I was wondering if you are spending money on ICC profile targets and software, or if you are looking for methods of making profiles that do not cost anything.
In my experience, you get what you pay for. I've profiled drum scanners, cameras, printer and monitors. To me (and my clients) it's worth it to buy a quality profiling product, or pay for a quality profiling service.
I agree with you, we try to only use quality gear. We spent a lot of money in the last years to convert to digital.
I am willing to spent what it takes, BUT I also spent sometimes money on the best there is, just to find out that for some reason it did not work as advertised, or as "pros", "advisers" and "insiders" tell you. Evidently only good was meant, and you can proof no wrong. But it happens over and over again...
In this forum, on the contrary, there are people who know what they talk about. I should ask them to do a job for me? Your are right, but I would have to fly them in over a few oceans and continents, for most of them, and I spare you all the other problems that there would be. Or I could send them my cameras. I can't afford it.
In my location, there is simply no quality service (which is obviously not true where you are). Here, even big international corporations rely on quite unqualified staff and "experts". Some clients here know that.
In conclusion, I started to learn myself quite successfully ;-).
When profiling a camera, I found it imperative that the ICC profile be made using the raw capture/processing software that you'll normally use. Don't make a camera profile using Capture One, then go use Aperture or Raw Developer for all your work.
This brings me to another point. To keep costs low, I suggest you try Raw Developer as a capture & process program. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
We still use C1 in my studio (We'll see in the future when/if I'll move over to the DNG profiling camp, as I get tired of being a paying P1 beta tester).