Amazon and I might be getting a little too friendly at the moment: I've just bought another couple of photography-related purchases! As much as I would have preferred to save the money toward a new lens (the 70-200mm to be exact) I'm determined to crack white balance and skin tones, so a couple of more mundane, but hopefully more useful, purchases were required....
First off, I've bought the ExpoDisc 77mm Digital White Balance Filter - Neutral
. This little tool aims to help you get accurate color straight out of camera, by using it to set your white balance. Although I do use my grey card, I find it hard to get it into exactly the same light that my subject will be in - (particularly when my main subject has zero interest in holding up the card for me) so I usually have it propped up near him, but as that can be in his shadow, the resulting white balance is off. With the expodisc, you stand in the place where the light is falling onto your subject and use this on your camera to set your custom white balance. Although you can change your white balance in processing, presets are not exact, and if you do not have a neutral gray in the photograph to act as your reference point, then trying to correct it can be a time consuming pain in the you-know-where. I use Kelvin at times when I don't have time to set a custom white balance for any reason (more on this to come next week if you haven't heard of this), which I have found gets me the closest but not exact. Hopefully this little purchase will help me get great color straight out of camera!
And there's more. One of the reasons that I am so hung up on white balance is skin tones. If you can get your exposure and white balance correct in camera (or from a reliable point in processing) then skin tones only need a minimum of tweaking to look good. If these are off in the first place, or not consistent, then getting skin tones right can be a horrible horrible task. However, another thing I've noticed is that when I get skin tones within the correct "numbers", the image and skin just doesn't look right. Now, it could well just be that you need some time to develop a good "eye" for color, but as I am uncalibrated, it could also be that my monitor is slightly off and is showing the colors incorrectly. Getting color spot on with an uncalibrated monitor is taking a bit of a shot in the dark, as you cannot be sure that what you are seeing on screen is an accurate representation, and you will be making adjustments without really knowing if it is what is needed! People viewing your photos on calibrated monitors won't see the same as you, and worse, your prints can come back looking different from how you thought they were.
So, all that to tell you that I have also bought the X-Rite CMUNDIS ColorMunki Display to calibrate my iMac. I have heard it said that the iMac's have great color out of the box, which is why I have held off for so long of buying it, but they DO need calibration. The Color Munki was the one that was recommended by Damien Symonds - the legendary Photoshop Guru formerly on Clickin Moms - although I should point out that this was the bare minimum one, for professionals he recommended the color munki's big brother, the X-Rite EODIS3 i1Display Pro, but frankly that would hurt my wallet too much. Honestly, I have no idea about whether this is the best one out there or not, but decided that Damien knows much more about this stuff than me so I'm simply taking his word for it and saving myself some hassle.
So, that is my two pronged attack on getting my color right! These literally have both just arrived (after being ordered yesterday, thank you Amazon Prime) so I'll check them both out and give you my humble opinion on them in a little while, and whether I feel these have been worth the spend - particularly in light of what I have given up for them!