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Why You Should Consider Calibrating Your Monitor & How To Do It

written by: Sean Fears•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/2/2009

Most people don't think about their computer monitor, but its accuracy at color reproduction is not, by any stretch, a given. Learn what you can do to help that picture on your monitor match the one you're planning on printing out.

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    Color Accuracy?

    While digital photography has become a ubiquitous aspect of our modern technological age, there are many overlooked aspects that can help to advance users’ digital photography skills to a new level, and one simple example of this is monitor calibration.

    The very same principles that apply to color balance and white balance when taking pictures also apply to those same variables when viewing photographs on a computer screen. Just because you can see your photograph doesn’t mean that the same colors you saw when viewing a scene are the colors interpreted by your camera or emitted by your monitor. While digital cameras employ auto white balance algorithms to determine the appropriate color temperature of the lighting source and the corresponding appearance of neutral colors such as gray and white, your monitor has no such function. Taking the time to adjust it can help you to produce printed images that aren’t an unpleasant surprise to you!

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    Options for Mac users

    As with many digital photography functions, there are freeware and shareware/commercial choices to meet your needs, depending on the degree of functionality that you need. If you’re using a Macintosh, you can access a built-in calibration utility by going to System Preferences>Displays>Color and selecting Calibrate; from there, the utility will walk you through the process. One freely available utility that has gotten good reviews is SuperCal, a software program that goes so far as to allow you to finely tune your monitor’s response by color channel and brightness, respectively.

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    Options for PC users

    For PC users, the choices are a little more limited and don’t include built-in utilities, but don’t worry; the options are still out there if you look for them. If you're lucky enough to be able to afford a copy of Adobe Photoshop, then the Adobe Gamma utility it comes with will allow you to perform a rudimentary adjustment of your monitor. With a little diligence and a search engine, you can also find web-based test charts and procedures that can help you to calibrate your monitor manually- the only thing it will cost you is a little time! If your monitor came with software, make sure to check to see if calibration software was included before you purchase anything.