Capturing Autumn colour better
Upper: unprofiled (Standard) raw conversion. Lower: using a tunsgten-light generated custom camera profile, combined with a polarising filter, gives a more vivid impression.
Most Alpha system users know that some – not all – cameras have a special JPEG mode for Autumn Colours. They’ll also know that if you shoot raw, with no JPEG in camera, only Sony software replicates this. The choice of picture looks or camera profiles in Lightroom and other programs ranges from none (one default) to good (a full basic range similar to Canon settings). However, you can go way beyond the default look your camera will produce from the Autumn colours we are seeing right now (UK) if you profile your camera using the X-Rite Color Checker Passport and the free downloadable software which goes with it. You can also use this software with any standard MacBeth Color Checker card.
You still need to create a .dng file from your original raw, as you also do for Adobe’s free camera profile generator. The X-Rite software creates much smaller profile files but they are no less effective.
Here’s my tip – normally, you calibrate by daylight and the Adobe Camera Profile (.dcp) includes automatic adjustment for tungsten. You can also take two test shots, one under each lighting condition. Experimenting with the X-Rite software, I found that if you only use tungsten to create your profile, all the daylight ‘landscape’ colours (especially green foliage and the sky) really pop out. The greatest change is in the sky blue, which can be very disappointing if you use Adobe Standard as your camera profile for raw conversion.
The zip file you can download from above contains some .dcp profiles for the A7R II which I’ve produced (the names are more or less self-explanatory). They should be unzipped and placed in the CameraProfiles folder of Camera Raw in Application Support>Adobe. You can find the software, instructions for PC and Mac, at:
Using the stock Lightroom/ACR A7RII camera profiles you’ll find that the Landscape flavour tends, if anything, to make sky blue lighter. My tungsten-generated profile has most of the overall ‘snap’ of Landscape plus very much richer sky tones.
The second tip with Autumn/Fall colours is, of course, to use a polariser. I’d say this makes the single greatest difference to all Autumn colours even if you can’t see it clearly when composing. The individual leaves reflect light, and the polariser cuts through this to reveal the full colour. Because it also darkens the sky, the often fairly dark colours of Autumn trees come to life better. You don’t need to study the trees, just set the polariser for the best results with the sky. The leaves are at such random angles all positions tend to work equally well. It can however be worth trying a few different rotated positions of the polariser especially if there is also water in the shot. What deepens the sky may also reduce the strength of reflections in water. Experiment!
– David Kilpatrick
If you are considering buying a Color Checker, Color Checker Passport on Amazon can benefit this site.