Jim Doty - Photo Blog

Photography: Photos, News, and Tips
Monday, February 19, 2007


"Why don't my prints look like the photos on my monitor?"

Unlike film, digital photos have no color. They exist only as a series of numbers on hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and other storage media. A variety of devices such as monitors and printers convert those numbers into colors for display on a screen or dyes and pigments on a print. The problem is that five different devices can convert the same numbers into five different colors.

I've looked at my web site photos on enough monitors to be aware of how varied the displays are. A specific red hue can show up as several different kinds of reds, not to mention orange, burgundy, purple and other colors. Monitors are getting better but they are far from being consistent.

Part of the solution is monitor calibration. With a properly calibrated monitor, a high quality printer, and the right "profiles" for your printer, photos on your monitor and prints from your printer should be a much closer match. (Printer profiles is a whole other topic.) With a calibrated monitor, the prints you get when you send you files to a professional printer should also be a closer match.

There are monitor calibration packages out there that cost upwards of $1,000. They are overkill for the average user, not too mention hugely expensive when a package at a fraction of the cost will give you very good results.

One of the best, reasonably priced monitor calibration packages is the "Eye-One Display 2" package from GretagMacbeth who merged with X-Rite. It is highly recommended by Tim Grey, one of the photography tech wizards at Microsoft who used to be George Lepp's technical guru. I've written about Tim before. George Lepp is a columnist for Outdoor Photograper.

The Eye-One Display 2 package, which includes a colorimeter and software, lists for $250 but you can purchase it for as little as $199 from a variety of reliable discount sources like Amazon.com.

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