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Monitor Display Settings - Are They Really That Important?

written by: Sean Fears•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/30/2009

Display settings really are that important, since what shows up on your computer monitor is your only indication of how things will turn out in print. Learn a few tricks to help you get the best results!

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    The Importance of Monitor Display Settings

    Monitor display settings are one component of the computer that often gets ignored, however, when working with photographs, they're one component than is absolutely critical to getting the best results possible. While the display options available to you will vary depending on the computer you use, the principles will remain the same regardless.

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    Resolution

    In the days of CRT displays, monitors were capable of displaying many different resolutions; which one you selected was a matter of personal preference and ability to read the fonts on the screen. Nowadays, liquid crystal displays (LCD) are the monitor choice based on their low power requirements and small size. Unlike the previous generation, these monitors have a native resolution that they are designed to operate at, and any other setting will sacrifice screen appearance. Take this into account when you select what monitor you want to use, especially when using flat screen and/or high definition displays. Keep in mind that, when working with photographs, the aspect ratio of the monitor, or the ratio between the width and height, will be a concern. If you want to be able to display photographs without cropping, you will want to make sure that the proportions of your monitor and photographs match.

    Need help deciding which computer monitor to buy? Read How to Choose the Best Computer Monitor for Digital Imaging for helpful tips and advice.

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    Color Quality

    This option determines the number of colors your display can reproduce. At the present, both PCs and Macs can reproduce millions of colors in their 32 bit setting, therefore there's never any reason to alter the settings.

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    Brightness and Contrast

    Photography, at its very simplest, is all about light - therefore, the brightness and contrast settings on your monitor have a significant effect on how the display renders color. The settings alter the appearance of white and other neutral colors such as grey. Because of this, you may want to consider having a separate profile on your monitor for when you are working with graphics and photographs. What looks good when watching a movie may not necessarily look so good when viewing landscapes or portraits. You should definitely calibrate your monitor as well, and it might also be a good idea to take a picture of a reference object and compare it to your display and a print-out, as well. It's worth a little extra time to get things right!