Monitor Calibration and Lightroom

by Michael Clark

Monitor Calibration is one of those rare topics that isn't really talked about that often, but it is the cornerstone of any digital workflow. If you don't have a calibrated and profiled monitor then any work you do in the Develop module in Lightroom has no relation to the outside world. I cannot recommend strongly enough that every digital photographer that wishes to print his or her images or send them out to friends, clients or anyone else buy at least a minimal color management system.

Last winter, I wrote an article on color management and a how-to guide on how to calibrate and profile your monitor in my newsletter. You can download that issue of the newsletter here:

Just to define terms calibrating your monitor is something that can be done without a calibration device. On a Mac go to your monitor color preferences in the system preferences panel and click on calibrate. The dialog will walk you through the steps required. While calibration is good you really need to build a profile to get accurate colors and doing so requires a color calibration device like the X-rite i1 Display 2. This device is basically a spectrometer that measures the color of the light your monitor produces and creates a profile (or translator) which your computer uses to filter the colors your monitor produces. Hence, with the profile your monitor now produces accurate colors with a known gamma, luminance and color temperature. If that sounds very complex don't worry, the software makes monitor calibration and profiling a very easy process.

Ever notice how all the TV's in an electronics store have different colors? It is the same for every monitor out there. Hence the need to bring those colors to a known standard so that everyone sees the same colors. And since monitor colors can begin to drift after even a short period like a few days or even a few weeks this is an ongoing process. I profile my monitors every two weeks at a minimum - more often if I am shooting and processing lots of images while on assignment. And while laptops are great, they do not calibrate very well. Critical color work is best done on a desktop computer with a good quality monitor and in a controlled environment (i.e. a room with the lights dimmed and no stray reflections).

The newsletter goes into more detail on the specifics of color managing your monitor so I won't get into it here. If nothing else get the new Huey Pro that was just released and then you can know that while adjusting images in Lightroom you are seeing the true colors.

That's it for this session. See you next week.

Adios, Michael Clark


Kim G
2007-10-22 11:33:15
The new Sypder3 was just announced as well. Had any experience with Spyders?
Michael Clark
2007-10-22 13:14:21
Haven't tried the spyder 2 or 3 - had the first spyder and have to say it was less than impressive. Take a look at - they have some interesting reviews of monitor calibration devices.
Mark Davies
2007-12-01 21:21:55
Hi Michael, I tried to look at the link for the newsletter and it did not work. Any ideas please? Thanks, Mark
Michael Clark
2007-12-01 21:28:21
I just clicked on the link and it downloaded the newsletter - try copying and pasting it in a browser if it doesn't work. Maybe use Firefox or Safari - IE may have issues if you are on a PC.