Monitors and Calibration Systems for Digital Photography

January 25, 2009 | | Comments 44

Serious digital photography is impossible without a high-quality calibrated monitor. Serious photographers should consider investing in a “professional graphics grade” monitor that is capable of displaying more than a billion colors. Displays in this category are expensive but worth it for those looking to make fine-art prints.

Buying a high-quality screen is only the first step in the equation. You will also need a monitor calibration tool and the appropriate software to recalibrate your screen on a regular basis. The monitor calibrator, and its software, build a color correction profile that automatically compensates for the disparity between the colors that your screen should be displaying and the colors that are actually appearing on the surface of the glass. Once you have the whole calibration process figured out, it will take you less than twenty minutes to recalibrate your display every few months.

It is impossible to make accurate adjustments to our images using software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom without an accurately calibrated display. Our eyes cannot make reliable decisions about the brightness or color casts that we perceive in our images unless we can trust the accuracy of our screen. Trying to improve images on a poorly calibrated display is counterproductive for the really serious photographer. I urge you to spend the extra time and money needed to true up your screen before you get too involved in learning Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

It is easy for me to say that serious photographers need “professional-grade graphics” displays and monitor calibration utilities. I can give this advice but I cannot make specific recommendations about which monitor, or calibration tool, are the best choices for you. The right hardware for you will vary based on your computer’s video card, your computer’s operating system, and your budget. It is easy to spend a lot of money on monitors and calibration tools but not every photographer needs “top of the line” equipment. All I can say is do your research and make informed purchasing decisions.

Click here for a series of video tutorials on how to calibrate a Mac using the Xrite i1 Display 2 Calibration System. For those needing step-by-step directions on how to calibrate most any monitor using a variety of different calibration programs, I recommend reading Color Confidence: The Digital Photographer’s Guide to Color Management (Tim Grey Guides). You can even download one of the book’s best chapters for free here. Those seeking more technical information about the whole science of Color Management should definitely read Andrew Rodney’s great Why Are My Prints Too Dark article.


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About the Author: David Marx teaches digital photography workshops and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom training classes. David is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and in Adobe Photoshop. David has lead workshops and seminars for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, the American Society of Media Photographers, FirstLight Photography Workshops, and he teaches annually at the world-famous Blackberry Farm Resort. For more information on his Photoshop Lightroom training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit You can also follow daily updates and see new images from David on Google+.