If there’s one thing that is consistent across the photography world, it is the never-ending list of gear and accessories we end up spending our money on. Between the cameras, lenses, lights, and grip, the numbers add up fast, but what’s most important (besides getting the shot in focus) is making sure the colors look exactly the way we want them to. This is where the new Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo comes in clutch.
Full Disclosure: This story brought to you by Datacolor.
The recently launched Spyder Checkr Photo has been designed to help creatives achieve consistent and accurate color correction quickly and easily across every one of their cameras, sensors, and lens combinations in Adobe Lightroom Classic, Adobe Camera RAW (in Photoshop), and Hasselblad Phocus. You simply need to use the Spyder Checkr Photo color target cards during their shoots as a color reference.
Ideally, you would do this for each camera and lens combination used — and personally, I do this any time I change lighting setups and locations as well. Then, the SpyderCheckr Software will automatically color correct your images by creating an HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) preset to use whenever you choose for fast color correction.
The tool itself comes with a rigid outer casing to protect the color swatches carried inside. The case (and cards) are small, lightweight, and even have a removable lanyard making storage and transport of the system incredibly easy to do. Inside, the system includes a set of four interchangeable cards that feature 48 color targets with an expanded skin tone offering incredible accuracy that is ideal for portraits.
In addition to the 48 color targets, the updated Spyder Checkr Photo includes 14 expanded and large-scale grey balance targets to allow for greater depth and detail in the images. Both sets of cards are printed with an ultra-matte finish on long-lasting, ink-printed, museum-quality paper (made from 78% bamboo) that allows for the “truest color renditions and deepest black” possible.
What’s nice about this new addition to the Spyder Checkr lineup is the cards are completely interchangeable and easy to replace, or even add new cards as color offerings are expanded. Allowing creatives an even greater customizable solution for their post-processing.
So Why Is This Important?
Color management, and specifically this tool, is far more important than many creatives realize. Put yourself in a position when you’re shooting a product line or clothing line from a brand where specific colors and highlights are critical for the ad campaign. Without proper color correction, the red, green, blue, or whatever the color of the object being photographed is will likely be a wildly different color in the photograph versus what you see in person. If you end up delivering a set of fully retouched images with the colors completely off, let’s face it, your client is going to be very unhappy.
An added bonus of using the Spyder Checkr Photo in a reference photo with the product(s) being photographed is you would have a “real life” color reference that you can look at both at home, and color corrected on the screen. This will give users a more literal way to review colors with their clients.
In addition to finding “true color,” the Spyder Checkr Photo will help creatives maintain consistency across multiple shoots, cameras, lenses, and locations. Using the Datacolor software to create color correction profiles and presets will help speed up your workflow by automatically color correcting each set of images based on the “test image” captured for each camera, lens, and location used. If used properly, it will help you create a consistent look for your clients without having to spend a ton of time trying to color match and edit after the fact.
According to the company, “Datacolor’s commitment to color accuracy was key in every aspect of Spyder Checkr Photo’s development; from the selection of premium paper that conforms to ISO 9706 standards, meeting exacting requirements for age-resistance, to high-quality inks that offer long-lasting color integrity. Our precise quality control processes and attention to every detail allows us to deliver an outstanding tool for photographers that provides exceptional color accuracy and workflow efficiencies to the palm of your hand.”
How It Works
Using the Spyder Checkr Photo is easier than it seems. Users simply need to take a “test photo” that includes the Spyder Checkr Photo’s 48-swatch color grid laid out as straight as possible (preferably near the beginning of your shoot and any time you change to a new lens, camera, and light combination).
Then, once you are back in front of your computer ready to start editing, you need to crop the test image down to show just the Spyder Checkr Photo and then send it to the SpyderCheckr software from Datacolor to create a correction profile to import into the app of your preference to ensure you have accurate and consistent colors throughout the rest of your images.
Above I mentioned ensuring the Spyder Checkr Photo is photographed as straight as possible. This is simply because while the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Software is very straightforward and easy to use, you sadly cannot rotate or skew the color swatch pattern to align the patches if the physical card itself was at an odd angle or if any of the color targets are covered. The software allows you to scale, flip, and resize the swatches to accommodate your test shots, but if the cards are not fully opened, it can be difficult to align the image with the swatches.
A best practice here is to shoot the Spyder Checkr Photo as straight and clearly visible as possible, and as close as possible so you get it “right” in camera. But once you’re back at the computer and in Lightroom, you can use Transform tools to perfectly align the swatches using the guides, and then crop the image so it’s as tight as possible. Additionally, you should also set your white balance using the Spyder Checkr Photo before you export the image to load into the Datacolor SpyderCheckr software. More information on this can be found in the User Guide here.
Once you’ve opened the software and you have your cropped image of the Spyder Checkr Photo, simply drag it into the Datacolor Spyder Checkr software to start lining up the color swatches.
From here you select the “mode” for portrait or saturation (yes there is a difference) and then “Save Calibration” to create the preset for the app of your choice. For my scenario, I selected Portrait mode and Adobe Lightroom Classic where it will show up as a “User Preset” with the name I gave it.
At this point the app will tell you the calibration preset/profile has been created and saved, letting you either create another calibration or prompting you to exit both the Datacolor software and Lightroom so that it can load the preset(s) into them.
Now that the Portrait preset has been loaded into lightroom, you can apply it to the images taken during this set to make white balance and color calibration incredibly fast throughout the rest of the processing.
Below are several portraits and event images captured and edited using the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo:
Obviously, retouching is subjective and will vary for each client and project, but the bottom line is as far as color accuracy is concerned, you can be sure that your images are accurate and consistent across every project when captured with the Spyder Checkr Photo. From personal experience having used the Spyder Checkr 24 and several other previous generations of color charts, the new Spyder Checkr Photo is a massive improvement in usability.
The new system is much more compact, durable, and easier to carry and travel with safely. Additionally, using the Spyder Checkr Photo before and during light and lens changes on set may seem like a bit of a workflow speedbump at first, but it is a massive time saver when it comes to post-production, especially when dealing with clients and products where the colors have to be 100% accurate.
The Spyder Checkr Photo from Datacolor is now available for purchase for $99.99 directly from Datacolor and multiple retailers worldwide.
Full Disclosure: This story brought to you by Datacolor.