Creating a colour profile for your camera isn’t easy. It requires a careful light setup and a new profile for every different lighting situation. A scanner profile is easier to create because the scanner lamp always lights the medium evenly. If it doesn’t, you’re dealing with a broken scanner or a very low-quality device. The basis for the calculation of a camera/scanner profile is the comparison of measured data from the profiling target and the RGB values of the patches from the image or scan. X-Rite’s i1Profiler has a scanner module, but not a camera profiling setup. A new app from a respected colour management expert is basICColor input.
Simplicity, accuracy and control are what set basICColor input apart. You can use basICColor input and never dig deeper than the generous number of presets offered to profile your camera. But don’t let the user-friendly surface misguide you! You can take full control of basICColor input’s features and capabilities and build a profiling preset that fits your workflow hand-in-glove.
With the presets it’s easy to profile a camera. You’ll have to shoot the colour reference chart, ensuring it’s evenly lit throughout. Then import the chart into input, drag the guides and follow the on-screen step-by-step instructions and you’re done. The only thing you must know is that you can’t create an ICC profile of a RAW image. To profile your camera’s RAW output, you’ll need to create DCP (Digital Camera Profile) profiles. These are compatible only with Adobe’s Adobe Camera Raw technology.
When it comes to creating camera profiles with input, you have two choices:
- You either create an ICC profile for a developed image format (JPEG, TIFF, etc.)
- Or you create a DCP (Digital Camera Profile), which works with camera RAW images.
A Digital Camera Profile is used by Adobe Camera Raw whenever a RAW image is imported into any of the Adobe applications (Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.). You may not be aware that you are using a profile to convert the RAW image into your preferred RGB working space, but if you click on the camera icon in the toolbar on the right side of the image you will launch the Camera Calibration panel. The panel holds the Camera Profile and shows the DCP profile you are using. Your basICColor input profiles will automatically show up in that menu as well.
When input calculates a transform it characterises the RGB sensors of the camera and how they “see” the target used under the specific light when the image is taken. Adobe Camera Raw uses a colour model that “trims” all transformations so that it can perform an automatic image-based lighting adjustment, which results in a pleasing colour reproduction.
What input creates when profiling for DCP
When creating a DCP profile, input creates one of two types:
- Art Repro/Archival: The goal here is to obtain a colorimetric match, which means the profile needs to essentially turn off Adobe’s non-linear lighting correction. Input achieves that by embedding a curve in the profile. ACR’s “trimming” will result in a darker image than you want, but you can now achieve the final result by linearly scaling the RGB values using Levels after Raw development in the RGB working space.
Images that are exposed with this setting appear dark when they are processed in an image editor without exposure correction. This is the result of turning off the curve in Adobe Camera Raw, so that an automatic exposure correction is prevented. Precisely this automatic exposure by ACR would destroy the colorimetric accuracy of the profile — the effect is intentional. You’ll use this profile type when a particular colorimetric precision is wanted.
- Photography: No correction curve is written into the profile. The automatic exposure correction of Adobe Camera RAW works and the captured image has the widest possible contrast range. This profile type works for most photographers, it provides a punchy yet colour corrected RAW image.
A Digital Camera Profile works only well if the camera is correctly white balanced. For the profile it is important whether an image was taken in daylight or under artificial light because parts of the spectrum of different light sources differs considerably. That’s why for every light source a Digital Camera Profile must be created. Input has two settings:
- As shot: the white point/illuminant the camera records/determines is used from the RAW file. A white balance correction is a must before taking a shot of the profiling target.
- D65 + std. Illuminant A (Dual Illuminant): Adobe Camera RAW interpolates the colour temperature of shot made under two different light spectra. To create a profile with dual illuminant two shots of the profiling target with the same camera are required: one shot of a warm light source (for example, incandescent light) and a second shot of a cool light source (for example, cloudy daylight).
This allows Adobe Camera RAW to interpolate between the lighting conditions in order to determine the appropriate colour temperature for mixed light conditions.
- Exposure Correction: The use of exposure correction is primarily appropriate when „Art Repro/Archival“ was chosen as the profile type. Because with this type of profile the white point must be adapted to scale the image to the full dynamic range. A correction is possible in half aperture levels.
What input creates when profiling for ICC
Creating an ICC profile is “simpler” in that it only characterises the JPEG or TIFF developed in the camera in order to make it look perfect or match the image to a printed output. The ICC profiles input creates are therefore „output-related“ colour profiles. This means that RAW development of the image has to be complete prior to the ICC profiling. But this also means that all RAW images of a series have to be developed with the same settings so that the ICC profile stays valid. As soon as one RAW image is developed with a different setting, a new ICC profile for that setting has to be created.
In essence, this means you can create ICC profiles for images developed in-camera (the JPEG or TIFF image you can set the camera to create besides the RAW image itself), or by an image editor like Photoshop or Affinity Photo, provided you always use the same development settings suitable for that specific profile.
basICColor input creates four types of ICC profiles.
- Art Repro/Archival offers the most accurate colorimetric colour reproduction. Grey balance of the image is maintained. If there is a cast in the image it is kept and not corrected.
- Photography provides a colorimetric accurate colour reproduction. In addition, grey balance is adjusted in the image to achieve neutral colour values (RGB = 242/242/242 for example) in the grey areas.
- Capture One correlates to the procedure of the Photography profile type. The difference is that an ICC profile is created that uses the Lab colour space as PCS (Profile Connection Space). This allows you to use the generated profile in Capture One.
Creating a camera profile: the experience with basICColor input
Creating either type of camera profile is child’s play with input. The interface looks great, works really well and is incredibly easy to understand and operate. Many presets are already at your disposal. In my opinion, few people will want to create custom presets. However, for those who do, there’s a whole range of configuration parameters that can be set and changed.
The creation of a custom preset is not child’s play in that it does require some knowledge of colour management, but it’s not made unnecessarily complicated either. If you know your way around colour management a bit, you can create profiles that match your camera’s output perfectly with any specific need.
Do you need basICColor input? Probably now more than ever. With images finding their way to the web, mobile phones, but also printed packaging, POP displays, soft signage prints, etc, an accurate and dependable colour profile throughout the workflow has never been more important.
basICColor input costs about €595.00. That’s not including the camera!