I was going through my friend’s photos online the other day, and I realized that they were all over-saturated and too contrasty. But then went to his place and saw the original photos on his computer and they looked just fine – huh, what happened?
His monitor was uncalibrated. Not only was it uncalibrated, the monitor settings were messed up so that the RGB levels were completely out of balance. No wonder why the photos looked so odd.
As photographers, we spend an incredible amount tweaking colors and tones – exposure, white-balance, photoshop, etc. However, all of that work goes to waste if you can’t trust the colors and tones you see on your own screen. Monitor calibration ensures that the colors and tones displayed on your monitor are displayed the way they should be. If you want to take photography seriously – I recommend you buy a calibrator.
Even if you think your monitor looks fine, in most cases the brightness, contrast, or colors are slightly off. Ever had a time when your print didn’t look like what you had on the screen? Chances are, your monitor is uncalibrated.
There are some tools online that don’t require special devices and use your eyes as guidelines instead, though I think those are useless. I’ve used a couple of those before I got a calibrator, and in some cases it threw off my monitor even more. Trust me, your eyes aren’t great tools when it comes to color accuracy. Your mind is great at correcting colors without you ever knowing.
Monitor calibration requires a little device that you stick on your monitor to read the light emitted. Once you start calibrating, your monitor starts flashing different colors on the screen for a minute or two so the calibrator can read it. Then, it generates a color profile specifically for your monitor so it can produce colors and tones accurately.
Once you calibrate your monitor you may think you’re fine, but it doesn’t end there. The color of your monitor slowly changes as time goes on, so it’s recommended that you calibrate it once every two weeks or so. I just do it every time before I start retouching an important photo.
Another thing you want to pay attention related to color accuracy – obviously, the monitor itself.
When you edit your photos, use a desktop monitor. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a high-end model, but make sure it’s not a laptop screen. Although LCD technology has improved rapidly, displays on laptops are designed for portability, and not color accuracy.I’ve had times when I used my laptop to edit 1000 photos, and later I had to go back to my desktop monitor and re-do all of them because they were all off. The large size of a desktop monitor is beneficial in seeing details in photos, too.
One more thing – a matte screen is preferable over a glossy one. Glossy screens are great for watching movies and playing games because they have vibrant colors and tones, but that could act against you in photography. We want accurate colors, not colors that look good. Matte screens are generally known to produce more accurate colors than glossy screens.
Also, with matte screens you don’t have to deal with the annoying glare and reflections that you get with a glossy screen.
When it comes to image quality, people generally tend to think about cameras and lenses, but editing is an integral part of photography too. Keep this in mind until you’re ready for your next equipment upgrade.