I seem to have a problem processing photos and I am not sure where I am going wrong.

The issue is on my desktop monitor the photos look great. Overall vivid color, brightness, contrast etc. When I export the photos and view them on my laptop all of that is gone. The color isn't as vivid, parts of the image appears blown out, etc.

Here are my steps of how I generally process. I will open the RAW photos in Lightroom. I normally will let Camera Raw try Auto first and see how it does then tweak it from there. After that I might add some Topaz Plugin Adjustments. Once the images look okay on my screen I will then choose to export the images.

Here is a screenshot of my export settings:

Screenshot of export settings

What is it I am just not doing right? I do not have any hardware calibration on my monitors. Is there no other way for me to get photos without buying a hardware monitor calibration unit? I am beyond frustrated with this problem at this point.

Note: While every monitor is going to be different, I still should be able to create an overall good experience. I do not have that at this point.

Here is an example photo:

Example Photo

On my screen nothing is blown out and the colors are vivid. When viewed on my laptop the clouds are blown out and it isn't showing as beautiful as it actually is.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What program are you viewing the image in on your laptop? it could be double profiling (ie applying the windows default + extra profile) secondly, what is your laptop? I have seen some truly shocking screens on them. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2012 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarkcatStudios - Firefox mainly (That place most people will view it in the end.) But I have also viewed it in Lightroom, PS, Bridge. All look fairly the same (can depend on color of background but I view it on the color most will see it on, black.) The laptop is a Dell Vostro 3555. Screen is not the best but I have tweaked it as much as I can. \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    Jul 3, 2012 at 16:03

3 Answers 3


There's nothing wrong with your settings. On my monitor the clouds look fine, not blown out and the greens are nice and saturated.

The most likely explanation is that your laptop screen is inferior i.e. it can't display the same range of colours or the same contrast as your desktop. In addition to that it's not calibrated either.

You don't have to buy hardware calibration, you should be able to get it close enough by eye for your purposes. Simply get both screens side by side, load up one of the images that is distorted and blown out and adjust the settings on your laptop until you get a better match, accepting that it will never look quite as good as the other screen.

Also check your viewing angle as laptop screens can be extremely sensitive to getting the angle just right.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Just wanted to note that if the laptop screen really is that poor -- such as a cheap TN panel that's old and with a failing backlight -- hardware calibration won't help because it simply isn't capable of being calibrated; it's just a bad monitor. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2012 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanWolfgang - I am using a Dell Vostro 3555. It is a fairly new computer, not the best screen and I have tweaked it as much as possible. - Thanks for the information, Matt. \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    Jul 3, 2012 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is likely your answer. Some laptop screens (like my own older dell inspirion) are beyond help unless you reduce the contrast to a point where the screen is too dark. I can't for the life of me tweak the monitor so that it's perfect; either way to dark and no blown out colors or nice and bright with completely obliterated whites and shades of orange. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2012 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jakub - Sounds like mine. \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    Jul 4, 2012 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lynda - apparently dell uses garbage for their screens even though at the time i chose a higher-end screen. I have minor rendering issues even on my new top-of-the-line sony so it just might be that laptop screens are inferior by design. Personally, i really like the apple laptop screens (and only the screens) and the new retna should be stellar. If i remember correctly, some Dell XPS do have good screens as well. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2012 at 13:03

It sounds like you already know the answer to your question. If even after export, your JPEG looks how you want it to on the computer you do your post, then your monitor needs to be calibrated. This is crucial.

Here are some options:

Editing "Template"

With some of the more popular monitors, you can Google the monitor model to find a template that brings you in the right direction. While this does not compensate for your work environment, it can get your monitor much closer to an accurate representation of the final image. Keep in mind that the brightness of the monitor is also very important in post production. I do much of my work at 60-80% brightness when on my laptop.


What is your environment that you are editing? Do you have any unusual lighting on your monitor? Sometimes something as simple as a desk lamp can significantly change what you see.

Dead reckoning

If you are doing post production for other computer screens, pull up a vivid picture on both monitors. Adjust the settings of your monitor until they match. This isn't going to give you the most reliable results, but is an option.


This is the only option that I would truly recommend. Calibration will give you a spot on match that cannot be accomplished any other way. If you don't anticipate your work environment to change constantly, rent one, don't buy. This would be a great time to look at the rental reimbursement since you already have a great example of need and would be able to put together a great blog post on your findings. Borrowlenses is a good resource for rental equipment, including monitor calibrators.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the info and the idea for the rental. I like the rental idea only issues is finding a place that rents them. Not sure if they will because from what I have read software is required and most places do not rent items that require software to be installed. \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    Jul 3, 2012 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added a last sentence with a link that might answer your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – AndyML
    Jul 3, 2012 at 16:40

As you have inferred, what you are observing is a consequence of imprecise (or impossible, or whatever) monitor calibration.

It's true that a hardware calibration unit would be the best course, but you can do something by yourself. It will not be precise, but when I still hadn't got my xrite, I had used it and it had improved things. The technique is explained (in a very readable manner, as usual) in this article at Cambridge in Colour.

Basically you have to manually adjust, starting from neutral settings, contrast and brightness of your display until some test images look as described by the text.

I suggest you to try: it will take only few minutes and could improve your viewing experience.


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