How To Calibrate Your Monitor With ColorMunki

Every now and then I toy around with the idea of calibrating my monitor. I know how important color is for a photographer, but as a Jpeg shooter I've always felt that if I can capture an image to my liking in camera then I should be good to go. In the past I have tried a few products to calibrate my monitors and the results have never been very pleasing to my eye. After a few hours of letting my eyes adjust, menu bars and icons I've seen for years start having a pink or yellow tone that I simply can't get used to viewing. Well today I decided to test the calibration waters again on my laptop (since it's not used as much as my main workstation). Many of our Twitter followers recommended the ColorMunki by X-Rite which lead me to the following video on their system. It all seems pretty straightforward on video but I want to see what you guys think. Have you had a good experience with calibrating your monitor and feel confident people on normal laptops are seeing your work in the best possible representation?

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26 Comments

Kellen Freeman's picture

I have used 3 different systems to try to calibrate my monitor and ColorMunki is by far the best and most accurate one that I have ever used.

If you're not going to be using the monitor to adjust your images, there's not much point in calibrating. When you look at an uncalibrated monitor, you get used to how everything looks off - if there's a slight red cast to the monitor, everything has that cast and your brain filters it out. Then it looks weird when you calibrate your monitor and take away the cast until you get used to it again. The point of the calibrated monitor is that you can make educated adjustments so that your image looks right, even if the viewing monitor is off. 

If you take the time to get your color right in camera, shoot JPEG and ship everything SOOC - don't worry about it. If it ain't broke...That said, I have a ColorMunki, I calibrate on a 2 week schedule and I'm very happy with it and the way my images look. If you're not calibrating a printer or projector the CM is a bit overkill and the Spyder or Eye1 Display will do the job for about half the price.

Patrick Hall's picture

I have the Spyder Elite 3 and the last time I used it on my main work station I was convinced the color was way off.  I checked my two websites on the calibrated system and the colors looked so muddy and yellow/green.  I have seen my website on tons of laptops, tablets, and PCs that I know even with an uncalibrated monitor (like most of my clients are viewing my site on) the colors and tones look pretty good. 

The problem I have is I'm thinking about switching to RAW and outsourcing some of my editing and at that point I know I probably need to tackle the elephant in the closet.  I don't know if this is possible but I calibrated my little laptop with the Spyder, then output that file and compared it to an edit I did on my main computer.  Funny thing was both images looked pretty much the same when I compared them side by side.   So maybe these Dell 24" monitors are pretty close to correct to begin with, I dunno.  

I'd love to try out the Colormunki but after not so pleasing results with other lesser systems I'm still on the fence.  

Kellen Freeman's picture

You don't happen to have a WFP2408 or something like that, do you? It's a fun monitor to have, but if you do a quick search on Google, you'll find they're universally considered impossible to calibrate.

Lee Morris's picture

hah yes those are the ones that we both have

I use the same monitor as my main and have the same problems. I'm definitely going to look elsewhere for my next.

Most likely the monitors are reasonably close out of the box.

The idea is that the file is what it is and the different profiles describe how to show you that file. Photoshop uses a working profile, like sRGB or ProPhoto, which is basically a container that can hold a certain amount of color. So when you open a file in Photoshop it assigns a working profile and uses the monitor profile to adjust the image on screen so that it looks correct on that monitor, connected to that computer.

I think the whole color management thing is more complicated on the PC than on Mac but it's much easier now than it used to be. The ColorMunki in particular is a great tool for making this stuff easy. Once you run the software and create a profile there's an option for the CM software to apply the profile properly in most major graphics applications. 

Also, you have to be aware how browsers use or ignore colour profiles. I found that stuff looked like garbage in Firefox until I turned on color management. I'm not sure you can really use websites as a litmus test. 

Patrick Hall's picture

Yes that was a major problem I had.  The native Windows Picture Viewer would not use the color profile so the images would look different in that program than photoshop.  Then half the browsers like Firefox or IE would not use profiles either while Safari or Chrome would.  I don't understand why every single program doesn't just pull the profile assigned by the OS?  I mean what casual photo client is smart enough to know to turn on a profile in Firefox?  Just turn it on as default and be done with it!

Yeah, but most users don't have calibrated monitors, so everything is off in every program and most users pick a browser and stick with it. So everything looks off, the same way all the time and they're used to that. If you're going to use a calibrated workflow you have to stop using programs that ignore profiles to judge colour. You're comparing the accurate preview in Photoshop to the crap one in IE. Your clients won't be comparing the same image opened in 2 different programs.

And frankly, most casual photo clients don't give a rat's ass about the nuances of accurate colour. They just want something that looks cool. Tons of photography isn't anywhere close to accurate, look at the "vintage" styled shoots that are huge right now. Everything looks like it's being viewed through a glass of piss. 

It's really easy to get carried away with colour management and get super anal about it all. I think it's a best practice to start with a calibrated monitor and make sure that your photos are how you want them to be. So that when you have a client that has a calibrated monitor and does care about colour that client is seeing what you want them to see.

Last week I used a Pantone Eye-One to calibrate my monitor and it seemed to work fine, but honestly I have little to compare it to.  I can't comment on the X-rite, it seems pretty nice and has great reviews.  My laptop calibration is way off, I need to calibrate it for sure.  The dell ultrasharp I recently got came almost perfect and little changes were made.

I have my monitor calibrated and it has made a big difference. It would be awesome to profile my printer and my projector also. Might have to get one of these!

Some points to consider: Your editing monitor should be in a room with consistent lighting so if you have a window block off any daylight with a blackout curtain. The room should be illuminated with daylight balanced bulbs (5500k), none of these bulbs should be located close to your monitor as they screw-up your perception. Allow your monitor to warm up for at least 20mins before doing any editing or calibration. A monitor hood also helps to kill of any unwanted reflections, you can make a cheap one from black card and velcro.

I spy the building I grew up in, in this video.

I use a Spyder Studio SR kit to calibrate my monitor and printer and absolutely LOVE the results.  I like to print my own work and was fed up with the results not matching my monitor.  The OEM profiles (from Epson, Ilford, etc) were decent but not as good as the custom profiles.  If you're going to "tweak" the colors in post-processing and print (either in house or with a lab) I highly recommend calibrating your monitor.

Hi William, 

I know its weird replying 4 months later, but I happen to be looking around for a calibrator to calibrate my macbook pro screen as well as an external monitor linked to it. 

Do you happen to know, if I were to calibrate my both my macbook pro and my external monitor, and I send it to a professional printing lab, would the colours be accurate? I'm confused as to whether calibrating would be of use if I'm printing it at labs, where they might not necessarily have calibrated to match my monitor.

Thank you (:

Best Regards,

ZY

I use the Color Munki to calibrate my iMac and MacBook Pro with my Epson 3800. Neither of these macs is an ideal candidate to have true colors but it's better than not calibrating. If you're not printing but posting on the web, then monitor calibration is not as essential since the majority of people who view images on the web are not using calibrated monitors. If, however, you are printing, then calibrating the monitor and printer profile is essential. The ColorMunki does a good job of it and is easy to use.

Proper color is something that only really works well in a closed system. What's the point of doing all of this if you are not printing your own work, the printer you hire to do you prints has another profile or the magazine you are submitting work has a different uncalibrated monitor or they are viewing your work on an Ipad. I let Conde Nast worry about SPOT on colors because in this day and age, most people are viewing your work on ipads and laptops. I think its safe to say they are not calibrated. I'd rather not tinker too much with profiles, but I do adjust my contrast. If you are printing your own work, well this is very good.  Don't be a camera snob. Shoot interesting shots and people wont care tooooooo much about how that purple REALLY looks purple on their screen. When you shoot for big time clients, they handle the color profiling anyway. Not worth the head ache, I'd prefer my work look the same as viewed on normal people's crappy laptops and monitors.

Patrick Hall's picture

hehe, this is pretty much the side of the fence I usually fall on at the end of the day 

Hey let's take this a step further:
* How many of you actually pump out paper prints?
* How many of you NEVER pump out paper prints?

See where I'm going here?

Yeah print work is slowing down for the average photographer. Those that work for magazines already have a closed system and a team of interns that worry about cleaning up all the little details. For the average Joe running around with a Nikon or Canon or something less than TOOOOOO EXPENSIVE, they wont worry about calibrating stuff too much. Heck, look at most of the stuff you see from semi pros. It mostly has some kind of brown/yellowed filter on it anyway, certainly that was not the color of the actual scene.

In the photography world there is so much to buy, and so much people really don't need to be buying but because people think more stuff makes better stuff, they buy more stuff. Not saying a calibrated monitor is bad, I'm just saying it's along the same lines of going out and buying Zfinders when you are shooting home videos, Wacoms, when you don't even work in photoshop that much, 580 speedlites when you just end up making your stuff look like pop-up flash, or using a ton of profoto lights that look like you used bare speedlites.  

In the hands of some sort of master that needs precision, this stuff is all great, but in the hands of a novice, its silly and over kill. Its like wearing driving gloves and you drive a Prius, not a Porsche Carrera GT.

I agree with your comments about a novice photographer. I, personally, feel that that proper definition of a professional is one that is proficient in the tools of their trade and is meticulous about the end results, meaning prior to submission. 

In this new dimension of digital photography, I firmly believe, from all that I am exposed, color management is a vital aspect in the advancement and growth of a career. There are many sectors of commercial photography where this is crucial and from my own experience, the less work that one forces on the AD or Graphic Design Studio, the more work a particular photographer is going to be contracted for. Professional's prefer to work with professionals, merited by their business design and culture. Dismissing color management importance is similar to achieving an MBA and showing up for job interviews in bermuda shorts and sandals, IMO.

Granted, lap top monitors, at best, may cover slightly more than the sRGB Gamut but it is where this sample of color falls, within the total gamut, that is most important. Reports are crucial, as they allow the user to read exactly where the current monitor gamut falls inside of the proper target gamut. Just because a monitor has been calibrated does not mean that it is accurate, a report may show that the triangle is off of the target and due to this, there will be color shifts; one sRGB monitor may show a huge variance from another properly calibrated sRGB monitor. Calibrate and generate a report to provide the data of target ~vs~ actual, it more than justifies the price of a good color management system and discipline.

If a person combs their hair before they go out, I don't understand why they would not also want to make sure that their work is also properly manicured, "accurately" before submitting it for public and/or private view.

Patrick, I have great admiration towards you and Lee for learning how to set the camera, so correctly that you both nail your shots in JPEG; that really is a great achievement! I can't help but feel that your discipline and dedication, as professionals, to your craft will benefit from the same attention to color management. As great as your photography currently is, I think that you both will be excited with the end results of a RAW file converted via a properly managed color management system, just don't forget the color cards as they help tremendously. :)

Even if you send your files to a lab for printing or just view them on the monitor it's important to calibrate and profile your monitor so that the color, contrast, and luminance (brightness) appear as they are captured or have been modified in the file. 
For instance if your monitor is blue and very bright when you "correct" the file so that it looks fine on the monitor and then send to a  lab they will open a file that is yellow and dark.
I think Colormunki Photo is a great option for calibrating and profiling monitors. The important thing is that you calibrate and profile!

Patrick why on earth are you only shooting jpeg? The dynamic range is not as great as it is in RAW, not even close. Before I was a photographer I was a retoucher. When you get a jpeg, its just that. You can push and pull it just a little before those blacks start acting nuts.  Why do you shoot jpeg and not raw? Even if you are shooting a ton of stuff you can quickly adjust all of those shots at once while maintaining the dynamic range. The only benefit to jpeg shooting is not running out of card space. 

watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW6cAeg5mRs&feature=relmfu

Just FYI, your link searches B&H for "Color Monki" not "Color Munki", so the link is populating straps, not the hardware you're referencing.

I am also fencing this ... I had horrible experience with calibration using the pantone huey and hueypro. I have a 17" macbook pro and a 24" HP LP2475w monitor. My prints were far off and the the calibrated look of my monitors never looked right to the human naked eye.
I am investing in a couple of new monitors/mac desktop/pro printer soon so might revisit but the pain from the first calibration mess is still unbearable :)

I have a colormunki and it will not work with my imac.   Software sucks and absolutely no support.