Do you really need to calibrate your monitor? Perhaps you don’t. Read the following scenarios and see if they fit.
You’ve just captured the world’s greatest landscape. When you released the shutter the light, color and composition were perfect. Never mind that your camera wasn’t calibrated, you’ll fix it in Lightroom. You work on the image in LR until it’s perfect, color, saturation, contrast, shadow detail, luminous clouds with subtle detail in a blue sky. You write it to disk and take it to a really good lab to print. Never mind that your monitor wasn’t calibrated. The lab can fix that.
When you pick up your print it is darker than it appeared on your screen. And the colors aren’t as saturated. What gives? You ask the lab owner. He shows you the image on his calibrated monitor; it looks exactly like the print. Is your monitor calibrated? He asks.
You purchase an Epson printer with a K7 inkset. You heard this was the best inkset out there. Now you’ll get a good print. Print #1 is too dark, just like the one from the lab. No problem, you punch up the exposure. Print #2 is better, but the clouds are a little too bright, so you add +60 Recovery for the highlights, and the shadows are, well not quite black enough, so you add +20 Black. In print #3, the clouds are a little gray, and the shadows lack detail, but you’re getting closer. You notice that the sky in the print isn’t the same hue as it is on the screen, and the reds on that pickup truck parked in front of Mt. Shasta just aren’t as saturated as they look on the screen, either. Print #4, add hue and saturation, increase the contrast; while you’re at it add +3 magenta. Print #5, too much contrast, you’ve lost shadow detail; better add some Brightness, or perhaps Fill light; back off the magenta…
By the time you’re finished, somewhere around print #10 or #15, you are ready to accept the variations in color and contrast between what you see on the screen and in the print. Even if the print doesn’t match the original on the monitor it’s every bit as good in its own way, right? After all, nobody will know but you.
If any or all of the above sounds familiar, you need to calibrate your monitor. Monitor calibration requires a reading and measuring device, either a spectrocolorimeter or a spectrophotometer, and software to match. These devices are available, respectively, from either Datacolor or X-Rite. Datacolor calls theirs the Spyder and X-Rite calls theirs the ColorMunki. Datacolor introduced Spyder4 this year and X-Rite introduced their latest version, ColorMunki Display. Both of these are for monitor calibration only, though both companies offer complete calibration packages, which include both monitor and printer calibration devices and software.