One of the most frustrating aspects of digital imaging is getting prints that do not resemble the beautiful images that we see on a computer monitor. Are your own prints as impressive as the images you saw in the electronic display? Or do they exhibit an undesirable color cast or unsatisfactory brightness?
Problems such as these are common when making prints after modifying images using a computer if the monitor does not produce a true display of an image's actual color and brightness/contrast. In order to achieve a high level of satisfaction with any print, you must be confident that your monitor accurately reflects the characteristics of a digital image: the correct brightness, contrast and color rendition. That's easy to achieve with color management. While there can be more to that, monitor calibration is the primary component.
The concept of color management can be complicated and multi-faceted, but the most important aspect, monitor calibration, is straightforward. After installing the software that came with the kit, and attaching the sensor to the monitor, follow the on-screen instructions. Photo Courtesy of Daymen
Hardware and Software: In order to ensure that images are displayed with maximum accuracy, buy a monitor calibration kit such as a Datacolor Spyder3. The affordable Express works well (about $100) but serious photographers might want the Spyder3 Elite (about $250). Especially with Express, the calibration process is straightforward and should take less than 10 minutes.
Settings: If you're using a Windows Operating System, disable the computer's Adobe Gamma feature before calibration. Right click on Start > Open All Users > Programs > Start Up and if Adobe Gamma is listed, delete it. This will not actually delete that software but will prevent it from interfering with the more sophisticated calibration software. If given the option to set a desired Gamma and White Point, I recommend setting 2.2 and 6500K, respectively.
The calibration software will create a profile for your monitor and adjust the display so it provides greater accuracy re: brightness, contrast and color rendition. As you start working with a fully reliable monitor, you should find that the display produces substantially greater accuracy. When you make a print, it should closely match the appearance of the image on your monitor display in color rendition and in tonal values. That should certainly minimize frustration, reducing the need to make a lot of test prints that can waste time, ink and paper.
- Also, Peter is a contributor to the just-published The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and the upcoming The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light (due out in April 2012). Both of these how-to photography books are co-authored by Jim Miotke and Kerry Drager.