Professional photographers often complain that the biggest problem with digital cameras is that the results aren’t predictable. There’s no easy way to know how a particular model responds to different lighting conditions, whereas film has some standardization – Kodak and Fuji films may have significantly different colour characteristics, but each brand is consistent and reasonably stable.
This isn’t the case with digital cameras – even at the professional end, each camera has different sensors and electronics. Digital cameras also have variable white balance, which may be automatic or user-selectable, but certainly varies from camera to camera. It’s hard to relate the colours from a digital camera to the originals, unless you have a set of known reference colours to work with.
InCamera provides this reference. The idea is that you first photograph a standardized colour target with the same camera and lighting conditions that you’re using for the real job. The InCamera software (which runs as a Photoshop plug-in) analyzes the colours on the digital image of the target, compares them with the known correct values, and calculates an ICC 2.0 colour compensation profile. You can also use this system to profile colour negative film for scanning – conventional scanner profilers only supply positive film targets.
InCamera doesn’t supply the colour target on the grounds that many photographers will have one already, but they’re not cheap. It can work with the £60 GretagMacbeth ColorChecker or the £175 ColorChecker DC targets (prices exclude VAT). It has provision for IT8.7/1 or 7/2 reflection targets which are often supplied with scanners, though the company only recommends this for positive films, not digital or neg.
Using InCamera is simple. When you are setting up your shooting session, you take one photograph with the colour target in shot, preferably taking up a
fair proportion of the image area, and avoiding shadow or high glare areas. Then you import the digital file (or scan the film) into Photoshop without applying a profile, and open the InCamera plug-in.
InCamera lets you choose a target type, together with a reference file that’s supplied with the target. The main window displays a grid that conforms to the squares on the target. You simply drag the four grid corners over the target’s corners, and the grid changes shape to fit the target (this means that you can place the grid at a slight angle in your scene). You can display the sampled area in each colour to check that nothing is hidden by a reflection, and for dark images there’s a brightness booster.
After that you just type in a name for your profile and click OK. InCamera writes an ICC profile to your ColorSync folder and that’s all there is to it. When you open the other pics you took in the same session, you just apply the new profile, and they’ll automatically be corrected for the lighting conditions.
InCamera worked very well in our trials, coping better with difficult mixed lighting than the camera’s white balance controls. The whole process is quick and easy to use, so if colour accuracy is critical it’s worth doing for each shooting session or whenever the lighting conditions change. At £99.95, the software is reasonably priced too, especially as it includes plug-ins for Mac OS 9, OS X, and Windows and is compatible with any Photoshop version from 5.0 to 7.0.