Colour (mis)management

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I’ve been bitten by the photography bug for a few years now, and having owned a dSLR for a reasonable amount of time now, I’ve accumulated a few things that any photo-hobbyist would acquire over the active course of their hobby. I have read quite a bit about color management and why it is essential to get it right if you’re serious about your work, but being a salaried individual I never quite had the money to buy a monitor simply because I wanted better colours… until now.

Dell, as a lot of people are aware,  keep giving discounts and special deals throughout the year. In April they had 10 days of special deals running. One one of those days, I decided to plonk some money for a monitor I had been eyeing for a while, the Dell Ultrasharp 2209WA. This is an e-IPS panel, and has had a very high percentage of people reviewing it favourably. For the price it is available for even without a discount, it any hobbyists best bang-for-the-buck option available in the market. To go along with it, I also bought an X-Rite i1 Display 2.

Before I plunged into calibration of my new monitor, I went through a reasonable amount of reviews and articles about calibration, colour spaces, etc. I was hoping it would help me nail the process in my first shot. Only, I didn’t realize how accustomed I had become to my laptop’s LCD (which is quite crummy, photography-wise). As soon as I had my monitor calibrated by the i1, I realized the reds and greens were too bright and saturated. Disappointed, but certain it was my fault, I proceeded to re-calibrate my monitor five more times over the next few days, each time with the same result. Exasperated and disappointed with the results I was consistently getting, I put my questions online on a few forums, hoping someone would be able to tell me what I was doing wrong. Unfortunately my posts disappeared into the deep abyss of old forum posts in less than a day, with barely one reply which wasn’t as useful as I was hoping it would be. I had decided, enough was enough, and rather than letting my money go down the drain, I’d sell the monitor and calibrator to someone who was smarter than me and figure this out. However, having acquired a monitor, that too of the quality of this one at the price I paid for it, was something I couldn’t convince myself to do so easily. So I decided to give this one last shot.

I deleted all the previous profiles created by the i1, and got the monitor into its native state. I then proceeded to adjust the brightness, contrast and colour levels on my own, with no point of reference, till the time the screen content looked the way I expected and wanted it to look. Despite that, I found that there was no way to get the super-bright greens down to manageable levels without messing up the gamma adjustment, which then tilted the balance of colour unfavourably towards green. So I settled for what I had, and used these settings for the next couple of days.

Today, after two days of manually setting the monitor, I ran the calibrator again. Post-calibration I now find that the monitor resembles the condition I had obtained manually, only a little more accurately. So does this mean I wasted money on the i1? I don’t think so. I know that some time in the future I’ll buy myself a good printer, and maybe a bigger monitor with a larger gamut than the 2209 (which covers sRGB fully). Having the i1 with me at that point in time will help me calibrate all my devices and help them play nice with each other. As far as the super-bright greens and reds go, I guess I’ve been using crummy LCDs for so long that the colours that I consider too bright or saturated were actually the ones that I never saw correctly earlier. Lesson learnt.

If you’re considering buying a color calibrator for your monitor, I strongly advise you not to waste time thinking about it. Just get one. It will make a ton of difference to your work. even if it only personal work or fun. I can’t say much about the cheaper hardware calibrators available in the market, but for sure the i1 is great, and comes with a very good software which is very simple to follow (although it keeps crashing my system… maybe it’s because of Vista.) I’ve heard some really good things about the Spyder 3 Elite as well, and most people say it is at par or slightly better than the i1, so it’s worth a look as well.

About StrandedMike

Just trying to find my place in and on this potpourri of culture, language, and geography called Earth.

Posted on May 27, 2009, in Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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