Color calibration should definitely be an essential part of every photographer’s workflow. Otherwise, it is impossible to tell whether the colors that are displayed by your monitor are truly accurate and whether what you see will match the print. There are many ways to do it and the process can be fairly simple or complex, depending on how accurate you want to reproduce the colors and whether you are also printing your work in-house. The simple method involves a hardware colorimeter for color profiling your monitor for everyday photo editing and image viewing, and there is also an end-to-end professional-grade color profiling that requires very concise calibration of all display and output devices, such as printers. In this article, I will only focus on simple methods to make your monitor show more or less accurate colors, so that you could rely on it for everyday photography needs.
One of the most frequently asked questions from our readers and friends is related to picking a good monitor for photography needs. It seems like the market is over-saturated with all kinds of choices, whether you visit a local store or browse through an online catalog. There are all kinds of monitors for different budgets and some models might leave you wondering why they are so expensive compared to others. Since there is no simple answer to this question, I decided to write a detailed article with my personal recommendations.
The subject of monitor calibration and profiling can be quite difficult to understand not only for a beginner, but also for professionals working in the field. With so many different hardware and software components, color profiles, bit depth and other related terminologies, one can get quickly confused and lost, potentially ending up with a rather poor working environment. Having a badly-calibrated monitor is not only counter-productive, it is also potentially harmful for one’s business, especially when dealing with paying customers and clients. Due to the complexity of the topic, our team at Photography Life requested help from a real expert, who will be providing detailed information on how to properly calibrate monitors for photography needs. But first, some basic concepts need to be understood. This particular article is just an introduction to cover the basics of calibration and profiling, without going into too many technical details.
Buying photography equipment for the first time is a daunting task. Useful guides exist to help beginners choose a good camera, but few newcomers realize that the camera itself is only the first of many pieces of equipment necessary to create a full setup for photography. In this guide, I will suggest a complete kit — everything from lens cloths to computer monitors — that will provide a beginner with high quality images (and room to grow) for a price of around 2000 US dollars.
After we published our article on 10 bit per channel workflow, our readers requested to provide information on how to calibrate monitors with a built-in Look-Up Table (LUT). Specifically, a number of our readers asked to provide a detailed guide on how to properly calibrate the Dell U2413, U2713H and U3014 monitors, which we have recommended a number of times before due to their affordable price, attractive features and superb color reproduction for photography needs. Historically, true 10-bit and higher monitors with hardware LUT capabilities were extremely expensive, making them only attractive to those with large budgets. With the introduction of sub-$500 monitors featuring professional-grade IPS panels (read our article on best monitors for photography to understand IPS terminology), those with tighter budgets are now seriously considering such monitors for photography work. Unfortunately, many end up even more confused after acquiring such tools due to questions related to proper monitor calibration.
Many photographers have been buying expensive wide gamut monitors in order to take a full advantage of their ability to display over a billion of colors. What many do not realize, is that their actual workflow is most likely limited to just 16.7 million colors due to software and hardware limitations. How does one achieve a true 10 bit per channel, or 30 bit workflow? What are the advantages and is it worth the effort? To answer these questions, I decided to dig into the 30 bit photography workflow in detail and explain its advantages, disadvantages and also discuss its future.
If you are looking for a professional-grade IPS monitor (if you have no idea what IPS means, see “this article“) for your photography needs, then check out this HP DreamColor LP2480zx that is currently on sale at B&H for $799. Yes, that’s a hefty price for a monitor, but keep in mind that this is a professional monitor specifically designed to accurately reproduce over 1 billion colors (12-bit look up table with 100% Adobe RGB and sRGB Color Coverage). With a 6 ms response time, this is one amazing monitor that can be used for pretty much anything you throw at it, including gaming. And the $799 price is a heavy discount, because the retail price of this monitor is a whopping $2,299! I looked at a number of websites and could not find this monitor cheaper than $1500, so this is a very good deal.
As you know, I have been working on various purchase guides for our readers. Previously, I posted the DSLR Camera Purchase Guide and today I am happy to announce that I have just posted the Monitor Purchase Guide. The guide is accessible on the top of the page, under our “Gear Guide“. Each and every purchase guide that I complete is an interactive system based on your preferences, budget, currently owned systems, etc. Here is a screenshot of a 24” Dell monitor, based on size preference:
I normally do not post any new product announcements, but this one got me excited. I personally own and love two 24″ Dell UltraSharp U2410 monitors in dual monitor configuration, as I pointed in my “best monitors for photography” article. A couple of days ago, Dell announced a new wide gamut 24″ IPS display with LED backlight, the Dell UltraSharp U2412M, which sports some very impressive features at only $399 retail price. That’s a great price, because 24″ IPS panels typically cost $500+.