Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Monitor Calibration

A lot of us like to take and share pictures of our coins. For me it’s another enjoyable part of the hobby. Monitors are the big variable when sharing photos. How can we be sure our photos look the same on another persons monitor? When we look at an image someone else has made, are we really seeing the image the way the person who made it intended? It’s a problem that bothered me for a long time. I would manipulate my images until they looked good on my monitor. But when I printed them or ordered prints, they weren’t even close! Lighter, darker, bluer, greener…you name it! What’s a fellow to do?

Calibrate your monitor, that’s what! I’m not going to pretend that I know all the ins and outs of color management. Folks that work professionally with digital photography, graphic designs, and printing press operations will be we aware of it and can probably ridicule this article endlessly!:D Those of us that need a crash course in gamma, color temperature, luminance, and other technical stuff should have a look at this webpage: http://www.normankoren.com/makingfineprints1A.html It does a good job discussing the concepts involved. The Quick Gamma Utility mentioned on the page is an excellent and easy to use tool to adjust your monitor’s settings by eye. Once you have things adjusted to your liking, you can configure Quick Gamma to load your adjustments at Start Up.

If you have Photoshop or other Adobe product, you probably also have the Adobe Gamma Loader installed. It can be found in the Control Panel. Using the Wizard, you can calibrate your monitor by eye in just a few minutes. The Adobe Gamma loader allows you to save your adjustments and can be configured to start at start up and load the settings.

I preferred the Quick Gamma utility. In my opinion it allows for greater fine tuning and is easier to use. When using Quick Gamma, it’s important to make sure the Adobe Gamma Loader (or another program that adjusts your monitors setting) doesn’t load at start up too, or the two will both try to adjust your settings. Either program will provide you with decent results.

Beyond Visual Calibration

Recently I wanted to make sure my adjustments were really accurate, so I invested in the Datacolor Spyder2Express Monitor Calibration system. It is a software/hardware package that can calibrate your monitor accurately (and easily) in a few minutes. You can read more about it on their website: http://spyder.datacolor.com/product-mc-s2e.php

I purchased mine at http://www.newegg.com for $69 + shipping and it has been worth every penny! Installation was a snap, and the calibration process is just as simple. It only allows you to calibrate to a color temp of 6500k and a gamma of 2.2, but that is the most common Windows setting, so it should be adequate for most folks, and will be a good match on other monitors calibrated to the same standard.

I have used the Spyder2Express for about a month now and I couldn’t be happier. The pictures on my monitor now match what comes out of my printer perfectly. Today I received a batch of prints I ordered, they too match perfectly. In the past I couldn't say that. I was never quite sure what I was going to get, a nice feeling at Christmas, but not when you are shelling out money for prints!

So take a few minutes and calibrate your monitor. You can achieve great results by eye, using the tools I mentioned earlier. If you want to be even more accurate, then perhaps the Spyder2Express is for you. Either way it will likely improve your monitors performance, which is important, after all your monitor is your window to the digital world! Thanks for reading!