Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I asked a question about how hardware calibration works. The answer provided was this:

These hardware calibration devices work by running a piece of software on the computer that displays a series of colors and gray levels. By placing the spyder reading device on the computer monitor, it is able to "see" what the computer is displaying. By taking a series of measurements, a profile of the total system including video drivers and monitor quirks can be assessed. Once this profile is built, it is usually loaded into the OS so that the monitor then displays calibrated image colors.

The question is: how does the calibration of my monitor affect the viewing of my photos on other monitors?

My line of thought is, since I am editing the photo to a true color calibration (vs. what I think is correct according to my monitor without calibration), the end users monitor will (hopefully) display the picture more accurately then what it would look like if I did it without hardware calibration. Is my line of thought correct? Am I missing something?

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5 Answers 5

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The only sensible thing you can do is to calibrate your monitor and work your images with respect to how they are intended to be displayed.

The problem is that there is not one way for monitors to be miscalibrated. An uncalibrated monitor will simply give different colors. Different uncalibrated monitors are likely to give different colors and the magnitude of the difference will also differ from monitor to monitor. So, any time you change colors in your images, some people will see things more the way you intended and some people less. However, if you do it on a calibrated system, better more calibrated monitors will see something better.

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Well, there's no need for me to finish the last sentence of my answer saying the same thing now... –  user2719 Jun 25 '12 at 2:26

how does the calibration of my monitor effect the viewing of my photos on other monitors?

There are two sources of errors when editing images on one monitor to be viewed on another monitor, and that is the miscalibration of your monitor, and the miscalibration on the other monitor.

By calibrating your monitor you are elliminating (at least mostly) the first error source, but the second still remains.

You can't know whether calibrating your monitor will actually give a better result for one specific end user, but by average the result is better.

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This is a concern that has existed for quite a long time, but it's important to recognize how this problem has changed over the years.

Back when CRTs were not just standard but preferred, it was easy to find widely-varied settings. You needn't look hard: chances are everyone in your office had very different settings and most would have contrast and brightness set way too high, let alone having the red, green, and blue guns actually firing appropriate values to correctly render colors.

Mature LCD technology changed so much of that. Results are very consistent across screens, models, and manufacturers. Black and white points are set pretty reasonably. Colors are relatively accurate. A calibrated and profiled screen gives a pretty clear edge, IMO, even on an LCD -- but that the results are so consistent means you can be fairly confident that your photo looks good most anywhere.

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While may sample is not huge, I do not believe your statement about LCD maturity is true. I spent 4 years evaluating LCDs and at least across different models (basically one of each mid-range to ultra-high-end model available), color response varies enormously. Not only that, even a calibrated LCD drifts in color. High end displays monitor the backlight and adjust themselves to stay more constant. –  Itai Jun 25 '12 at 18:07
    
Oh, yes, there is certainly still drift and varied response across models and manufacturers. But compared to how bad it was with CRTs, this is an amazing time. –  Dan Wolfgang Jun 25 '12 at 18:25

I would agree with you Lynda - As you are editing what is essentially a "true" copy, the experience of other viewers should be as close to true as their equipment allows (un calibrated)

What I mean by this is: If your un-calibrated has a green cast and you are trying to make a B&W image look neutral, you will end up with an image with a red cast on a calibrated monitor. Therefore by editing on a calibrated monitor, you are at least sending out a true image in the first place.

This monitor I'm on right now (at work) makes all greys look slightly pink. I have seen some shocking examples of B&W images (on my calibrated monitor) that have been strongly pink, green, yellow.... they all say: "well it looked right on mine!"

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When you calibrated your monitor, you generated an ICC profile. You can embed this profile in your pictures, and any software on another computer that is able to interpret it should be able to use it to render colors.

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5  
You are wrong, an ICC profile embedded in the image tells the computer what real-life color is every color in the image but since every monitor is different the computer has no way of knowing what color on the monitor will produce the desired result, you need two ICC profiles: one for the image (that tells you for example what exact shade of red RGB 255,0,0 is supposed to be) and another for the monitor (that tells you what signal you need to send the monitor to get that shade red) –  Nir Jun 25 '12 at 6:41

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