Start 2024 With Perfect Color Using Datacolor

I have a great deal of respect for companies that are dedicated to their product line, and of course to their customers.

Yes, there are all of the camera manufacturers, who know once you are in a system, you will probably stay, unless you have unlimited funds. We could talk forever on each one, and why they are awesome.

I’m talking about the companies that support all of your image making, because if you don’t have the best output, it doesn’t matter what gear you had in your hand.

Think of brands like Adobe who are all about the digital image, and they maintain the product line and support for all that. Not hardware, but software.
Then you have a company like Datacolor who is dedicated to ensuring that all of the work you do looks great : When you are making the image, and then exporting the result. Yes, I’ve had more than a couple of posts where they were featured, but employing their full line is obviously something I take seriously.

Let’s go through some of the product line, and why I depend on them for my workflow.
Once you employ their tools, It’s all about getting the baseline, as in a correctly exposed and accurate file as they were shot. Once you have a baseline, let your creatives juices flow.

Starting from the right place is the idea, a little bit like starting with RAW, relatively untouched files.

For me, the first step is starting with a calibrated monitor.
What that means is that the monitor you are editing with should be calibrated to a standard color band. Not that you wouldn’t get creative,  and make sure the look of the photo or video has your look on it when you finish working on it.
This will ensure that you started with a  correct baseline. If you are not working with a calibrated monitor, the work you put into image, may not look the same once you get it into other environments. Like a book, or prints.
Enter the Spyder X2 Ultra calibration device.


It is so easy to calibrate your monitor, and the Datacolor software walks you through it.
Maybe it’s a 2 min process.
Essentially, you first set the device near your monitor on your desk so it can read the light in the room. (more on that in a sec)  Then the software walks you through the steps to hang the device onto your screen, as it cycles through the calibration process.

At the end you can save the profile for, perhaps, how your camera exposes in certain situations, like a wedding or event photographer who uses a certain lighting setup, even flash-on camera, and here is a bonus feature :
Monitors don’t keep their corrections forever. Just a fact of life. The Datacolor software sends you a reminder every month, so you know when to refresh the settings. I kinda like it when this pops up on my screen. A gentle reminder.


Genius!!

One thing to remember is that when you are working on a screen, the ambient light in your room will affect the perceived color.
In my day job, I produce commercials , and when we have been in the remote world, my biggest issue has been trying to see, on my home office screen, as close as I can get to the colorist screen.
How do they know what my ambient light is?
The Spyder X2 Ultra solves this issue, by having a sensor that takes that light by your monitor into account, as shown blow

And there is an additional feature in the software where you can turn on automatic ambient light adjustment. They took into consideration that the light in your post production area may shift during the day. You just have to leave the unit plugged in, and it will adjust your monitor(s)

OK, you have set your monitors, and you have a confirmed color, or a black and white baseline.

Next part of the equation, are the compact, portable color charts.                                                                                                      They are always in my camera bag, as the size allows for that.

One is dedicated to still photography. The Spyder Checkr Photo is a set of 4 color and B&W charts, set in a click stop case. Small, locking , and you can even replace the charts if you get a smudge or hand grease on it.
The way it works is that you preset the standard chart in your computer, and this can be done with include software and images.
When you are about to shoot, take and shot of the color chart near your subject, so that the lighting is similar. All about the light falling on the color chart.

Easy Peasy. I even have used it on the street, where I may photograph the chart, and then at least to have a standard to deviate from.


When you return to your post production set-up, take the shot of the color chart from your shoot and match it up to the sample. Then you Edit in Spyder and set the color.

Here is how you do that in LightRoom: go to Photo>Edit In>pick edit in SpyderCheckr (yes you do need to have the software installed on your computer for it to show up in the Edit In options)

Then there is a video equivalent color chart. Spyder Checkr Video.
Here is a basic video to give you a look at how it operates.
This works kind of in the same way as the photo checkr. However, the color correction is a bit more complex in video, as you are making adjustment on vector scopes that you use in your editing software, like Premiere  or DaVinci.


You still shoot some frames of the color chart and B&W reference. Go into the vector scope and match up the value from the chart
Do white balance, hue, and saturation for each scene that you captured
More for an advanced user, but starting with great color and exposure, before you add your creative looks.

And the PDF instructions for use. 

How else can you ensure a quality image?
As we are dealing with light, the way light falls on a subject can tell you about proper exposure.
Datacolor makes a very cool product called SpyderCube cube that has a ¼-20 thread so you can introduce it into a scene, and see how the light falls using black, grey and white surfaces to let you know when to add or subtract light in post, and get proper exposure in your working file.

There is also a reflective ball on top. Basically calibrating for the specular highlights. Use the highlight slider to adjust for that. Grey, and white sides to generally balance, and an interested black hole on the bottom, which represents the total absence of light.

All of these factors will lead you to a well balanced, and properly exposed image. Of course the color charts will give you much more information, and if you are shooting for a client with a packaged product especially, exact color reproduction is critical. We call these “color correct props” that are generally created by companies that specialize in this, and work from files that have been approved by a brand. Not what you may buy off the shelf.  As a photographer/director, you are responsible for making sure the product is accurate.

I recently published a book of photographs, and the need for correct color was never more critical.                                                            Before you go to press, you have to make sure that the files you supply are what you want the final image to look like. Datacolor Spyder X2 Ultra was the only way to go.

I was able to review PDF layouts from the publisher, and because I was looking at them on a calibrated monitor, if any adjustments were needed, I could easily see what they were.

Plus, the X2 Ultra accommodates multiple monitors, and as I was using 2, it allowed a perfect color matching on both
You know what they say, GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.

The Datacolor Spyder X2 Ultra is my go-to monitor tool, and I depend on it.
The color charts are always in my bag, as the size doesn’t take up much room.
The Cube can be used  even if you don’t want to bring out the full color chart: small, easily held by a subject in a portrait situation.    Even a location portrait!

There is another product of theirs that is more geared to my older kit of Nikon DSLRs.
It’s the DSLR’s that allow you to set your lenses focal point.
It’s called a Spyder LensCal.

What this product does is let you calibrate (that word again!) your lens to make sure that it’s focusing correctly. On my older Nikons I could adjust a critical focus point, and used this tool. When I first tried this, I was shocked how slightly misaligned some of my lenses were.

With current cameras, I would only use it to set a main focus point and then know what the depth of field was. Super niche and not sure you need it.

Have a look at their full product line. And if you are someone who prints, Spyder Print maybe the product you need:

“The Spyder Print software creates a fully editable, custom profile to ICC standards. You’ll get the most color-accurate reproduction of your image files and reduce ink and paper waste from repeated print outputs while optimizing the performance of your printer.”

Paper and ink waste has always been a problem for me, when I printed. Creating a custom profile could help your print sales.

It’s a poor craftsman who blames their tools, but you must keep them in proper order.
I have seen sales on these items from time to time, you can get set-up, and

Make sure your images from 2024 are all that they can be.
As I said in the beginning, Datacolor, as a company, is dedicated to this.

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