Laptop, color calibration, and photo blogging

Note: There is no SmugMug Gallery associated with this post. Also, as usual, WordPress is not doing what I want it to do. It creates a tiled mosaic arrangement for the galleries even when I choose the two-columns large thumbnails option. 

One of these years, BAMM! . . . I’m out of here. Plus, they’re now threatening yet another editor update. Anyone care to make a bet as to whether it will be an “improvement” or a disaster? 

So, this is the first post composed and assembled entirely on my new laptop and using photos processed using said laptop. 

Why am I mentioning this? 

Because as part of setting up the laptop for photo editing, I also purchased a ColorMunki Display by x-rite. I could have bought their Smile colorimeter version (less expensive) but — after reading various reviews — opted for the Display model.

I have a much older version of their hardware that I’ve been using for many years but it’s no longer supported so they don’t guarantee the drivers they provide. Plus, it’s not where I can get my hands on it. 

“New Color” – Note 8 Photo

So, in addition to calibrating the laptop, I also recalibrated my 30″ monitor. 

. . . and everything looks different . . . 

Mind you, it’s pretty close to what I had but . . . not the same. And I can see it. And it’s jarring. 

So, I thought I would take a number of photos — photos shot with the Note 8, P900, and D7000 — and compare the previous post-processing to the processing with the new screen calibration. 

Notice #2: this post discusses colors, color perception, color calibration, and other stuff that’s primarily of interest (maybe) to someone interested in photography and accurate color reproduction. Click THIS if you just want to see photos without any words to accompany them.

Right! . . . a few things about colors . . . what you see on a monitor (screen) is affected by the device you use, the resolution of the screen, the colorspace the screen is using, the ambient temperature (indoors or outdoors, natural or artificial light, and so on), and your eyes. For instance, I see things slightly “warmer” (tending toward red) with my right eye, and slightly “cooler” (tending toward blue) with my left eye. It’s most noticeable when viewing a scene through the viewfinder of a camera. Switching eyes serves up different interpretations of what I’m looking at. 

I occasionally make comments that I can’t know what people will see when a process a photo. Depending on the device they use, they could see my photos as too bright or too dark or too saturated or rather bland. 

Many blogs I follow showcase photos . . . and to me, the majority are darker (not as bright) than how I would process them. 

“Old Color” – Note 8 Photo

There are two possible reasons for this:

  1. the person likes muted/darker photos.
  2. the person has their screen set to high brightness and contrast levels.

If I were to put my money on it, I would guess #2. Meaning, what looks fine to them on a bright display looks muddled and dull on a display with lower brightness and contrast settings. 

It goes the other way as well . . . it could be that all my photos seem impossibly bright and contrasty on their screens because I processed them at a lower brightness and contrast. 

Also, saturation. Many photos look — to me — as if they could use a bit of a saturation boost. 

To recap . . . it’s either the hardware or personal preferences, but the end result is that what I see on my screen may or may not be what other people see on their screen (as far as color, contrast, and saturation are concerned).

I process the majority of my photos — excluding B&W and special processing efforts — to accurately represent the colors I saw when I snapped the photo (to the best of my memory) but with a slight kick in contrast, brightness, and saturation levels. Also, I boost the sharpness just a little (depending on the subject). That’s the general recipe but it varies with the subject. It probably varies with my mood.

Also, my tastes have changed from a number of years ago as many of my photos used to be a bit more contrasty and saturated and I made generous use of vignettes. (HERE, HERE, HERE) They don’t look bad; just different.  

So . . . this post . . . you see two photos above; one was processed last year and the second was processed yesterday.

I processed the first photo to how I like a photo to look (again, brightness, contrast, and saturation) using the newly color-calibrated laptop. The second is from last year and processed on my desktop. 

There is another caveat. They are nor processed the same. Meaning, I don’t remember all the adjustments I made last year. Plus, last year I used onOne Photo Effects 10 and yesterday I used Dxo’s Nik Collection Photo Efex Pro.

In theory, none of that should matter. In theory, as long as I get the photo to look as I want it to look, the road there shouldn’t matter. 

In practice, other things come into play. Ambient lighting and my own changing tastes. It could be last year I had a different preference for how things should look. All of the following examples were processed without me looking back at the old ones for comparison. 

OK, that’s a lot of writing . . . because this stuff matters only to anyone who is actually interested in this stuff. As a tentative conclusion, I was surprised that despite what looked to me as significantly different screen calibration, the end results were remarkably similar. 

First batch; Samsung Note 8 photos (click any photo to enter gallery and scroll through photos):

Second batch; Nikon P900 photos (click any photo to enter gallery and scroll through photos):

Third batch; Nikon D7000 photos (click any photo to enter gallery and scroll through photos):

If you click on the individual galleries, you can see the difference between the “old” and “new” color calibration.

Know this: I can see the difference but that’s in part because I have a calibrated screen. Depending on the settings for your screen (brightness, gamma, contrast, Windows, Apple, Android, phone, etc. etc.) you might not see any difference. 

When I look at these, it tells me that I come pretty close to my desired “look” for a photo regardless of slight differences in screen calibrations.

Also, be aware that most computers are calibrated more for brightness than for color accuracy. 

Bonus “new color” photo.

Finally . . . color gamut . . . the laptop I bought does not cover the entirety of the sRGB or Adobe RGB color spaces (BASIC, A BIT MORE, do a search if you want even more or just want your head to explode). For about $1500 more than what I spent on my laptop, I could have bought a laptop with a 4K screen that completely covers (100%) of the sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamut. The problem is the majority of people don’t have 4K screens (nor, should they buy one; your eyes don’t see in 4K). 

So, what does that mean? It means that I work with my photos in the ProPhoto RGB color space and then output the end result (what you see in the above galleries) for the sRGB color space (the majority of screens are sRGB . . . and before I get an argument, I’m trying to keep this simple — if you want a bit more read THIS).

It also means that not even I can see the full gamut of the photos I’m post-processing. I see a mapping of that gamut onto the gamut of my monitor with any shortfall “filled in” based on the software approximating the actual color ranges with the colors it has available. 

Bonus “new color” photo.

I can also get away with editing in sRGB and outputting in sRGB but since the photos I work with are native in ProPhoto RGB, I prefer post-processing in that color space and then mapping it to sRGB when I output the finished photo. You can find arguments for both approaches. 

Bonus “new color” plus more photo.

 Again, what do it mean? It means that your computer and screen will take whatever I output, read what it’s supposed to be, and then map the information in whatever portion of the gamut it can duplicate and “fake news” the rest. For all but the crappiest of monitors, it should still look good. 

If you are thoroughly confused, try reading about trying to print a photo and all the associated problems with calibrating the printer to the monitor and the monitor to the camera. 

Bonus “new color” photo.

Where are we, then? Well, this is the gist of it . . . I bought a laptop that might result in some of my photos being processed slightly different than in the past. 99% of the readers won’t notice a difference.

Until I get used to it, I’ll probably won’t be happy with the results of my photo processing. once I get used to it, it will seem “normal” and the universe will once again be aligned with my wishes . . . at least as far as my photography and this blog are concerned. 

There’s another thing I should say . . . we’re about to enter a few months where my involvement with various blogs (and even this blog) might suffer sporadic outages (except for the Project 313 effort which, FSM-willing, will finish sometime in February).

The operative word is “might” . . . if you don’t hear from me or see my footprints on your blogs, I’m busy doing something or other but, eventually, things will settle back down to normal. 

Bonus “new color” photo.
Bonus “new color” photo.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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