Product Spotlight: Datacolor Spyder 4 ELITE & SpyderCUBE

July 29th, 2013

I am a people person. I truly love meeting and building relationships with others. This is probably why I continue to be drawn to photographing people. I enjoy building a relationship with those I photograph while using my camera as a creative tool to capture their unique personality and beauty. In graduate school, I explored fashion and portrait photography, and also experimented with boudoir photography. I found I enjoyed the challenge of using natural light to accentuate the sensual feminine side of my subjects in a variety of locations. As much as I enjoy photographing the human form, one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of portrait and boudoir photography continues to be the detailed process of editing my images to fine-tune skin tones as well as the overall color.

One of the most important steps in the process of proofing and editing my work is color calibrating the computer monitor I use in my digital workspace. I proof and sell all of my work online using Zenfolio so it is critical for my photos to display correctly on my website as well as print true to color for my clients. I have tested a variety of different types of color calibration software in the past. So when I had the opportunity to try out calibration software from Datacolor, I jumped at the chance. The two products I tested were the Spyder 4 ELITE color calibration software along with a new tool called the SpyderCUBE.

The Spyder 4 ELITE system proved to be quick and easy to use, and I was very happy with the final results. This calibration device connects to your computer through the USB port and comes with a CD to run the program on your computer. Once I got this hooked up and inserted the CD, the program guided me through the process from start to finish with simple steps. Other calibration tools can take a bit of time, but in 15 minutes I had successfully calibrated my monitor and was seeing a significant visual difference in how my images were presented on-screen. I was surprised to see the distinct shift of color on my monitor. Prior to calibrating my monitor with the Spyder 4 ELITE system, the photos I was viewing had a warmer colorcast. Unfortunately, our eyes have difficulty catching this warmer cast when we view an image on-screen. Once I had made the color adjustments to the monitor using the Spyder 4 ELITE system this warmer color cast shifted and was neutralized.

Along with the Spyder 4 ELITE software used for monitor calibration I also got a chance to try out the nifty little SpyderCUBE. This device is a small cube that acts as a gray card. The cube has multiple sides with 18% neutral gray, black, and white. There is also a small silver reflective sphere attached on top of the cube for highlights. A gray card is normally a flat card with an 18% gray color applied that you place in your photo with your model at the beginning of a photo shoot. The gray color acts as a reference when balancing the color within your photographs when you are editing as well as when setting the white balance at the beginning of a photo shoot. Using a gray card or device like the SpyderCUBE assures that you can produce consistent image exposure and color balance throughout a shoot. It depends on your preference and workflow as a photographer, but I prefer to take a photo with the gray card at the beginning of a shoot and later use that photo to find the perfect neutral color for my photos. Some photographers choose to adjust color balance while shooting. Again, how you do this comes down to personal preference.

When I was ready to test out the SpyderCUBE I handed it to my model once she was in position and we were ready to shoot. I took a few test shots with the SpyderCUBE and repeated this process each time we moved locations or when the lighting changed slightly. Later, when I sat down in my workspace to edit, I sampled the gray card in the photo with Photoshop’s eye drop tool and adjusted the colors in my photograph to be neutral. Once the colors were adjusted, I had a neutral photograph as a base to work from in Photoshop as I continued with other editing.

I have learned that it is important to remain flexible and open-minded as a photographer as well as in life in general! It is amazing how easily we can fall into a rut using the same equipment in the same way. As artists we should always be on the lookout for new tools that will benefit our process. I would definitely recommend testing out these products to see how they can enhance your workflow.


Danielle’s name and face may be familiar to many from visiting Zenfolio at trade shows or writing in to customer support. Behind the helpful demeanor of a Zenny lives a karaoke queen and an artist with a natural talent for capturing the sensuality of the human form. Danielle Westphal is a graduate of the Academy of Art University with a passion for photographing women. Take a look at her portfolio.