A reader showed me a picture the other day that looked so "off" to me that it made me suspect he is working on an uncalibrated monitor.
There are a number of ways to calibrate your monitor and a number of products to help you do it. I believe Ctein uses the X-Rite ColorMunki products, probably because he likes munkis. Monkees. Er, monkeys. (X-rite is a maker of a full line of professional [a word which actually applies in this case] color calibration tools, up to and including light booths.) Actually, he probably uses a higher-level product such as the ColorMunki Photo bundle ($460).
Me, I like to KISS, so I tend to use the lowest level (and lowest cost! —for reasons I will explain) calibration products. X-Rite's ColorMunki Smile is cheap ($89), but gets poor marks for buggy software. I've always used and recommended the lower-end options from Datacolor, and not because I like spiders. Although I do like Spyders (so called because early versions had suction cups to stick to the glass of curved CRT displays; the new ones look less like spiders and more like pucks). The last one I used was an earlier base-level Spyder; the current version is the Spyder5Express ($126).
The unit is very easy to use...once you warm up your monitor (TOP's never gets cold!), dim your ambient light, and position the Spyder, a wizard walks you through an easy-to-follow five-minute calibrating procedure, and Bob's yer uncle. (My uncle is named Smokie Polk, but you know what I mean.)
Therein lies the rub, and my only complaint. Once you're done with this very simple and fast procedure, you really have no more use for your fine $126 device. I used to recheck every six months, then every year, only to find that good monitors didn't drift and that recalibration wasn't necessary. I really only need the Spyder again when I buy a new computer (my current desktop is a mid-2011 model).
...By which time I've lost the Spyder.
With two moves since 2011, my Spyder is...somewhere. Probably. Maybe. Where? Not the faintest clue. As with most things I hardly ever use, it has migrated into the land of Around Here Someplace, a land I have never been permitted to visit and will probably never be privileged to gaze upon. So—this is embarrassing to admit—each time I buy a new computer I end up buying a new Spyder. You know what they say: Oh well. Fortunately I don't buy a new computer very often.
I used to advise sharing a Spyder between a group of friends, to improve cost effectiveness, but that requires more organization than is required to keep track of a Spyder, and doubtless I will expire with that sound notion still in a vaporous and unexperienced state.
But a calibrated monitor is a basic must-have for photography these days, so a Munki or a Spyder you must have. Team Spyder!
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Hugh Smith: "I never calibrated my monitor until a few years back (with a Spyder) after reading Michael Reichman's suggestion to do so. I could not believe how off my monitor was. Like you, Mike, I gave up calibrating after a while because I just didn't need to. Good advice and mi dos pesos."
Mark: "Easeplay ixnay ethay arachnidyay icspay."
Christopher Crawford: "The best way to calibrate your screen is to use a screen with its own software and sensor that allows the internal lookup tables to be adjusted. The NEC Spectraview series and the Eizo Coloredge series do this. I have used NEC Spectraview monitors for years and wouldn't ever go back to using monitors that require third-party software and hardware to calibrate."
Thomas Paul McCann: "If you find your Spyder best of luck in getting updated software for it. I gave up on all that and following Ctein's advice bought an Apple Mac with Retina display and an Epson P600 to go with it. Worked out of the box."
psu: "A couple of years ago you ran a link to a great set of lectures about the history of pictorial print making given by Richard Benson. To me one of the peak moments in the series came near the end in this video, covering color calibration, and also color management. You need flash to watch the videos. Since I'm not really a serious photographer I have never bothered with any calibration tools. Modern Apple screens all tend to be pretty close to each other in general performance, so I make my stuff look about right on my laptop (and iMac) and for my purposes this is good enough. Occasionally when I make prints I find that there are no huge color shifts as long as everyone is in sRGB, though sometimes you have to adjust for gamma. So I make a note and do that the next time. I do think there are people who do and should need to care about this stuff, but I also think that most people who think they do don't really understand what they are getting into and just end up getting confused. So my general (and as usual, lazy) rule is: unless you can explain why you need to do anything but use all of the default engines, just don't touch it. Also, I take Ctein's recent article on using in-printer color management as more evidence that the lazy way is right. 😃"
Larry Gephardt: "My NEC reminds me to recalibrate every few weeks. I never seem to notice a difference so it doesn't drift much over that period. I use the NEC's puck for my monitor. The upside to calibrating as often as it nags me is the puck never seems to get too lost. I use the ColorMunki for prints with the ArgyllCMS software. Works great and I get a near-perfect match between the screen and prints from several printers. The downside is when the color isn't right I only have myself to blame. As far as Spiders go, the Fiat is pretty nice. I like the styling better than the new Miata it's based on."
Bernard Scharp: "I still have my Spyder3, which helped me through three computers and a decent collection of monitors (calibration is a godsend if you're using a two- or three-display setup with CRT screens), but Datacolor recently informed me they were dropping support on the Spyder3 (and older). So even if you don't lose the thing, you may have to get a new one eventually anyway. :-( "
glenn brown: "Not too happy with my Spyder, bought from the TOP link to B&H as everyone should. Installed it and calibrated once then it stopped working. The software could not see it. Customer support is terrible, after five times back and forth I gave up and went to the WWW. Found a solution in two minutes versus four weeks with Datacolor. I still am not sure you can calibrate a retina screen...anybody know about that stuff?"
Urs Willi: "I have been using Datacolor's products for several years now (for screen and paper calibration) and am still very happy with them—not only with their products but equally with their support, which is excellent (at least here in Switzerland)."
Kenneth Tanaka (partial comment): "I think the general color quality and consistency of displays has tremendously improved, especially with the demise of tube monitors. That, plus the great improvement in inkjet print technologies has enabled many people, particularly amateur photographers, to largely shrug at color management and be very productive with uncalibrated off-the-shelf equipment. Indeed the iPad and the Retina iMac displays have become my own reference standards for electronic (emitted light) presentation. Purists may quibble with such a standard but the naked fact remains that it represents the medium that the vast majority of my target audience use to view my images. [...]
"Color is all about visual relationships. If you can manage those relationships and your equipment is reliably and reasonably consistent then you probably don't need to buy into a CM system at all any more."
RayC: "(Bias alert) I work for a company that makes one of the above-mentioned calibrators. But given that I've been in the photography business much longer than that, and have fought color battles from the day I stopped shooting B&W exclusively, I'll say with only a little bias that having a calibrated screen should be a requirement for your 'digital darkroom.' There are a number of photo labs that actually promote their customers use of screen calibration because it dramatically lowers their customer service and dissatisfaction. Locally we had one lab that actually sold the devices and offered discounts on their services if you bought a device.
"Ultimately if the only thing you do is look at the images on your own screen it may not matter too much whether you calibrate or not (technically this probably isn't true but practically it may be). If you print, either to your own printer or to a lab, you will dramatically lower your frustration (and costs) by calibrating the screen. As far as stability goes...I have two 'work' locations each with two screens (in addition to the MacBook Pro screen). One of those setups is incredibly stable and I generally recalibrate only a couple of times a year. The other...I find I need to calibrate (or at least validate the calibration) before I'm going to do any serious color correction work.
"Some other day maybe we can take on Ctein's statement that you know longer need to profile your printer...."