Using the Datacolor SpyderCheckr for Real Estate Photography
Datacolor recently released their new SpyderCheckr Camera Calibration Tool, to compete with the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. After doing a bit of research, I decided to pick up the SpyderCheckr over the Passport, and I'm fairly happy with my decision. In this article I'll delve into why I bought a color tool at all, why I chose the SpyderCheckr, how I use it in the field and in post-processing, and my general thoughts on the subject matter.
Accurate color is very important
As a real estate photographer, I have to make sure that I accurately portray the homes I am photographing. A huge part of this is getting accurate color. Using a camera calibration tool allows me to recreate the color in the room with scientific accuracy, ensuring that the images I deliver to my clients are exactly correct.
Direct comparison: before and after
Below, you can see an example of a photograph I corrected with the SpyderCheckr, and the same photograph uncorrected. The difference is subtle, but noticeable. Getting that accurate color is very important, and makes the SpyderCheckr worth the time it takes to use.
While X-Rite may be the big player in the camera calibration world, Datacolor and its Spyder3 products rule the world of monitor calibration. They recently launched the SpyderCheckr, and it has some definite benefits over X-Rite's offerings.
First, the SpyderCheckr has replaceable color cards, because paper does fade over time. This means in a few years when both the Passport and the SpyderCheckr are fading, I can pay about half as much to replace just the cards in my SpyderCheckr, whereas owners of the Passport have to replace the entire product.
Second, the SpyderCheckr has a tripod mount on the top AND bottom. This means it can be set up on a tripod (or light stand) in the field, and the SpyderCube can also be attached to it. In fact, the product is always advertised with the SpyderCube attached, which led to some major confusing and disappointment that I will get to later.
Third, the SpyderCheckr software creates preset for Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom that is a Develop Preset that edits the HSL sliders. The Passport software creates a camera calibration profile. This means it is easier to manage, edit, and delete the presets SpyderCheckr creates, and you can still use Adobe's camera calibration profiles. Since real estate photographers have to create a preset for every lighting situation (which means every room), this is a big benefit.
Check out the video below for Datacolor's introduction of their SpyderCheckr.
How I use it in my day-to-day work
Every time I finish composing and lighting a shot, I take an additional shot with the SpyderCheckr in the frame. Because each room has different lighting, it is necessary to do this for every composition. I tend to hold my SpyderCheckr in my hand and trigger my camera with a cable release, because I had a bad habit of forgetting to remove it from the scene if I set it on something.
Once I get back to my workstation, I follow the workflow outlined in the video above, creating a preset for each composition. I tend to create all the presets at once, then re-launch Lightroom and apply them, to avoid spending extra time waiting for Lightroom to quit and start again. After I have applied the preset, I simply right click on the preset name to delete it. Because I often create a dozen or more presets for every home I shoot, it is quite nice to be able to delete them so easily.
When I purchased the SpyderCheckr, it was advertised with the SpyderCube attached, and the online doucmentation indicated that the SpyderCube was, indeed, included with the package. In fact, this inclusion was another reason I was willing to spend $30 more on the SpyderCheckr over the Passport. However, when my SpyderCheckr arrived I was dismayed to find no SpyderCube in the package! I am still trying to resolve this with Datacolor, and I will post an update when I figure things out.
Update: Datacolor recently told me this:
We initially launched two versions of the SpyderCheckr product. SpyderCheckr was the one that you ordered, with just the Checkr tool in it. SpyderCheckr Pro included both the Checkr and the Cube, at a higher price, but less than the combined price of the two separately.
This means that if you want the SpyderCube as well, you need to be sure to order the SpyderCheckr Pro. However, I have yet to see the SpyderCheckr Pro available for purchase, just the SpyderCheckr. Since I purchased my SpyderCheckr, the price has also come down.
Even if you choose a different camera calibration tool, I do recommend using one over just an 18% grey card or ExpoDisc. You will get more accurate color in every shot you use it in, which will represent the property more accurately, especially in rooms with bright, vivid, or strange colored walls or decoration.