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PC / laptop monitor profiling


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Hi all,

I am new to the forum and was hoping someone out there has some experience and can offer advice on monitor profiling.

I have previously been uploading images to flickr etc via my 'unprofiled' Sony Vaio laptop. Recently I noticed some of them looked pretty poor (all colour casts and blotches) when viewed on other monitors, whilst they looked perfectly good on my own laptop. In particular reds on emmission nebulae would be affected (pink colour casts, oversaturation, blotching).

Doing some investigation I realised this is all down to PC monitor profiling and calibration, which appears to be something of a must in your workflow, if outputting material for general viewing on the web (ie in sRGB).

Since this discovery I have profiled my laptop (using 'Eyeone' monitor profiling software) and believe it is making some difference. However, I am still experimenting with this, so if anyone has any tips or recommendations of better ways or better software to tackle this I would be interested. Was even wondering whether there are preferred laptops, desktops or monitors out there, that are best suited for this sort of work, for when I next switch.

I also attach before (unprofiled) and after (profiled) images of the IC1318 Sadr region in Cygnus and the Heart nebula, so would be interested to know if these appear better / worse after the profiling (the profiled version being the second image in each case).

Cheers

Ken

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I am sat here using an unprofiled netbook monitor atm ... so don't want to comment on the colours etc seen in these images BUUUT ...

For me the only real way to do accurate profiling is to get a profiling tool such as a Spyder 3 Elite which I have downstairs.

(http://www.amazon.co.uk/ColorVision-S2EL100-Spyder3Elite-PC-Mac/dp/B000X4X35C/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=software&qid=1282475299&sr=8-2)

Whack it on the screen(s) you use, input your pref's (make sure you use industry std ones if you want to provide images for print, publicaition, etc), then let it calibrate things.

I think it goes without saying that some monitors are better than others, like telescopes or eyepieces, they all differ, but if you profile accurately, it means that the blues or reds or whatever you see are the same as what someone else with an accurately profiled monitor will see ... the colour should also very closely resemble what is printed should they be printed/published.

RE: sRGB, AdobeRGB, PhotoRGB, etc ... this all relates to colour gamut ie which colours are used and how many colours are in the box and are able to be combined to paint the final image on your screen. Think of it as a box of crayons, sRGB has the least amount of crayons in the box, Adobe from memory has a similar amount of crayons in the box but a slightly bigger variations between the colour of each crayon so it can reach a wider range of colours, but tones will differ and look odd if viewed from a machine/application only capable of sRGB ... PhotoRGB has the most amount of crayons, this is the bucket of crayons and is the most accurate but with it comes increased image size and complexity not normally required by your average joe.

... web images are therefore best being profiled with sRGB, as most people's machines and older web browsers cannot handle adobe RGB ... not sure whether any can do PhotoRGB.

Not sure this helps ... hope so :/

EDIT: Just taken a better look at the images you posted ... and what I said is true about the adobe profiled images, the reds lose their depth when viewed on a non-pofiled screen/application ... so what you might want to do is work in Adobe RGB, then output to sRGB ... but ensure you save the Adobe as this allows for better colour and is the industry standard for publishing and print.

BTW: Firefox 3 allows for Adobe RGB ... bit more explanation examples and info here

http://www.dria.org/wordpress/archives/2008/04/29/633/

EDIT2: Firefox now has colour management enabled as standard ... for more info on how to enable and disable it, try here

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Gfx.color_management.enabled

Edited by Damnit
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Thanks Damnit,

That is very helpful.

One thing though, that is rather confusing is that the profiled images I attached were in fact created in sRGB not adobe98. I just have 'adobe98' in the file name because they were worked on in adobe98 working space in photoshop. But I then created the jpg by using Save for Web (with convert to sRGB ticked).

So I am thinking now that maybe the loss of depth in red is more to do with the monitor profile I have created and how this is then converted (to both adobe98 and sRGB). I have used the Eyeone software rather than Spyder and the monitor profile seems pretty rich in red. When working in Photoshop although the workspace is Adobe98 the monitor profile is still preserved in terms of what is displayed to me as I work on the image, so I still see the rich reds. So I am thinking that the colour balance for the created profile is rather too skewed toward red and therefore when this is converted to both adobe98 or sRGB, the mapping that takes place then leaves the red relatively muted.

When I created the monitor profile I also used the defaults for the Eyeone software. And I have noticed that for a laptop it has used a colour temperature of 5000K. The industry standard appears to be 6500K.

I am simply going to have to play around with the software's settings a little more. Most users of the web will be using unprofiled monitors or browsers which do not process embedded ICC monitor profiles anyway, so the main aim really was to get the sRGB version, that most people will see, to be acceptable and as close as is possible to the original version I see, viewing on my own monitor. Hopefully I can eventually get the settings on Eyeone to work for me, rather than purchasing another calibration tool such as Spyder, but will have to see.

Cheers

Ken

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Hi Ken.

My monitor is profiled by eye using Adobe Gamma, which can be found under 'control panel' on a PC.

I tried a spyder 3 pro, but the results were awful. Just to make sure, I colour balanced images on the monitor calibrated with the spyder, and posted them, and the general conclusion was that my images were much better balanced before profiling.

I borrowed another spyder unit just in case mine was faulty, but had the same results.

What I now do, is check my image on 3 different uncalibrated monitors, and although they obviously don't produce the same result, if there is no obvious colour balance issue showing on any of them, I'm happy.

Most people don't have calibrated monitors, so IMHO, if you can get your image to look OK on several different monitors, this is fine.

Cheers

Rob

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I understand about why there is so much "bah humbug" about this ... but to let me try to explain simply why this is so important ...

It is kind of like asking people to look at your photographs whilst wearing sunglasses ... each person's sunglasses (including your own) will produce different results and colour tones, some with more blue, others very red, different levels of grey and black or strong yellowy tints, etc. That is what they see when they look through an uncalibrated monitor.

By correctly calibrating your monitor, you are removing your sunglasses (and thus any erroneous colour shifts) completely whilst you edit, and even controlling the amount of light that falls on your pictures (with gamma etc) - so now everyone who does the same and calibrates their monitors should see pretty much the same colour tones, etc as you do in your images. Those who don't calibrate their monitors will see the images with similar colour tones as they do with any other images, so shouldn't notice any discernible difference, and anyway, you have absolutely no control over this so its like a moving target. The only thing you can therefore reasonably do to get consistency in your output and to is go with the industry standard and calibrate your equipment.

A simple test would be to get a few of your images professionally printed up (ie. not on a home printer as they need profiling too and will definitely skew the results). Use some before and after calibration images then compare the output of those to what you see on your screen ... it should result that, as the printing company's equipment should also be calibrated to 6500 Kelvin, then the colours in a correctly calibrated monitor should come fairly close to what you see in the calibrated prints ... those from a non-calibrated monitor will probably vary quite a lot from what the printer gives you back (read: disappoint the most :)).

The main thing is to get your monitor properly calibrated ... laptops generally are not good for any kind of photo or image editing, many laptops and a lot of mainstream/cheaper monitors are not aimed at producing such high end or accurate results and so can not always be calibrated to acceptable industry standard levels, and this may be the reason that you are not getting the results you hope for ... ?

A hint for the colour calibration process ... do it in a blacked out or very dark room.

When I first calibrated my monitors using the Spyder 3 Elite, it was totally awful and colours were badly scewed ... I too was not too impressed, then I tried shutting the blinds to block out any stray ambient light affecting the calibration process, and now whenever I see my images elsewhere or have them printed up professionally the colours and tones are very close to what I see on my screens, and its rare that I see any major difference between the two. I since found that many other people do this and had the same issues as I did when they tried it in a brighter room.

Maybe also take a look at some of the images on my website to see how they look to you on your monitor (see bottom of sig), hopefully there are no bad colour shifts (unless intended) because they were done using profiled equipment ...

If you are able to, maybe try comparing the images using a properly calibrated monitor and a non-calibrated monitor ...

BTW: My workflow for these images is generally: first taking the photos on a DSLR using Adobe RGB and saving them as RAW format, any Lightroom/Photoshop editing is done in RAW format (keeping the adobe RGB colour profile and using adobe's camera RAW profile) ... only when I output them do I convert them to sRGB and optimise the jpg's slightly for web use.

When I finally compare the edited but original aRGB RAW images to the sRGB jpg's I very rarely see any major shift in colour, and definitely none as severe as in Ken's in the TP.

Again ... hope this helps - calibration is a bit of a beast, but once you get properly sorted (which can take some time, as its not always an easy thing to crack), I am sure you will be much happier and more confident with your results. :):D:)

PS ... if you edit in RAW and your images are still tending to go yellow or shift when you convert or output them after calibration, then it might be that you are using an old or an incorrect camera RAW plug in ... check for the latest version and install it :eek:

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Jeez, having discovered this issue, I feel I have just opened up something of a Pandora's box.

I mean, its not like it isn't difficult enough already doing everything right in your set up to acquire decent raw data and then to process that optimally within photoshop etc. to get a good final result. Now it seems you also need to spend ages getting your monitor profile right ! Although once done I guess that should be it.

Rob, I did try adobe gamma. But I don't think it is for me. I am not sure I trust my judgement well enough to get a good profile out of it and feel that the vendor solutions must be more accurate in the end. I have been testing my web output on a few different unprofiled monitors as I experiment and agree that this is useful. Also I like Damnit's idea of getting some images professionally printed as a test.

I haven't written off Eyeone just yet and will persevere a little further with the settings on industry standard. This whole area appears to be tricky to get right, but I agree with Damnit that software profiling is ultimately the best way to go and is probably worth the outlay overall. I think I may face problems though, as suggested, when trying to apply the industry standards to the laptop I am using, since when I ran the Eyeone defaults it used a lower colour temperature than industry standard (by quite some way, 5000K vs 6500K). I have also read reports (since buying Eyeone) that it also typically leans towards too warm a red, which makes me think I may end up using Spyder or some other.

Ultimately though, I know I need to crack this one now, despite the work involved, I need to move towards the kind of workflow Damnit suggests and need to take the initial hit of getting the profile right. There is also some pain in converting existing processed images to look right under the new profile.

Thanks

Ken

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I couldn't agree more Ken,

Damnits point that proper calibration needs to be done scientifically is correct.

In my position, having to use a laptop as I spend half the year away, this may be the reason that the Spyder system doen't work for me.

In the abscense of access all the time to a calibrated sytem, monitoring my output on many different monitors etc seems to do OK, but isn't perfect of course.

Having some prints done is a good idea.

What is important in the end, certainly for web viewing although not for printing, is that if it looks good on your monitor, it looks good, although most likely not the same, on other monitors, the bulk of which will be uncalibrated.

Damnit....can you recommend any laptop that has a reasonable screen that can be calibrated?

Mine is 3 years old now and needs to be replaced....for tax purposes of course :D

Cheers

Rob

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Ken ... don't worry mate, once you have your head around the theory of it all, the practical application of profiling becomes much simpler, and to me it sounds like you are getting there ... "just over the next hill son" :)

Understanding and setting everything up in the first place is maybe a bit of a pain, but once you get there the "maintenance" and day to day application of colour profiles becomes a bit more second nature ... you should re-profile your monitors on a regular basis though, as they age, their colours shift slightly. I tend to do mine about once a month using the "recal" function of the Spyder.

Rob ... to be honest I have not investigated them of late so can't point you to any specific machines.

Until recently I used a Rock laptop (comparible to alienware in specs) which was v.expensive and very high-end when I got it. Powerful CPU, fast RAM, (gaming) graphics coupled with a nice 1680x1050 resolution screen which would [almost] calibrate up to get close to matching the splendid tones on the very excellent Iiyama 22" screen I ran alongside it in dual view (Iiyama BTW make loooovely monitors, v.highly recommended).

The graphics and motherboard blew though, taking the hard disc with it ... twice! :D

First time it was luckily repaired under warranty (but was also MIA for ~3 months), 2nd time it was a week out of warranty and no chance Stone (who took over Rock) would fix it. :):mad:

Sorry ... I digress a little, but basically - I wouldn't go with Rock again - fantastic machine when it was working, but disappointing after sales and service and support. I now have a very expensive paperweight :) ... and beware of other similarly high end machines from the likes of alienware ... you pays through the nose for em, and they don't have the R&D behind them that many of the bigger manufacturers do.

Personally I do not like Dell either ... totally rubbish service and support in my experience so would never buy from them.

I quickly googled for "laptops for photographers" which is basically what you are looking for and most results come back with gaming laptops ... as similar high end power, esp graphics are needed.

Found a fairly recent article here discussing some of the options open to you (including the obvious Mac book route) ...

Digital Photo - Photographers? Laptops | DPmag.com

... lots of googling and reading and research I think is your answer unfortunately mate, but hopefully something in the above will help (not actually read it but skimming it looked fairly promising).

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Thanks Rob and Damnit.

I am finding this all quite interesting and enlightening.

My VAIO is also a good number of years (4 or 5) old, and, even though it has served well, I am definitely in the market pretty soon for a renewal, so this whole discussion is useful. When I bought it, I was nowhere near astro-imaging and have only been doing that for the last year or so, so didn't have this kind of application in mind at the time.

Ultimately what I seem to be finding is that lower or mid-range laptops do not really lend themselves greatly to the 'industry standard'. So I guess it all depends how important that particular requirement is. It seems to be the best way to go in your workflow and will probably also give the most consistently reproducible colour on other monitors and devices, both profiled and also unprofiled for that matter.

I have tried Eyeone now on my laptop using industry standard 6500K colour temperature and the profile did look rather too cool and unnatural for this particular laptop. So, it may well be that Spyder or others will ultimately fair similarly poorly in that regard. I don't know whether I'm ready to commit to higher end monitors just yet, but will take a look. So maybe the 'obvious' MacBook route is more likely as a next step for me.

We shall see.

Thanks

Ken

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Don't go getting too drastic Ken ... remember Macs are for life not just for Christmas :D

I don't want to start the usual Mac:PC discussion, but my only word of warning in going down this route is that although Macs really are fantastic bits of kit in so many ways, far more stable etc etc etc ... you do have to seriously consider what you do with your computer and if the apps you use the most are available for Mac or whether you have to dual boot the thing or run wine or whatever its called these days (the windows emulator, for which you also officially need a windows license). Plus whether you can be bothered relearning a whole new operating system and way of working, or ensuring you can network things between your mac and the pc. Document transfers, compatibility etc might not be anything as bad as it was a few years back, but you know there are going to be some issues somewhere along the line just because its life :)

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Sorry for this outburst but I say bahh humbug to anything Dell ... :eek:

[spits and cleans his mouth out with a stong TCP solution for uttering such a nasty word] :p:D

... apologies once more but as I think I mentioned earlier, I've got rather a strong dislike for the aforementioned company and their whole attitude towards their punters.

If really are you are in the new monitor market, then IMHO the Iiyamas I have owned produce the most pleasing results of any of the probably tens of thousands of monitors that I have ever looked at (was a techy for many years so that is a lot of monitors).

This is not just my choice and Iiyamas have been the choice of many professional graphics and imaging people for many, many years. As they only make monitors (AFAIK), then they care about what they turn and do a REALLY good job of them ... iiyama

Prices are "normal" and competitive too ...

I currently use a pair of 22" Samsungs, but when I got them I was in desperate need of some kit, Iiyama were or are not easy to come by here in Portugal, so at the time I had to bite the bullet and plumb for what I could get. One main issue with the Samsung is that the backlight seems too harsh - it can be a bit glary, even when calibrated properly. I only had contact with Samsung service and support once and it was nothing short of terrible - they guy told me I should look at some Russian guy's blog for their official warranty statement :mad::mad:;)

My wife has a 22" Iiyama that cost the same as the Samsungs, it calibrates up beautifully, and there is a just certain something to it when you sit and work at it, its totally lovely and I totally rue not getting two more of these for myself.

BTW ... another hint and just in case, a piano black finish is rubbish for the case/surround on a monitor - it reflects and distracts quite badly.

Edited by Damnit
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If anyone is in the market for a new monitor ... I have NOT checked the specs in any detail, but whilst looking at other stuff I spotted this out of the corner of my eye at that online book store that does just about everything else:

Ilyama E2407HDS 24 inch Wide LCD 1080p DVI HDMI MM Monitor - Black: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics & Photo

... probably 1 model release old but seems like damn good value to me - if I were in the market for a new screen, I would be looking hard at this and seeing what the reviews said.

EDIT: I just did a quick check to see a bit more about what I was suggesting, and without accurate profiling one site suggests there might be a slight blue tinge to it, yet says its image quality is better than the 2208HDS which won PC Advisor's monitor of the year award 2010 - go figure :o

Edited by Damnit
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I have the same feelings about Dell :o

But... if they're making the best (budget) panels out there at the moment then that's what I'll be getting. I used to have an Ilyama crt and it was stunning, no doubt they make decent panels now but the reviews that Dell panel gets are very very good.

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How much did Dell pay the guy to give them a great write up though ... that is the question :):o

Prior to buying mine I read reviews saying that the samsungs I own were supposed to be much better panels and more accurate than the Iiyama that I own, but they really aren't ... the Iiyama profiles up much more accurately and has more room for manoeuvre in terms of gamma and RGB sliders ... the Samsungs are very close to their limits in these areas. I did side by side comparisons of image quality, video, gaming contrast backlight etc etc (using cloned desktops) and the Iiyama kicks the Samsung's butt. Think there were some nice backhanders flying around when they did those reviews too :D

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