Why Color Calibrate? Outdoor Photographer David Cardinal Weighs In

February 9, 2016

By RF Staff

Sponsored by Datacolor

As an award-winning travel and nature photographer, David Cardinal knows a thing or two about color. Some days, he’s up at sunrise on the African savanna to capture a pack of lions hunting. Other days, he’s wandering the Bogyoke Market in Yangon, Myanmar, photographing intricate fabrics and vibrant spices. Making sure that the colors in his final printed images will precisely match the colors he is seeing on his screen is important to Cardinal, and his display-calibration system of choice is the Datacolor Spyder5.

© David Cardinal

© David Cardinal











Cardinal says the Spyder5 is cost-effective and both easy to use and to travel with. He explains: “[This latest version] includes a counterweight that doubles as a snap-on cap, making it easy for me pack anywhere.” In just five minutes, the Spyder5, which is the latest in Datacolor’s world-class display-calibration tools, easily calibrates laptops and desktop monitors for accurate color, gamma, white point and grey balance so that images stay consistent from editing to printing.

Monitor calibration, according to Cardinal, is one of the most important parts of your workflow. “It’s crucial,” he says. “I don’t see how you can properly work on your images without calibrating.” To help you properly and precisely work on your images, Spyder’s patented, 7-detector optical engine has been redesigned to deliver up to a 55-percent improvement in low luminance accuracy, providing more accurate shadow detail and smoother gradients. In addition to this, the Spyder5PRO and Spyder5ELITE contain a room light sensor, which measures the room’s lighting conditions and alerts you if there’s been a change among the ambient light levels (Spyder5PRO: three room light levels / Spyder5ELITE: five room light levels) —this allows you to either modify your calibration settings or adjust your room lighting, further enabling optimal color accuracy in your images.

© David Cardinal

© David Cardinal

Cardinal cannot stress the importance of color accuracy enough. On the photo tours and safaris he leads, he says there are always photographers who don’t understand the importance of calibration and are disappointed when they compare their final images with his: The colors in Cardinal’s images look vibrant and true-to-life, while the colors in theirs look flat or inaccurate.

Cardinal shows participants a “Before and After” evaluation of their own images using the Spyder5, and he says it encourages them to begin calibrating their own display. “It [makes] a huge difference.”

The problem, according to Cardinal, is that most monitors are inherently calibrated to make software like Microsoft PowerPoint look great, but are not specifically tailored to work as well for photography. With its Display Analysis feature, the Spyder5PRO and Spyder5ELITE allow you to compare color, brightness, contrast, gamut, tone response and white point across all of your various monitors. This is key, because if you are unaware of differences in characteristics of your displays, you could unknowingly make adjustments on your photos that will ultimately look bad when you print.

Spyder5ELITE's Display Analysis.

Spyder5ELITE's Display Analysis feature.










The best part about the Spyder5, Cardinal maintains, is how easy it is to use. Whereas other colorimeters require technical know-how and a lot of time, the Spyder5 is designed to make the entire process painless. The default settings are so good, according to Cardinal, that he rarely needs to customize. “[When calibrating,] people used to have to answer a bunch of complicated questions they didn’t understand. Datacolor has put so much work into the software that it takes care of everything,” Cardinal says. “In the time it takes me to grab a coffee, it calibrates everything perfectly.” And, when you’re trying to make it out of the hotel room in time to catch the sunrise over a remote Buddhist temple, every second counts.

Datacolor Spyder5 is available in three versions (EXPRESS, PRO, ELITE) ranging from $129 - $279.

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