Color Management: Monitor Calibration
Monitor calibration. So let's talk about calibrating your monitor. So there's calibration and then there's profiling, these are two different things, technically. Calibration is adjusting the brightness of the monitor which, we call luminance. So luminance is backlit, because the monitors are all backlit with LEDs. The gamma point is adjusting middle gray for the monitor, which is not a big deal. And then the white point of the monitor is just white balance just like our cameras. So it's either daylight or D65, D50, so that's 6500 degrees Kelvin or 5000 degrees Kelvin or 5500 degrees Kelvin, and that's how much, how warm or cool your monitor looks in terms of how yellowish or blue it is. Profiling is making this ICC color profile that actually forces your monitor to show colors that relate to a known color space. And as you'll see, it'll basically pull up a bunch of colors on there and we'll put the i1 Studio on the monitor, and it's gonna look at that color that it knows what the exac...
t RGB values are, and it's gonna measure what it sees and if it sees something different than the number it knows it is, it's gonna push it so that it forces it to show the exact color values that it should be showing. And that's the critical step that I recommend everybody do, just because that puts you in a known color space that's repeatable. So, this cannot be done by eye. I've run into photographers, even pro photographers that say "Oh, I just calibrate by eye", and I'm like unh-uh, negative, ain't possible. Do you know, I used to be a physicist and I studied light, you can't see two, three points of red or magenta or any color, that's just not possible for the human eye to do this accurately enough. Can you get it into the ball park? Maybe. But that's still a stretch. So, this guy right here or something like it, and we'll talk about the different devices here. So right now, monitor calibration devices, I, just for a disclaimer, I happen to be sponsored by X-Rite, I'm not sponsored by EIZO so I'm not pushing monitors just to sell them to you. X-Rite has been a great company and I've used Datacolor Spyders before early on in my career, and they worked. I've found the X-Rites to be a little nicer, but it's up to you. X-Rite makes a whole host of things at different price points, the i1 Display Pro is probably the most basic one, and it's, I don't know, 200 to $250, but it does a great job calibrating a monitor. The ColorMunki Display and the i1 Studio are almost identical looking devices, the i1 Studio is their brand new one they just came out with, it has new software and a new look, a little easier to use. It can actually make ICC profiles for printer paper, it can calibrate a LCD projector, it can do a few more things, it's about four to $500, so that's why it's more expensive. When you get to the X-Rite i1 Pro that thing can almost do everything, it can cook you lunch. It can't really cook you lunch, but it's 1500 bucks, but it's a really high end, for somebody that can actually take spot readings, like we could walk around this room with that monitor and read the exact color temperature of these lights. And so if I wanted to make prints that would look perfect in that light I could actually go back and use that to make prints that are perfect for that color temperature of light which is crazy specific, not many people are gonna need that. And the Spyder Pro is a great device as well, you notice there's lots of options out there. If you just want to calibrate your monitor I would highly recommend the X-Rite i1 Display Pro. If you need to do more than that, the i1 Studio might be the best way to go. If you buy an EIZO it has one built into the monitor for some of them not all of them. So something to think about. Here you can just see some of these, the i1 Display Pro is a little smaller, the i1 Studio is a little bit larger, and you see the i1 Photo Pro comes with a whole kit full of stuff, it's like a suitcase. Very few people will probably need that, again, the monitor we're using from EIZO. So, there's three things when it comes to calibrating the monitor that we need to deal with and that is setting the brightness of the monitor, the luminance, setting the gamma, which is the neutral gray or middle gray, and then setting the white point or the color temperature. And these are the ranges of things that I recommend. It's interesting, five to six years ago I started thinking scientifically and I'm like, how did we come up with these numbers? And if I'm in a really bright room versus a really dark room shouldn't the brightness of my monitor, and nobody knew the answers to these, so I had to do a bunch of research for the book. And that's when I started finding out this matching paper white and all these other things and figuring out the answers to these questions. And the stuff we've already covered like the workspace and how bright it is in there is a massive part of this. So don't underestimate that part, like how the brightness of your workspace matters massively. Because if you have a brighter monitor or a darker monitor that affects how bright your image actually is. Anyway, so let's go into all of these here. For me, what I've found is 120 candelas per meter squared is the ideal brightness for the brightness of my office which is ISO 9000 standard. Gamma is always 2.2 for everybody, so that's the easy one, never changes. White point, of the Internet, so when you get a brand new monitor, especially if it's a laptop, they're usually close to 6500 degrees Kelvin. They may not be exactly that, but the Internet is technically tuned for 6500 degrees Kelvin. So these days since 80% of my images are going online I typically calibrate my monitors at 6500 degrees Kelvin. When I'm actually printing my images I sometimes change it to D55, which is 5500 degrees Kelvin, because that matches the tone of the yellower paper I work on a little closer. And if I'm sending images that I know are going to be just for print and not online, I might work them up in 5500 degrees Kelvin instead of 6500 but if you go back and forth and you let your eyes adjust a little bit it's a very small difference. So you don't have to get too crazy. At one point I did get a little crazy and I worked them up at 5500 and at twice for both images, and I'm like this is beyond nuts. I've gone past the red line for me, so I stopped doing that, just to tell you how crazy I am there Tony, from your question earlier. Anyway, so how do we do this? I am going to now, let's do this one first 'cause I don't have to unplug anything. And I am basically going to, or would you prefer I do this one first or does it matter? I'll do this one first. This one, since it has a built-in. Oh, I gotta untether this, so part of the issue here is that we've got so many things plugged into this display with the live presentation, I'm gonna untether these guys and let me rotate it the other way. Let me get it going here. So I'm gonna open up the ColorNavigator software, which is the software that EIZO uses for their monitors. I've been calling it the wrong name for so many years, and it's going to show up here on the monitor, hopefully, at some point. Let me start it. And, so I'm gonna turn this around so you can actually see it. Oh, that's not good, let me turn it the other way. Have to undo our tape real quick. Makin' a mess here. Put that back in. And I might have to restart this. Where'd my mouse go, hold on a second. Trying to do too much here. There it is, okay. Let me restart the software. Start ColorNavigator. Are you kiddin'? Oh, I think I have to pull out the live feed too, I forgot about that part. That's why it couldn't see it. Let me quit that real quick and start it again. Alright, there we go. This is not this complex when you just have your monitor connected because you don't have all the video cameras connected to it as well, typically, I hope, at home. So, everything's plugged in, there we go. So now let me turn this around and not unplug it, so you can see it comes up with the software, and I've already entered in these numbers, 120 candelas per meter squared, 2.2 and D65, and I basically go over here and go, let me turn it around. (laughs) This is so difficult to do it so you guys can see. Let me go over here and go to the adjust part of this. Hello. There it is, dang. And by adjust it's gonna say, "What do you want to do?" And I'm gonna tell it to use the Colorimeter built in to the monitor. I'm going to hit proceed, and now you can see it's gonna run off and do its thing. So while it's doing its thing it's gonna take two or three minutes, do we have questions?
One of our questions from John Ek was, "In your opinion are older color calibrators" "worth using even if newer models promise more accuracy?"
Depends on how old is old. If it's 12, 15 years old I would definitely update it. With that i1 Pro 2 they tell you to send it back in once a year to get it calibrated. So it depends, if it's only five or six years old it's probably fine. It depends on also the monitor you're using, if you're using a laptop you're already kind of out there in outer space, so. And you'll see here what it's doing is it's measuring white, it's measuring black, to set the white and blank point, the color balance, and then it's also gonna run through a bunch of colors. But also sometimes they just come out with new software, so often it's not the device that needs to be upgraded it's the software that makes it more accurate. So in X-Rite I always have it so that it sees if there's an update before I calibrate, and I go get the update before I calibrate, 'cause they might make it a more accurate device just by the software. So now you can see it's running through a bunch of colors, measuring them. So hopefully that answers his question.
Yeah, any advantage to 4K monitor versus HD?
So 4K versus a monitor that's like 1080p or 1920?
That gets sticky, and 4K looks great, but it also introduces a lot of problems which we'll actually see tomorrow because lots of us, especially pros, have been sharpening their images looking at monitors that are 72 DPI, dots per inch, versus monitors like a 4K maybe 150 to 300 dots per inch. Your Retina phone is I think it's 244 for the retina phones, some of 'em are a little higher dots per inch. Some of the non-Apple phones go up to 400 pixels per inch. So that actually masks how much sharpening you've applied and also if you're image is truly sharp. Like if you look at your image on a 4K monitor and you zoom in it may appear totally sharp. You look at your image on a 72 DPI monitor, you might see it's a hair soft. And so this is an issue most photographers that I know have 4K monitors have a 72 DPI monitor, whatever resolution it is, right next to it. The iPhone was designed to make your shaky pictures on the iPhone look really good on an iPhone, not necessarily show you how soft they are. So that's why if you take pictures on your iPhone and then download them to your computer, which is not 4K Retina, you might notice they're not quite as sharp as you thought they were. So, I love sharp monitors like that, it makes your images look great. If you're showing a client images, like on your iPad or something, it's great to have that 4K resolution or 5K resolution. If you're doing video work it's great to have that extra space. It can also make your sliders look completely tiny and hard to deal with on a 4K monitor depending on how your computer renders it. So that's a few of the issues, it's just up to you. The other issue I will say, if you're buying an EIZO monitor or one of these NEC PA Series or a BenQ, some of them are 4K, but the price goes up massively. Like the 4K version of this monitor is three and a half, four grand. The 31 inch, which is stunning, gorgeous monitor that's 4K from EIZO is about $5000. So, how much do you really want to spend on a monitor? And trust me, even for me it wasn't like, I resisted for years buying an expensive monitor. I had my Apple Cinema Display, I drove that thing into the ground, 'cause I was just like it's been workin', kinda, for a while, I don't really want to spend $2500 on a monitor. But then I started talking to people and I still had some color issues and I did it, and man did my world change overnight as soon as I got the monitor. Because I was seeing old images where I screwed things up in the post-processing because I could see all the colors. So I'm not saying you have to spend $2500, they've got monitors that are lower-end that don't have the color imager built in that are like all the same color accuracy for 800 bucks, or a thousand dollars. And you can spend a thousand dollars on the old Apple Thunderbolt monitor, but it's not as accurate. You could probably find cheaper monitors, but, again, it just depends on what you need.
I've got a question, obviously your setup is dialed in. How often will it hold that lock, how often do you, in say a year or months, or does it matter when you've got a big job do you just automatically go in?
I calibrate the monitor every time before I start working up a big job, or, at a minimum, every two to three weeks. Because we're not on CRTs, cathode ray tube monitors like back in the old days, those would go out of whack faster. The LED monitors and OLED monitors don't go that far out that often, but now that the calibration's done you can see here it tells me exact numbers, like your 120 target is now at 119.7 candelas per meter squared, you're at 2.17 for your black level. You're at 6503 Kelvin for your white point. So that's the EIZO here. We will do the laptop, and I'm gonna have these guys come around so they can do the laptop. What I have to do here is unplug everything, so you're not gonna be able to see anything for you, the audience here, but it'll be up on the screen shortly. Or, actually, I guess it won't, 'cause I have to be unplugged from the monitor as well. But I'm guessing most of you have seen this here in the audience and have done this before yourself. So for this I'm going to have to come back to my display. I'm gonna close the system preferences, I'm gonna open, there's different software called i1 Studio Software for this guy, and I plug this into the back, and it has this fancy strip filled with sand to hold it on the display itself, and I just have to plug it in over here and it recognizes the device. And then I click on display, which is pretty easy. I've got my settings set, D65, 120, and 2.2. So it's all the same stuff just different software. This device I have to change it to there, and I've got to let it calibrate the device each time. So I do calibrate my laptops, I do calibrate my monitor. Just a question of gear, I don't own like a tower or anything at home, I just own two of the exact same laptops. One goes on the road, one stays in the office. And the one in the office is in a hinge dock, which is a vertical dock that I can plug all my cords into and then I've got a hub below it that's hidden away, and I've got like 72 terabytes of hard drives that are connected to that computer. I mean, there's all kinds of stuff connected to that computer. And then I'm just using the monitor, I'm not looking at the monitor on the laptop. And, honestly, I've found these monitors for photography, 50 megapixel Hasselblad images to be plenty fast. I've done 4K video editing, sure I'm not watching it real time in a 4K in Premiere Pro, but I can actually do it. It takes longer than it would on an iMac Pro or maybe some other computers out there, but it's plenty fast for what I'm doing. So, getting back to this, I'm gonna now open up the viewing slit that's on the bottom of this guy, and I'm gonna start doing the measurements, and basically it's just saying okay, you want to start the measurements here's how you put the device on, and I put the device on. And the one thing I want to make sure is that it's sitting flat and not moving. And maybe I'll put the screen back a little bit more. I just click next, actually let me go back out just for a second. Because I don't know if I hit the, there we go, I want to hit this automatic display control tab right there just so it will actually set the brightness of the monitor itself much more accurately than I can do. And it's doing the same thing we just did on this monitor, and you can see on this camera that it's adjusting the white point, the black point, the brightness of the monitor, and it's gonna go through all the colors. And this one takes a little longer because it goes through way more colors than that one did. Whether this is more accurate than that I can't say, they're both pretty accurate. Not really that big of a deal. I do love X-Rite's products, I've been using it for years. They're great for calibrating LCD projectors too. I will say this one does a really good job, the i1 Pro, I do have the i1 Pro, it does an insanely good job for calibrating projectors. So when I do speaking engagements I'll go in and I'll calibrate the projector they have just so my images at least look somewhat like I hope they do. How do you know that your monitor's calibration is accurate? We talked about that earlier, you make a print. The trick with that is you need to have a decent printer. You can't just use your office printer and expect that to render the colors that a top-end photo printer, it's not like you gotta spend thousands of dollars, but you're probably gonna spend three or four hundred bucks on a decent Epson or Canon printer, or HP makes a few too. And then you have to have the correct ICC profiles. We'll go through most of this tomorrow and kind of show that in more detail. And I do recommend that people print. I mean there was Kurt Markus, a very famous photographer he actually lives in Santa Fe, amazing photographer, has made bold statements like if you're a professional photographer and you do not print your images you're not gonna last more than 10 years in the industry. When I first heard that statement I probably had the same reaction you did when I threw all these monitors under the bus. I was like whoa, that's a bold statement. But the more I print the more I understand what he's saying. It's funny to discount somebody who's got 20, 30 years of experience in here, and maybe they're at a super high level that you're not at so that's debatable, but if you're really looking to take your photography to the ultimate place you want to take it, when you make a print you really see your image the way, you see all the colors, you don't see all the transitions, your monitor cannot show you the entire image because there's so much more data coming out of the camera than your monitor can actually show. It's not until you see that final print that you really see the difference. And, honestly, between the Hasselblad and the Nikon here, you don't really see that difference until you see the prints, and then it becomes fairly obvious, like whoa, that's a next level print because it's coming from a much bigger sensor with a higher bit depth. So not to get off in the weeds on that but we'll talk more about this tomorrow. So here's another picture of my old office, just showing you how, there's not even the same image in this picture, but just showing you the relationship with the print viewing box, and those aren't that expensive, three, four hundred bucks. You can also just get one of those SoLux light bulbs that's D50, so 5000 degrees Kelvin, you put it 20 inches away from your print, and that's pretty much perfect viewing conditions and it costs you $6, instead of three or four hundred. So, there's definitely ways to get around some of the stuff. It's not quite as nice as a viewing box, but it works. So, tweaking the monitor calibration, so once you calibrate the monitor there's also this issue of what are you doing with the image? If you're just gonna put your images online then this is probably where you stop, because you've hopefully got your workflow, your environment in your office or wherever you're working up your images dialed to some degree or as much as you can, depending on the place. Because as long as your monitor's calibrated and the environment's okay, if it's going online that's about as much as you can do. You can't control how people are seeing your images. But if you're printing your images, say you're printing on Ilford Gold Fibre Silk which has kind of a yellowish look to it like a lot of the baryta style papers out there, or maybe you're printing on a matte paper that's got more of a diminutive, darker look to it, or maybe you're printing on, it might be cooler or warmer toned paper, and that can affect how the image looks when the ink is overlaid on it. That's where we startedc getting into the weeds where we put that piece of paper into a viewing box next to our monitor, and then we pull up a sheet of white paper in Photoshop, we just make a new document, 8 1/2 by 11 or whatever size, put it there, and then you compare 'em, and you look at 'em. And then you if your monitor's brighter than your paper, well then you make your monitor brighter. If you see that the monitor's darker you make it darker, or if the paper is, you know, you get the idea. This is the easy part. When you get to the color balance it's a little dicier, because it's really hard to gauge that, and we're not doing measurements like we were with the spectrophotometer of the exact color temperature of that paper. But if you get it close it's gonna make a difference. So if the paper's cooler or the monitor's cooler you actually re-profile it a lower color temperature. So let's say I'm at D6500, maybe I'll drop to D5500, which is what I typically do when I print on Gold Fibre Silk, 'cause it has such a yellowish tint to it. Alternatively, if your monitor is much warmer than the paper then you would go up, in terms of your white balance of your monitor. So that takes a few different calibrations over time, and you just kind of tweak it and get it there. In reality, you're probably only gonna do that once, 'cause what I suggest is if you're printing a lot find three or four papers you like, or two papers you really like, stick with those and don't go too nuts, 'cause every time you get a new paper you might have to redo this stuff. And this is getting way off into the, like, how crazy are you about color management. I'm just giving you the full scope. Again, like I was saying, take as much as you want, leave the rest. So, here's what we've already said. You're matching paper white, keep going here. Further verification, you can actually, this is what I use as a test print, when I print to put that print into the viewing box next to the image. So open up this image, which you can download for free from on-sight.com, and basically what they've done here is they've created an image that's got black and white, it's go all the colors, so it's gonna use all of the ink sets in your printer. And then it's gonna show you the transitions and tones and how evenly the printer's doing all this stuff. And it's got deep blacks, it's got pure whites, it's got skin tones, it's got a gray card there as well. This is a very good thing to, actually it's a great workout for your printer, too, 'cause it really uses all the inks, but it really gives you a good idea is if your printer is producing accurate colors. So if you can make that print look pretty much identical to your monitor, then you're pretty much as dialed in as you're gonna get in your office.