Monitor Calibration

These are general guidelines only. In most situations the following will resolve most concerns.


Reduce room lighting and try to avoid reflections in the monitor. If the room is too bright the monitor will probably be set too bright.


If experiencing viewing issues, first try a different monitor. Did you see any improvement from monitor to monitor?

Older monitors (2 years or more) are usually out of color (out of calibration). While newer monitors are best, sometimes they need a little tweaking.

LCD Monitors are Brighter

Newer LCD monitors are much brighter. If you have them too bright, the photos may look too dark. Ours are set to roughly at 33% to 40% of maximum brightness.

With LCD's the basic brightness setting is the one you want, while with older CRT monitors, you may need to alter the contrast setting to alter overall brightness.

Set the monitor to display "millions of colors" or 24/32 bit. Preferably this change needs switched on for at least twenty minutes before viewing.

How Long as the Monitor Been On

Monitors should be switched on for at least twenty minutes prior to making any adjustment or calibrations.

If your web browser allows you to use color management, set this option on (if unsure just ignore it).

Screen Calibration Image/Print

Computer screens / monitors can vary greatly in brightness and color.

Here is a simple way to check to see if the screen is about right. (When are using a laptop make sure you are viewing perpendicular to the screen). Check the monochrome wedges for brightness. You should be able to see a slight change in each square left to right.

If you are unable to see a slight change in each square left to right the monitor needs calibrating.

Calibration Test

Simple Monitor Adjustments

Have a look at the test images below, they are designed to help adjust the screen to display images more accurately*.

You may find that the monitor looks somewhat odd after adjustment, especially if the monitor was way out of calibration. This effect is quite normal and you will soon get used to it.

The controls on the monitor may be physical adjustment knobs, or a menu may appear on the screen (this is produced by the monitor itself, so the mouse won't work).

*Note: Basic monitor calibration is not difficult, but if you are not happy with changing settings on your machine, it is always best to ask someone who knows how to do it first. A well set up monitor should enhance your viewing of most sites. Incidentally, it's never a good move to adjust another person's computer monitor without their permission.

Calibrating a monitor for viewing photographs correctly

The strip below shows a range of greys from pure black to pure white.

You should be able to see a clear difference between each shade of grey, ranging from pure black (left) and pure white (right). If not, the monitor needs calibrated.

Calibration Black to White

Along the top of the strips are alternate patches of black and dark grey.

If it looks solid black to you (look very carefully), your monitor's brightness is too low and needs calibrated.

Increase the brightness until you can -just- perceive the difference between the grey and the black squares.

If it resembles either of the two strips below, the monitor brightness is set too bright or too dark and needs calibrated.

Calibration Brightness

too bright - loses highlight detail

Calibration Darkness

too dark - loses shadow detail

This test is just making sure you can see shadow and highlight details and is no way to set maximum brightness accurately - Ideally a hardware calibrator is needed (read more below) to set the maximum brightness accurately.

What the Brightness and Contrast Controls Do

For a detailed explanation of what the brightness and contrast controls do click here.

Monitor Calibration Tools

Monitor calibration ideally needs hardware measuring devices and some attention to room lighting and decoration.

Mark uses the a monitor calibrator called the Spyder4 Pro by DataColor. This device is used by professional photographers and printers. It generally requires mail ordering from one of the larger camera stores in New York, Chicago, Atlanta or LA.

When adjusting the screen using the patterns above it's sometimes possible to get a noticeable improvement for free, but if you are serious about viewing professional photography, a good calibrator is around $200 to $400.

The 'by eye' process above, was originally published for viewing Black and White images, and as such, leaves color balancing out that the Spyder4 Pro will correct.

Macintosh Monitors

If you have a Macintosh, try typing 'monitor calibration' into the Help Center, this will point you to the built in calibration features. If you want a slightly more accurate version, have a look at SuperCal which is a shareware application for Macs.

On a Windows PC the facilities are found in the display control panel, or by right clicking the desktop and choosing 'properties'.

On older PC systems you may also want to make sure that 'Adobe Gamma' software has not been installed by any other software. See: 'Removing Adobe Gamma'. One bit of software that might also be of help is the free "Monitor Calibration Wizard" from Hex2Bit.

Do remember that for true and accurate color photographic images you should consider getting a hardware calibrator, such as the Spyder5 Pro. It is simple and easy to use. A calibrator will correct the monitor color, brightness and contrast automatically. However, it will not make up for viewing in bright rooms, reflections, etc.

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