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4 Ways To Capture Colours More Accurately in Photography



Secondary photography elements, such as the subject matter, composition and lighting, make up a good photo. However, let’s not forget the fundamentals of capturing and portraying the most accurate colour story in your images, especially in commercial photography. Here are four ways you can strive for precision!

Shooting In RAW 

Obtaining the correct colour when photographing with your Canon camera is easy to master. When turning on your camera for the first time to take a picture, the images will be saved in a JPEG file. While this will always give you amazing colour for preset scenarios (such as landscape, portrait, macro and night), having more control over the colour is recommended. To master colour, we recommend you switch your Canon camera to RAW mode.

Photographing in RAW mode will bypass the colour preset algorithm (known as JPEG) to save all uncompressed image data directly from the camera sensor to the memory card. The main benefit of shooting in RAW mode is that you can change your colour balance during post-processing without degrading the original image. Once you have the RAW file in your preferred editing software, you'll be able to adjust the colour balance manually.

RAW only has one downside. As the files are uncompressed, the file size of each image is much larger. However, Canon cameras have a compressed version of RAW called C-RAW (Compact RAW). The file size is significantly smaller, which allows you to take more photographs while still maintaining the ability to get the best possible colour.


Set the Correct White Balance 

The various types of light we encounter all have different colour temperatures. It is why the same colour seems to appear differently under multiple lighting conditions. To correct the colour under different lighting conditions, Canon cameras use an Auto White Balance (AWB) setting. The light's colour temperature is measured in Kelvin (K), and an appropriate White Balance (WB) setting is applied to the scene.

When using White Balance, you can either set it to AWB or manually adjust the setting before taking a photo or after with post-processing (if you shot the image in RAW mode). Manual White Balance or using a WB preset is an option as you might find yourself in a challenging scenario, for instance, both fluorescent and halogen lights in one room.

The solution to overcome this scenario is to tweak the White Balance yourself. Let's say, for instance, you want to take a photo of the sun setting, but the colour looks too cold when reviewing your image. In this case, to warm the image, all you would need to do is adjust the WB to the Cloudy, Twilight and Sunset setting. The preset will adjust the Kelvin to a lower number (6000 K) to ensure the colour temperature is warmer, making it ideal for sunset photos.

Looking further into the White Balance presets, Canon make available several different options made for common scenarios. These include:

  • AWB - Colour Temperature: 3000 ~ 7000 K
  • Daylight - Colour Temperature: 5200 K
  • Shade - Colour Temperature: 7000 K
  • Cloudy, Twilight, Sunset - Colour Temperature: 6000 K
  • Tungsten Light - Colour Temperature: 3200 K
  • White fluorescent light - Colour Temperature: 4000 K
  • Flash Use - Colour Temperature: 6000 K
  • Custom - Colour Temperature 2500 ~ 10000 K


Calibrated Monitor Screens 

Obtaining a consistently accurate colour should go beyond your Canon camera and into your post-processing workflow. This calls for tools like the monitor calibrators!

Colour calibration software or monitor hardware calibration devices are designed to accurately read the pixels on your monitor and correct them to a colour industry standard.

By calibrating your monitor, you ensure that the image or video you are editing reflects the correct colour. This allows any adjustments made to look realistic when printing or publishing elsewhere. For example, if you are a product photographer, it is critical to showcase products with accurate colour. Aside from the product photographer calibrating their monitor, Canon users have a tool at their disposal called Canon EOS Utility or Digital Photo Professional (DPP). This easy-to-use software tethers the camera directly to the computer allowing the photographer to preview images on a bigger, calibrated monitor rather than rely on the small Canon camera’s rear LCD screen.


Shooting with a Grey Card 

Lightweight and inexpensive, a grey card is a handy item to have in your photography kit. It works to adjust the camera’s exposure and white balance by providing a reference point. To use a grey card in-camera, here’s a simple procedure:

Step 1: Photograph the Grey Card so it fills the entire frame.

Step 2: Enter the Preview Mode.

Step 3: Open the camera's menu and select "Use WB data from this image for custom WB", then press OK.

Step 4: Select the Custom White Balance from the camera's menu.

You can also photograph the Grey Card in any scene and then calibrate when post-processing. Ensure you pre-select RAW mode before taking the shot. Then in the RAW converter editing software you are using, choose the eyedropper tool and click on the Grey Card in the picture.

The results from either of these processes will ensure the colour balance of the photographing scene is correct. Remember, though, if you change your lighting setup or environment, you will have to recalibrate.

Download the infographic here.

For similar articles: 
Camera FAQ #13: What is White Balance Correction ([WB Shift/Bkt.])? How Do I Use It? 
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 4: How Light Affects Colour 
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 3: Colour Profiles and Rendering Intents