Is Screen Calibration Important to Photographers These Days?


We heard discussions from both sides of the camp. The question is whether recent screen calibration is important. Having been in this business for over 14 years, I’ve seen the answers change over and over again. And, like reviews, there are technical and practical answers. Some people do not change their minds no matter what. And some photographers haven’t even cared about it. In 2022, the answer is a bit complicated. And we think the truth of the matter may change your mind.

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We have reviewed a number of screen calibrators in the past for your records.

Technically speaking, calibration is certainly important. However, it is even more important depending on the monitor you are using. The problem is very complicated. Take our website as an example. On Samsung’s curved display connected to your PC, it may look different from the iMac you’re using to write this blog post. But what I see on the 2019 iMac is similar to what Dan, Erin, Mark, Ferroz, Brittany, and Hillary see when they read my post. The reason is that we all use Apple devices. Most Apple devices have been tuned to look the same.

Well, in fact, let’s go further. Overall, iOS devices all look the same when uncalibrated. What you see on your computer is similar to what you see on your iPhone, but not exactly the same. A few months ago, review editor Hillary Grigonis found this when he challenged the staff. She tried to get us to tell us the difference between the images and understand which camera took which picture. On my phone, I thought one way. But on my iMac, I thought something completely different. You can imagine what you would think if you were using something like the HP Z Book.

This is something else we keep in mind:

  • In January, 66% of readers were using mobile devices.
  • Most of our users come to us from Android devices.
  • Most of our users, especially from the iPhone, are ubiquitous with Android phones.

This means that most people reading our website don’t do it on their desktops. Therefore, we are faithful to our philosophy of not worrying about pixel peeping. Pixel people are a small part of our readers. Aside from that detail, they all get a more or less the same viewing experience with slight differences.

And what do you guess? None of us adjust our display. I stopped many years ago. It was too much trouble. To get the same viewing experience as I do, I need to submit an ICC profile. But if you can use almost the same profile that the manufacturer provided for your device, why bother?

Where this becomes more complicated (and attractive) comes with printing. But in the last few years, photo printers and computers have become better at sharing ICC profiles. At least that’s true for things like Apple devices and Canon printers. Epson printers are a little different. (You don’t have to worry about printing from your mobile phone to your Instax device.)

In reality, I don’t think screen adjustments are important anymore. Do you think every NY Times photographer is adjusting the display? What about all the photographers who work at Reuters? The truth is that they are not. The various screen-by-screen experiences these days are so common that they don’t make sense. It doesn’t really matter unless you’re using the cheapest display possible. But if you’re using the cheapest display possible, you probably don’t care too much about photography.

You can sit down and certainly get into many techniques. You can make some numbers look completely different from each other. But after all, consider practicality.


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