Camera Calibration with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

By Steve Anchell Back to


Most photographers acknowledge the importance of calibrating their monitor. Calibrating their printer is also generally accepted practice among those who print their own images. But many photographers ignore the all-important first step of calibrating their camera. In a well-managed, digital workflow, camera calibration is of equal importance to the monitor and printer.

Until recently camera calibration was a process not much understood by many photographers. The X-Rite ColorChecker Passport has taken the mystery out of camera calibration for those photographers using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom and capturing images using RAW.

To make your own custom presets hold the Passport at arm’s length and take a photo of it; it doesn’t have to be in focus as long as you can clearly see the colors. The image MUST be a RAW file and saved as DNG when you import it into LR3 or Photoshop.

With the Passport software loaded into LR3 (or Photoshop), import the photo and open it in the Develop Module. Use the White Balance Eyedropper to set the WB by clicking on the second gray patch from the left on the bottom row. Go to File>Export with Preset> ColorChecker Passport (Figure 1). A box will open and ask you to Enter DNG Profile Name. This image was made under mixed fluorescent and daylight so I named it D700 Mixed Fl-Day. Figure 2 shows the pull-down menu with both the Adobe presets and my custom presets for the Nikon D700 matched to different lighting conditions.

That’s all there is to creating your own custom camera calibration preset. The preset for my D700 has been saved and can be applied to all future images made under mixed fluorescent and daylight with the D700. If your monitor and printer are likewise calibrated your image will be color balanced from the beginning.

About the Author

Steve Anchell
Steve Anchell is an internationally published photographer, teacher and writer. His books The Darkroom Cookbook, The Variable Contrast Printing Manual and The Film Developing Cookbook are international photography bestsellers.