Stephen Johnson Tutorial: Monitor Calibration and Viewing Lights
Hardware calibration of your monitor is an absolutely essential step in asserting control over your digital photography. Unless you are calibrating your monitor, the very portal through which you are viewing your files is out of control, therefore showing you unknown and probably unreliable information.
Monitor calibration is usually a two to three step process, folded into what appears to be a single stream by most software. The first step the software will normally go through is to try to get the monitor into the state you desire in terms of white point (like 6500k) and brightness, it will then create a look-up table (LUT) to modify the display characteristics into your desired appearance, with the final step being to profile that new state. In most packages, the process goes something like this:
Calibration Software/Hardware Packages are available from many sources. The two I commonly use are:
Basic Monitor Recommendations
Viewing Lights and Print Inspection
When inspecting your prints, you should view them next to your monitor's display of the file, illumined by lights that match the white point of the way you calibrated the monitor. If as I do, you selected 6500k as your monitor white point, then you should purchase 6500k viewing lights to inspect your prints.
These lights could take the form of a special viewing booth like those available from GTI, special lamps like those from Solux, or normal desk lamps with specific color temperature compact fluorescent bulbs. I've picked up some ok quality bulbs from ordinary stores like Costco and Walgreens. The lamps must say 6500k (or whatever white point you are using), not just some generic term like daylight. Westcott Lighting sells more spectrally accurate 5500k bulbs for a slightly warmer rendition.
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