Have you ever done basic editing on a photo, printed it out, and the colours look different? Or maybe you posted a picture to your Instagram feed after editing it on your phone, and the colours looked off on your friend’s phone?
Well, Houston we have a problem, the remedy for which is called screen calibration or monitor calibration. If you’re into photography or editing, you’d have come across the term before and maybe even overlooked it.
However, if you’re a general user like most people, you might have never heard of the term and are probably wondering what I’m going on about? Well, we shall explain all there is to know about screen calibration and why you should care.
What is screen calibration?
Screen calibration means adjusting the colours, brightness and spectrums of your monitor/screen to showcase the most accurate colours for your photos. Now you’re probably wondering – “ Wasn’t my screen already calibrated during its manufacturing process? “. Well, the answer is yes it certainly was.
However, over time our screens tend to age and start displaying inaccurate colours. This is especially true for older bulb light monitors, while in modern LED’s it does occur to a lesser extent.
Why do you need screen calibration?
The need for screen calibration differs from person to person, depending on how you use your PC. If you’re a photographer or an editor, then screen calibration is a must because you need to ensure that your own or a client’s projects are highly accurate. Also, every screen displays images differently, and hence a photographer’s client’s screen will differ from his. Screen calibrating helps achieve an averaging effect, which means if a photo edited on a perfectly calibrated screen, is viewed on a less accurate screen, the colour inconsistency will be lesser.
Now if you’re not editing pictures every day and are mostly just an average user or someone who works with text and documents, then screen calibration wouldn’t make a significant impact on your work. However, it wouldn’t hurt to get it done, and when you do edit pictures or make a PowerPoint presentation, you won’t have to worry about your images and colours looking washed out.
How do I perform screen calibration?
Screen calibration is a fairly easy job to perform, and you don’t really require the aid of any technician. What you do need is a screen calibrating software, which usually comes bundled with a kit that also includes a physical device known as a colourimeter or a spectrophotometer. These are fancy terms for a device that essentially measures the colour accuracy of your monitor and relays the information back to the software at work. The software then tweaks the screen settings to achieve optimum and accurate colour representation.
Some of the well-known kits in the market are the X-Rite i1Display Pro, X-Rite ColorMunki, and the Datacolor SpyderX Pro. These might have steep price tags, but they’re a one time buy and can be used for multiple monitors. If you are working on a tight budget, and aren’t into serious photography or editing, then there are other ways to perform screen calibration. The first way is to use the built-in screen calibrators available in Windows OS or macOS, and the second would be to use online testing sites like PhotoDay, Lagom, WHZT to calibrate your monitor visually.
The downside to these methods, however, is that you will be relying on the human eye to pinpoint the colour accuracy of your monitor. As every individual sees colours differently, this causes a problem, and hence these methods aren’t suitable for professional work.
Another important point is that screen calibration is only meant for IPS screen monitors that go along with desktop systems. It is not suitable for cheaper screens or TV screens, as these are incapable of producing the desired accurate colours. Laptops too, can’t really be subject to screen calibration as they can’t reproduce the colour with the level of accuracy displayed by IPS screens.
Also read: QLED vs OLED display: Which one is better?