Well, don’t edit a photo in software without one anyway.
I just received what will likely become my new favorite photo gadget. It is a little piece of plastic with a metal insert to screw it down to a tripod. It is called the SpyderCube and it is made by Data Color.
This is the SpyderCube. It is a device to aid you in properly exposing an image. It helps you find white balance, control specular highlights, set black points, gray points and white points. The strategy of this device is that you place it where ever you are lighting a subject and it gives you a quality reference for using your image editing software. The image above was shot with a Canon 20D (those old cameras are good for something) at ISO 100 @ 1/200th @ F11. The lighting was provided by a single soft box at image right. Background is tech-green seamless paper. Following the instructions provided with the SpyderCube yields the image above.
Contrast this (no pun intended) with my standard Lightroom editing technique. The image on top was developed in the RAW processor according to Data Color’s instructions. The second image was developed based on Lightroom’s pre-cooking of the file and my subsequent adjustments from experience. My goal was to:
- Correct for the color by providing the previously measured Camera Profile
- White Balance
- Expose the Whites to White
- Expose the blacks (the little dark trap barely visible (or invisible) in the middle of the black face) to black.
- Make the 18% gray surface have RGB percentage values of 50 50 50.
Normally I eye-ball gray level as few items can be identified as true neutral gray. In the top image I actually measured it out and adjusted my image until the gray was where Data Color told me it should be. It is hard to judge final results on a geometric cube. In fact, I actually like the image of the cube on the bottom better.
To torture test the SpyderCube, I decided to put a face on the image-mine. I created a Snapshot of each edit style in the original Cube close-up, and then made a Lightroom preset so that I could apply it quickly and consistently. Note the SpyderCube about pocket-high in the shot.
Here is the result of my normal edit process. Overall. The color is correct but the mid-tones are a little hot. I used the same image and applied the SpyderCube preferred method preset to see how I was doing.
With the same adjustments made on the lone cube applied to my own mug, the flesh tones suddenly came back into line. The hotspot on the shirt darkened up and the levels of tone in the very-dark green shirt I was wearing became on-par with realism. As starting points go, I would much rather work from the bottom image than start at the top image.
While I still have some experimenting to do, I have no doubt that this will become a go-to tool in my exposure arsenal. It doesn’t matter if you are using a RAW processor or an Image Editor. There is no piece of software, RAW processor or Image Editor, that cannot give you a better picture starting point if you integrate the Cube into your Digital Photography.
Rikk Flohr © 2009