Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Screen calibration matters, yes it does, really.

I showed Mrs G my first post in this blog and she followed the links through to my photo heros. She was looking at an image by Brian Valentine of droplets on the unfurling leaves of an Aquilegia. "His photos are very good", she said, "but they are too dark. Look at this one."

I looked. It was indeed very dark, with virtually no detail in some areas (not background areas, which do sometimes go dark, or even black, but parts of the subject, at the core of the image).

I went and looked at it on my screen. It looked fine. I remembered that although I had wanted to calibrate Mrs G's screen quite a while ago, she had not wanted me to play with her PC at the time and we had both forgotten about it. So I suggested calibrating her screen. She was a bit ho hum about it. (Her PC is set up just as she wants it - she is very particular about that - and she doesn't like me fiddling with it unnecessarily in case I mess it up.)

Then she came and looked at Brian's image on my screen. The response was immediate. "Calibrate my screen."

I downloaded QuickGamma. For some reason the current version would not run, saying it was not configured properly. I downloaded an earlier version, and that worked. The calibration was very quick to do.

The calibration made a huge difference. Mrs G's screen is not brilliant, being quite old now and rather small, but the LordV image that had been so dark and impenetrable was now fine and beautiful, with much more detail and subtlety to appreciate.

You can get hardware to do the calibration for you, but if you are interested in images of any sort you really should at least run some tests to make sure your screen is not way out of line.

There is information here about monitors, what you should be able to see, and software and hardware to help calibrate your monitor to get the best out of  it.

You may find this useful to see whether your screen seems to be ok or not. These are the most stringent test images I have come across and you may not be able to get all the tests to work perfectly. I certainly can't. It depends on the screen, your PC, your eyesight and the light level in the room where you are looking at the screen (the light level should be very low indeed for the tests to distinguish between the very darkest areas). So don't panic if you can't make out the last few of the darkest or lightest areas. But do remember that even a rough, quick adjustment using (for example) QuickGamma can make an absolutely huge amount of difference.

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