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Photo Contest Insider Blog

Why you should always calibrate your screen before editing

February 7, 2017

You may wonder why you are always encouraged to calibrate your monitor. Calibration, for the uninitiated, is the process of ensuring that your monitor shows “true” colours, with no tint which might affect how you see the images on your screen. It also includes setting the brightness and contrast of your screen to the right level. But why should you bother – especially when it can be a time-consuming and repetitive process? Here’s why.

To edit properly

When you are editing photographs, do you play around with the levels or the saturation? If so, then you definitely need to have a calibrated monitor. Let’s imagine for a moment that your screen has a purple tint that you are unaware of. You decide to add a purple colour cast to one of your images, but tone it down so that it doesn’t look so strong. You love the finished result and add it to your website. Now you take a look on your phone – and lo and behold, the image doesn’t look purple there at all. This is because your screen wasn’t calibrated to the right colours. If you want to edit your photographs properly, then you absolutely need a calibrated screen.

To match products to life

If you are involved in product photography, particularly on a commercial level, then colour toning becomes even more important. The client will expect you to produce an image which shows the true colours of their product, so that their customers can see what they are purchasing. If you do not have a calibrated screen, then you may waste hours by getting the colours exactly right only to find that they look different when your client views them. If you have a calibrated screen, you will be able to say to them with confidence that you have delivered your work in true colour, even if their screen has a tint.

To print your work

If you ever print your work, calibration is a necessity. First of all, you need to calibrate your screen to be sure that the image you want to print looks exactly the way that you think it does. Secondly, you will have to calibrate the image to your printer and the type of paper that you are using. If you do not do this, you may find that the print does not look how you expected. There may be areas of darker colour where the paper has become saturated, or you may find the whole thing has a different level of contrast than you expected. The colours may be inaccurate, too. Printing your work for archival purposes won’t make a difference here, but if you are printing for display or to sell, then you absolutely must ensure that your monitor is calibrated fully.

When to calibrate

Finally, let’s take a look at when you should calibrate your monitor. Once a week may be a good rule of thumb for a monitor which stays in one place without changes in lighting. If you are using a laptop, you will need to calibrate far more regularly. You need to redo it any time you change the angle of your screen or move to a different room. If the lighting changes – for example, if you are sitting outside from morning to evening – you will also need to recalibrate. Remember to check your screen regularly even if you keep it in the same place and you don’t think that anything has changed.

If you don’t calibrate your monitor before editing photographs, then you simply are not doing a professional job to the fullest possible extent. When working at a high level, uncalibrated screens can ruin an image and also your reputation.

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