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Monitor Calibration 101: How To and Why
Editing, Equipment
Monitor Calibration 101: How To and Why

What is Calibration? 

Calibration, in my opinion, is one of the most important steps to getting consistent final images on the web as well in print, and also one of the most forgotten.

Calibration is used by photographers, graphic designers, video editors, and any other profession that uses a computer monitor and needs to view colors in their true form. It is a way to control your color process in editing and then later in print. It improves consistency, which is a must for professionals.

I think calibrating my monitor is so intimidating, but she makes it look so easy! Read - "Monitor Calibration 101: How To & Why"

For photographers,  monitor calibration is important for several reasons:

  1. We usually share our images online. Because social media and website presence is almost mandatory in our time, monitor calibration is important to portray colors accurately.
  2. Accurate colors on a monitor ensures accurate colors in print. Calibrating a computer monitor is an easy way to ensure that what you see on your screen after editing an image will be what you see in your hand, once you have your images printed.
  3. Monitors see colors differently. From brand to brand, time of day, and even over time.
  4. You will see other’s work true to life. After calibrating, what you see is what you get. So whether surfing the web, or studying other’s work, you’ll see the colors as true.
  5. If you are in business and selling your work to clients, calibration is a must.


How Do I Calibrate?

Calibration is easy, but of course it requires more equipment. Insert eye roll here. What an expensive hobby/business!

Read more: Photography Business: Start Up Cost

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  • No.
    Acquire a Calibration Device

    Currently, I use the X-Rite i1 Display Pro. I like it because not only does it calibrate the color of the monitor, it also adjusts the brightness of the monitor which can affect printed images. Also, it can monitor ambient light conditions which can affect how we see the monitor color. Last, the X-Rite can be used in conjunction with the X-Rite Colorchecker which is a tool to form a camera profile for Lightroom or ACR.

    24 Calibration CIUAN-8_web

    Other more affordable options include:

    Datacolor Spyder Express (I have used this one in the past with good results)

    X-Rite Colormunki Smile

  • No.
    Let Your Monitor Warm UP

    The monitor takes about 30 minutes to warm up and should be turned on for half an hour prior to calibrating.

    The device will come with software. From there its a matter of following the directions on the screen. There are auto and advanced settings. I go with the most basic settings to get my monitor’s color, contrast, and brightness consistent.

  • No.
    Monitor Type and Technology

    This step may require a little research. Your device may need a little information about your computer monitor in order to proceed. You’ll need to know what type of monitor you have (white led, plasma, etc.), whether or not you would like to monitor ambience light (depending on the model of device, etc. A quick internet search or a visit to your monitor manufacture’s website should have the info you need.


  • No.

    Place your tool on your screen (don’t worry, you’ll be prompted!) and start the process!

    24 Calibration CIUAN-14_web

    The software will take you through the steps and lasts only a couple of minutes! The screen will flash through different shades of colors and grays, while it sets up the profile.

  • No.
    Approve the Results

    As you can see the before and afters are subtle for my computer. I’m using an iMac, so the colors tend to stay in a normal-ish range. The contrast, however looks like it was off, which can be seen most in the shadows.  A laptop I had in the past was a drastic change in color and contrast after calibration. The screen would light in beautiful color and tones after calibration, which was an eye opener!


  • No.

    Because the monitor can shift over time, calibration is required every couple of weeks. Most devices will set up a reminder for you, so you don’t need to remember yourself!

What If I Don’t Want to Buy a New Device?

Photography is expensive. I get it! It seems like at every turn, there is something else to buy. Here are a couple of ways that you can determine how well your monitor’s brightness, contrast, and color are without spending a dime.

See if your monitor has built in calibration tools, which can allow you to change your gamma to 2.2 (if needed) and adjust brightness to determine if the full range of grays are present.

A quick google led to me to this great tool by Photo Friday.

Happy Calibrating!