I had a bit of a scare the other day when I noticed that my photos looked significantly different on the different monitors I use. Of course, no monitor is the same, but this was just too much. I asked myself: Which monitor is accurate and reliable? Were all those hours of post-processing pointless, in vain? How can I solve the problem of inconsistent colors?
It became clear that I needed a color calibration system, which consists of a hardware color calibrator (also called a colorimeter) and a piece of software. From what I understand (and please correct me if I’m wrong), a colorimeter reads the color output from the monitor and compares them against what it knows these colors should be. Consequently, based on this comparison, the software makes the necessary changes to the LUT (Look Up Table) of the graphics card for accurate display of colors.
Brandon, who runs his own excellent photoblog JavaJive, kindly offered his advice and recommended me the X-Rite Eye-One Display 2 (i1Display 2). After some comparisons here and there between the different Huey, Spyder, and X-Rite products, I decided to order myself the Eye-One Display 2. It offers color calibration for CRT, LCD, and laptop monitors through easy wizard-driven functionality.
So, what’s inside the box? Not much really, just the colorimeter with funny octopus-like suction cups, a protective cover/ambient light measurement head, a counterweight for use with LCD monitors, the profiling software, and a quick start guide. Disappointingly, there’s no physical manual inside the bundle, one depends on the annoying Flash tutorials on the software CD-ROM.
Using the system is very, very easy indeed. Just install the software, plug-in the USB colorimeter, attach it to the monitor, and run the software. The software automatically creates a profile and calibrates the monitor for accurate colors. You’re done. It’s wise to repeat the process every few weeks.
Money well spent? The purchase reminds me of the MasterCard commercials you see on TV:
- X-Rite Eye-One Display 2: €140;
- A reasonable monitor: €300+;
- Confidence and ease of mind when post-processing: Priceless.
But, is it really, really worth it? I’m not so sure. First of all, the system is quite expensive. There’s a noticeable difference but I think that one can set-up his or her monitor reasonably well with eyeball measurement tests such as this one. Most viewers of my photos probably don’t have calibrated displays, no matter how carefully I’ve calibrated my own monitor, I won’t be able to tell what they see. And even if their monitors are calibrated, the interpretation of color will remain pretty subjective. There’s absolutely no guarantee you will like that blue, saturated sky in one of my photos the same way as I like it…