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I am struggling to get some colours correct in my product photography. I have used a gray card to set a custom white balance and also tried AWB in the camera, but still seem to have trouble getting some colours true.

My set up is a white backdrop which is lit with a studio flash light. I then have the product placed a way from the backdrop on a table with a couple of studio lights with reflectors to light up the product. with the flash light on the product I spot meter the product and take a meter reading and set the camera accordingly in manual. For example, I use a slow shutter speed around 60 and have the camera on a tripod and a small aperture of around £11, iso is 100, shoot in RAW file

I will shortly be using getting Lightroom, but at the moment I use Photoshop.

I have spent many weeks perfecting my product photography, and managed to get good results, using black and white reflectors to get some good shadow, but really need help to sort out this colour correction problem. Hope someone can help.

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    Please post an example photo and explain in why viewing conditions you are experiencing issues(I.e. Are the colors "not true" in Photoshop, in print, on the web?). – dpollitt Aug 23 '15 at 13:47
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    Have you tried color calibrating your camera? using something like an Xrite Colorchecker Passport or the equivlent? – 211Oakland Aug 23 '15 at 15:30
  • You should also do a colorblindness test. What you don't want to do is use settings such that things look better to you when in fact you are making things worse as seen by other people. It's then better to rely more on measurements of the colors than on your perception. – Count Iblis Aug 24 '15 at 16:09
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To get colors right you need to color calibrate everything.

You need to calibrate the camera with something like a color checker passport (for every lighting setup).

You need your editing area to mostly color neutral (something colorful in your field of view while editing will throw your color perception off).

You have to calibrate your screen with proper color calibration hardware (for every room lighting condition).

If you print, you need to calibrate your printer - for each paper type.

If you need to ever view the image on uncalibrated monitors (tablet, someone else's computer, etc.), then it's hopeless.

And that's just the bare minimum, things actually get more complicated after that

Update:

The reason I said "If you need to ever view the image on uncalibrated monitors then it's hopeless" is that the initial color settings of you average monitor is all over the place.

some manufacturers intentionally mess the colors to make the monitor stand out in a store, others just don't care, I know of one extremely popular manufacturer that has a default color profile that has an horrible blue tint.

Phones and tablets make this even more difficult because, while the display on high end mobile devices is really good, they are used in all sort of locations and the environment effects color perception - also, they automatically change brightness.

Basically, without an end-to-end fully calibrated environment you can never get accurate colors.

If you do need to make images that are viewable on other people's device (and, who doesn't those days), then @J0hj0h comment's is your only option, view the image on has many different screens as you can get your hands on and make it so the colors are sort-of right on most of them.

  • With being "hopeless" for uncalibrated devices, Nir means that those can not guarantee accurate color. But those may be the devices the end consumer will see the images on, so viewing them on as many such "household" devices is actually a good idea. ;) – J0hj0h Aug 24 '15 at 1:27
  • @J0hj0h - thank you for the edit and your comment, I've updated the answer to elaborate – Nir Aug 25 '15 at 6:07
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When photographing still life with multiple light sources, reflectors and flags, I find that I if I happen to be using the camera’s on board spot metering, it rarely provides the correct exposure to bring out the colours that I consider to be true.

I find, in general, the in-camera auto WB brings about the same results as a grey card and minor adjustments are corrected in LR, so I leave it as that.

What does make a difference for me with still life photography, is using an incident light meter.

Once I have set up the shot with the various lights, reflectors and flags, I take a reading off each light source and adjust each light according to its meter readings, set them in their groups and off I go.

This set up provides the best results for me and are as close to the original colour as I can possibly expect.

Other than that, complications occur when it is time to display my work as every monitor, printer, tablet may have a slightly different colour tint to it.

When uploading to stock agencies, I take into account that people paying and downloading these images, are generally professionals, with high end wide gamut monitors that have been properly calibrated to Adobe RGB. Profoto has a wider gamut, but I am not sure if is possible to have a monitor that can “yet” display such a wide spectrum of colours.

This is why, when I upload to some well known stock agencies, they tend to use sRGB for the smaller sizes(Used for Web) and Adobe RGB for medium to larger sizes(used for print). if you happen to be working in Profoto, you need to ensure that the colour does not alter when exporting to sRGB or Adobe RGB,.

As Nir correctly mentions in his answer, correctly calibrated peripherals (Monitor and Printer) are essential if you want your work to be as true to the original specially if your targeted audience is going to be professional advertising/publishing agencies looking for good quality content.

Finally, I also take into account; what I perceive to be a certain color, ,may not be exactly how someone else sees it, thus making a good argument for having a standard that the Color checker provides.

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If you set exposure manually with a gray card, set a custom white balance and use a color checker passport to calibrate the camera you will capture the best colors your camera is capable of producing.

Cameras are not colormetric devices. They do not accurately record colors. Adobe offers a free dng profile editor that you can download. This allows you to create a new camera profile by manually adjusting the hue of selected colors. It is similar to adjusting the hue in the photoshop with the hue/saturation adjustment layer but it allows you adjust on a much finer set of colors.

Done with care this will allow you to produce accurate colors to the extent that your output devices can display them. If not done properly it will produce some horrible camera profiles.

Good luck.

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