help with calibrating monitor

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by ernie, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. ernie

    ernie TPF Noob!

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    so, until now i've always assumed the colors on my monitor are correct because every time i look "monitor calibration" up through google, i get sites with some grayscale card telling me that if i can distinguish all the squares, my monitor is fine. i could always see the squares so i figured it was fine. but then i noticed that my photos always seem a lot lighter on other screens i view them on. those other screens would be laptops and flatscreens at work, never a desktop.
    for comparison: on my screen this photo has a subtle transition of colors from black to green, on other monitors it's more abrupt and with layers. a more concrete difference: with me the top right corner (the bricks before the window) are 95 to 100% black, on other monitors they are not.
    comparison #2: this photo has a 95% black sky with me in the left top corner, on other computers there is an obvious green hint.

    so, do i need to calibrate my monitor? and what software or hardware would you recommend? any other info on this would be appreciated.
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yes, you really do need a calibration device to properly calibrate your monitor. Doing it by eye is just not accurate enough if you are concerned about accurate prints, which most of us are.

    I recommend the Spyder from Datacolor. There are different software packages, so be sure to compare them and choose the right one for you.
     
  3. ernie

    ernie TPF Noob!

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    thanks for the quick reply! but when you say "yes you do need to calibrate your monitor", is that because you have checked my photos and noticed the difference, or more as a general advice?
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    No, I haven't checked your photos. I'm not even on a calibrated monitor now, so I couldn't say for sure.

    In general, calibrating by eye isn't accurate enough...which is why it requires a calibration hardware device.
     
  5. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have checked your photo on my calibrated screen and yes the bottom one appears green, but the top seems to match your description quite well.

    Mike is very right, the visual tests can help determine only what gamma the screen is set at, and not it's adherence to the perfect gamma curve. This sounds like it may be a problem for you while the screen can appear to have a gamma of 2.2 the dark end of the scale may not be smoothly following the proper curve.
    Also the visual boxes can only show if you can distinguish two different shades, they do not provide an indication of how far apart these shades really are or if they track the colour correctly. For instance being able to distinguish 0 and 1 black, and 254 and 255 white only shows that your screen's contrast allows you to tell the two apart, it doesn't not mean that it'll be right for all other shades, or that the difference between the shades stays constant, or that the shades stay perfectly grey as they change. This problem is the worst in the dark shades which LCDs have difficulty with typically.

    Ok so the solution, buy a simple hardware calibrator. I suggest a Spyder 3 or Eye-One (i1) Display 2. I don't suggest a Spyder 2 for future proofing, as they have problems with wider colour gamuts, and if you buy a wide gamut screen down the line you don't want the calibrator stuffing your colours up. These can be had for $100-200 including basic software.
     
  6. ernie

    ernie TPF Noob!

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    ok, thanks a lot already for the helpful replies. i think i will probably get the spyder3pro, it's over 150 dollars but that's more than worth it when you spend thousands of dollars on lenses trying to get the perfect photo, and then screw it up because of wrong post-processing.

    so let me get this straight one last time: i buy the device/software, calibrate my monitor and it will be safe to assume that with every quality printshop i will get a result back that looks exactly like the photo on my monitor? assuming the printservice has decent printers and delivers quality etc.
    on the other side, for viewing on the internet it will probably make no difference at all, since most people have no calibrated monitors, right? so they'll still see it somewhat different. this device is only to make sure YOU view your photos correctly, and that your prints match your work 100%.

    also, is it possible that after a calibration i end up with the same results as before? meaning i would have bought the whole thing for nothing? or is that very unlikely?
     
  7. FrankLamont

    FrankLamont TPF Noob!

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    I'm not sure on the whole calibration thing myself.

    I've never done it... *cringe*

    But correct me if I'm wrong, which I think I am:

    It's either:
    a) you don't need to calibrate it, only the printers do...
    b) you need to calibrate it every step of the way so the image can 'pass through' your computer to another without losing any of the 'right' pigment, hue, etc.

    I know that crappy printers don't calibrate their machines so often, but that doesn't matter. The point is, don't use crappy printers. :D
     
  8. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    No this device ensures that the prints are standard. Sure there will be people with horrid monitors viewing your image, but there will also be people with nice monitors who should see it the same way you do. But one thing is certain your prints will not match 100% to the screen. For that you need a lot more work. Lets assume that you use a lab with perfectly calibrated printers. Now you need to check your viewing conditions. The print will match the screen if and only if it is viewed in a viewing booth with the same colour temperature, perfectly white paper (so often blueish paper and CT that's 1000K warmer), same brightness, with little effect from room lighting, AND you "softproof" the image on the computer to emulate the colours the calibrated printer is capable of printing on the selected paper.

    Perfect matches of this quality are unlikely to be seen outside industries which depend on them like the people working at Pantone. What the calibrator allows you to do is make sure you can see all of the image as you are editing, and that the contrast curve is consistent. Ensuring that you can see that colour is actually a colour and not black.

    If you don't calibrate how do you know what you are looking at. The idea is to calibrate your viewing device, and obtain a profile for the next viewing device (printer). That way once your screen is calibrated you can have photoshop emulate what the printer will produce, and work on that. If the print is then viewed under perfect conditions it will match the screen perfectly. This process is called SoftProofing.
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Garbz is correct.
    You use the device to calibrate your monitor...so that what you are seeing, is accurate. If it's not accurate, you might be adding red to make it look 'normal'...but in actuality, you might be adding too much red. Then you won't know why your prints turn out looking too red. (or whatever color/tone)

    You just need to calibrate once during your workflow...but you should recalibrate on a regular basis...maybe once a month or every two months etc.

    Gabrz also mentioned soft proofing. Not all printers are the same. Actually, most of them are going to be slightly different. Pro labs will give out their printing profile and you can use this to estimate what the prints will look like. For the most part, it should look the same as what you are working one...but sometimes you may find that there are some differences, so you can tweak your image before sending it to that lab.
    You can also profile your own printer with a different device or send out test charts to get a custom profile for you printer and paper combination. But the first step is properly calibrating your monitor...that way, you know that what you see is fairly accurate.

    I should also mention that many monitors are not ideal for accurate tones & colors. Most LCD monitors are too bright because it looks good for gaming and general computing...but it's not ideal for accurate colors. There are professional level monitors that are made to be more accurate...or at least they are made so that they can be calibrated more accurately. Basically, when you use something like the Spyder on a normal monitor, it creates a profile that is loaded into your video card on start up...but the problem is that the video card is trying to correct problems with the monitor...so it's not always as accurate as possible. A monitor with it's own LUT (look up tables) can have the calibration profile loaded right into it...so that the corrections are done by the monitor and not the video card.

    But for now, I'd suggest starting with a basic monitor calibration device.
     
  10. SpeedTrap

    SpeedTrap TPF Noob!

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    Also watch that there are several models of Spyder and if you are working on a single monitor you will not need the Spyer Pro. The Basic version will do. The hardware is the same between them, only the software changes.
     
  11. ernie

    ernie TPF Noob!

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    so in order for your prints to match your screen, you need to 1) calibrate your monitor and 2) calibrate your printer?
    seeing how i don't have a printer that can be used for photo printing (too old & crappy), can i assume that decent printlabs use the same "standards" as the ones the calibration device will set on my monitor?

    i've noticed that most lcd-screens are too bright yes, but i still have one of those big screens (CRT i think it's called, 19"). it's already 5 years old, is it possible that calibrating it will not make much of a difference?
     
  12. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The first, and most important (I think) step is to calibrate the monitor. You can use existing printer profiles for the printer, although yes, properly calibrating the printer can make a difference.

    Print labs will have a specific 'profile' for their printers. Many labs will send you their profile, which you can use to 'softproof' your images. So with a calibrated monitor and the proper print profile, you should be able to get pretty accurate prints.

    For you home printer, you can buy a print calibration tool, or you can use a print calibration service. As I understand it, you download a color chart to print. You then send in the chart and they use a calibration tool on it, generate a print profile and send you the file. Remember that paper brand & type also make a difference, so you may need to get different calibrations for your favorite papers.
     

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