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  • Writer's pictureJoe

what you see is not what you get

How well does your editing go? You’re happy with the results? Your print turns out exactly like it is on your monitor?

Probably not. Most people deal with monitor-to-printer differences regularly and view them as major headaches. Oftentimes they decide such accuracy or consistency is impossible. However, this is not true. One merely needs to calibrate. Today we will talk about monitor calibration. However, additional subject matters include printer and paper profiling, soft proofing, and color spaces. All these matter, and I plan on covering them over the course of a few weeks.

Today, however, is monitors.

Your monitor does not show how your photo looks. I don’t care how nice of a monitor it is. The reality is that monitors are programmed out of the box with two goals in mind. The first is to sell. Frankly, monitors on display in stores need to be brighter and with more color pop (see: contrast) in order to grab attention. This specifically does not mean accuracy.

Secondly, monitors are not primarily used in the world for photo editing. They are used for browsing the internet, playing video games, and watching videos. These three activities benefit from enhanced contrast, increased brightness, and added color saturation. So when we edit a photo with such a monitor we are correcting not the photo, but the monitor. The printer will see the actual file and thus our photo turns out different.

I have been using the ColorMunki Display system to calibrate my computers and monitors. Now, I’m not an employee of X-Rite, so I’m sure that other monitor calibration systems will work perfectly well too. So long, that is, as they calibrate to an ICC (International Color Consortium) standard. Naturally, the day X-Rite decides to pay me, they will have the easiest to use and most accurate system out there.

Back to a monitor calibration kit. This is a set-up where you hang a reader over your monitor and run a piece of software. The software tells the computer to show it a spectrum of colors and the measuring device reads the colors that it sees. When there is a difference, either in contrast, luminance, or color, it builds an algorithm to change what the monitor will show that what it should show. These corrections are for color and brightness accuracy. In other words, this is a profile for photographic work.

When you wish to revert back to a higher contrast profile, you can do so in your display settings.

Let me show you want it was like to correct my laptop. First, what my monitor showed me before calibration.

And what it showed after.

As you can see, my contrast and brightness were significantly off, as were my warm tones. Had I tried to edit an image off of this monitor I would have left it far darker and cooler than it should have been. Then I would have been upset with my corresponding print.

Calibration costs very little and takes about five minutes every few weeks. So I consider it a necessary aspect of proper home editing.

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