Guest Post & Photo by Ara Roselani

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport is a pocket-sized plastic case with “target” panels for white balance, color correction and warming/cooling. The accompanying software has an Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop plugin and a camera profiling application. X-Rite, who also makes the Pantone Huey monitor calibration system, recommends it for both landscape and portrait photography.

For my demo, I took the passport case on a portrait shoot in an outdoor location on a cloudy day. My model held the case open for one shot at each location and lighting change.

Back at the editing desk, I installed the software. The camera calibration is fast and the software walks you through step-by-step. You start by dragging a DNG copy of a picture containing the Color Checker case into the application window. The software automatically detects the location of the color checker (or you can draw a box around it if detection fails). Click the “Create Profile” button when it’s done, and launch Lightroom.

In the Camera Calibration options in Develop, I selected the new camera profile. Immediately, I noticed a subtle difference in vibrance and tones–especially in the greens and skintones. The patches for warming and cooling were quick and helpful with the white balance dropper.

I used the shots of the model holding the passport case to fine-tune individual colors. This is my favorite part. The ability to see each color and tweak individually goes way beyond white balance and picks up a lot of subtleties. Oftentimes, I find that correcting the white balance overall will adversely affect a particular color. With the passport case present, I could focus on individual colors–it has common colors such as sky blue, leaf green and skintones. It’s a travel-sized version of their classic 24-color panel.

Once I made all the color changes I wanted, I applied that profile across my shots from the day. If you shoot JPG and can do in-camera adjustments, the white balance panel will allow you to adjust on the spot instead of waiting for editing.

The included documentation isn’t particularly helpful, and the outside package doesn’t explain the product’s process very well. There is a downloadable online video tutorial for the product, and extensive footage of photographers using it. As X-Rite says, this tool isn’t accurate unless your monitor is properly calibrated.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed working with the Color Checker Passport. It costs less than $100, is quick and accurate, and fits in my back pocket.