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.


Note: if you are not reading this blog post at, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.


If you’re new to this blog, it might be a good idea to read the FAQ page. If you’re considering subscribing to this blog, it’s definitively a good idea to read both the About page and the FAQ page.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Blog Stuff, DxO Software, On1Photo, Photo Post-processing, Photography Stuff, Software and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Laptop, color calibration, and photo blogging

  1. robert87004 says:

    And some of us use an android tablet with a glass screen so I never know how ‘monitor people’ see my photos.


    • disperser says:

      I don’t think the material is as important as the color space used. My photos look about the same on my Samsung Note 8 and before that the Samsung Note II. However, I made the effort of adjusting the devices. You don’t need much other than taking a photo of something with primary colors and then adjusting what you see on the screen as close as you can to what you see in front of you.

      The Chrome Book my wife uses has less of the of the gamut covered (it’s mostly for surfing and e-mail) and my photos look a tad on the cool side and not as saturated. (I’ll have to see if I can calibrate it as well).

      Some tablets have the blue-light filter (meant to help you get to sleep at night by filtering blue light that’s supposed to interfere with getting to sleep) that turns on in the evening.

      As for your photos (looking at the last few of your posts) I can give you my feedback based on what I see on my screen . . . personally, and I stress “personally”, I would bump up the contrast first, then the brightness a bit, and then the saturation.

      Hopefully, you won’t mind but . . .


      Lightroom Only Tweaks:

      If you are on Android, you have access to Snapseed for free (and also Pixlr). The following shows the result of slight tweaks in Snapseed:

      I don’t know if you edit photos or not, so these are suggestions based on what I see and also realize that it’s a small photo (not that much information as opposed to the original).

      One other thing. Some people shoot in Automatic which is fine if you can still choose the focus point. In the above, the crane should have been the focus target. I can’t tell because of the small size but it’s not centered so it might not have been (unless you cropped the photo after shooting it). Composition-wise, it looks fine, but I would have liked to bring out the crane a bit more from the stuff surrounding it.

      To be clear, I’m telling you what I would do if that was my photo and reiterate I’m not an expert and my advice is only worth as much as it costs.

      Also, this is a one time deal and not me setting a precedent on telling you how to edit your photos so if you don’t appreciate it (or hate it) don’t worry; it won’t happen again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • robert87004 says:

        I have a Samsung tab A which I don’t think I can adjust in any way, not sure. I use Snapseed, never shoot in Auto and trim that photo looking back over my shoulder, seated in my truck. I’ll take a good look at your edits later, right now I’m on my phone. Thanks for taking the time to do.


      • disperser says:

        My Samsungs (phones) both had settings under display that allowed for manual adjustments to the colors. I typically have it on Basic and the blue filter on. There are apps that help you adjust the color on the phone, but I don’t know how good they are (mixed reviews, and all).

        I used snapseed on the photo and used their automatic adjustments and then bumped up the contrast brightness and saturation (very slight). I also used the Tonal Contrast (bumped midtones) and their HDR mode (about 5).

        Note that many of those tools come up with lots of adjustment applied and they need to be scaled down.


  2. mvschulze says:

    Love the post, EJ. Need to spend a bit more time with it – constricted tonight by a vd\ery p[roblematic mouse. But a quick review: I like the new processing better, in most examples. I feel the others in this post,(old) are more (too much) saturated, evident particularly in side by sides. Over-saturation can be a distraction to me, artsy to others. Under-saturation is like not getting your money’s worth. Note that the vast majority of all of your images, (historically, as they appear on my computer, and devices,) have appeared pretty much right on.
    As for my mouse, I’m losing some control, especially tonight, and it is time-consuming and exasperating!!!! I think It and the computer are nearing the end of their useful life. M :-(


    • disperser says:

      Sorry to hear that. I’ve been having issues with my (relatively) new Logitech mouse. I think their newer offerings are not as good as the previous stuff I’ve owned of theirs.

      I was getting unwanted double-clicks and other odd behavior. It’s probably dirt, but unlike their older models, this one is difficult to open and clean, so I just switched to my tablet.

      As for the color and images, they seem pretty close on my monitor but, as I said, it depends on the monitor.

      Lots of my older stuff (using onOne Photo Effects) tended to be more processed, in part because I used saved user adjustments applied in a batch mode to multiple images at once.

      I now edit each image individually and I’m using Nik Collection which I highly recommend (lots of instruction videos online on how to use the tools and it gives you an idea of how they can be used). Still, I naturally lean toward an image with more impact. The boundary between “just right” and “too much” can sometimes be very narrow.

      As for the mouse, see if using a bit of compressed air and blowing it under the buttons and around the wheel helps a bit. Luckily, mice are pretty cheap. I’m also trying to get myself used to using something like Wacom Bamboo. I have an older Intuos 3 that I’ve been using (it has both a pen and a mouse).


  3. All of the photos are spectacular to me! But, it is interesting to see the differences/compare them. And to read about what you are doing with your photos…and what you are learning. :-)
    I love the details in your photos so much!
    I hope the next few months go well and smooth. Please keep in touch if/when you can. Wishing you and Melisa all the best!


  4. I too am nervous about the new editor but to be fair to WP at least this time they have given notice that they are about to mess things up. Previously updates that don’t work are launched without warning, usually on a Friday afternoon just before they go home for the weekend. We shall see!


  5. AnnMarie says:

    Having enjoyed the careful examination of the difference between the “new” and the “old”, I prefer the “new” cooler photos, though not in all cases. Two thumbs up for the bird portrait, the beautiful Paddle Plant (red/green succulent), and the striking last “Bonus ‘new color’ plant” (do you know its name?).


  6. It is a matter of taste changing. Both versions have appeal. The Color Munki helps, but I also wonder sometimes what people are seeing. I o


    • disperser says:

      It helps having access to multiple devices or asking people with different devices.

      You know . . . “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”


      • Yes, looking at your images on other people’s devices would be good. I can’t say that I’ve done that, but maybe I should.


      • I get a big change (downward) in tonality when the Color Munki kicks in when the computer starts up.


        • disperser says:

          On my monitor, it changed the B&W to something with a slight Sepia tone. I think it also made most photos look a tad warmer.

          I had an older model (no longer supported) that did a great job. Not the Munki. I ended up returning it because even with advice from their support team, I never got what I thought was a reliable result.


        • I got interested in color management when I got a photographic printer. It is really invaluable there and I am still learning.
          Sometimes getting the print to look like the image on screen can be challenging. I am beginning to think it depends somewhat on the colors in the specific image. Maybe some colors are more uniform than other across devices. I’ve printed some images that are pretty close on the first test print and other that took many tests prints to get the colors right.


        • disperser says:

          I used to print on an Epson 2200 and I used paper (glass, semigloss, luster, matte) from sources that also provided color profiles for the paper.

          That said, I also calibrated the monitor and printer. Finally, Photoshop has an option that lets you see what is outside of your printer’s color gamut’s range (meaning, shows you the areas of your photo that are beyond the physical ability of the printer to reproduce). Not that the colors wouldn’t be there, but that the printer would interpolate as closely as it could. That helped me produce photos that printed pretty much as they looked on the screen.

          I was happy with most everything I printed except for some stuff on glossy paper. Not all glossy paper, but most. I can’t remember the technical term for it, but if you held the photo at a certain angle, you would see uneven reflections from certain areas of the photo.

          Mostly, I tried to limit my printing to luster or matte paper. Glossy gives you more of a punch but can be an issue when bright light sources are around.

          Matte is suited for displays that will be behind glass or viewed beyond a certain distance. Luster gave a good compromise between glossy and matter. I bought all my non-Epson paper from Lexjet (don’t know if they are still around).

          Anyway, yes . . . producing a print one is happy with is almost an art. That said, everything I printed at home was always better and closer to what the photo looked like than anything I ever got from commercial labs. I’ve not used any of the new services, but we plan to once we settle (cheaper than buying the printer and ink).


        • Thank you for explaining that the printer interpolates colors that are out of gamut. I’m going to pay more attention to that. I have an Epson 17” printer and I just printed a 17” x 30” pano for our house. I like it a lot. I used Ilford Smooth Pearl, which I bought a big roll of from B and H. I don’t have any glossy paper, but based on your experience I should not bother. My other media are from Breathing Color, a roll of metallic paper and a roll of canvas. A friend told me he thinks the art is in the printing. That’s something to ponder.


        • disperser says:

          That’s a big printer. When we moved, I gave mine! (13″ inch) to a friend along with all the ink and paper. The thing with the inkjets is that they only make sense if you use them regularly otherwise the ink head clogs because the ink dries.

          I wanted a lot of ink running cleaning cycles before I figured out it was better to leave the printer always on (against advice in the user manual) and print something about once a week. One of the reasons my office wall at work was lined with 13×19 prints of various photos.


        • I imagine you had to let go of a lot of possessions moving to Hawaii! But being surrounded by ocean is a good trade-off, assuming that was one of the deciding factors for you and Melissa.


        • disperser says:

          We pretty much sold everything we owned save some boxes we mailed. As for the reasons to move to Hawaii, there was no single reason but rather a multitude of them.

          Seeing the ocean every day was one plus. Side note . . . in the 30 months since we moved to Hawaii, we have not set foot in the ocean. It’s nice to see but we’re not really “water” people.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m not big on swimming in the ocean either, but I love to photograph it!


Voice your opinion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.