Monitor Calibration with the Spyder 3 Pro

Over the past few years as I have gotten into photography more, I have been farily successful at ignoring the fact that my monitor(s) weren’t the best and probably weren’t outputting color correctly.  Every now and then I’d tinker with Adobe Gamma but give up after nearly going cross-eyed (you know what I mean if you’ve used that tool before).  So instead of having a good baseline color profile to edit photos with, I would just keep in mind the color casts or contrast issues my monitor has and try to adjust accordingly.  Photos would end up looking decent on my machine and a little crappy on others’ and in print.  I could live with that.

As I added multiple monitors to my PC, the situation became maddening.  I would get done tweaking an image, only to slide it to another monitor and have it look like crap.  Which one was correct? Or more accurately, which one was closer to correct?! 

So about a month ago I gave in and purchased the Datacolor Spyder 3 Pro, and I must say that I’m very happy with it.

It goes like this – after you install the software and drivers you’re asked to calibrate your monitor(s).  Monitor by monitor, you’re asked questions about the display controls you have available to you (brightness, contrast, etc) and are then instructed to attach the device to the screen at a location indicated by the software.  You can attach it with the built-in suction cup or by slinging the counter-weighted cable over the monitor and dangling it there.  I have only used the suction cup method and not bothered with dangling.

After getting the device positioned, the software cycles through the spectrum to figure out how your monitor is outputting color and what needs to be done to correct it.  When it’s done, the result is a system color profile that gets installed so that any “color managed” applications (fancy term for applications that know how to use color profiles) will display images more accurately.

The Spyder 3 Pro also keeps an app running in the background that uses the hardware device’s ambient light sensor to detect when the light has changed sufficiently that you’d need to recalibrate.  And finally, you can have it notifiy/remind you at sent intervals to reclibrate the monitor – because over time your monitor changes. 

Initial calibrations take 7 minutes per monitor, and those periodic reclibrations take 3.  I don’t have anything to compare this to, but have read that older models took considerably longer.

To date, I haven’t really found any negatives with this thing.  I am glad I purchased it, as it has taken alot of the second-guessing out of photo editing.  If you’re someone that has invested heavily in your camera equipment, computer and editing software, you seriously owe it to yourself to get one.

OK, that’s all.