The SpyderCUBE — a smart alternative to the gray card — measures white balance, exposure, black level and brightness. Can YOUR gray card do this? Let’s compare!

Side to side comparison of a traditional gray card (left) and a SpyderCUBE (right) in Photoshop’s Camera RAW editor.

Traditional gray card

If you’ve never used a gray card, you might not know the purpose of having one. What is it? According to Wikipedia:

“A gray card is a middle gray reference, [ …] as a way to produce consistent image exposure and/or color in film and photography. A gray card is a flat object of a neutral gray color that derives from a flat reflectance spectrum.”

Pretty much self-explanatory isn’t it? When imported in RAW developing software like Photoshop or Luminar, the gray card is used with the eyedropper tool to correct white balance. It’s very efficient to make sure colors in pictures (and videos) are consistent and accurate. That’s also all that it does.

Traditional gray card

The SpyderCUBE

Instead of being a flat card, the SpyderCUBE is … a cube (I hope you guessed it at this point). Its three-dimensional shape allows not only allows you to measure not only one, but five very important elements in your photographs:

1. Catchlight

Don’t be mistaken — the chrome ball on top of the cube isn’t a decoration! It’s made to measure catchlight and analyze overexposed areas. In the picture below, we can see by the red clipping that the only overexposed part of my photo is in my button shirt.

Overexposed means that an area is totally white without any detail. You usually want to avoid this unless it’s a look you’re purposefully going for.

2. Highlights

The white triangles define highlights in relation to catchlight. In my picture, we can easily see the difference of brightness between the main light source (left side) and the opposite side, which is much darker. You want then to be bright, but not clipped in red (overexposed).

3. Color temperature and mid-tones

The (spectrally neutral 18%) gray triangles at the top of the cube are the white balance reference. It’s the equivalent part of the traditional gray card that meant to be used with the eyedropper tool.

4. Absolute black

See the clipped blue dot at the bottom of the cube? That’s a black trap. It measures absolute black: A totally black area with no detail. If it’s not clipped, that’s because there’s not enough contrast in your picture.

5. Shadows

Finally, the black square under the cube is a reference for shadows. Just as for the highlights from the white triangles, you want the area to be dark but not clipped in blue (that’d mean you’d lost all details in your shadows).


So …

Is there anything left to say? Can your gray card match the SpyderCUBE? If color calibration is your jam, make sure to have a look at this article to discover the whole SpyderX Photo Kit — you’ll love it!