Thursday, May 31, 2007
Calibrate Your Camera
To get complete predictability, consistency and control, it's important to calibrate your entire system. We used to do it with film, now we do it a little differently with digital gear.
As professional photographers, we've always tested our equipment to determine the specific characteristics of gear combinations so we'd know the precise capabilities of camera, lens and film in the conditions in which we most often shoot. Product shooters would load different emulsions and shoot tabletop scenes, fashion photographers would bring in models, etc. With film, this was an arduous process that required multiple exposures and different chemical recipes. Test images were shot through different-colored filters to figure out the color bias of a particular emulsion. Once tested, the photographer would purchase large quantities of film from a batch and refrigerate it until use, all in the quest for predictability, consistency and control.
With digital capture, the testing process has become easier, but image-system calibration is still essential.
The first step in designing any digital-capture workflow is testing the photographic hardware/software system. You must test every component of your system before an assignment to avoid any surprises on the shoot. It's important to realize that any capture system relies on several components: lighting, camera, lens and software processing. If any of these individual components changes significantly, you have to retest to calibrate the system. You can only calibrate a system, not an individual component—the camera isn't separate from the system in which it's used. Calibration becomes especially essential in a RAW file workflow.