I just spent $100 on something that everybody I asked assured me that I didn’t need.
I noticed recently that when photographing the third of three drawings all done on the same blue paper with the same black and white charcoal, and photographed under the same light, that I nonetheless had three images that looked nothing like each other; very different shades of blue on each, and they didn’t have any of the coherence that I wanted them to, as they’re drawings in a series. I needed a way to calibrate the images to each other.
You can do a great deal of this by shooting a white balance card in the image, then using color correction in software to calibrate your white to the card, and the image will adjust. This was actually a good torture test for the new device: could it fix the colors in a snapshot taken in poor light by the low-quality built-in camera in my macbook pro? Well, nothing could totally fix that, but it sure made a hell of an improvement.
Here’s the deal, though: I’m still leaning towards Aperture in my Aperture-vs-Lightroom internal debate. (Note to Adobe: I wouldn’t be having this debate at all if you allowed an upgrade path from student versions of your software; I bought Lightroom 1 in school and would happily upgrade it to 3 if you had an upgrade path, but you don’t, so since I would have to buy it new at full price as if I had never bought it before, I’m starting from zero now and have no particular incentive to stay with you over your competitors.) I do like Aperture’s face recognition stuff, and its support for GPS geotagging, and the fact that it will also handle the videos off my camera; Lightroom doesn’t do any of that. But, unfortunately, only Lightroom really works with the ColorChecker Passport (so far), in a way that fully utilizes the color squares to calculate very correct profiles for image correction. Aperture can pretty much only use the white balance squares. So I am paying a lot of money for a device I can only partially use (until and unless an Aperture plug-in appears, which I am hopeful will happen one day).
Nonetheless, I shelled out the big bucks for this one rather than getting a cheap white-balance card for a few reasons:
1. Despite the fact that X-rite urges you to throw away your hideously expensive X-rite products every two years and buy fresh replacements, I am planning to use this thing for a very long time;
2. I am banking on the notion that I will one day be thankful for the additional color squares and be able to use them in ways I can’t right now, and that I will be glad of later;
3. The ColorChecker Passport is snug in a rugged plastic case that can take much more abuse than a paper card; it’s pocket-sized, and comes with a white lanyard that makes it much harder to lose;
4. It has two additional rows of helpful white-balance alternatives that slightly warm or cool the colors in an image, which can be extremely handy when working with images of people (to warm) or landscapes (to cool).
Mostly, though, it has already helped me to re-shoot and correct the photos of the three drawings, and they look much better. I probably could have done this just as well with a cheap gray card, but I do still feel good about the purchase, and even if I never get any of the use from its other Adobe-specific features (for now), I feel good about its durability and portability. I’m out a hundred bucks, but I’m going to be canceling my cable TV soon anyway, and that’ll cover that in less than a month.