How the Datacolor SpyderX Photo Kit Can Improve Your Photos

How the Datacolor SpyderX Photo Kit Can Improve Your Photos

Color is one of the most important things to photographers, but surprisingly, we often do not do everything we can and should do to ensure our colors are accurate and consistent. Datacolor's SpyderX Photo Kit makes it easier than ever to make sure your colors are spot on from the moment you press the shutter to the final export, and Datacolor is celebrating their 50th anniversary by offering it for 50% off. Let's look at how it can help you. 

The Importance of Proper Color

Color is one of the most powerful creative tools a photographer has at their disposal. It can be used to create a mood or to give a photo a vibrant, fresh look. It is one of the most recognizable parts of any photographer's signature style. As such, it is absolutely crucial that you ensure that you do everything you can to ensure accurate and consistent color throughout your workflow.

However, this can be a technical topic and one that a lot of photographers struggle with. Even worse, you might not notice when you have a color problem, such as a miscalibrated monitor, even when it has a severe color cast. The human eye is very good at adjusting to and eliminating color casts; it's why mixed lighting at events doesn't bother us in person but looks so horrible in pictures after the fact. This has happened to me: I remember being astounded by how different my monitor looked the first time I calibrated it and realizing how all my photos had a pretty prominent blue color cast. 

Thankfully, Datacolor has made the process incredibly simple and straightforward from start to finish using the new SpyderX Photo Kit. You may have seen or used a monitor calibrator before, and while this is a great and important tool to have, Datacolor has taken it further with the SpyderX Photo Kit. Let's look at how it can improve your work. 

Datacolor SpyderCUBE RAW Calibration Tool

The SpyderCUBE is small and portable, but it contains within it a variety of highly useful tools. It is a spectrally neutral cube that allows you to dial in the correct exposure, black point, and color temperature of your images, not only saving you time in post, but also giving you the best possible quality at the point of capture. The cube has several aspects, each meant for carefully measuring and adjusting to a critical parameter:

  • Chrome ball: use this to check your catchlights ensure your specular highlights are as you want
  • White face: use this to check your highlights
  • 18% gray face: use this to check your color temperature and midtones
  • Black face: use this to check your shadows
  • Black trap: use this to define the black point

So, how do you use it in practice? Simply photograph it under the lighting you will be using for a shot. Because it is spectrally neutral, you are assured it will respond accurately to whatever lighting condition it is in. From there, you simply pull up the images in your post-processing software of choice, and you can quickly and accurately set color temperature, shadows, highlights, and exposure. This saves a ton of back and forth trial and error pushing sliders around, and more importantly, ensures you produce consistent and accurate results, and as any professional will tell you, consistency is one of the most important attributes of a professional's portfolio. And with such an easy and straightforward process, there's no reason not to use it.

Datacolor SpyderCHECKR 24 Color Chart

The SpyderCHECKR 24 Color Chart is another step to take during the pre-shoot process that will make your post-processing work a lot easier and vastly improve your output quality. The card contains 24 color patches on one side and six grayscale patches, plus a large 18% gray patch on the other side. With a color chart, you are honing in on individual hues and making precise adjustments to ensure your output is as true to life as possible. I am sure you have noticed that different combinations of cameras and lenses can produce different renderings of color, often with biases you would rather not have. Adjusting these can help you create more accurate colors and skin tones. In any genres that relies on critically accurate colors — studio work, portraits, products, landscapes, and more — that is huge.

Using the Color Chart is very straightforward. First, download and install the SpyderCHECKR software, which integrates with Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic, and Hasselblad Phocus. Then, set up the checker in the lighting you plan to use for your shoot with the camera and lens you plan to use. After you have taken a shot, simply import it into your post-processing software, crop it into the SpyderCHECKR, then set the white balance to one of the gray patches. Then, adjust the tonality to make the white patch approximately 90% luminosity and the black patch approximately 5%. Then, open the image in the SpyderCHECKR software and align it with the reference image. 

Next, select the rendering mode you want to use. Colorimetric will give you the highest accuracy and is suitable for studio and product work, while Saturation is suitable for things like landscapes and architecture. Lastly, Portrait helps to give natural and pleasing skin tones. You can then save the calibration. From there, it's as simple as applying the profile in Lightroom. Whereas using an 18% gray card will allow you to dial in an overall color balance, using the SpyderCHECKR will allow you to dial in the correct hue and saturation of individual colors, and you might be surprised by what a significant effect this can have. 

Datacolor SpyderX Elite

Finally in the kit is the SpyderX Elite, the monitor calibration tool. This is the last tool in the process and an absolutely crucial one at that, as you can have all the calibrated and accurate color in the world, but if it is not represented accurately on your screen when you edit your images, it won't matter. 

The monitor calibration tool is very easy to use thanks to SpyderX's guided software, which takes all the guesswork out of the process, but also leaves you with manual control for custom control of brightness, contrast, and color should you so choose. Furthermore, the monitor calibration tool has an ambient light sensor that constantly measures the current light conditions, then switches to the best profile for the situation, allowing you to trust your results no matter the environment. This is fantastic, as it means you never have to worry. 

The Elite version offers you additional options, included unlimited calibration settings for working with a range of needs and monitor performance analysis. Furthermore, you can calibrate projectors and other monitors, plus through the use of StudioMatch, you can ensure that every display you use (even different brands and models) are matched to the same standard. And through the use of the built-in soft proofing, you can ensure prints and images sent to other screens are accurate. 

How It Fits Into My Workflow

I'm a big fan of rich, vibrant color, and I like to shoot landscapes. So, I used SpyderCHECKR 24 Color Chart to set up a landscape color profile. Then, I used the SpyderX Elite to make sure my monitor was properly calibrated, particularly since I just bought a new monitor to go with my new computer and hadn't adjusted it at all. I have big windows in my apartment, and the ambient light changes quite a lot across the day, but leaving the ambient light sensor enabled took care of that. Finally, using the SpyderCUBE RAW Calibration Tool whenever I went out to shoot made it super easy in post to set fundamental parameters right off the bat. First, I set the white balance instantly using the eye dropper tool. Next, I adjusted the overall exposure, making sure to get the gray face in the center of the histogram. Finally, I used the black trap to set the black point. The beauty of the workflow is that it makes you both efficient and more consistent. 

Take 50% Off

The best part is that right now, you can get the entire bundle, including the SpyderCUBE RAW Calibration Tool, SpyderCHECKR 24 Color Chart, and SpyderX Elite all in a durable and portable hard case for 50% off in celebration of Datacolor's 50th anniversary! There has never been a better time to take control of your color workflow and ensure better accuracy, higher consistency, and improved image quality. Get yours here.

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