Monitor Calibration - When and Why

January 01, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! I hope today finds you healthy and safe. Today I want to talk to you about why I think you should calibrate your monitor and how to do it. If you're a serious photographer in the modern age, calibration of your monitor is a must, and here's why. When you see colors in a scene, you want the same colors to be printed and published online. When we develop our photos on the computer, we use the screen, and we want to make sure that the colors we saw are the same colors that we have on our monitor. In other words, you want to make sure that the red ball you shot with your camera stays red throughout the process of processing your photographs to screen or to print. Your monitor must know what red is. Monitors' colors tend to drift, but with our eyes we don't really see it. So if I bring in a photo that I think was more red than I'm seeing, I can boost the color in my photo editing software. But if your monitor is seeing red, lets say more pink, then the output that you choose can be different than you saw. Have you ever printed something and the colors were wrong?  The reason is that your monitor was not calibrated and you made adjustments that you didn't need to, and then when you printed it looked wrong. When you calibrate your monitor, you are telling it that red is red, green is green, and so on. So when you edit your photos, what you see are the real colors. If you're like me, I don't see colors as well as everyone else, and I depend on the monitor being calibrated to keep me in check. And if you go further down the chain, you can also calibrate your printer, but that's a discussion for another day. Having all of your machines calibrated also helps. If you have a laptop and a desktop computer and you go between them editing photos, you want the monitors to be calibrated so that when you adjust one it looks the same as the other.  Okay, I may be rambling a little, but the point is you want your monitors to be calibrated for the best results.

How and when to calibrate. I calibrate mine monthly. You could do it more often but for me once a month seems to do the trick.  The how to this question is a little more involved. First, you'll have to get a monitor calibration tool. This tool hooks to your computer via USB, and then you place it on the screen of your computer. You start the program, and your screen will go through a sequence and show all of the different colors in the color spectrum. This device will see those colors and, when the program is finished going through its sequence, it will make adjustments to your screen so the colors are correct. Like anything else, you can spend as much as you want on calibration tools. But for about $150 you can get an entry-level one. X-Rite or Datacolor Spyder X Pro seem to be the leaders in this.  I have an older Color Monkey from X-Rite that I have been using for years, and it does okay.  

I highly recommend calibrating your monitors for accurate colors and also for the consistency that it will give to your photography. So until next week, keep shooting, get outside, explore, and have fun!


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