Monitor Color Calibration Photography
You are about to discover why accurate monitor color calibration is important to your post processing success and how to color calibrate your computer monitor for the best results. If you are reading this article, you are probably looking for some more information before you decide to invest in color calibration software for your screen. There are a number of reasons why it’s a good idea to calibrate your screen monthly and very few reasons why you should not..
Here are the top reasons to color calibrate your computer monitor, color consistency from image to image, proper shadow and highlight detail and true to life realistic looking skin tones. Especially if you plan on printing your images on a regular basis.
I have included a quick video tutorial that walks you through how easy it is to calibrate your monitor using the Spyder 5 elite system.
Let’s go a little deeper into the Spyder 5 elite interface, here’s a look at the uncalibrated view prior to using the Spyder 5 Elite software. Note, I last ran the software 30 days prior so you may see a bigger difference the first time you run the software yourself. Also for some reason the screen capture software in the video didn’t seem to render the color shift accurately.
Now let’s have a look at the calibrated view paying close attention to the skin tones in the image. You will also see a difference in the green and blue tones. The differences are subtle but that is what retouching is all about.
This next image is the first menu you will encounter asking you if you have first warmed up your monitor for 30 minutes and reminding you not to have any direct light pointed at your monitor.
The next shot allows you to choose whether to re-call, check cal or do a new full cal. I suggest you do a full cal every 30 days to ensure you have the most accurate display possible. You will be surprised how much your color can drift over a few weeks.
In the image above pay special attention to the recommended settings. Gamma 2.2 with a White point of 6500k for accurate white balance and a screen brightness setting of 120. Most computer screens are set to 6500k. There are also other options available if you would like to customize your system a little more, Spyder has what they call their expert console which allows you to measure your rooms ambient light levels.
They also have a studio match feature which will allow you to achieve a better balance between different brands of monitors. For example maybe you have a Mac Book Pro and a high end retouching monitor. You can strike the best balance between your two screens using the studio match feature.
If you are really serious about performance they also have a display analysis menu that allows you to go even deeper into your display settings, tone response, brightness and contrast and your color accuracy.
Now let’s talk about some common excuses I hear from other Photographers about why they haven’t purchased a color calibration device yet. Number one is… “Most people don’t use a color calibrated monitor so why does it matter?” If you are serious about getting accurate results from your retouching then that argument doesn’t make much sense. You have most likely spent thousands on your camera and lighting gear and then you edit your images on a non-calibrated monitor. You might as well get a Polaroid camera. lol
Another excuse I hear is that if they calibrate their monitor now, then all of their older images will look out of whack. Well they probably already do you just don’t know it yet. This is a good one, some people say they have calibrated their monitor by eye and it looks good to them. Well, without a system to compare it to you have know way of knowing.
The image below is an exaggerated example of the monitor prior to running the Spyder 5 software. It is very unlikely your display screen is this far off but there is no way to be sure unless you test it.
Now I know Photography is an expensive hobby and it seems like there are better things to spend your money on like a new lens. But don’t underestimate the importance of accurate color, highlight and shadow detail. As your retouching progresses the more your color accuracy, White balance, brightness and contrast along with shadow detail and highlights play a larger role in the overall look of your images.
The Spyder 5 Elite gives you a baseline starting point that you can count on and it also gives you piece of mind knowing your white’s are white and your skin tones look realistic. So if you are on the fence make sure you check out more info on the Spyder 5 Elite here.
You should also have a look at Xrite’s Colormunki Display which is a similar device that will also give you great results.
Before you leave… you should check out my Portrait Lighting and Retouching Course