Color Accuracy for ID Photos

One of my main photography goals is color accuracy . I like my photos to look natural, as it was, and helpful for ID purposes. Three things I do:

  1. Keep my monitor calibrated - I use a Spyder tool, made by Datacolor, similar to this model, which is the updated version of mine: http://goo.gl/6AkKpv
  2. If I remember (I'm doing a pretty good job remembering these days!) I use this SpyderCube tool: http://goo.gl/ldTn2 If you look at the last photo of this set (http://goo.gl/BKr226) you'll see the SpyderCube "In action" next to my mushroom. This will be used as an aid during processing in Adobe Lightroom. Sometimes when the lighting conditions make "Auto" or one of the white balance camera presets look "Off" I use the camera LCD and the "K" (Kelvin) setting on my camera; I adjust the temperature until the cube colors match in the LCD view.
  3. In Adobe Lightroom I crop the photo so it's tight around the cube. I try two things and choose which one looks better to me. The first thing I do look at the Temperature & Tint my camera chose as a reference (I usually will have it set to AUTO white balance, but with RAW it's easy to change; my Canon 5D Mark II usually comes close). Then I select Adobe Lightroom's "Auto" white balance; LR usually makes things a little warmer than my Canon. Sometimes it's better, but sometimes it's not. The next thing I do is use LR's dropper white balance tool. I click on the grey part of the cube. It has been my experience that this last thing I do is what I stick with more often than not. Once in awhile I go back to one of the other settings, and then sometimes I fine tune the color by hand (temperature & tint). So, even though I use the automated tools, I still make plenty of decisions about color and what looks the most accurate.

The final thing I do is compare the color on my Android phone and iPad. I like to check how the color compares on different devices; hopefully it isn't too different! If it is, it would mean that a display's color calibration is off.

Posted by flygrl67 flygrl67, January 22, 2016 04:00

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Pinkgills Genus Entoloma

Observer

flygrl67

Date

January 2016

Description

There are certainly many buff, tan, and light brown mushrooms in an oak woodland, however the beautiful, luminous stipe of this substantial mushroom caught my eye and literally stopped me in my tracks. When I squat to take a closer look at it I thought it was quite a lovely mushroom with it's undulating lines and satin finish cap. If I get a chance to return soon before it is gone or deteriorated I will collect it to examine it further and make a spore print. This mushroom was approximately 12-15 cm wide and tall.

Comments

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Thank you for sharing all of this! I am consistently impressed with both the composition (both informative and appealing) and the colors in your photos. This is all the more impressive considering the dim light that many of these grow in.

Now if I remember right, you also have some lizards from Kauai and rattlesnakes from the Carrizo Plains that might look good on this site as well. :-)

Posted by rjadams55 over 5 years ago (Flag)
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Thank you, @rjadams55 ! Oh yes, many, many more things I can post here... not to mention the native plants; there are so very many! I'm just picking off the mushrooms first. I'm not sure how much of a dent I've made yet. Just the first 50 took considerable time.

Posted by flygrl67 over 5 years ago (Flag)
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This is awesome. Thanks for putting this together. I'd like to try it this upcoming season. Have you made any changes to your process over the last couple years? Do you still consistently do it and find it worthwhile?

Posted by adambryant about 3 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks, @adambryant!

Well, when I wrote this I had a new laptop, and I was having trouble with the color. I found out on my own that it (after a lot of time & frustration), as do many modern devices (especially cell phone camera apps), defaulted to an enhanced color setting rather than realistic color. Besides that, every screen is calibrated a little differently. Anyway, for awhile I was calibrating quite regularly, but after awhile I realized my laptop was staying calibrated and I no longer calibrate regularly. If I started having color problems or if I got a new computer I would definitely check the calibration. Ditto if I got another monitor, i.e. if I was working with 2 monitors I would make sure they were calibrated to each other.

The other reason one would want to calibrate is for print - to make sure what you see on your monitor is what will come out in print. I do photography for a job, and sometimes the images end up in print.

If you have different devices you can check the same image to see if the color looks reasonably the same on all of them. If not, look into the color settings.

Once monitors are calibrated one still needs to develop an eye for white balance, as that is what most often needs to be addressed when the color looks wrong. Adobe Lightroom has some great tools/controls for adjusting color both automatically and manually.

Posted by flygrl67 about 3 years ago (Flag)
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P.S. @adambryant If I was taking my time and doing things really carefully I might use the grey/white cube more (probably if I were making photographs for a book or other publication). Usually, I'm with people that don't have the patience for me to set things up the way I would, and I have to snap a quick pic.

Posted by flygrl67 about 3 years ago (Flag)
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Great info, thanks! I find myself wanting to cover a lot of ground on forays most of the time, so usually take quick snaps, but more and more am getting into trying to take print-worthy shots of particularly beautiful or interesting specimens. I have a DSLR and do things like using a tripod for long exposures with small aperture, low ISO, etc, but am finding my colors to be off sometimes. As in this observation, which seems to be shifted green or something: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/14508486. Would the grey/white cube and proper white balance help in this case?

Posted by adambryant about 3 years ago (Flag)
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@adambryant Well, I think the grey/white cube is always useful when utilized. I'm often editing from memory, i.e. trying to remember what the color really looked like, and when it's challenging I wished I would've used the cube. Using the cube makes the process very quick! Also, what program do you use to process your photos (I hope you shoot in RAW for maximum data retention and editability)? I really like Adobe Lightroom. Whichever program you use they often have similar tools. If I feel like I need to adjust color I start with both the presets (daylight, cloudy, shade, etc.) and/or auto (and compare which one looks more accurate) and then manually fine tune if I think its necessary. With the cube in the photo I use the eyedropper tool; I click on the cube to quickly get to the accurate color. Note that you can click on different parts of the cube and get different results; I click different parts and compare which one looks most accurate. If you do not use the cube, but you have neutral gray or white (or something very close) you can also use the eyedropper tool on that). If you don't have the cube you can also carry around a neutral gray card and use it the same way. I noticed just a little while ago I posted some photos on the FB CA Mushroom ID Forum that had a little too much blue cast (which normally happens in shady situations), https://goo.gl/M6JxZW . I adjusted the white balance just a little, and here are the same images on iNat, https://goo.gl/DcyqGi . Luckily, in iNat you can easily swap out the image files anytime after you post your observation, so you can fix your color and then upload them to your existing observation. I tried my hand/eyes at yours...not perfect, but less green (and I was guessing what it really looked like), https://photos.app.goo.gl/q1utEjougazQEHMAA . Here are some of my public photos on Flickr: https://goo.gl/h7XZd4 . The more recent ones tend to have better color. When I scroll down the photos (generally they're in reverse chronological order) I see some that are totally off that I made when I first got my DSLR and I had barely a clue as to what I was doing. If I ever have the gumption I'll swap those out.

Posted by flygrl67 about 3 years ago (Flag)
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@adambryant Oh yeah, and when I do take my time with a tripod it's usually long exposure/high aperture/low ISO. This one's 20 seconds, f/22,100 ISO: https://flic.kr/p/qZv2Vy

Posted by flygrl67 about 3 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks Michelle! Since I last wrote (and with your help) I've been paying much more attention to white balance, and it's improved my photography I think. I just ordered the cube and looking forward to trying it out. I know it's become the standard, but I abandoned Lightroom because I can't stand how Adobe's software runs like 20 background processes on my computer, whether I'm using the app or not, sucking resources and internet bandwidth. It was driving me crazy. I'm using Apple's Photos app to organize, and Pixelmator to edit now. So far I'm liking it much better. Cloud syncing is totally transparent across devices. I'll be using DaVinci Resolve for color correction on photos that I want to put extra effort into. Apple Photos now supports RAW, and also automatic pipeline from one app to another, so there's no exporting/importing. I suppose I'll hit limitations at some point, but for now it's working for me.

Posted by adambryant almost 3 years ago (Flag)
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Love your photos, btw!

Posted by adambryant almost 3 years ago (Flag)

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