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Monitor Calibration For Photography

April 01

19 min. to read

One of the key points in the photo editor is to calibrate the monitor correctly. It is impossible to adequately edit photos without adequate monitor settings.

In our today's review, we will tell you how to calibrate a monitor for photo editing and look at some of the nuances and subtleties of this process.

What is Color Management and Monitor Calibration For Pictures?

The best monitor settings for photo editing depend on many factors. Even the amount of time the device is used affects this. As a result, blue, for example, may be darker, lighter, or of a different saturation than what was specified in the numbers. 

Color management is a process whose main goal is to bring the colors in an image as close as possible to their original colors. Monitor calibration for photographers is one of the steps to achieve this result. It involves appropriately adjusting the monitor for color reproduction.

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Does Everyone Need Monitor Calibration for Photography?

You should calibrate your monitor:

  • if your work is connected with color, design, and editing your photos;
  • If it has become uncomfortable to work with it (because of color shifts, changes in brightness that occurred due to physical wear and tear, or lost settings);

It will not help:

  • when you have a monitor with a low color gamut (such a display initially can not convey the full range of colors);
  • to remove matrix defects (eg: Glow-effect screen calibration– the glow of the IPS matrix on the sides, which is especially visible in dim light).

Correct calibration for the ViewSonic monitor in photography is very important for any photographer because it is impossible to edit photos without correct color reproduction.

Remember, you don't have to suffer from the most accurate color reproduction if you are a photographer. Many times we have checked: two monitors of different companies are connected to the same PC. We calibrate with a very good expensive machine, and still, there is a small difference in color rendering.

You will not have the situation where you calibrated your monitor, and all the images at once became perfect. After all, everyone has different monitors, of different quality, some are calibrated, and some are not, so don't worry too much about expensive calibration.

Maximum color fidelity is needed if you are printing expensive photo books in high-end photo salons. If, on the other hand, you're printing all variations of offset photo books with thin double-sided pages, you don't have to worry too much about calibration. For these offset printing machines, whether you calibrate or not makes little difference. 

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Calibrating a monitor for photography is not always useful when you quickly get tired of your eyes, a feeling of "sand". If adjusting brightness, contrast, color temperature, and changing the lighting in the room did not help, there is only one way out to change the monitor. Don't forget that even if you professionally calibrate your monitor to please your customers, they will still be watching these photos on their home PCs, laptops, and TVs, using the power-saving mode, and with no calibration whatsoever. So most of your customers, unfortunately, will not see the beautiful colors you created for them. That's why we recommend printing photos and photo books for your clients, so they know right away that the problem is with their device, not the photographer.

And one more thing: you have calibrated the monitor, edited the photo, brought it to the salon for printing, and it was printed there on a cheap uncalibrated printer or equipment. And the problem is that if it's a small town and the photo salon is only one, maximum – two, then you essentially have no choice. Don't worry either, the main thing is to do your job well and know that achieving full-color perfection with calibration is possible.

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How To Calibrate a Monitor For Photos?

How to calibrate a computer monitor for photo editing? The easiest (but least accurate) way is to set up the brightness and contrast. This method does not require a color profile and is therefore ideal for everyday use or when you need to calibrate your monitor quickly or you have a lack of time for adjustments on someone else's computer.

Magic-Color and other "enhancers" only interfere and don't well be useful in case to calibrate a monitor for photos, they must be disabled completely. Testing quality especially suffers if the monitor adds sharpening or blurring. If you want to use them, here's a quick tutorial:

  • The first step is to adjust the gamma;
  • The second step is to change the brightness;
  • The third step is to adjust the contrast;
  • The fourth step is to adjust the color balance.

When photo calibration is complete, the utility prompts you to compare your previous monitor settings with the new ones. You can choose the option you are satisfied with and save it. In the end, you can keep the monitor calibration picture option that suits you better.

You can also calibrate your monitor for photos using a special device – a special calibration kit called a calibrator is used. This is a sensor for taking measurements and software.

It works like this:

  • The program shows the color zones on the screen one by one (the program already "knows" the digital color values);
  • The instrument measures the color values that are displayed on a particular monitor;
  • The program compares the reference values and the resulting values;
  • If there are differences, the software calibration tool corrects them. This is done by adjusting the video card signal. For example, if the software detects that there is an excess of red in the color reproduction, it will reduce the red level.

How Do I Prepare My Monitor Before Calibration?

Before you know how to calibrate your monitor for photography you should know how to prepare for calibration. In most cases, the factory settings of laptops and PCs are designed for normal users who prefer to watch movies and play games. That is to say, they assume high contrast, high brightness, and saturated colors. For designers, retouchers, and photo specialists these settings are not suitable for a number of reasons:

  • loss of detail in deep shadows;
  • non-linearity of gradients;
  • Inadequate display of individual tones.

Calibrating the monitor for photo processing is important because many details may not be displayed at all if the colors do not match. You will also need this procedure after replacing the video card, because the drivers, after installing it, usually give an average, standardized picture.

There are many options for calibrating your monitor, from manual settings to special programs and options from the manufacturer itself. Settings of this type can improve color reproduction at a basic level. However, in order to see the smallest hues, hardware calibration is necessary. For example, a sunset scene on the same device looks completely different before and after calibration. This procedure provides a natural color gamut and a smooth transition from one shade to the next.

  • The first step is to place the display and the laptop in the usual workplace. Adjustment is carried out at the usual level of light. It is not necessary to turn on lamps or open the window if you are used to working in semi-darkness. If you need variants of the settings for different lighting, just create a few options;
  • The second step is to set the standard screen resolution and a neutral picture on the desktop.

Warm up the monitor, preferably for at least an hour. Set the monitor profile to "Standard" (if available), sRGB, or, if the monitor is new, the default profile ("Native"). Remember: bright room light and dusty screen surfaces make it very difficult to adjust.

Next, the mechanism of action will depend on the type of equipment used.

Here is a brief description and recommendation for each of the monitor calibrations for photo editing targets.

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The Easiest Ways to Calibrate Your Monitor

The more colors your monitor displays, the more fine work you'll be able to do with your images. So set your graphics card to maximum color depth and set the contrast to maximum. Then adjust the brightness of your display so that the borders between the transitions in the figure below are clearly visible, but the transition between 0 and 5 is barely noticeable. The difficulty with pre-pressing images is that the same color can appear quite differently on monitors that differ in settings, manufacturer, and even length of time in use.

Monitor calibration is designed to eliminate the difference that occurs between the digital color value and its visible display, and involves changing the monitor's physical parameters (brightness, contrast, chromaticity), as well as creating what is known as a Look-Up Table.

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Monitor Brightness for Photo Editing

Unlike the white point and gamma ratio, the optimal brightness setting is highly dependent on the brightness of your work environment. Most set brightness is around 100-150 cd/m2, but bright work environments usually require higher values. The maximum achievable brightness will depend on the type and lifespan of your screen and thus can drastically limit the allowable brightness of your work environment.

However, higher brightness levels will shorten the life of your screen, so it is always best to dim your monitor's brightness somewhat if you can afford it. Use the lowest possible brightness in the 100-150 cd/m2 range, in which you can still distinguish all 8 shadows in the above sample.

The mapping table is either controlled by your graphics card or the screen itself, so it will be used regardless of whether your program runs with color calibration management – instead of a color profile. The LUT is usually loaded immediately after the operating system boots and is used regardless of what is displayed on the screen.

Always when the numbers of red, green, and blue are equal, the exact monitor should show it as neutral gray. However, you would be surprised at how often this is not the case. The job of the LUT is to keep the neutral gray tones in the correct color scheme.

How to calibrate a monitor for photo editing? Without the LUT above, your graphics card sends the input color value 159 (from a digital file) directly to the screen (no matter what color). Using the LUT, the graphics card substitutes the red, green, and blue values using tone curves. The input values R, G, B=159,159,159 are sent to the monitor as 145,155,162 (which are now seen as neutral gray). Note also that a deeper color correction corresponds to a greater deviation of the tone curve from the straight diagonal.

Often there are multiple LUTs in a display chain – not just the video card. The other LUT that matches your monitor's calibration for photographers as closely as possible is its built-in LUT. If your screen supports the ability to change the built-in LUT (some models allow this), it usually achieves sharper calibration settings than using the video card's LUT. However, unless the color calibration photo program was designed specifically for your screen, it will most likely use the video card's LUT.

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Monitor Calibration Test

How to calibrate laptop screens for photo editing? Everything is much easier here than with the computer monitor because there is not such a wide range of settings. Just make the settings as similar as possible to those on the monitor.

In general, the using calibration device can fully solve the following problems:

  • Incorrect color display;
  • Presence of "parasitic" color shifts;
  • Lack of detail in shadows;
  • The appearance of errors in the visual color proof of the future photo.

Monitor calibration for photo processing gives very good results, but sometimes failures occur. That is why after each procedure the result is checked. The quality of the calibration is assessed with the help of a large black-and-white gradient. This is open in any program that has color management as its function. The monitor is considered to be fully calibrated if one tone transitions to the other with the same uniformity.

You should also take into account the fact that the perception of color by the human eye is strongly influenced by the level of light in the room. Fully perceiving the colors becomes possible only when the external environment has neutral tones and the lighting is properly adjusted. Thus, calibrating the monitor for photographs in the workplace is preferable because it takes into account the specific lighting in the room. In addition, you don't have to take your equipment anywhere and spend time working with it and transporting it back. 

How to Make Color Correction Using Skylum’s Luminar Neo?

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Skylum provides a pro version of Creative Kit, with which the user can easily make fine adjustments to the color of photos. It can be installed as an add-on to Photoshop or Lightroom or used separately. Separately worth highlighting Intensify CK, which is part of the Creative Kit. With it, you can easily and quickly perform color correction.


Why Is It Important for Professional Photographers to Calibrate Their Computer Monitors?

This is necessary. A properly adjusted monitor is one of the main tools for the photographer. If you don't calibrate the iMac monitor for photography, you won't be able to get pictures with the right tones.

Should I Calibrate My Monitor for Photo Editing?

You have to do this if you want excellent color reproduction. Beginners can do without it, but once you start taking pictures professionally, you can't do without it.

What Are the Best Monitor Calibration Settings for Photo Editing?

We have already talked about this above:

  • a white point – of about 6000-6500K;
  • a gamma factor – of 2.2;
  • brightness – in the 100-150 cd/m2 range.

As for the white point, the figure is often set in the range of 5500-6000K, so that the image was not too blue.

How to Calibrate a Monitor For Photo Editing | Photo Calibration | Skylum How-to(2)

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Written by

Yehor Mishchenko

Freelance photographer

Yehor Mishchenko is a freelance photographer who specializes in artwork. His sources of inspiration are books by Howard Lovecraft and paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, so he is well-versed in surrealistic photography. He likes to show objects in an unfamiliar way and has excelled at it. Yegor also enjoys film photography and movies from the 1990s, from which he draws inspiration. He became interested in photography at university and now successfully combines his love for it with his main profession.

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How to Calibrate a Monitor For Photo Editing | Photo Calibration | Skylum How-to(14)