When it comes to editing photographs, one of the critical elements is the color your monitor displays. If the colors aren't right, your images won't look the way you intended, whether viewed on-screen or processed and printed
. Therefore, it's essential to calibrate your monitor regularly to get the best possible results.
Fortunately, this is a simple task, but it's one that every photographer needs to do if they want the best results.
3 Methods For Calibrating Your Monitor
There are three different ways that you can calibrate your monitor effectively.
The first two are free but not as good as the paid-for option. If you're just starting, try the first two options to begin with. As you get more advanced in your photography, you may want to consider buying a proper calibration kit.
1 - On-Board Software
Both Windows PCs and Mac computers feature a tool designed to help you calibrate your monitor. This can be used on the monitor that comes with the computer or the laptop screen and any additional monitors that you connect to your setup. The exact nature of the tool will differ between models, especially on computers using Windows. However, they all tend to work fairly well.
On a Windows PC, go to your display settings and select Color Calibration. The software will take you through the entire process step by step, starting with the gamma settings and moving through brightness, contrast, and color. It will prompt you to select the best option for what you see in terms of colors and grayscale and then calibrate the monitor accordingly. It essentially knows what the color should look like and then adjusts what it displays based on the information you supply.
On a Mac, go to your System Preferences and choose the calibration option under Display and Color. On this operating system, you will start by adjusting the White Point. The other calibration options will include gamma and color, but the exact nature of what you can adjust will depend on the monitor you're using. The software will also walk you through each calibration point to ensure you get the best possible results.
2 - Online Tools
There are several online tools that you can utilize for free on your computer. Some are programs that you download, and others are online software that takes you through the calibration process. Calibrize, Photo Friday and Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages are just a few photographer's top picks.
is a relatively simple tool, but it does give you a specific profile that you can then apply to your monitor settings each time you want to calibrate it. It's all about matching colors using a slider, so the actual color your monitor is showing you is correct.
- Photo Friday
is simply a visual guide to help you see in an instant if the colors you're seeing are off. You go to the landing page and follow the instructions for each section. Depending on what you see, you'll know how to calibrate your computer for correct colors.
- Lagom LCD Monitor Test Pages
is great because it shows you a range of different colors, gradients, levels, and inversions. This is far more in-depth than the on-board software that comes with most computers. It also gives you very detailed instructions on ensuring that your settings are correct, and your monitor shows you true colors while you edit your photographs.
3 - Calibration Kits
The major difference between a calibration kit and the other methods is that the kit does the work for you. The two software options rely on you to decide the right color and what looks best. This means that there's room for error based on how your eyes and brain interpret colors
A calibration kit is made up of a software program for your computer and a physical device that you place onto the monitor. The device looks at the color and the contrast displayed on the monitor and sends the information back to the program on your computer. The software then interprets this physical data based on mechanical light sensors, and adjustments to your monitor are made.
For a professional photographer or designer, this is an absolute must if you want your images to turn out the way you think you're seeing them
. These kits can be somewhat expensive, but they are a worthwhile investment.
Why Is Regular Calibration So Important?
It's incredibly easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the image you're seeing on your computer monitor is true to color. The problem is, monitors are all different – they are manufactured using various components, by different companies and at different times. What's more, as the technology gets older, the monitor can begin to dull or certain parts of it can stop working as well.
All of this can make minor changes to the color being displayed (especially when editing
), making a big difference to a photograph where you've played with color in the edits. If you want to display your body of work in an online photography portfolio
or on social media
, you need to ensure that your finished product is exactly how you want it to look.
In the online sphere, you can't control how people view your work or what they use to view it with. What you can control is the quality of your image through regular calibration of your monitor. This will prevent someone from seeing something wildly different from what you intended if their monitor or device is slightly off. You can also rest assured that if someone buys your work and prints it, they will end up with the image you intended and not one that is influenced by their computer, software, or eyesight.
Calibrating the color of your monitor is an integral part of digital photography
. This simple process should never be neglected as it can affect your end result and your reputation. As every professional photographer knows, it's not just composition that counts; it's color that brings an image to life.
About the author:
With a background in photo editing and as a hobby photographer, Carmen writes for various photography outlets. She spends her free time enjoying the outdoors and discovering new hiking trails.