Panikos on Datacolor’s Spyder Checkr Photo

Panikos Hajistilly, one of The Guild’s brilliant Panel members, is a portrait photographer based in London, UK. He explained the importance of getting your colours right from the onset on a day-to-day basis.

As a portrait photographer, I work at quite a fast pace in my studio. Like most photographers in my field, I need to get through a good number of clients on a daily basis, which means I often have a short amount of time to create the perfect images for my customers. As a result, everything needs to be perfect – including colour.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to shoot with studio flash as well as natural light, coming in from  2m wide patio doors – which, in reality, is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, natural daylight can be beautiful, giving wonderful colours and a lovely quality of light that simply cannot be had from studio lights. On the other hand, it can be quite (sometimes very) unpredictable. One moment there could be brilliant sunshine, which I personally do not want for my style of photography, then next there’s bright cloudy skies, or dull, heavy grey clouds that lack colour.

No more grey skin tones and flat colours, but nice consistent, vibrant colours from every lighting situation.

In a normal shoot, I would use both studio lights and daylight – which is where colour profiling of my camera comes into play. The skin tones need to match in both kinds of light. The colour temperature alone is quite consistent with studio heads at around 5400k for my Profoto lights. But by profiling with a Spyder Checkr Photo, I make sure that everything is consistent from one image to the next, and that skin tones and clothes colours match in every shot. This is vital as all my clients get more than one photo, so they will inevitably compare one with the other.

Then comes the problem of matching strobe lit photos with any images taken with daylight. The colour temperature can vary wildly, anything from 6000k to 11000k in the space of a few minutes. But white balance definitely isn’t the only problem – the depth of cloud cover can suck the colour out of the scene. Of course, it is possible to alter the colour temperature and tint sliders, then boost saturation and vibrance until you get something that looks just about right, but there is nothing like the certainty of knowing that you’ve got it spot on with Datacolor’s Spyder Checkr Photo.

So I’ll get one of my customers to hold the Checkr Photo up and point it towards the camera for one shot, and that’s the one I’ll use to calibrate the remaining shots of that sequence of images. No guesswork, no errors, just consistent colours straight off the bat! No more grey skin tones and flat colours, but nice consistent, vibrant colours from every lighting situation.

How does the Spyder Checkr Photo work?
Simply take a photo of the Spyder Checkr/Colour Photo in the lighting situation at the start or end of the shoot and use that photo to create a profile which you can sync with all the other photos taken in that sequence. The process of creating a profile is quite simple as the software provided with the Spyder Checkr does it all for you. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer, typically a 3 or 4 minute video, or watch a video tutorial on Youtube, and the software will create the profile for Adobe Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw or Phocus (Hasselblads own software) to adjust your image accordingly. One important thing is that you name the profile that is created appropriately. For my studio lit images, I reuse the same profile again and again as not a lot changes between shoots.

To find out more about Datacolor and purchase your own Spyder Checkr Photo, click here
View more of Panikos’ work here.