PhotoVision Digital Calibration Target
As you develop a good digital workflow and learn the power of tools like Adobe’s Lightroom, one of the tendencies is to take less time to perfect your exposure and white balance in the camera because it is so easy to correct these things during post production. However, when you think about it, if you spend 15 seconds per image and you do a wedding with 2,000 images, that’s 8 hours of fixing white balance and exposure. On the other hand, if you spend 15 seconds at each shot location during a wedding to get the exposure and white balance right, that will add up to about 3-4 minutes of time to get the settings right in-camera. If this sounds more like the time you want to spend getting you images right, then you should probably look into a digital calibration target.
In the past we have looked at other products to do white balance such as the Expodisc or the Menon Lens Cap. While these can really help you get your white balance correct, the two issues with products like these are that they do not help you with your exposure settings and that it is not always easy to get into a position to get the correct reading from the perspective of the subject. Using a PhotoVision Digital Calibration Target allows you to easily set both your white balance and exposure settings in one simple procedure.
Getting it right the first time
Although later on we will look at how to use the digital calibration target in post production, our goal is to get our settings right before shooting so that we spend our time getting the image right in-camera. To do this properly is going to require that you learn how to set a custom white balance for your camera. With Olympus DSLR’s you can set a button to be a custom white balance switch which makes it super simple to take an image to use for a custom white balance. Canons and Nikons require you to take an image, then go to the custom white balance settings and select the image to use. Refer to your camera’s manual to learn how to do this for your camera model as every camera is a little different from others making it far too much information for a single article. So your homework is to learn how to set custom white balance for your particular camera model.
Once we know how to set the white balance for our camera we will put the digital calibration target into the shot where the subject is going to be and feather is just slightly towards the key light to take into account the curves of a face. When possible you want to zoom in enough to fill at least 1/2 of the frame or more with the target. The best way to use the target is to first take an image for the white balance and then set your custom white balance setting, then aim at the target again to adjust for exposure and then shoot another frame to have a calibrated point of reference. At this point your camera is setup for an ideal exposure and white balance. Remove the target and start shooting.
“I really put the target to the test doing a recent engagement shoot in the snow. The Digital Calibration Target helped me nail the tricky white balance and exposure and the few seconds spent on using the target saved a lot of time fixing the images in post” – David Esquire, Esquire Photography
One big benefit of using the calibration target is that you get the white balance at the plane of the subject. Let’s take a tungsten light and point it at the background, if we use auto white balance we will get a value that combines the foreground and the background which will dramatically change the white balance on the subject. Since we calibrated against the plane of the subject, the white balance on the subject remains correct while the background gets the warmer orange color from the tungsten light.
Getting it right in post
So what do you do if you realize you have just shot a series of images and the white balance and/or exposure isn’t what you had hoped for? While we know we can go into Lightroom or Photoshop and correct this in post production but we can still use the target to make sure we can start with settings that are accurate. In this case we can put the target into the scene just like we would do before starting shooting and simply take an image of the target. Once we bring the image into Lightroom we use the target image to set the white balance against the grey stripe and use the white and black stripes to help set the exposure. You can then select the rest of the images from the same setup and use the Sync button to sync the white balance and exposure to the selected images. Even though we have now done the corrections in post production, we have dramatically cut down the time spent on each image to get the settings how we want them.
The PhotoVision Digital Calibration Targets are available in a variety of sizes including a 6″ mini, 14″ pocket size, 24″ target, and a 34″ target size. The most versatile is probably the 24″ size which retails for around $99. I recommend getting both the 24″ size and the 6″ size ($37.50) to give you the most flexibility. The small size has a silver backing to act as a reflector while the 24″ has a white reflective backing instead of silver to cut down on harsh specular reflections.
It is really amazing to me how often something comes along lately that dramatically changes the way we do our jobs. Adobe Lightroom was the final straw for many photographers to finally switch to using RAW because it made it much easier to make exposure and white balance corrections in post production and then discovering the PhotoVision Digital Calibration target has made me go back to making sure my images are better in-camera instead of relying on the post production process.
Company Website: http://www.photovisionvideo.com
Author: Kerry Garrison