Taking the guess work out of color calibrating your monitor
Imagine an orchestra which tuned their instruments without a
reference note and without listening to each other. Unless the whole
orchestra had perfect pitch, the sound would be cacophonous.
Any instrument played alone would sound fine as it would be
tuned to itself, but the slight differences between each instrument's
starting point would result in a nasty dissonance. Now substitute color
for sound. An uncalibrated monitor is like an un-tuned
musical instrument; it may look fine on its own but if you move the
image from that monitor to a printer or a different computer things
might not look quite right.
Color calibrating your monitor is the answer to this problem
and this can be achieved through a variety of means at a variety of
differing price-points. If you use PhotoShop you've probably
already encountered Adobe Gama that ships as part on PhotoShop.
It's a software solution that involves you squinting at the
screen and making subjective decisions about your monitor's settings.
If Adobe Gama is adequate for you, count yourself lucky.
If you want to take it one step further and make things a bit
more objective then you need hardware intervention.
The Pantone ColorVision Spyder is my calibration tool of
choice. Three years ago when I purchased it, it was just
about the only game in town for the digital photography enthusiast.
There were professional solutions costing more than a
thousand dollars but the Spyder cost a little over two hundred and
worked on both CRTs and LCDs. These days you can by the
Pantone Huey for $70 from Amazon which is a small price to pay for
confidence in your equipment. As my Spyder still works I
can't see any point in upgrading yet but you can see how low the entry
point now is.
The Spyder consists of a hardware and a software portion.
The hardware as a specialized USB camera (the Spyder itself)
which temporarily attachers to your screen while you are creating a
profile. The software is a program that displays various color swatches
to the Spyder in order to measure the color accuracy of your screen.
The result is a color profile that is applied to your
My impression after creating and applying a profile to my PC
for the first time was that my screen looked a little desaturated and
washed-out, however, it made making accurate prints a much easier
proposition. Without realizing it I had my monitor set that
it added saturation and drama to my photographs as I viewed them
straight from the camera. After profiling the monitor I could
see the adjustments I needed to make to get that same kind of
color-depth out of my prints. Now I am in the know I wouldn't
dream of using a digital darkroom without a calibrated monitor and I
hope everyone remotely 'serious' about their photography does
themselves a favor and does the same.
The ColorVision Spyder is not a glamorous tool despite it's
acrylic construction and beautiful storage case. It's not
sexy because it's going to spend the majority of it's life sitting on
you bookshelf in its box. I use it once every couple of
months to make sure nothing has drifted, or after I have changed any
hardware to do with my screen display. It's not sexy but I'm
sure that it has already paid for itself in avoiding spoiled prints and