The SpyderChecker is a colour reference tool for calibrating and profiling a DSLR camera. The unit consists of a slim sturdy case containing two colour sample sheets each with 24 spectrally engineered colour patches. There is a small FadeChecker patch to help you determine how accurate the colours are after several years of use. The FadeChecker should be bright red and will turn yellow once colours start to fade. Replacement charts are available from Datacolor. Each sheet can be taken out and inverted to reveal a grey target. For some reason both sides contain the same central grey patch, a pure white card on one of the sides would be more useful for doing a white balance.
To create a calibration or profile, take a RAW file photograph of the SpyderChecker target and then bring the file into either Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Use the White Balance Eyedropper to take the first reading of the second white patch (located at E2) this sets the white balance and neutralizes any colour cast. Next select the Colour Sampler Tool and click on the patch located at E1 and then click on the patch located at E6. This now displays the RGB values for each patch at the top of the screen. Using the RGB value info for patch located at E1 (White) move the Exposure slider to set the RGB brightness value to 230, 230, 230 (or 90%). Now using the RGB values info for the patch at E6 (Black) adjust the Shadows or Blacks slider to set the RGB black value to 10,10,10 (or 4%). Finally crop the picture to the target’s edges, when completed save the file as a Tiff in the Adobe 1998 colour space. Now launch the SpyderChecker software and drag ‘n’ drop the Tiff file onto the interface. A series of colour patches are visible as an overlay on the imported file, adjustments can be made to the placement of the overlay by dragging any edge to ensure the patches are sitting over the corresponding patches on the Tiff file. Once done select a Mode from the following modes
- Colorimetric Mode – best for reproducing artwork or product colours.
- Saturation Mode – more pleasing for a wide variety of images.
- Portrait Mode reduces the colour saturation in skin tones for easier processing.
Next press the Save Calibration button and the camera calibration is saved in the Presets folder in Camera Raw or in the User Presets list in Develop mode of Lightroom. Open a RAW image file and then click on the Preset calibration that you want to apply and it is instantly applied to the image. It’s as simple as that.
The difference between a calibrated image and an uncorrected image can be subtle. I tried applying a calibration to the same image using each of the three Modes and there was a difference, albeit very small. I also tried applying the Camera Profiles that are included in the Adobe Camera Raw interface; Camera Landscape, Camera Portrait, Camera Neutral, Camera Standard and Camera Vivid, and the results were very similar to the SpyderChecker profiles.
In conclusion I was underwhelmed by SpyderChecker, it didn’t seem to offer any real advantage in my digital workflow. I was able to produce colour corrected images using the Adobe Camera RAW settings without having to resort to shooting a target and editing the same before starting any editing work. I do not want to sound too dismissive of SpyderChecker, it does colour correct and saves the calibrations which can provide you with a starting point for producing an accurate colour photograph.