Calibrating your computer screen

If you think the colours on your computer might not be true then you need to have your computer screen calibrated to make sure that the colours you are seeing when editing your work are accurate, writes Andrew James.

If you are only spotting a problem at the stage when you are producing prints then first of all check the nozzles in your printer aren’t clogged and therefore not laying the inks down as they should. When this happens it tends to be a quite radical colour shift with one colour (or more) blocked, whereas a more subtle difference in colour is likely to be lack of calibration.

You can’t account for everyone’s computer screen so even after calibration other people might not see your images as you intended them if viewing on your website, social media or FotoBuzz. Plus, the way each site deals with the colours can vary slightly. However, I think it really pays to at least output your images from your own calibrated screen as you want them in an accurate way.

In my days editing magazines, we regularly calibrated our screens to ensure that when pages left us, they were accurate. Mind you, the printers would still manage to cock it up from time to time. I am amazed by how few keen photographers regularly calibrate their computer screen. I’d say you should do it at a minimum every couple of months. And yes, even Macs! And yes, both desktop and laptop. That’s my Mac laptop in the image above getting the calibration treatment!

But how? Luckily for us it’s incredibly easy to calibrate your screen these days. I’d suggest you look at the Spyder5 from Datacolor. There are three options in the Spyder5 family – the Spyder5EXPRESS, Spyder5PRO and SpyderELITE.

The Express version is the least costly of the three at around £100 and it will do a quick and simple job of calibrating your screen in just a few minutes. However, if like me, you are a regular printer then you should consider either the PRO or ELITE versions but naturally these will add more to your bill for their more advanced options and ability to read ambient light settings too – which I think is a must for a desktop computer that isn’t going to move.

In my opinion, regularly checking your screen with any version is a good idea but if you can afford the extra then go for the PRO or ELITE versions. Whichever one you choose, the good thing is that’s it’s easy to do.

The Spyder5 software leads you through the process (as shown below) in a straightforward way so if you thought calibrating your screen was complicated, it’s not. You simply place the Spyder over the screen and follow the onscreen instructions. Within a few minutes the Spyder will have done the clever bit (while you enjoy a cup of tea) and then it’ll show you the difference between Before and After. If you’ve not previously calibrated then you may be surprised how dramatic the change turns out to be.

Spyder 5 at work calibrating my laptop screen.

Of course, you may decide that you don’t want to spend that extra money and that is 100% your choice. But think how much you spend on your cameras and computers and the hobby in general and ask yourself do you really want to leave the last bit – producing a print – to chance?

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