Color consistent Workflow – an autumn portrait shoot with Nela König

Content Creation – an example of how Spyder Checkr Photo achieves a consistent look across all camera systems for a portrait shooting, as well as images taken with smartphones for social media communication.



I love to capture emotions, movements and our connection with nature in my pictures – in this case, it was especially fun to have the grass create strong blurs and areas of light in the foreground and thus give my photos a more dynamic look. In September, the autumn sun is already quite low above the horizon, and you can use it perfectly as a backlight. Still, the light wasn’t as warm as I wanted it to be, and the grass was still very green. That meant I had to change the colors afterwards quite a bit in order to achieve the result I had in mind.


The new Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo with its ultra-matte color targets helped me set the right starting point to achieve color accuracy for the results of my photo shoot. It’s small and handy and really belongs in every camera bag. I can easily use it to get the right white balance, but thanks to the color palette, I can also actually work with accurate colors, which helps me enormously in post-processing, especially when it comes to skin tones.


Creating a reference


For my workflow it is essential to start with a properly exposed image that shows the perfect skin tone and color of the outfit before I start twisting colors on purpose.


As a reference, Spyder Checkr Photo is photographed at the beginning of the shoot.


So just before I start the first images for my shoot, I place the Spyder Checkr Photo in the image to create a color reference.


Color Shift in Lenses and Mobile Phones – Something to Keep in Mind


There is a slight color shift between my favorite lens; the 70-200mm f 2.8, and my 85mm f 1.8. This can easily be corrected during post-production in Lightroom when I use the Spyder Checkr Photo at the beginning of my shooting. Also, I often take some photos with my iPhone during the shoot for quick use on social media – it’s great that I can also adjust these photos in Lightroom later to exactly match the color look I want since I took a reference shot with my iPhone using the Spyder Checkr Photo. After adjusting the colors, my mobile images have the same colors as my Canon images – not those overly saturated cell phone colors.


The Technical Part – Software Implementation


After importing my RAW files into Lightroom, the first thing to do is to create a perfect white balance using the field E2 of the Spyder Checkr Photo image, and then determine white and black using E1 and E6. I then crop the image to closely fit the Spyder Checkr Photo targets and import it into the Spyder Checkr software. Here, I select portrait mode, because perfect skin tones are important to me. I save the calibration, reload it into Lightroom as an HSL preset, then select this exact preset and apply it to the image.



Applying the HSL Preset to the Image


It’s important to me to establish perfectly neutral colors from the start, for accurate skin tones, otherwise they can easily come out reddish when printed – not what I’d want to see. Once a neutral basis is achieved, I can start to manipulate individual colors.


Note: Please make sure your display monitor is calibrated. Without a calibrated monitor, image processing is guesswork, which is why I regularly calibrate mine using SpyderX.


For this shoot, I wanted to add more warmth to the light and almost completely eliminate the green of the grass to give the image the autumnal feel I envisioned. As beautiful as I generally consider green in nature, I find it very unflattering for skin tones.


Left: reference shot, Right: processed image – To achieve the autumnal look, the greens have been reduced.


In addition to several other Lightroom adjustments, I used the HSL sliders to reduce the saturation of the green tones almost completely in order to create that nice, warm fall mood.


The final results reflect the autumnal look I was aiming for.


I saved the settings as a preset and was then able to easily apply them to all the other photos of my session. This created a quick, and simplified workflow where I didn’t have to edit each image individually.


Adjusting the Smartphone Images


These photos of me (see below) were taken in the studio and on location. Thanks to a reference photo with the Spyder Checkr Photo and the presets I created, even the Smartphone photos have the same look, which makes the whole series cohesive.


Left: Original image from the mobile phone – Right: Color rendering of the image series applied to the cell phone photo.


Left: Original image from the mobile phone – Right: Color rendering of the image series applied to the cell phone photo.


About Nela König


It is the very special way of staging people which distinguishes Nela Königs‘ photographs. She creates a sense of intimacy and beauty whereby one almost gets the impression that the distance between her camera and the person being portrayed disappears. Born in Berlin, she grew up in Venezuela, Tokyo and Singapore before she returned to Berlin to study photography at the Lette Verein. From the start, she was enamored by capturing that special moment where the interplay of light, her camera and the people she photographs coalesces. She has an artist’s eye of how to place her subject in the scene. Her work includes world-renown stars and personalities such as Gwen Stefani, Marilyn Manson, 50 cent, Stefanie Giesinger, Sibel Kekilli, Heike Makatsch and David Alaba. Other clients include Beats by Dre, Max Factor, Sat 1, Sony Music, Universal Music, Interscope Records or the magazine Zeit, I AM Magazine, Happinez, Emotion and the Yoga Journal.


About Spyder Checkr Photo


Spyder Checkr Photo is a pocket-sized color reference tool for camera calibration that uses ultra-matte color patches for minimal reflectivity resulting in more accurate color. It shows its strengths where camera and RAW converter automatics come to find their limits. For subjects with accent or brand colors, monochromatic scenes, pastel hues, low and high-key shots, and portrait photos with finely graded skin tones, automatics often fail to deliver satisfactory results. Unlike white balancing with a gray card, the advantages of a color reference card such as the Spyder Checkr Photo come into play here, as it is used in combination with the software to analyze and correct individual colors that deviate from the original hues. Colors that do not deviate from the original colors remain untouched. For practical purposes, the extreme matteness of its color patches cannot be overstated, as it minimizes handling errors. For example, a color chart is often used during a photo shoot or video production, but no attention is paid to potential reflections, caused by a light or flash applied from the side. Such reflections then cause color inaccuracies later during post-production. Spyder Checkr Photo’s ultra-matte targets eliminate this problem.


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