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SpyderGallery: Color Calibration Now a Reality for Your iPad, and Free

By David Saffir

Almost any photographer who owns an iPad enjoys its form factor, usability, and overall coolness. But color on the iPad is something of a mystery that raises a few questions—does it use the sRGB color space? (no) Something else? (yes) Can it be calibrated? (finally: yes, it can!).

A new product from Datacolor, SpyderGallery, makes it dead easy to calibrate your iPad—versions 1 or 2—and the results are noticeably better: image quality, color accuracy, saturation, shadow detail, and detail in highly saturated areas are improved, within the constraints of the iPad color range of course. It uses an existing screen calibration instrument from Datacolor, the Spyder3, and some new, and unique, software applications.

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It’s an elegant setup. Download the free SpyderGallery app to your iPad, and download the corresponding software to your desktop machine. Connect your Spyder3 to the host computer. Enable your wireless network, and connect the iPad and the host computer to the same wireless network.

SpyderGallery will show you a pop-up screen that asks which wireless network you want to use. Specify the network that includes the host/desktop.

From the SpyderGallery opening screen, choose Calibrate Viewer. Make sure you’ve plugged your Spyder3 into the USB port on the host computer, and place the device in the outline on the iPad screen.

When you start the application, the host computer and the iPad communicate wirelessly. The instrument and the host computer communicate via the USB cable.

The next screen, System Setup, makes sure you’ve installed the desktop/host application, and that you’ve connected the Spyder colorimeter to the host via a USB port.

When you press OK, the app loaded on the iPad communicates wirelessly with the host application, and USB for the Spyder.

The next screens will prompt you to place the colorimeter on the iPad screen, and press OK.

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A Reading In Progress status will pop up and the app goes through a series of color patches, read by the colorimeter. Voila! Your iPad is calibrated!

The application does not generate an ICC profile. Instead, it creates its color corrections pixel by pixel. The results are remarkably effective. I could easily see the difference even though it’s working within the constraints of the iPad color range.

When calibration is completed, you can view your images through the included Viewer, which includes an on/off slider that lets you see the image with calibration enabled, and disabled.

Below: Calibration off.

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Below: Calibration on.

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Image ©David Saffir

Note that Datacolor provides an on/off slider (lower right in each screen shot) so you can compare before and after.

I see improvements in my own images in shadow detail, neutrality, color accuracy, and detail in highly saturated areas. This doesn’t turn your iPad into the equal of your desktop display—that’s not possible given the limits built into the iPad—but I’m much more comfortable showing my images to a client when the screen is calibrated. In fact, I had a chance to try this out just last week, and the results were satisfying, to say the least. Better images build credibility with clients, after all. This is a unique tool, effective and easy to use. Well worth the download and minimal effort.

David Saffir is a photographer, fine art printmaker, and author. He lives in Santa Clarita, just outside Los Angeles, California. His blog address is davidsaffir.wordpress.com.