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Is it possible to calibrate correctly and identically (or nearly) 2 monitors? I'm really getting into more professionnal photography so I recently bought an external monitor, and a Spyder to calibrate it. However after calibrating the 2 devices, I find that the result on each monitor is exactly the same as the sRGB ICC profile. Fine by me, but the 2 monitors still show very different results in terms of color and contrast, which makes it impossible for me to work on my photographs.

How can I fix this? I'm considering sending back the Spyder 5 to get a refund since it's apparently not having any effect. Should I by a different one?

I know I don't have the best equipment, but I'm on a really tight budget so I hope to be able to make the most of it.

Thanks for your help everyone

My gear:

Asus Vivobook s550ca / External Monitor BenQ GW2255 (recently purchased) / Spyder 5 Express (recently purchased) / Sony A33 and recently purchased Sony A77 mII

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EDIT: There is already a question concerning a similar problem How do I calibrate two displays to the same color? (LCD, LED backlight and CCFL backlight) but I sincerely am not qualified to say whether the other one answers my problem or not - I'm really not an expert, which is why I'm asking a question in the first place.

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Is it possible to calibrate correctly and identically (or nearly) 2 monitors?

Only if they're identical display types. There are many different types of LCD display, and several non-LCD display types besides. Two different display types may simply be incapable of producing the same color gamut, brightness levels, evenness of illumination, contrast, etc.

ASUS doesn't say what kind of LCD your laptop has, but it's probably TN. Your external display is a VA type LCD, which is contrastier than TN, and more even in terms of lighting, but not as good as IPS. Most touch screen technologies also affect image quality, because they put arrays of microscopic stuff in between the actual LCD and your eyes.

You might feel that these difficulties make calibration pointless, but it isn't so. Proper calibration brings your monitor as close to the objective ideal as its technology makes possible. If you edit your photos on a properly-calibrated monitor, they will also look good on other calibrated monitors, even if they don't look exactly the same as on yours. On uncalibrated monitors, your photos may not look as good as you would like, but that's unavoidable; this was true before you calibrated your display, too.

I find that the result on each monitor is exactly the same as the sRGB ICC profile.

Are you setting the per-monitor ICC profile? Simply building the profile with your calibration tool may not be enough. You might have to install it manually, or manually select it in the OS's display settings, depending on how the calibration software works.

which makes it impossible for me to work on my photographs

Nonsense. Your external display is almost certainly a better display, objectively speaking, so do your actual photo edits on that monitor. Use the laptop display for auxiliary things, such as app palettes, email, a web browser, etc.

I don't really "trust" it, seems even after calibration, manual and with the Spyder, it's still really bright and saturated. My pics look really good straight from the camera, it seems really weird to have such quality from my old camera to be honest. Also it looks like all my old pictures suffer too much contrast due to my former photoshop editing - but they dont look so contrasted on the prints i used for an exhibition a while ago. I'm lost!

Out of the box, most displays are too bright. Manufacturers do that to make them "pop" under bright fluorescent retail store lighting. Home and office lighting is typically much dimmer, so you need to turn the display brightness down quite a bit.

Calibration should have taken care of saturation; it should now be correct. If your previously-edited photos look overly saturated on the new, calibrated monitor, it's because you (or your camera) punched the saturation up to compensate for the poorer capabilities of the old display. You might want to go back and recheck your best photos, to see if their adjustments should be dialed back a bit. It's happened to me, too.

As for the rest of your frustration, I offer this bit of wisdom: A man with a watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.

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Honestly, two different monitors are always very very hard to get the same. If you really want them both to look the same, you should get two of the same monitor.

This is especially difficult in your situation, where one is a touch screen (lots of wires an other bits to alter the color). Plus they are both TN panels, so the color will shift depending on the angle. IPS panels are easier to calibrate together, as the angle of view does not impact the color.

Often laptop monitors are harder to calibrate, as they don't have as many controls, but your mileage may vary. It may be that you will never get your laptop monitor to calibrate properly. In that case, I recommend you use the laptop monitor for non-critical use, and leverage the external monitor for color sensitive editing.

  • Thank you for answering my question. This is what I feared.It's going to be difficult to work only on the external monitor. I don't really "trust" it, seems even after calibration, manual and with the Spyder, it's still really bright and saturated. My pics look really good straight from the camera, it seems really weird to have such quality from my old camera to be honest. Also it looks like all my old pictures suffer too much contrast due to my former photoshop editing - but they dont look so contrasted on the prints i used for an exhibition a while ago. I'm lost! – okmidnight Jul 8 '15 at 14:45
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You can calibrate your screens to look the best they can for showing you correct colors for photos (or as close as it can get), but it's going to be very difficult to get two totally different brand screens to display exactly the same. Try messing with the settings on the monitor itself. From what I can tell your external monitor is more accurate looking and I'd trust that more than the laptop screen. You could take a photo and send it to your phone and then see what it looks closer to.

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What I don't get is why the photo viewer window of the big screen is red while the other is grey. Is this just an issue of one windows being activated?

Besides that:

Be aware that the Microsoft Photo Viewer is not fully supporting color management. So when comparing I suggest you to use Photoshop.

Furthermore, not every monitor has got the same color gamut. It seems your bigger screen has got a wider color space and is therefore showing more reds.

As mentioned here, to fully get them equal you would need tow screens with same color space and of course with the same background technology (LED or CCFL).

I got that fine with a Spyder5ELITE (with its StudioMatch function that will pefectly match contrast and color space) for my MacBook Pro and my Thunderbolt Display.

  • Hi, Yes this is due to one windo being activated (the red one) and not the other. I also compared with Photoshop, when I move my Photoshop window from one screen to the other you can see the same differences. I returned the Spyder5Express as it has no effect on either of my screens (I carefully checked that there was no other program overriding the color management made by the Spyder))and I manually balanced the colors of my 2 screens and tried to print some of my pics. It seems to be okay, but I do know that my ext mon is too bright/too contrasted/too saturated and I can't change that. – okmidnight Jul 15 '15 at 10:04
  • According to Wikipedia, Windows Photo Viewer does support ICC profiles. It is one of the things we got when they moved away from the old Picture and Fax Viewer. Granted, it may not be as good as Photoshop or Lightroom, but it shouldn't be responsible for gross shifts in color. Besides, the OP is using Photo Viewer on both screens; any errors should be the same. No, the problem is not Photo Viewer. – Warren Young Jul 15 '15 at 14:32
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The best way I have found is to print a picture. You say that the printed image is perfect. Use that printed image to adjust your monitor or monitors via the monitors controls or from the graphics control centre. Nvidia or Catylist. I have found that a laptops monitor is more glossy than a desktops monitor, So always use My LG to view, edit and print my picture. BUT in the end it will be the printer that defines the final image.

  • What image do you recommend printing to calibrate two different monitors? – Jesus Feb 4 '17 at 3:22

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