Most of us tend not to think too much about relative screen brightness and the appearance of our photos across the myriad of devices they may be viewed on. But should we?
Before I became hooked on photography, I spent a lot of time doing web design and development. Something was glaringly obvious early on: everyone doesn't have the same computer screen. I would put designs together on the wide gamut and very bright for its time PowerBook G4, only to find out things looked completely different on the CRT monitors used by most PCs.
Luckily today, the variance in brightness from screen to screen is not nearly as drastic. But that doesn't mean the same problem can't happen. Our eyes adjust to screen brightness just like they do to the light in a room. I know it's a battery waster and I really shouldn't do it, but I use my screen at full brightness. Sometimes I may not realize my four million lumen MacBook Pro is at 100% brightness until all the plants start leaning towards me and my dog puts her shades on. If I'm editing and ignoring the histogram there is a good chance the person viewing your the photo won't see what you intended unless you slip them a note telling them to also push the brightness to the max.
The below photo is an example of an edit that will simply be lost on a darker screen. Yes, it's dramatically edited but the point I'm making is that the viewer might miss your intended vision altogether.
Notice how the histogram looks like a steep ramp all bunched up on the left? That means dark, very dark. This isn't always bad. If your photo contains a lot of shadows or blacks then you will expect to see a lot of data to the left. The real problem is the absence of anything to the right meaning no real highlights to catch the viewer's eye.
To improve this I bumped the exposure up by one. I wanted to make sure that the water drop was still the focal point with the edges being brighter so I added some custom vignetting. I think the photo looks much better now and has a better chance of appearing how I want it on all screens.
So essentially I'm telling you to lighten up! That is unless you are into preserving your battery and set your screen at the lowest brightness. In that case, your photos may appear too bright to everyone else. This whole relative screen brightness warning may sound like nothing to worry about, but it is just a good idea to test your photos at some different brightness settings to make sure you're happy with the results at all the levels.
Lead image courtesy of Wesson Wang on Unsplash.