing human being peel and skin tones.

What to Do in the Field

Once you’ve plant your limerick in the field, you must have a picture of it with the colour checker first. Brand sure the lighting is compatible.
The manufacturers’ instructions volition tell y’all to place the color checker in front of the photographic camera and brand sure information technology’due south as stable as possible.  You can also search for the ColorChecker passport video for instructions.
Lighting needs to be at a 45-degree angle. It’due south also best if the light source is at a considerable distance and it’s not shielded by reflectors.
This is easier to practice in a photographic studio, where you control every lighting aspect. In mural photography, information technology might be a footling harder to get information technology correct.
But natural light is always a nifty altitude away from your subject. Unless yous’re photographing under special conditions where the sun manages to cantankerous the clouds, making them human activity as a diffuser, the low-cal is always quite uniform.
Even the lighting direction is not that catchy to become right. If you’re non shooting with the dominicus in front of y’all or behind you it will always be at a certain angle.

How to Set Up Your Color Checker

One time y’all’ve placed your colour checker in front of your camera, you don’t have to frame it so that information technology fills the whole frame. Y’all can leave plenty of space effectually the color checker. You can cut this out later on your computer.
A really important thing to bank check is that the board is perfectly in line with the sensor axis. To do this brand sure to align the primal axis of the lens with the center of the color checker.
This is important both to get the highest quality for the colors and the sharpest image possible.
You can utilize any shooting mode that you feel comfortable with, it doesn’t really affair. But it is of import to shoot in RAW.

A photographer using a Colour Checker in the field
Color Checker in the field

Software Configuration

Before you lot do any mail-processing, you need to install the software that came with your color checker.
One time installed, you tin tell your editing software, such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, to use it as a secondary editing software. This step volition ensure that the newly installed software will announced under the “Edit In >” carte after a right click.

A screenshot of choosing preferences in Lightroom Configuration
Lightroom Configuration

Editing in Adobe Lightroom

Once y’all are at the calculator, download your photographs of the color checker. Open up in your favorite editor. I’m using Adobe Lightroom, simply you can follow the same steps in Adobe Photographic camera Raw or Capture One.
Offset, use the “Bending” function to straighten the photo. I as well used the chromatic abnormality reduction and perspective correction options on the photograph itself.

A screenshot of importing the photo of a color checker into Lightroom
Footstep 1 – Importing

In theory, these 2 steps are not necessary if yous followed the instructions for taking the color checker photo. But I prefer applying them, just in case.

A screenshot of using a photo of a color checker for Lens Correction in Lightroom
Step 2 – Lens Correction

Now yous should use the Crop tool to remove all the actress space in the photo and have simply the color checker tablet in the frame.
You won’t have any background in the photo. I advise cropping into the black edge of the tablet itself to ensure you get rid of the background completely.

A screenshot of cropping a photo of a color checker in Lightroom
Step 3 – Crop
A screenshot of a cropped image of a color checker in Lightroom
Step four – Cropped image

With the appropriate measuring sampler, yous tin can use any of the low-cal-grayness or medium-coloured samples to perform or bank check the white and gray remainder. It is advisable to use the 20% gray sample, identified past the initials E2.

A screenshot of checking color balance on a color checker in Lightroom
Step five – White Balance

RGB Values

Now you have to bank check the RGB values that Lightroom offers you right under the histogram. Y’all will have to adjust the exposure slider until you become values close to xc% (or for example in ACR of the RGB values very close to 230, 230, 230).

A screenshot of checking Highlights & Exposure Values with a color checker in Lightroom
Pace half-dozen – Highlights & Exposure Values

At present suit the blacks or the adjustment of the shadows. You volition take to obtain values close to 4% in Lightroom or RGB 10, 10, 10 in ACR.
Information technology is important to perform this performance earlier proceeding and so as to correctly set the white rest, and consequently the rendering of the entire spectrum of colors that make upwardly the photograph.

Using a color checker- Shadows & Darks values
Pace vii – Shadows & Darks values

At this point, you are gear up to edit your tablet in the proprietary software. And then right click on the photograph and then “Edit in” and choose the “SpyderCheckr” application.

A screenshot of choosing the "SpyderCheckr" application
Pace 8 – Consign from Lightroom

If y’all utilize ACR instead, yous will need to save the image equally a TIFF file with Adobe RGB color profile and then open information technology with the same “SpyderCheckr” application.

SpyderCheckr Application

At this point, you will accept opened your photo of the chromatic tablet in Colour Checker’s proprietary software. You will notice that there will be pocket-size squares inside the color samples that make up the photographed tabular array.
These small desaturated squares should position themselves at the verbal middle of the corresponding saturated colors.
In the upshot that these small squares are not positioned correctly, you tin use the small blue arrows on the sides to position the color samplers more precisely.

A screenshot of using Datacolor SpyderCheckr
Step ix – Datacolor SpyderCheckr

As a manner of interpreting colors, I suggest you use the ‘Saturation’ value. Information technology is well suited to many types of images, with pleasant colors. ‘Colorimetric’ is applied for color reproduction of products or graphic elements. ‘Portrait’ is self explanatory.
Likewise, keep in mind that these selections are very moderate and are very often imperceptible.
Once you accept verified the orientation of the tablet epitome and the positioning of the samplers you lot simply accept to relieve the color calibration.

A screenshot of Naming the new profile in Spydercheckr - how to use color checker
Stride 10 – Naming the new profile

Requite a recognisable proper noun to your contour. A little communication: it may be useful to use a name with the lens and the camera used and possibly the type of lighting.

Editing in Lightroom

When you have finished and closed the SpyderCheckr application y’all will finish upwardly in Lightroom. It will ask you lot to restart. This is required in order to use the new colour profile you just created.
Now that Lightroom has rebooted, all y’all accept to do is open any image in the series and apply the new color profile. You lot will discover information technology in the Evolution Module under the “Presets” section.

A screenshot of choosing user presets in Lightroom - how to use color checker
Step 11 – The new preset

Once you use the contour caput into the ‘HSL’ panel. You will see how the color sliders have changed. And this happens for the ‘Hue’, ‘Luminance’ and ‘Saturation’ channels.
Here is the camera calibration with a prepare of reference colors.
With the small push you can run into the before and after, deactivating and reactivating the calibration. You volition immediately realise the variation that the colors have undergone.
Obviously, if the result does not satisfy you, you can endeavour the process from the first. Perhaps adjusting the white balancing values, exposure and shadow management again.

A screenshot of editing a photo of a coastal landscape in lightroom
Original image
A screenshot of editing a photo of a coastal landscape in lightroom - how to use a color checker
Calibrated image with HSL values

Or y’all can nonetheless manually alter the colour sliders to make them fit what y’all want to communicate.
From here on you can proceed with your normal image processing workflow. Continue in mind that you tin employ this preset automatically. You can apply it in the import phase.
Or you tin synchronize all photographs that match that combination of lighting, camera, and lens.

The beautiful coastal landscape of Riomaggiore with a bunch of colours
The beautiful coastal landscape of Riomaggiore with a bunch of colours


Color is a fundamental element of photography. Whether information technology’s landscape or portrait photography, it’s of import to know how to manage colors in the all-time possible way.
With digital photography, information technology is possible to have a reference sample with which to calibrate our images perfectly, and that’southward the colour checker.
Information technology helps speed up your workflow and prevents you from spending hours and hours post-processing to become the right colour correction in that one particular scene.


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