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15 Oct 2013

My Spyder4Pro is finally here - thanks to my sister whom had helped me purchase and carry it all the way back from California. Spyder 4 Pro is a monitor calibration tool which costs me about S$220, probably about 20%-30% savings from local stores.

So today, I spent some time playing with it and calibrated all computer displays (iMac, MacBook Pro and 3 other Windows laptops). I understand that the Spyder4Pro is also capable of calibrating displays on iPhones, iPad and Android devices - which I have not done so.

Why Do I Calibrate My Monitors?

As an enthusiast photographer, I take a lot of pictures and often carry my work across different workstations for post-processing and this is where the problem starts ...
  • I noticed that my edited work using MacBook Pro turns out slightly differently (in terms of the color tone and contrast, etc ...) when I bring it back to my desktop iMac.
  • Even working on iMac alone, I also find that sometimes edited work is also slightly differently.
  • Published work definitely appears different when viewed across my other laptops.
  • Although I hardly print out my photos, I do also noticed that my prints do not match my display.

Isn't it scary if the picture on an uncalibrated monitor is actually different from what is captured by the camera sensor (e.g. red appears too saturated or skin color is too pale which has been perceived to be "correct")? The editing will then be skewed based on the uncalibrated monitor, which may look awfully different on a print or a calibrated monitor.

So I decided to invest in Spyder4Pro (probably the best monitor calibration tool in the industry) in order to get a consistent control and look across all my devices.

Of course, I have no control on how my photos turns out on someone's monitor which may be uncalibrated, but minimally I can exert control and confident in editing my work which is consistent and true to my eyes across all my devices.

Learning Points from Calibrating my Monitors

The calibration of my monitors are very simple, guided by a wizard from the software provided. From the entire calibration process, there were a few things that I learnt that will affect our perception of the picture on the monitor while viewing or editing (i.e. whether or not the monitor is calibrated):

Brightness on Monitor

  • It is not a good idea to immediately jump into the photo editing software immediately after the screen is turned on, as the screen would need time to warm up and get the brightness to the steady level (probably around 30mins to warm up).
  • My monitor has always been turned on to the brightest level as I always felt that the picture looks "nice" with a bright screen. However, the calibrated brightness was slightly less than 50% of the full brightness. It is even lower when the room is darker. Initially I had hard time getting use but after several hours, I start to feel that the color tone is actually better looking and probably in the correct tone, not to mention less strenuous on the eyes and save more power/electricity.

Ambient Light

  • Where possible, always ensure the ambient light around is consistant throughout the day and night, as it does affect the color tone, contrast, etc. of the picture that is on the screen. This explains why sometimes my edited works using the same computer looks differently, as my room is lighted with an indirect natural light from the windows during day time and I tend to work in the dark at night.
  • If there is no way to keep the ambient light consistent, then different calibration profile should be setup (e.g. day and night) so that the right calibration profile can be used depending on the ambient light condition. (Note: Spyder4Pro has an ambient light sensor that will detect the lighting condition around me at regular interval. If the ambient lighting does not "fit" my calibrated profile, the application will let me know so that I can switch to another suitable calibration profile.)

Monitor Color Changes Over Time

  • The colors produced by monitors will start to "run" as they ages (e.g. produce different color tint). Our eyes will probably not notice it as they have adapted to the colors when you look at the same monitor screen day-in-day-out. Only through a proper calibration tool that the eyes will be able to tell the difference.
  • Calibrated monitor will need to be regularly re-calibrated, probably between 3-6 months depending on the age of monitor. (Note: Spyder4Pro does have a feature that will regularly check your calibrated profile against standard, and will remind you if the monitor needs to be re-calibrated again.)
  • In my case, the results after calibration shows that my uncalibrated iMac monitor has a slight blue tint and skin color look a little bit less warm then it should be. For my MacBook Pro which is slightly older, the uncalibrated LCD monitor shows more obvious presence of blue and yellow tint. Not to mention the other Windows laptops where some even have colors that are awfully different.
I know that my calibrated monitor will definitely give me more confidence in my photo editing workflow, and I hope that I can produce better edited photos down the road.

References and Links