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Calibration of cameras and monitors

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Calibration
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Perfect color shots thanks to effective monitor calibration

Knowledge of monitor calibration is crucial for any photographer to achieve excellent and predictable photos. For example, if the monitor does not reproduce shades and colors correctly, all the time you invest in image editing and post-processing may be counterproductive because the print will look completely different in reality. This article explains the basic details of calibration for amateur and professional photographers. It also deals with how to calibrate a monitor, the role of a grey card or a color checker and the advantages of color calibration.

Why do I need to calibrate my monitor?

Do your printed photos not look the way you edited them on the monitor? Then it's time to calibrate your monitor. The basic problem with photography is that every viewer sees images slightly differently. This is because every photographer uses their own monitor. If you edit the photos on your own monitor and then print them out, there will inevitably be slight differences. Even though monitors are getting better and better over time, each monitor still has an individual display of brightness, colors and contrast. To minimize these differences, monitor calibration is used to adjust the colors, brightness and contrast so that the photos are displayed as neutrally as possible. Basically, every monitor has a certain range of colors that it can display. Higher-quality models usually have larger palettes, which makes monitor calibration correspondingly easier.

How do I calibrate the monitor?

A calibration device, also known as a colorimeter, is required for this process. Basically, you first place the calibration device in front of your monitor. To optimize the results, you should switch on your monitor an hour before calibrating. It also makes sense to carry out the calibration in a similar light to that in which you normally edit your photos. Thanks to the software supplied, the device displays and measures different colors and shades of grey on the screen. The calibration device then evaluates the data and creates a type of monitor profile that is used for the color display in the following steps.

The software guides you through the entire calibration process. The process takes around 20 minutes in total and should be repeated approximately every 3 months. The reason for repeating the process is that the screen changes over time, with the intensity of the colors and the brightness decreasing. Regular monitor calibrations counteract this process.

Why use a gray card?

In photography, the gray card plays a role in calibrating the exposure. In most cases, the object is a kind of small plate made of plastic or sturdy cardboard, one side of which is gray and the other side white. The card can reflect around 18% of the incident light with the gray side and around 90% with the white side. In the camera, light meters are normally calibrated for subjects with an average brightness distribution. However, if a scene is not average, such as a white rabbit in the snow, then these values must be corrected using the gray card in order to obtain a correct image. By placing the gray card close to the object, you can prevent the white rabbit in the snow from being underexposed.

What does a colorchecker do?

As an alternative to the grey card, a colorchecker ensures color precision in digital photography. The colorchecker is a color plate that is placed in the same light as the subject in order to take a photo and create a color profile for the scene using software. The appropriate settings can then be made on the camera with regard to exposure and white balance to avoid color deviations when taking the photo. The advantages of color calibration therefore lie in the correct display of the subject on the camera monitor. Monitor calibration is particularly important in professional settings in order to be able to view and edit photos on the monitor without a large difference to the printed image. In product photography and videography, this has advantages in terms of time and therefore money.