Thursday, January 16, 2014

A (Very) Short Discourse On Monitor Calibration ~

One of the many issues we talk about in our workshops is how best to send your shade-matching photos to your dental lab. What I always stress NOT to do is to send a color print, or to manipulate the photo on your computer (making it lighter or darker, or tweaking the color, for example) before emailing it on. Why not?
You may have already experienced the problem first-hand. Have you ever tried to make a color print on your own printer, and found, much to your frustration, that the print you got looked nothing like the beautiful image you saw on your screen? It's because your monitor needs to be calibrated to ICC (International Color Consortium) standards. Your printer is already a calibrated device, but your computer monitor is not. It's not sending accurate color information to your printer.

It's the same way that those HDMI TV's at the department store all look a little different from each other, even though the same video is being shown on them. They're not calibrated to a common standard. So imagine then if you open your images on your computer and prior to sending them off, you make a series of adjustments that make them look better on your monitor. Your lab, which very likely maintains well-calibrated systems, sees something entirely different from what you see, making accurate color determinations all but impossible. And there's no profit in re-makes.

It's not that you necessarily need to perform this task on the monitors in your clinic, but rather, you need to be aware of the way in which you send color information to your lab. They may prefer you to email them, which is a fairly common practice, but to do so without opening them up and adjusting them beforehand.  (Re-sizing them is fine; that doesn't affect color information). Other labs I've worked with prefer receiving the actual memory card from the camera, which they will then open and adjust on their computers, returning those cards afterwards. Your camera is also a calibrated device, so this method ensures a very high level of color accuracy.

If you've taken some great shots with your DSLR camera and would like to begin making display prints, then by all means you should incorporate good calibration practices. It's not hard to do, and there's a number of good products out there to use. I'd recommend a trip to a good professional photography supplier for information and some tips. I personally use X-Rite software, but there are others. Load the software, follow the instructions as to setting recommended white point, gamma, and so on, place the calibration tool directly on the screen and let 'er rip. Modern LCD and retina screens hold a calibration much longer than the old CRT screens did; my habit is to check it once a month. Macs have a built-in calibrating program, but I haven't had as good experience with that as I have with the specialized software.

It's all about the color!

Later amigos!

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