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

Yes Please

It might not be your computer gear that is letting you down, but your computer monitor. There are all kinds of computer monitors. They do their best at presenting you with a rich, bright and colourful image to work on and edit.

But each screen is slightly different in the way the image presents itself to you. Brightness and colour affect your image the most. Every screen differs in these areas. There is even a huge difference between a monitor that has just started up and one that has been running for a few hours.

Learning how to calibrate monitor is important. Otherwise, you can never really be sure what the end result is going to be. You might look at an image and think it has the perfect colour tone, hints, hues, and level of brightness. But when you load this image on social media, it appears entirely different.

Image of two PC monitors on a wooden desk - learn how to calibrate monitor for photography using a monitor color calibration tool

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 colours may seem a little off. Either they are a tad darker than you expected, or there is a slightly different colour hue over the image. Or the colours 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.

Does Everyone Need to Calibrate Their Monitor?

Everyone can enjoy a properly calibrated monitor. Otherwise, it is impossible to tell if the colours you see on your screen are completely accurate. For photographers who own a business, share and print images, this is an essential part of their photographic workflow.

If you are a hobbyist photographer, learning the ropes and getting to grips with all the ins and outs, this is probably not needed.

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. Calibrated screens are darker. Lighting an image a little more than the correct exposure will be helpful for those seeing the image on a brighter screen.

By colour calibrating your monitor, 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 any monitor. It doesn’t take a long time and does not require any technical knowledge.

Image of a PC monitors with the screen split into a before and after shot - before calibrating monitor and after using a colormeter to calibrate.

Best Monitor For Photo Editing And Photography

If your monitor cost below $400, the chances are that it came with ‘Twisted Nematic’ panel. This cannot accurately display colours due to limited colour gamut and dithering.

This is because these models were never intended for photographic workflows. These consumer grade monitors are for everyday use, such as DTP (Desktop Publishing software) and gaming.

There are monitors that you can buy that are specifically for photography, and other visually critical work. The best monitor for photo editing cost upwards of $1,000. Here, you are guaranteed to have the most accurate colours and brightness possible. Great if you don’t trust your own calibration, or you make enough money to get something swish.

If your monitor is of a low cost and low grade, or it is old, consider upgrading to something better. Don’t just invest your money into your gear, as it all becomes lost in the final image without calibrated colours.

If your monitor is medium priced, then save your money and give our guide on how to calibrate a monitor a go.

Image a Benq monitor on a white background - learn how to calibrate monitor for photography using a monitor color calibration tool

Calibrate Your Monitor – Settings

When it comes to calibrating your monitor, there are many free and monitor color calibration tool 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 the recent Windows operating Windows 10. This allows you to adjust your monitor’s gamma, brightness and contrast. It even changes your colour balance.

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

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

These three areas, like everything else in the visual world, are very subjective. We recommend that you don’t use these to calibrate your monitor.

People’s idea of colour is very different. If you think you can print off a colour comparison chart, and compare and change accordingly, stop right there. The type and quality of the paper will affect the colours, giving you a less than perfect comparison.

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

Monitor Colour Calibration Tool – Colorimeter

So if software and settings aren’t the way to go, that leaves hardware in the form of colourimeters.
 
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 multiple 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 using a monitor color calibration tool

How to Calibrate a 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 colour-calibration tools and software.
  7. Install colour-calibration software that came with the colourimeter. 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 calibrate your monitor to ensure your images’ colour 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, be aware that calibrating your monitor isn’t the only and 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 colour profile than you may be used to. Now you have learned how to calibrate monitor for photography, check out some of our articles on editing software or even how to smooth skin in Photoshop!

Image of a laptop in front of a PC monitor on desk with white background- learn how to calibrate monitor for photography using a monitor color calibration tool

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 originally from the West Midlands (go Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath) currently based in Budapest. There isn't much photography he hasn't tried, but his favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy in there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto

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