If you’ve ever noticed that your prints from the lab look different than the images you see on your screen, you might have wondered how to calibrate your Mac or PC screen. Or maybe you have seen differences going from your desktop to your laptop or to your phone. Or perhaps someone has even told you that all your images have a blue tone and are very cool looking, or the opposite, they are very orange and too warm.
The truth is, you may not be seeing colors correctly on your own monitor! The most likely answer to your problems is display calibration.
What Does Calibrate Even Mean?
Good question! If you arrived here because someone in a Facebook group or in a photo class told you to calibrate your screen, you might be wondering what that actually means and how it helps! To keep things simple, just think of it as a way to measure and adjust the colors on your monitor to a set standard. Calibrated displays should all show the same (or very similar) colors and contrast.
Calibrating Your Display
There are a couple of ways you can do this. You can buy a tool called a spectrometer, like the Datacolor Spyder X2. It hangs over the top of your monitor resting lightly against it, as it runs through a series of displays on your screen and measures and adjusts them. These types of tools are super accurate and if you’re photographing products or anything where exact colors are important in your final output, this is the way to go. Just make sure you check that the one you buy is compatible with the type of screen you’re viewing your images on.
Another Calibration Option for Mac Users
I’ll be honest, I’ve never purchased a spectrometer. When I was just starting out in photography it was one of those expenses I just couldn’t justify when there were so many other things I preferred to spend my hard-earned money on. But the good news is there’s another way! I’m going to share with you how to calibrate your Mac. There’s a bit of a secret step to bring up a hidden option that make things so much more accurate for you. Follow these steps:
- Open System Settings
- Go to Displays
- Click on the drop-down in the Color profile section
- Scroll all the way to the bottom and click on Customize
Now this next step is KEY!
- As you click on the + symbol in the bottom left of that window HOLD DOWN THE OPTION KEY
This brings up the Expert Mode check box in the Display Calibrator Assistant – make sure that is checked. Then just follow the instructions. It’ll ask you to look at scenarios and judge when colors are neutral, when brightness and darkness levels match, etc.. As you may guess, since we all have slight variances in our eyesight, this method is not as precise as having a device determine the most accurate options, but it’s pretty darn good. If you’re color blind though, you may want to get the help of a friend on this one!