Calibration and Colour: Product Photography

I do not care what other photographers might say about light-meters being a thing of the past; the Sekonic L-758DR has  been one of the best purchases I have made thus far. The time it saves me in figuring out my exposure ratios has been critical as I balance a full-time job against a full-time shooting schedule at night. Professionalism is all about control, and a light meter has given me an invaluable tool to measure the light from all directions and in a way that my pro-dslr just cannot. Since my artistic work is primarily on film, I also need the meter for accurate readings when on the road or in the studio.

Calibration is a tricky business. I have calibration cards for my scanner software and software for my meter, then I have a a Spyder for the EIZO monitor I purchased last month [which is spectacular, and far beyond Apple’s current mirrorballs]. Am I fully calibrated and accurate? Nope. But I am about as close as I can be without the 24 hours it will take me to complete a fully referenced process. Frankly, I am so close to accurate and so far beyond what your average bear is that I am not ever concerned about sending my files to a client. Perhaps most important is that I am consistent within my own realm. In other words, my files are always consistent as a group, as a look, and as a style, which is critical for catalogue work.

The second tool that I am working with is the X-Rite Colorchecker. While I have not mastered the colour  profile process for this little monster yet, it is making a lot of sense as a white balance tool for my Hasselblad CFi lenses. On my Canon 24-70mm and my 135mm lenses I use the ExpoDisc for white balance, as it fits nicely on the front and provides an accurate reading to work from on subjects where movement might not make a card possible. On the Hassleblad optics, the ExpoDisc works, but given my ProShade and the need to hold the disc tightly for an exposure, it makes more sense to use the Colorchecker.

 The shots on today’s post are from last night’s session for Padinox. Before I begin composing the actual image my workflow has me test with the Sekonic to find my exposure range, then I shoot a file with the Colorchecker at three bracketed shutter speeds. Then, when I go to process my favourites from the session, I usually have a reference point to sync my white balance to after the shot has been perfectly moved into place.

The Linhof is still without film. Tracking down 4×5 sheet film is proving a longer process in Toronto that I imagined. Still, I have a box of 100 on order and the delivery time is about 2 weeks. Given the slow process of large format, I expect that to last a year of experimental studies, and by then I am hoping to have the means to procure a more permanent supply of film and studio space to store it in. All good plans have back-ups, so mine was to purchase a Linhof 4×5 Super Rollex roll film back for 120 film. If nothing else, this will allow V. and I to learn how to use the camera movements accurately without wasting sheet film and chemical to do so. 4×5 sheet film will need to be developed ourselves, whereas Northern Artists always does a great job on my 120 negatives. I am not holding my breath on the quality of the film back though. For $105, I expect it to be pretty beat up. These things list at $2300 new, so the ordered item will not be in collector’s condition.

Regardless, both V. and I are keen to start working with what has to be our crown jewel in the camera collection. If you had asked me three years ago whether the business would ever prove successful, then I would be wishy-washy. The current collection of gear that is fully paid for is admirable from a purist’s viewpoint: a Leica M3, Canon 1DmkIII, Canon EOS 3, Canon 40D, Hassleblad SWC/M, Hasselblad 501C/M, Diana+ with full kit, and a Linhof Kardan. We have a full range of lenses and mediums to cover pretty much any possible assignment; more importantly, we are using the full range for actual commissions versus staring at the collection through a safe window.

The summer cannot start soon enough. I start out with a trip to Chicago and Milwaukee with my mom. I just need to get out of Toronto, and Chicago seemed like the most cost-efficient option. Then it is a Differentiation Workshop in NYC for four days. I will be super busy with work during the daytime, but I am hoping to shoot some work at night and to have one or two nice meals while I am there. Finally, the piece de resistance will be the three week adventure with V. through Spain and Morocco. V. has already been through Spain, so I am hoping she will be able to show me the country through her eyes and experiences. Morocco will be a G.A.P. Tour, which should free up the planning on our end. This should prove to be a wild adventure that melds machismo with the desert with spas with food with heat with art and craftsmanship.

Camera plans:

Chicago = SWC/M and Canon 1DmkIII with a 50mm lens

NYC – Leica M3 and Hasselblad SWC/M

Spain and Morocco – Hasselblad 501 C/M with 50mm or 60mm lens


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