Image processing – Calibrating a good foundation

I recently purchased a new monitor in an attempt to upgrade my old 24″ LCD monitor to a new 27″ LED monitor. It all sounds great and it was (initially), until I ran into all sorts of trouble in respect of color management and the calibration of my new monitor… I spent hours searching the web for answers and with the help of some good friends I got things sorted out. This whole “drama” is a story on its own, but it reminded me of how I wished somebody told me about monitor calibration when I started posting my images on the web during or about 2010!”Color management” and “monitor calibration”? What am I talking about? Well, I also did not know what it meant from a photographer’s point of view until recently. To be honest, there still are a lot of technical issues that I do not understand, but the purpose of this blog post is just to steer you in the right direction to begin with.Getting your monitor calibrated IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP before you even start processing your images, because what you see on your monitor is not necessarily what others will see on their monitors if they browse the web, or what you will see when you print your image… In addition, what is the use of spending a lot of money on cameras and lenses, if your printed images or your images on the web are going to look crappy in any event, because you did not lay a proper foundation for your processing workflow?

Let me give you an example… This is one of my first images I posted on the web and processed the image  with an uncalibrated monitor. Now, forget about all the other flaws in the processing (hey, I processed this image during the beginning of 2010 and knew almost nothing about processing!), and concentrate on the colors, brightness and exposure of the image….

Not very impressive, right?! (I thought the image rocked after I processed it, because it did not look all that dark and weird on my monitor at the time!!) I recently processed the same image with a monitor that was properly calibrated…

 

You will see the HUGE DIFFERENCE between the two images above whether or not your monitor is calibrated at present!

So, how do you calibrate your monitor? There are basically two ways, of which one is the wrong way and the other the correct (and only) way.

The WRONG WAY is to use your operating system’s build-in display calibration software. In Windows 7 you will  go to Control Panel > Display > Calibrate Color. Why is this the wrong way? Well, do yourself a favor and go through the whole calibration process – You will note that the process depends on your  own perception of what is good or bad in adjusting the settings of your monitor manually and as such “the human factor” is brought into play and the adjustments are very subjective. Your display might even end up looking worst than it did, because some monitors’ factory settings are “pretty good” (but not up to standard).

The CORRECT WAY is to use a monitor calibration kit like the SPYDER4 PROCOLORMUNKI or the i1DISPLAY PRO. I am using the Spyder4 Pro at present and will briefly take you through the basics to illustrate how simple and fast the whole process is…

In the box you will find a CD with the necessary software, the Spyder4 sensor, a stand and a user guide (with only the very basics illustrated).

Once you have installed the software from the CD, your are allowed to connect the Spyder via a USB port to your computer and you can run the software. The software is really user friendly and you do not have to be the inventor of gun powder to understand the instructions…

Choose your display type…

You will be asked whether you want to do a full calibration, recalibration or whether you just want to check your calibration. Note my settings for an LCD or LED display. Keep these settings when requested to do so and do not change it to the “recommended” settings (trust me on this, even though I cannot explain the reasoning behind all the advice I got in this regard)….

 

The Spyder will first take a reading of the ambient light whilst in its stand, whereafter you will be prompted to  place the Spyder on the monitor…

 

 

Once you have placed the Spyder in position, it starts working its magic…

 

At some stage you will be requested to adjust the brightness of your monitor…

Once the Spyder has finished the calibration process with almost no input from yourself (hence eliminating the human error element almost entirely), you will be requested to enter a name for the color profile that was created, the software will save that profile and make sure it is the profile displayed by your monitor. You will be able to view the calibrated and uncalibrated view (which is always very interesting)…

 

You can also make use of some other fancy tests the software offers, but as far as the calibration is concerned, all is done by now!

Hope the aforesaid is of some help to those who are thinking of calibrating their displays (as they should).

RENé DAMKOT posted a very interesting and helpful post on his blog which can be found HERE.

An absolute must read is an article written by ROGER CLARK on monitor calibration, which can be found HERE. Included in this article is a practical test which you can run to see whether your monitor is calibrated and/or whether your web browser supports color management. The latter is a whole new topic…

Well, this is my first blog post in a series of posts in which I will share my experiences and the advice I received in getting started with image processing. I trust it was helpful to you!

Keep those shutter buttons down…

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