Just like a ship in the open ocean requires a well-built hull to cut through the high seas, a photographer should have a monitor that displays a digital file as consistently and accurately as possible. Furthermore, just like a ship in the open ocean requires a compass to sail true, digital photography electronics need to be calibrated and profiled in order to maintain consistent and accurate results. If you are obsessed with photography enough to have spent many thousands of dollars on camera gear, computers, and software, your investment is substantial enough to warrant a $250 display calibration solution.
Why is this so important?
Consider for a moment, buying a boat with no compass to sail to Hawaii! Maybe you are thinking that’s a bit dramatic, but to understand just how different each monitor is, I recommend standing in the back of a room full of laptops from various people and noticing how wildly different they all look. The human eye is extremely accurate at comparing, but lousy when it comes to recollection. For example, view two monitors displaying the same image, either computer or TV, and look at them at different times in different rooms. Attempt to notice differences between the two. Now set those same monitors side by side and voila, you will instantly notice any slight differences. With this in mind, I discovered years ago how important it is for the monitor I am using to make all my creative and productive photographic decisions be consistent and accurate.
Colorimeter or Spectrophotometer?
I began using an X-Rite spectrophotometer with a Sony Artisan monitor in 1997. Since then I have used various monitors and calibration devices. At the present time, I find the X-Rite i1Display Pro to be most accurate and it happens to be priced better than most, to boot! I spent some time the other night creating monitor profiles with an X-Rite i1Display Pro and ColorMunki Photo on my new 27 inch iMac. While both profiles were very good I felt that the profile with the most shadow detail and accurate neutral gray was the i1Display Pro.
There are several differences between the two devices. First, the ColorMunki Photo is a spectrophotometer and the i1Display Pro is a colorimeter. In the past, some have thought a colorimeter was a less accurate device. The X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter is able to profile the LCD with a great deal of shadow detail and more neutral colors. ColorMunki Photo will also create printer profiles making it very helpful if you plan on printing with your own inkjet printer. Both devices will profile a digital projector making it very handy for me while presenting my work around the world on various projectors.
Digital imaging tip!
Time changes almost everything, especially the way our images look on whatever monitor is available at that time. A very simple way to maintain consistency in the way you want your image or images to look over the years is to make an 8×10 archival print and store it in a dark drawer. Make sure you don’t change the digital file, maybe even call it “masterfile+personal name”. Whenever you question the way that image is being shown, simply bring that “control print” out of the drawer and hold it next to the device you are viewing. If it does not match, the monitor used to display the file may need to be calibrated and profiled.
The Bottom Line
Whatever monitor or projector you’re using to display your images, using a color management solution to calibrate and profile is the way to get consistent and accurate images from your display. X-Rite’s i1Display Pro gives you an advanced professional display color management solution for both monitor and projector in one easy to carry device.