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Do you want to understand your camera and take great photos today?

Yes Please

Your photos don’t look the same way in print as they do on your screen? It’s not you. It’s your monitor.

Which is why you should always calibrate a monitor for photography. Otherwise, you can never really be sure what the end result is going to be.

Image of two PC monitors on a wooden desk - calibrate monitor for photography

The biggest problem is when it comes to printing the image. It may look perfect on your screen. Yet, when you collect the printed version, the color calibration is a little off.

Either they are a tad darker than you expected, or there is a slightly different color hue over the image. Or the colors aren’t the same at all.

When it comes to capturing, and then editing the photograph, we are careful in setting the best white balance. We may spend time correcting the tones to get the whites white.

Yet, we overlook the simple matter that these are redundant steps if the screens’ white balance isn’t set too.

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Does Everyone Need to Calibrate Their Monitor?

For photographers who own a business, share and print images – yes, you must calibrate your monitor.

If you are a hobbyist photographer – probably not, but you should still do it.

The brightness of our screen is a problem that many of us don’t know about. Computer monitors are brighter than their calibrated cousins, and generally, we like our screens bright. But when it comes to image editing, that’s setting you up to fail.

By using monitor color calibration, you will be shocked at the difference it makes in your images. This is particularly true for those lower-end monitors. The more expensive ones will be better corrected.

Thankfully, good colorimeters make it very easy to calibrate your monitor for photography. It doesn’t take a long time and you don’t need any technical knowledge.

Image of a PC monitors with the screen split into a before and after using a colormeter to calibrate your monitor

If your monitor is low grade, or too old, consider upgrading to something better. Don’t just invest in new gear. It will get lost in the final image without calibrated colors.

If you have a medium priced monitor, save your money and give our guide a go.

Monitor Color Calibration – Settings

When it comes to monitor color calibration, there are many free tools you can use. These come via software-only visual comparisons.

You may even have a monitor color calibration tool pre-installed on your computer, waiting to be tinkered with.

Display Color Calibration is part of recent Windows computers operating Windows 10. This allows you to adjust your monitor’s gamma, brightness and contrast. It even changes your color balance.

Screenshot of 'Display Color Calibration', a monitor color calibration tool

This might sound like a good idea. Except the gamma setting, all other adjustments are potentially dangerous. This is because you cannot use your own eyes to adjust colors, brightness or contrast.

These three areas, like everything else in the visual world, are very subjective. We don’t recommend using them.

People’s idea of color is very different. If you think you can print off a color comparison chart, and compare and change accordingly, stop right there.

The type and quality of the paper will affect the colors, giving you a less than perfect comparison.

A photo of paint colour examples in a DIY shop - learn how to calibrate your monitor

Monitor Color Calibration Tool – Colorimeter

So if software and settings aren’t the way to go, that leaves hardware in the form of colorimeters.

The most popular hardware calibration colorimeters on the market today are the X-Rite i1 Display Pro and Datacolor Spyder 5 Pro.

The X-Rite i1 Display Pro and Datacolor Spyder are the most popular colorimeter options between $150-250. For accuracy across various screens, go for the X-Rite i1.

Both are very simple to use. It can take anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes for a simple calibration and around 30 mins for a thorough change.

Image of a woman in front of a PC on black desk, a camera and laptop beside her - how to calibrate monitor for photography

How to Calibrate Your Monitor

  1. Connect your video card and monitor together. Choose DP (Display Port) over a DVI or HDMI connection.
  2. Place your monitor is in an area without direct sunlight.
  3. Allow the monitor to heat up by leaving it on for 20 mins.
  4. Choose the screens’ optimal setting. On an LCD monitor, push the screen resolution to the highest, ‘native resolution’.
  5. Make sure that your video card is outputting in its highest bit mode.
  6. Uninstall all existing color-calibration tools and software.
  7. Install color-calibration software that came with the colorimeter. Check the manufacturer’s website for updates.
  8. Run the software and follow the instructions.

Image of a man in front of his PC, looking at a printed photograph - how to calibrate monitor for photography using a monitor color calibration tool

And that’s it!

Your monitor should be well calibrated to help your photographic workflow. It is very important to use monitor calibration software to ensure your images’ color and brightness stays consistent.

This is an area you don’t want to skip out on, as all that investment on camera equipment goes to waste.

If you are printing your work for exhibitions, calibrating your monitor isn’t the last step. Every device your photograph goes to will also need the same treatment.

On top of that, each printing shop will need a different color profile than you may be used to.

Before you go, don’t forget to check out some of our articles on editing software or even how to smooth skin in Photoshop!

Image of a man in front of his PC, looking at a printed photograph - how to calibrate monitor for photography using a monitor color calibration tool

And here’s a handy video if you want more info on monitor color calibration.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

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Thanks again for reading our articles!

Craig Hull

Craig is a photographer currently based in Budapest. His favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto

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