Why calibrate your computer monitor? There’s a lot of information out there on calibration and colour profiles, much of which is very complicated indeed, so I would like to try and explain the purpose of this procedure as simply and clearly as possible.
If you have a photograph that you have carefully adjusted to look great, and then you change your monitor’s on-screen colour settings, you can easily make it look terrible. But wait, all you have done is change your monitor’s colour – you haven’t changed your photograph image file at all! So what does my photo REALLY look like? The answer is, without monitor calibration, you simply don’t know.
So, what is calibration? Calibration is the process of adjusting a monitor’s settings such that the colours it displays are accurate. This can be done very crudely by eye, or, much more reliably, by the use of a small hardware device such as the one I have used here – the Datacolour Spyder.
The device calibrates your monitor by using software to display a standard range of red green and blue colour tones, and ‘looking’ at them to see the degree to which they differ from the way they should look. The software then adjusts the colour settings of your monitor to make them match.
Why should I calibrate my monitor, after all I’m happy with the way my photos look, and the prints I get back are just fine? In answer, if all you are concerned with are the photos you get back for your own use, then it really doesn’t matter. However, if you intend to sell your images or services, then you absolutely need to know that, wherever you get your images printed, they are going to look as you intend them to look.
What’s more, if your client doesn’t like the look of a digital image, you will know that it is likely to be their monitor which is not displaying the colour correctly. You can then give your client an informed choice: yes, of course I can adjust the image for you, but then it may look wrong if you send it to anyone else.