You may have the best camera and lenses, but the images you create as a photographer or videographer, may not look good, unless you don’t have a good monitor. Therefore, when it comes to preview and editing images; the resolution, color space and panel technology matters. So, it is vital to get a decent monitor that meets your requirements within an affordable price range.
1440p monitors started to be the new standard for monitors, so it’s already time to get rid of 1080p monitors. If you don’t have a graphics card on your PC/Mac that supports 4K resolutions, then you don’t need to spend more on giant screens with higher resolutions. Even 1440p will make a great difference in your workflow.
Panel Technology and Color Space
The monitor technology started to evolve rapidly, especially in the last three years. Manufacturers have been launching different models such as panoramic, curved, or 3D screens, but as a digital image-maker, you just need a monitor that renders the colors accurately. So, it is better to focus on panel technology. There are several panel technologies used by different brands, and mostly, they are the same technology under different names, but choosing the right panel for photographers is easy; basically, you should stick with IPS panels. Of course, it goes without saying that not all IPS panels are ideal for photography or video.
In addition to panel technology, another important feature you should look for is the supported color spaces. All monitors support sRGB color space (standard gamut) natively, but if you are making prints frequently or do retouching work that will be printed, then you should look for monitors that support Adobe RGB color space (wide-gamut) monitors. This means you should avoid 8-bit panels and look for 10-bit panels. These monitors give the best color rendition and most accurate print possibility, but with higher price tags. Some brands like Eizo and NEC produce the best wide-gamut monitors for professionals and enthusiasts. If your work is usually used online, then you’re lucky, because you really don’t need to spend so much on high-end wide-gamut monitors.
Design is in the eye of the beholder, but the most important thing you should look for when buying a monitor should be the stand features. The ideal monitor should have a standard Vesa mount with height, swivel, and rotation adjustments. Height adjustment is vital for an ergonomic and healthy work environment, and rotation is useful to view vertical images full size or when shooting tethered in the studio. Cheap consumer monitors usually don’t have these features, but higher quality monitors usually have these kinds of features by default.
Screen size totally depends on the user’s personal choice, but you should consider the width of your desk, which affects the viewing distance, before buying a monitor. While big monitors such as 27” or 32” are more efficient to use when editing videos or photos, they may strain your eyes after a long time of usage, especially if you have a very narrow desk. Also, the pixel density is another important feature when choosing the right screen size. Higher pixel density means sharper texts and images, which is also beneficial for daily use. So, it’s better to avoid large screens with low resolutions.
Nowadays, most monitors are factory calibrated, and the calibration report is included in the package. However, you should calibrate your monitor regularly, even it is factory calibrated. Factory calibration is meaningless in some cases, because every work environment is unique and conditions are different. So, you should also invest in a calibration device such as Datacolor or X-rite products for doing regular adjustments. Some people prefer to do manual calibration by tweaking the brightness, gamma, and contrast settings on the monitors, but such results are not reliable. On the other hand, real calibration devices measure the color temperature and the amount of light falling onto your monitor’s screen and with the help of the software, measure the colors on the monitor. Matching all these, the software creates a unique color profile and corrects the white and black points as well as removing all the color casts.
Other Useful Features to Look For
Most recent monitors have with built-in USB ports, and this is another useful feature for daily use. Some have old and slow USB 2.0 ports, whereas some have even up to five USB 3.0 ports. That comes in handy if you want to connect multiple hard drives, card readers, pen tablets, or just want to charge your mobile devices.
Also, another thing to consider is if there is an included monitor hood. Personally, I prefer to work with a monitor hood, because preventing light falling directly onto the monitor makes a great difference while retouching. A few of the monitors in the market include a hood, but you can also buy and use compatible third-party hoods.
Thanks to technology, buying a new monitor isn’t as hard as it used to be. Now, most monitors use WLED technology for back illumination, and it is hard to notice backlight-bleeding problems. Also, dead or stuck pixels are very rare these days. Sure, there are lots of other specifications to be considered, such as contrast ratio, response time, etc., but if you’re only going to use it for daily work and image processing, then you really need to focus on the panel and color rendition. If you already own an ideal monitor for photography, then be sure to do proper calibrations.
For Professional Photographers and Retouchers
- Eizo ColorEdge CG248-4K 23.8" Widescreen LED Backlit IPS Monitor
- NEC MultiSync PA302W 30" Wide-Gamut Desktop Monitor
- BenQ SW2700PT 27" Widescreen LED Backlit QHD Monitor
- ViewSonic VP2772 27" Adobe Color Widescreen LED Backlit IPS Monitor