Monitor Calibration: Getting Started

Calibrate Your Monitor for the Best Post Processing Results

It is essential for a photographer to properly calibrate their monitor before post processing photos. Having a monitor that is not calibrated will result in over- or under-exposed photos. Calibrating your monitor should be performed before doing any post-processing of photos.

The first step to calibrating your monitor for photography is to check your screen resolution. You should use the highest resolution possible while still able to read text. If you have an LCD monitor, use the “native” resolution. Next, you will want to ensure that your monitor is set to 24-bit mode or high color. On a Windows computer, right click on the desktop and choose Graphic Properties. On a Mac, it can be found under Preferences, then Displays, then Colors:Millions. Using 16-bit color will not provide the range of colors needed to calibrate properly.

Now you can begin the calibration. Let your monitor warm up for at least half an hour before beginning. Ensure there is not a glare on your screen or a direct light on your monitor. For the next steps you will need your sample image. The sample image should be from the printer you will be using. If you are using your home printer, print a photo that was taken in daylight with natural skin tones. If you will be using a professional printer, request a calibration kit. Most printers will provide one for free or a nominal shipping charge.

Open the file of the photo that you are using to calibrate. If you requested the file from a printing lab, they will provide you with a link or a disc containing the image. Place the printed photo next to the displayed photo and compare. Using your monitor controls, adjust the brightness, contrast, and color levels. You will want to adjust the red, blue, and green colors. This can take a while and will require some patience, but the end results will be worth it.

Alternately, you can purchase a program that will calibrate your monitor for you. This is not advised for professional photographers or anyone who needs absolute accuracy. There are more complex programs that use a colorimeter to adjust your monitor. These programs can be very useful to a professional photographer who needs absolute color perfection.

Now that you have calibrated your monitor, you should post process a photo and print it. Then compare the printed photo to the photo on your monitor. You can make adjustments as needed. It is recommended that you calibrate your monitor every two weeks for the best color accuracy.

Remember that different types and brands of paper will give different color results. Using different home printers will also give you different colors. Find one brand of paper or one printer that you like and use it consistently or you will need to recalibrate your monitor. For the amateur, this will not be as important as it is for a professional. Printers need calibrated as well. Follow the directions for your printer to properly calibrate it. If calibrating your monitor does not give the desired results, it might be your printer that needs adjusted.

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