Getting Calibrated

As a photographer, you have to visualize the changes you're making to your images — and the key component that allows you to do that is your computer monitor. It's also the only device that stands between the digital camera and your final print; displaying your images accurately on your monitor is critical. Properly profiling and adjusting — calibrating — your monitor ensures that what you see is what you're going to get in your final output of the image.

The most important step of implementing color management into your workflow is to calibrate your monitor. Calibrating on a regular basis is important because the colors, brightness, and contrast of your monitor change over time. Whether you use one of those big clunky computer monitors (called CRTs), one of those sleek new LCD monitors, or a laptop computer, the rule remains the same: Calibrate on a regular basis.

Most laptop (and some LCD) monitors won't let you adjust color balance and contrast; with some of them, only brightness can be adjusted. If you have an LCD monitor, you should still calibrate to ensure optimal brightness settings. Calibrating is important to ensure that colors are completely accurate; do as much of it as you can on your machine.

When you calibrate your monitor, you make adjustments to the brightness, contrast, and color balance to match what your calibration software uses as its standard. These adjustments are actual physical changes to the operation of the monitor (but not to the image files you are viewing). They're necessary to produce an accurate profile that your computer then uses to determine what prints out.

By calibrating your monitor, you are effectively setting the stage for a successful color-managed workflow. If you skip this step, you end up making adjustments to your digital files on the basis of false information. The resulting prints won't match what you see on your monitor.

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