Photo by Linus Mimietz on Unsplash
If you’re interested in editing your photographs like a professional photographer, you’re going to need to learn how to calibrate a monitor. Regardless of what type of monitor you have, it needs to be calibrated so that when you edit pictures on the computer, they turn out the way you want them to.
The issue is that no monitor comes already calibrated. Even if you have a high-end monitor that costs a small fortune, it still needs to be calibrated to display true colors. Without proper calibration, you’ll never know if the colors that you’re seeing on your monitor are true representations of the colors in the actual picture.
For amateur photographers, calibration may not be that big of an issue. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may not even notice a big difference. But if you’re printing photographs professionally, if you’re trying to sell photographs online, or if you’re a perfectionist, color calibration is a must.
The good news is that it’s easy to calibrate a monitor for perfect photo editing. With a properly calibrated monitor, you can edit and process pictures with any software, you can view other people’s work the way it’s meant to be viewed, and others can see your photographs in their best light.
Do I Need To Calibrate My Monitor for Photos?
One of the main reasons to calibrate a monitor is so that printed images look exactly like they do on your screen. One of the biggest issues with not calibrating a monitor is that when you print your photographs, they look different than how you saw them in the editing software. This is because your monitor needs to be calibrated and in sync with your printer.
If you print photos, you absolutely need to calibrate your monitor. Calibration consists of adjusting colors, brightness, vibrancy, and contrast to match the printed product. There is a single standard that everyone uses when calibrating their monitors. This means your monitor will be calibrated exactly the same as every other professional photographer. Think of monitor calibration as a single unit of measurement that doesn’t change, regardless of computer, monitor, or software.
Do you need to calibrate your monitor even if you’re not printing photographs? That depends on how accurate you want your pictures to be when you share them with friends or post them on social media.
Let’s say one of your photographer friends has a monitor that’s been properly calibrated. When you send them photos that you’ve taken and edited on an uncalibrated monitor, chances are they won’t look the same on your friend’s monitor. The pictures will likely look worse, which can lead to some embarrassment and confusion.
To stay safe, it’s best to take five minutes to calibrate your monitor. It’ll be easier and more satisfying when you’re editing pictures, and you’ll never need to worry about posting or sending photographs that don’t look right on other people’s computers.
With a calibrated monitor, there is absolutely no way that your finished edit won’t look amazing to everyone who sees it!
How to Calibrate Your Monitor for Photography
There are three main methods used to calibrate a monitor. You can use the integrated calibration tools on your computer, be it Mac or windows. Then there are online calibration tools that require nothing more than an Internet connection. And finally, you can purchase an expert calibration kit.
For amateurs, the easiest and fastest way is definitely using integrated calibration tools. The effectiveness of these tools depends on just how new your computer is. For example, older versions of Windows won’t have as sophisticated tools for calibrating color and contrast as newer versions.
Calibrating a Monitor for Windows PC
If you have a computer with Windows 10, calibrating your monitor will take just a few seconds. The first step is to right-click on your desktop, find the display settings, then locate the color calibration option. This should open up a calibration tool.
Inside the calibration tool, you can adjust the gamma, the brightness, the contrast, and the color. The best thing about using this tool is that Windows walks you through each step. You don’t even need to know what the different settings are. Just follow the instructions until the very end, then click finish.
That’s all there is to it. Windows guides you through the whole process and when you’re finished, your monitor will be properly calibrated so that you never have to stress about inaccurate colors again.
Calibrating Monitor for Mac
Calibrating a monitor hooked up to a Mac computer is incredibly easy. First, find your system preferences, then click on display, next click on color, and lastly on calibration. This will bring you to the calibration tool, which will then walk you through every step of calibrating your monitor.
The integrated guide will know what type of display monitor you have and give you settings to adjust based on that. You’ll adjust white point, gamma, contrast, and of course, color. Your computer will ultimately create a specialized color profile based on your monitor settings. You can even assign a name to the color profile and save it in your settings.
This is awesome for people who switch between monitors while using the same computer. You can have different color profiles saved for different monitors.
How to Calibrate Your Monitor Online
If you can’t bother with the internal calibration tools of your computer, you can always go online and do it yourself for free. There are two options that we want to recommend. One requires you to download some easy-to-use software while the other will check your monitor calibration straight from its landing page.
Photo Friday is an awesome visual checker for any monitor. It’s completely free, it has simple instructions, and it works to immediately check the calibration of your monitor. Unfortunately, since it is a free tool and not much more than a visual checker, you don’t get a whole lot of tools for altering calibration.
Photo Friday is a great tool to use periodically just to make sure that your calibrations are still working properly. Even with the best monitors, lights can get dull, things can change, and you should be sure to calibrate regularly. Photo Friday is a quick tool to use once a month to make sure your calibration is up to date.
Another great program is called Calibrize. This is also a free tool, though you need to download the software onto your computer. Once downloaded, you can use the software to adjust the four main components: brightness, contrast, gamma, and white point.
Calibrize also allows you to save color profiles and then apply them to your monitor. You can have differently calibrated profiles to use on different monitors.
As a bonus, you might want to check out Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages. This is an online calibration tool that provides you with various images to test just how well your monitor is working. You can check the black level, the contrast, the gradients, and so much more.
This free tool even comes with simple instructions for each step of the calibration. Sharpness, white saturation, inversion, and even viewing angle. This is the most detailed calibration software for those who need their monitors working perfectly.
Monitor Calibration Kits for Photography
Using the integrated calibration tools on your computer or the free online software will definitely help keep your monitor performing with precision. However, all these tools depend on you making the correct adjustments. What this means is that they calibrate your monitor based on your interpretations of color and contrast. This leaves a small margin for error.
If you want absolutely no margin for error, we recommend a monitor calibration kit. Yes, these kits can be quite expensive, anywhere between $150 and $300. But they’re worth every single penny if you want perfect calibration with the highest accuracy.
Calibration kits work to properly calibrate any monitor without any input from you. Simply sit back, activate the software, and your monitor will be calibrated to the highest degree possible. This is easy, fast, and highly effective.
Calibrating your monitor is a crucial step to becoming a professional photographer. Remember that when you print images, they don’t always look like what you’re seeing on your computer screen. At the same time, other people viewing your photos on their personal computers may not see the same colors as you if your monitor is not calibrated.
By calibrating your monitor, you’re setting yourself up for success. Calibration takes no more than a few minutes. It ensures that your computer screen is displaying a standardized version of colors, tones, and contrasts. What you see on your calibrated screen will be the same as everyone else who has calibrated screens. This is a must for all photographers who want to be taken seriously.
You can calibrate your monitor using your computer’s system settings, you can do it for free using an online program, or you can pay for a professional calibration kit. Either method you choose, you’ll notice an immediate difference in the quality of the edits you make on your home computer.
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