Why Calibrate Your Monitor?
This section here, the monitor, really is the heart of your photography workflow. It provides the first opportunity, I guess, to review your photographs properly. It also affords you the ability to make real decisions about how to adjust and enhance images. In other words, going back to what we showed earlier, how that information that you recorded in that histogram is gonna be displayed on your beautiful monitor. In other words, what you're seeing on the screen should be exactly what you've captured. We're gonna talk about how monitor problems manifest themselves through your workflow as well, which is very, very important. We have a challenge, and it's the color challenge, of course, the color challenge, because color, as I said, to us humans is easy enough, but to our computers and devices, they have a lot of difficulty with it. Photographers, graphic designers, and the likes, they all experience visual differences between an image presented on multiple displays. That's the real cha...
llenge, you know? How do you get your work to look the same on someone else's computer? There is a huge range of applications that can manage color on monitors, and it's all dependent on operating systems, of course, and then, of course, we get into the confusion of different drivers that drive the operating system. You could understand that it becomes quite a nightmare to get color right on a monitor itself. Really, it's frustrating to get color consistency in different monitors. With the color challenge again, how do you get your printed output to match your monitor? Which is really what we're trying to do here. Really, how do we go about doing that? How do I know that my images will look great on my client's computer? That's another dilemma that we have. You could spent a lot of time working on your images, and then you send your files if you are just doing electronic transfer for your files for a proof preview, for whatever reason it might be, and they will see something totally different. Usually, the conversation goes something like, "Your images are too dark, and I can't see "any shadow detail, and they're quite contrasty." That is that you've done the right thing on your end because you're working on a beautifully calibrated system, and you can see shadow detail, you understand dynamic range, you've got everything where it needs to be, you've got beautiful color, but your client doesn't. That is the real issue that we have. It's about calibrating to a standard, and sometimes, even educating our clients to do so. We can make life simpler for our clients depending on how we deliver our files, of course, which we'll get to in a minute. Is your monitor accurately displaying all the colors and tones? That's another question you gotta ask yourself. There's different monitors on the market, but is what you're seeing really what you captured? We talk about working in big color spaces, but is your monitor really displaying that? We know how a printer can interpret colors, but how do you view these colors? Are they being displayed correctly, which is very, very important? Of course, how can you really be sure. There's a lot of questions, you know? A lot of questions about uncertainties of what we do with the monitor itself. Possible causes of color problems, number one is the lack of consistent calibration of devices. People, you calibrate your monitor in January, and then you're getting ready for the Christmas rush, and you've forgotten to calibrate for the past 11 months because you didn't feel that the monitor drifted. The monitor stayed the same. Well, monitors don't stay the same. There is a need for constant calibration of monitors to keep them in check, of course. Errors in application and driver settings which can affect your monitor, loading up different color monitor displays, and sometimes, the operating system making up its own decision as to what color display or profile it's going to load, and you're thinking you're working in the actual environment that you calibrated to several days ago, only for your operating system to default to something else, so that's an issue. When we look at printing, we got variation in media and ink mismatching, so these are all problems. Inappropriate lighting conditions, that's a huge problem not only for monitor calibration, but also for viewing prints. We talked about that in an earlier segment where different colors affect your perception of vision very differently. Lack of consistent calibration devices. In other words, we're using different devices to calibrate different monitors, and that could be problematic as well. Different brands manage color differently. It's about, really, at the end of the day, being as consistent as we possibly can, and we're trying to iron out any problems that could possibly arise in our quest for perfect color. Now, the thing is, are you seeing the right color? Now, this little step which is included as part of the course download will be available for you to open and view in Photoshop, and you should be able to see a distinct difference in every single shade like we are seeing here in our studio, and it's gotta be gray. In other words, we can't see any colors creeping into those gray patches. That is your first step, and just a quick test, where you just open up this file, and you have a look at it, and you go, "Yeah, it looks neutral. "It does look gray, so I know that "the color on the monitor is good, "and yes, I can see every single shade "that's being represented," which basically means that your contrast is set correctly and the lights on your monitor, but it's a nice little simple way of knowing if you're staying within the parameters that we are setting, okay? Then, of course, you can do this, which is what I call the monitor brutal test, or the black point test, and it goes something like this. What we do is, we create a new document in Photoshop, and we fill it with 100% black. We then marquee an area at the center of it, and we hide the selection. What we do then, we grab our curves, we grab our curves, and what happens then with the curves? We move the curves to the side so they're not interfering with the actual blackness, so we hide all our tools, we go in full screen mode, and we want to make sure that what we're seeing is just the black square. We pull this to the side as far as it will go, just leaving that little black point visible so we can adjust it. Then, what happens is very simple. What we start to do is, we start to move that black point up. You click onto it, and with the arrow key, you start moving it up in one-point increments. Now, you should start seeing detail very soon. On these monitors here, on the Iso monitor, my detail or difference in black, as you can certainly see there, comes in roughly at around a value of two, but don't be disheartened if your monitor is more like five or six, 'cause that's about the average of what most monitors like your Apples and that, and some even higher. Certainly, if you're starting to go in the 12s, get yourself a new monitor because you're not seeing any shadow detail whatsoever, and you're gonna crank the brightness up so high to get any shadow detail whatsoever. This is a good way to see just how good your monitor is. Even on the retina displays, that value is quite high. It's in around the 6s and the 7s, even after calibration. Environment, of course, is important when you view this, so you view it in a dimly lit room, and you can start to see the differentiation as we start to bring that black point up. This is basically what it should look like, where you start to see the difference between a pure black, and then where you start to see detail. An excellent monitor will start to show a difference at level one to level two. A typical result is around five. Five is what you should be expecting to achieve unless you've got a really, really high-end monitor. All monitors in photographies and graphic technology industry calibrate to an international standard. When we do the thing that we do with our little calibrators, we don't just put them on and hope for the best. There are little bits of information that we need to feed the software to make us calibrate to a standard. That standard is international, and that standard is ISO3664-2009 for the graphic technology and photographic viewing conditions. A little bit later on, I'm gonna go through the parameters of how we set ourselves up for this particular standard. It is a standard, so wherever you might be, your bureau for printing, or your printing laboratory, or your album manufacturer calibrates to the same standard. This is what we do, we calibrate to a standard, so if you're calibrated to that standard, they're calibrated to that standard. When they tell you to give them a file in Insight GB or Adobe IGB, you can bet your bottom dollar that they're definitely calibrated, and if you're definitely calibrated, well, guess what, you're gonna come back with some pretty good results, yeah? We are calibrating to a standard. Before we start calibrating, we gotta look at one very, very important factor when we calibrate a monitor. It's this one here, and it's called lighting. Most lighting in your home is not ideal for any digital imaging work, unfortunately, so when you're dealing with down lights, tungsten lights, open shades, sunlight peering, coming through the window, that is not an ideal situation to do color critical work, okay? The color of your lights is an extremely important factor. Why? Because colors around you affect your visual perception. What we need to do is achieve or get to a point where we get as close as we can to D50 lighting, or basically daylight, and there's a couple of different ways of doing that. The first thing we need to do is remove any strong colored lighting. In other words, no normal fluorescent, no tungsten lights, nothing of the kind. If we do use tungsten lights, we use cool white tungsten balanced to 5,000 kelvins. Now, there is a company by the name of SoLux that makes SoLux globes, and they are rated at about 4,800, 4,900 kelvin, so virtually right on par of what we want to achieve if you don't have room to put GTA color-accurate tubes, which are essentially very expensive fluorescent tubes, in your environment. What we want to do is achieve lighting that is neutral. D50 lighting is what we try and aim for. Our monitors, when we view our monitors and we view our environment, our environment is as neutral as we possibly can get it. The viewing conditions affect, as I said earlier, your color perceptions, okay? In other words, if you have brightly-colored walls, if you have warm-colored walls, if you have cool-colored walls, your eyes, remember, that color constancy, they discount the illuminant, they average everything out, so if you got red-painted walls, you keep on looking at this red, and your eye keeps on correcting for the red, and it keeps on adding cyan, then you look at a neutral monitor, and you start to see all sorts of color cards thinking there is something wrong with your file. There's nothing wrong with your file. It's just that your eyes have adjusted to colors around where the environment is just not ideal. We need to make that viewing area as neutral as possible. For me, I've just painted everything white in my studio and my printing facility at Capture to Print. Everything is extremely neutral. Now, you can go to the extremities of going to paint manufacturers and buying exact 50% gray, and you can do that. There are formulas that they work to to give you that perfect mid-gray, and you can paint your walls to perfect mid-gray. Not very exciting, and it's a bit anal retentive if you need to go down that road, but this is the extremities that anyone doing extreme color accurate work, we're talking about color accurate reproductions of things, this is the level that you need to go to. I'm gonna share with you my working environment and how it all comes together, beginning with the Iso monitor, which is exactly the same as what you see here. This is what we're using in our environment. Right next to it, I have a GTI viewing booth that gives me perfect 5,000 kelvin viewing conditions. It's very easy for me to put up a print in this viewing booth, open up the same file on my computer, look at the two together, and I know exactly how close I'm getting to that ultimate print. Ideally, printing tests and printing files that you're familiar with, and you know how they're meant to look like, this is a great test. Open up the file, print the image, and there it is, and you're viewing that under correct lighting. Even though the lighting around me, the lighting falling here and everywhere else, is D50 lighting because of the tubes I'm running in the editing space, it's still important to have the controlled environment here to be able to get that perfect color. Now, these GTI viewing booths, they come in many different models, and there's a huge price range depending on what you want to go for. I've chosen one with a dimmer switch for a reason, because I can dim the lights to match a particular light intensity of where the print is going. I'll give you an example. If I'm doing a print for competition, whether it be competition through the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, or be WPPI, in their rules, they specify the exact lighting intensity that they're gonna be viewing prints under. What I do is, I dim this, or bring it up or down, and with a light meter, I match that lighting exactly. What does that mean? It means that, when I'm doing a print, and I know that the judges are gonna be viewing under this sort of condition with the right intensity, I'll know exactly how to manipulate that to get that maximum tonality out of the print. This is one with a dimming device, which is pretty expensive, but you can get much simpler ones that are inexpensive. They'll still give you D50 lighting, and GTI makes a great product.