Ophrys Photography

Wildlife photography by John Devries, Kent UK. Inspirational images from nature.
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Eizo cx271
Eizo Coloredge CX271 27" wide gamut monitor

Wide gamut monitors that cover virtually all the Adobe RGB colour space used to be extremely expensive and purchased only by professionals or very capable amateur photographers. However, those days have changed and the price has and continues to drop to the point that they are coming in range of many more people. However, although they sound great on paper, their use is not as straight forward as a general purpose sRGB moniotr.

If like me, you have just bought a high gamut aRGB monitor and are tearing your hair out trying to get consistent colour throughout Photoshop and the Internet then this article is for you. I hope you will stick with me through the logic of what I have discovered, but if you are desperate to sort out your woes and don't care about the explanation then Part 5 is the equivalent of a Quick Start guide. You will probably still need to refer back to the other articles to see how to do the individual steps in detail however.

Adobe RGB vs standard RGB monitors, the pros and cons.

The topic of colour management is a horribly complex and technical mess that to many photographers is a nightmare to be avoided. Perhaps it is simplest to set everything (camera/monitor/editing software/printer etc) to sRGB and forget it ?

I certainly included myself in that group. Until recently, I would run for the hills at the mention of Adobe RGB 1998 as previous experiences of colour management had ended in tears. If you just do a lot of web design or upload images to the internet on Facebook, Flikr or whatever, I honestly believe that it is much simpler to forget the wide gamut colour spaces such as Adobe1988 or ProPhoto RGB unless you are prepared to take the time to learn the theory thoroughly. Otherwise you will get just the opposite of what you are hoping for, ie you will get colour-inconsistencies popping up unexpectedly when you could do without it.

The Internet is an standardised (sRGB) world and most of the time images look fine using any old web browser, provided that you have an sRGB monitor that is. This also includes Ipads/tablettes laptops etc. You can certainly also save yourself a lot of money by sticking to a decent general purpose sRGB monitor.
However, if you need accurate and consistent as opposed to just nice colour or work in a professional environment, or like to print your images and have confidence that what you see on the screen is what you will see in print, you will need to get a colour-accurate monitor as part of a full colour-managed workflow.

* Tip: If you want to avoid the colour management issue, and have a general-purpose, low gamut monitor and just want to print the occasional image that still looks pretty darned good, I would recommend working in the sRGB colour space throughout and to ensure that you use a good printer such as an Epson or Canon, with genuine inks and paper from the same supplier. Set the printer to manage colours and you will then pretty much avoid most of the issues. This is what I did for many years to great effect.

Although prices have dropped, accurate monitors are not cheap, but I guess quality never is. I recently purchased a superb Eizo mointor, a Coloredge CX271 27" which I now love as the resolution and detail, colours etc are just stellar, but I went through blood, sweat and tears trying to come to terms with colour management theory and overcoming unexpected web browser deficiencies until I was satisfied. In this article I hope to help you if you are struggling with your new sooper-dooper high-gamut monitor like I did.

I should qualify what I am writing with the following statement :
I am still an absolute novice at colour management and I am certainly no guru.
I feel totally qualified writing thisidiots guide as I was a self proclaimed idiot in this field myself. I thionk that the benefit of this is that I now know what I kneed to know and more importantly for you, what you need to know !
I have learned what works through trial and error in overcoming the snags that you will encounter if you purchase a high gamut monitor and try doing things on the Internet with it. I also recognise that this subject can quickly get very technical and complicated so eyes start glazing over when you throw in all the jargon terms like colour target, profiles, spaces, gamuts blah blah so I will try and keep this to a minimum. (If only because I don't undersatand them all either!) But trust me, what I am going to explain to you works !

If you take your photography seriously and invest in a modern monitor capable of displaying far more colours in a more consistent fashion, such as an upper model from Eizo, Lacie, NEC etc, then it is sacrilage not to work in aRGB . Many can display almost 100% of the aRGB colour space which is 20% larger than that of an sRGB monitor.

You can see from the probably familiar diagram above how many colours you are missing in sRGB. Prophoto RGB is an even larger colour space but there are no monitors that can reproduce it or printers that can print it. It can also introduce other problems so I would avoid it for the time being. If you are interested, as I know Lightroom uses this very wide gamut, I suggest you read Petr Vodnak's article as he explains this more fully.

Calibrating your monitor
I am going to assume that you have calibrated your monitor. If you haven't then you will never achieve good and consistent colours and this is the place you must start.

I am not going to explain how to do thisin detail as there are lots of Youtube videos on this subject that do it very well. It is pretty simple and involves using a colorimeter that you hang on your monitor while it automatically puts up a series of colour swatches and measures the colours on your screen. At the end of the process a profile is produced of your screen and all the corrections that the computer operating system needs to make to make it look correct with no colour casts and at the right brightness.

The profile is stored in a file on your computer. I used a Datacolor Spyder 4 and this works very well and cost about £100. So you need to factor this into your budget when purchasing most screens.