I have been wanting to get a monitor calibration tool for some time now. I finally got the chance, when I received the Datacolor SpyderX Pro to review. Will it live up to my expectations? Let’s dive in.
Why calibrate your monitor?
As a photographer who is very passionate about color theory and color grading, I have been wanting to get my hands on this tool so I can calibrate my monitors for its true colors.
Being known mainly as an “Instagram photographer,” Instagram is my main platform for brand awareness and promotion. Often times, I would edit a photo on my desktop, send it to my phone, and the colors would be off from how it looked on my desktop! It would be frustrating because I would post photos on Instagram and they would have different colors and contrast!
I would be displeased every time because the image I thought would appear (in terms of color) on my other desktops or even my phone, wasn’t the same image and the colors were way off.
I spend a long time perfecting the colors within the photo and getting them to have a certain color harmony. I would try to calibrate my monitors manually to resemble my other desktops and to my phone, however, was always unsuccessful. Especially when it came to posting on Instagram, I wanted to make sure that the photo I was editing on my desktop, matched or at least was very similar to the colors my followers would see.
If you purposely color grade your composition for a certain color harmony, you will want to ensure your audience sees the same colors as well. Otherwise, what was the purpose?
Starting first with the setup. The SpyderX Pro comes in a fairly small box which is great and does not have any external cables. Everything you need to get started is already attached, making setup very easy and simple.
Before you get started using it, you have to download the software to your computer. The URL is provided on a paper within the box.
Download the software and plug your device into the USB port within your computer. It is advised to plug it directly into the computer or desktop tower and not an external port such as the USB port within your external keyboard.
Once you download the software, they provide very simple walk-through instructions in order to begin calibrating your monitor. The walk-through steps are as followed:
ii. Display Type
iii. Make and Model
iv. Identify Controls
v. Display Technology
vii. View Calibration
Before the actual calibration step, you enter in all of the info regarding your monitor and your current lighting situation so the calibration experience is as accurate as possible.
Once you get to the actual calibration step, you are off to the races! It prompts you to place your device on your screen like so:
Your screen will flash and change colors. During this time, the SpyderX Pro is calibrating your monitor. I must tell you, it was cool to watch.
Once your monitor is all calibrated, it brings you to a screen where you can view what your monitor looked like before calibration.
After my monitor was calibrated, it provided me a comparison of what the colors looked like on my monitor pre-calibration, and what my monitor looked like now that it was calibrated. You can see the difference because the software provided you with example images for you to view with and without the new calibration.
For me personally, I could see a big change. I was shocked! My monitor before calibration was a lot brighter and it was a lot more on the cooler, bluish side.
After calibration, my monitor had more warmth in it. It appears I was editing all of my photos with a default cooler tone and didn’t even know it.
Here is a photo of the before and after of a self portrait I took. I had to take this photo of my screen to show the color comparison. As you can see, my monitor before it was calibrated had a lot more cool tones:
What a difference! For all of my recent photos I edited, I have to go back and re-edit some of them because I realized I was adding too much “red” to my photos to compensate for how “cool” my monitor was before I calibrated it.
As mentioned in the beginning, the main reason I was excited to try this tool was because oftentimes I edit a photo in Lightroom, export it, send it to my phone, then upload it to Instagram.
Every time I would send my photo to my phone to post on Instagram from my desktop, the colors would be way off. I would try to manually calibrate my monitor to match my phone calibration (which is set to default by the way), however, I could never get it exact. I often had to overexpose on my desktop and add in more blues knowing it would be MORE underexposed on my phone. It was a pain.
So this was the real test, I sent a photo I had in my archives to my phone.
I opened up the photo on my phone. Then I opened the same exact photo on my desktop and compared the images side-by-side, by bringing my phone up to my monitor. They were the same colors and the contrast was very similar as well! This was a big win in my book.
I must add as well, that if you are in this same boat with the whole desktop to phone comparison issue, trying to get the colors to match, make sure your phone is set to the “basic” or “default” color display. Oftentimes, phones’ factory settings are to have more vivid colors which can inaccurately portray how the photo actually looks.
When calibrating my monitor, I did it mid-evening and created a specific profile for mid-evening lighting at my work station. It is recommended to create separate calibration profiles based on the times you normally edit your photos. Since I also edit photos at night in a room with the lights off, I will also be creating a calibration profile during this lighting.
All in all, I was very impressed by the SpyderX Pro because it had accomplished what I hoped it would accomplish. Now I don’t have to compensate for how it will look on Instagram when I’m editing my photos on my desktop. I can also now re-calibrate my monitor whenever I need to and calibrate all the other monitors in my house when I need to edit at different workstations!