Using the SpyderCube with Lightroom 4

I’ve been working on the necessary directions for using the Datacolor SpyderCube with the new controls in Lightroom 4’s Process 2012. I’d appreciate any feedback from photographers who try this out. You don’t need to take a new shot of the Cube to test this, you can take a previous image with the Cube in it, reset it in Develop (which will automatically update it to Process 2012), then use these directions for making your adjustments with the new controls.

1. Go to the Lightroom Develop Mode. Set the White Balance by using the eyedropper to sample from the center of the lighter of the two gray faces, which represents the primary light source’s color temperature and tint.

2. View RGB values in the Histogram Section. Set the Exposure control so that the lighter gray face has RGB values of 50%, or your preferred card gray value.

3. Set the Whites control so that the lighter white face has RGB values of 90%, or your preferred card white value.

4. Turn on White Clipping Indicator. Check that Specular Highlights in Chrome Ball reach 100% and trigger White Clipping Indicator. If not, increase Whites level to achieve Specular Highlights, and adjust white face back to 90% using Highlights control. Optimize relation between Specular Highlights and Card Whites with Whites and Highlights controls.

5. Turn on the Black Clipping Warning. Adjust the Blacks control until the SpyderCube’s black trap is mostly or entirely to the Black Warning color; RGB values of 1% or less.

6. Adjust the Shadows control until the black face shows RGB values of 5% to 10%, depending on the amount of “bounce light” illuminating the black face. Turn Black Clipping off for visual check that black trap can be easily distinguished from black face.

7. Recheck the card white and card gray RGB values again, as each adjustment can effect the adjustments made before it. Retune until optimal.

8. Apply this set of adjustments to all other images shot under these lighting conditions by using Previous button, or by saving as a Preset.

This method now has five controls, instead of the three used in earlier Processes, offering finer control of shadow-to-black ratios and black clipping, and highlight-to-whites ratios and white clipping.

I tested this process on a number of my own files, and this example was a compelling argument for using the Cube. We often think such assistance isn’t needed outdoors under  good sunlight, and even less important with a lens such as a Lensbaby. But the shots below show the SpyderCube used under just such conditions, and a related image before and after applying the resulting SpyderCube corrections. It produces a noticeable improvement in white balance, turning the sky a more appropriate sky blue, the shingles a more accurate shade, shows more saturation in the flowers, opens the shadows on the porch, increasing shingle detail under the porch roof, while improving the punch of the dark windows.

So while its tempting to show the radical improvements that using the Cube provides to difficult situations, instead I’m showing what it does in a situation where even I wasn’t sure it was really necessary…

Could  I have made similar adjustments without the Cube? Perhaps, but how does one know just what corrections to make, without a reference? The Cube manages to pack several references into one device, and captures side lighting of the type in this photo in a way that a flat target does not; a flat target would captured much less sun, and much more blue sky bounce, and given a significantly cooler white balance.

This is the shot with the SpyderCube in it, after adjustments.

Here’s what the next frame looked like, at default settings in Lightroom.

Here are the subtle, but excellent, adjustments the Cube settings provide.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

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