Introduction to Monitors for Photographers, Videographers, and Retouchers

Introduction to Monitors for Photographers, Videographers, and Retouchers

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.

Resolution

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

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

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.

Calibration

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. 

Conclusion

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. 

Monitor Recommendations

For Professional Photographers and Retouchers

For Enthusiasts and Amateurs

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20 Comments

Brandon Chau's picture

Does anybody care about Matte vs. Glossy?

Marian Wodzisz's picture

Most serious monitors are matte or "half matte".

Ioan Badila's picture

For 10-bit monitors you'll NEED a pro video card so add another 600+ $ to the cart.

Marian Wodzisz's picture

To use 10bit/channel mode you need a Quadro video card indeed, but it does not have to be a top end one though.

Marian Wodzisz's picture

BenQ or Viewsonic recommended for professionals? That`s really funny.
24" 4K monitor for Windows based system? Even in 2016 controversial.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

alternatives are always better, also the benq series are really good and they're a bit cheaper alternative to Eizo

Marian Wodzisz's picture

Well, alternatives are not always better :) If you just want a IPS screen with claimed low dE errors, that`s ok. But if you are looking for a pro monitor for serious color critical jobs, you can not rely on BenQ or other low-end manufacturers.
BenQ etc. claim that some of their products are good enough for serious task, they give us some meaningless dE checks results, some blah blah about gamut, but they do not share with us informations about screen uniformity or for how long their "color accurate" products will deliver stable results or how to hardware calibrate them.
Sometimes some of monitors are delivered with so called "calibration check results" - some of these are just ridiculously overestimated. My favorite came with some Dell - calibration results were just perfect. Way better than any real existing monitor any money can buy. All of this for a fraction of price of real graphic monitor :)

So, my suggestion is: if you want some serious screen for serious jobs, do not re-invent the wheel. Stick to products that are well known to be suitable. Unless you are a hipster and _must_ have something different than others do :D

I just bought the BenQ 32" 2560 x 1440 monitor and love the heck out of it. I honestly think this may be as big as i want ever to get. The images are soo much better and I have 100% SRGB color space. It literally made me go back and reedit some recent work once i could see more clearly and with more detail. I'm older so my eyesight is not what it once was and the big size is quite helpful.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

yes, it makes great difference, I'm glad you're happy with your new monitor!

Paulius Staniunas's picture

Anyone here is pro Apple Thunderbolt display? I have been using it for 3 years and colors are perfect!

Anonymous's picture

I dont have one but a guy brought one into work and he uses it. it truly is a gorgeous display.. but still way overpriced IMO..

Mike Robinson's picture

I have an older Apple Cinema display, which I took in because it went dark. Apple had no interest in taking it in for a fix and, when I asked, they said they no longer manufacture any stand-alone monitors and have none for sale. So there you have it.

Windows 10, new NEC monitor, Epson P800 printer - and it does not work right. Epson says it doesn't 'spool' for Windows 10. Monitor people say it is too bright and blames Windows 10 for not allowing more control. Windows blames everyone else.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Hi Jim,
Have you tried returning the product? Because it looks like a major and annoying problem,
but on the other side, what I saw on Windows 10 is; the colour control is progressed according to other versions; also did you make any calibration? If so, try calibrating again in a complete dark room

Valters Pelns's picture

I am going from dual monitor (24"&27") to ultra wide 34 inch, and maybe 27" in portrait mode. :)

Anonymous's picture

There's a poll going on Massdrop to see if they might get a good monitor at a discount: https://www.massdrop.com/vote/Wide-Gamut-Monitors-with-99-AdobeRGB -- went ahead and added the BENQ from this article to it as well.

I have the top of the line NEC monitor and I have been very happy with the color. The monitor does not need to be color balanced every week or month. What I see on my monitor is what comes out of my Epson 3880 printer when I use the Epson Premium Luster paper. I love that I can get beautiful prints from new images within minutes. The screen is matte and not shiny. I highly recommend the Photographers NEC monitor. They have them at a good price point and the NEC customer service is great. They do not have them in any stores. I bought mine at B&H Photo.

Julia Adams's picture

What Nec monitor do you have Dale. I'm thinking about getting a high end NEC

Tomash Masojc's picture

Hallo, can somebody tell more about this? BenQ SW2700PT price even in my country looks nice

Ian Mears's picture

A monitor that seems to float under the radar is the LG 31MU97Z. It's a true 4K monitor with 99.5% Adobe rgb coverage, true 10bit and supports hardware calibration (although doing that under Mac OS is difficult apparently. Been using it a couple of months and seems pretty good.