Photo Editing Monitors

Photo Editing Monitors are an important part of your photo editing work.  For instance, I have edited photographs without a monitor designed for photo editing.  As a result, the prints I received from the Print Lab looked different than what I saw on the monitor.  Adobe has made huge advances in the capabilities of their software. The inclusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been an enormous leap forward.  However, even with the inclusion of all the amazing software available today you still won't be able to see the results accurately.  You need a monitor designed and engineered to be a photo editing monitor. 

Hardware

In this article, I'm going to focus on photo editing in a Windows environment.  I'll be utilizing Adobe Lightroom Classic CC with a BenQ photo editing monitor.  I prefer to use a desktop system for photo editing as they are easily upgradable.  In addition, the video card you use makes a difference.   PhotographyLife has an article that discusses how to choose a good video card for Lightroom.  Above all, your monitor choice will make the biggest difference.  I use  a BenQ SW2700PT monitor. It is a 27" 2K Monitor for Photo Editing with 99% of Adobe RGB and IPS technology.  It also includes Hardware Calibration for Accurate Color.

Color Spaces

Color spaces are a specific range of colors that can be represented (on your screen, in a browser, on a print...). Image standards display a certain number of colors no matter what color space they are saved in. The difference between color spaces is the range of colors that can be represented.

sRBG

All non-photo editing monitors utilize sRGB (Standard RGB) when displaying photographs or graphics. As a result, sRGB is the most widely used colorspace utilized by most operating systems. It was created in 1996 cooperatively by Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. sRGB is the default color space in almost everything. Therefore, the images or graphic elements of web pages we see are displayed with sRGB. 

The benefits are:

  • Consistent display across platforms
  • Easier to use
  • Prints from consumer grade printers produce acceptable results
Adobe RGB

In 1998 Adobe created Adobe RGB.  It can display a wider range of possible colors utilizing the same amount of information as sRGB.  Adobe RGB does this by adding more space between between colors. This permits Adobe RGB to display highly saturated colors making it extremely useful in professional high quality printing.

Benefits to Adobe RGB are:

  • Much wider range of colors available
  • Produces higher quality prints with professional printers
Color Spaces

Reproduction Of Color Accurately Across Different Devices

We assume that the colors of a photograph should be consistent across a variety of devices (printers, monitors, phones...).  However, this is not the case. Consequently, photographers are faced with the issue of color management.  Color Management uses controllable color conversion technology.  As a result colors across various devices can be reproduced consistently. The problem exists because of color mode differences device to device.  As well as minor differences in batches of components in mass production. To correct for this a standard color space is required allowing different devices to convert color spaces or color gamuts accordingly.

The Standard Color Space

The International Color Consortium (ICC) defines the standard color space which is called the PCS (Profile Connection Space). The ICC also defines the ICC profile. ICC profiles define the color characteristics of the associated device, and the method to perform conversion to the standard color space. PCS is used to help color gamut conversion between devices (such as: Adobe RGB→L*A*B*→CMYK), and together with the characteristics described in the ICC profile consistent colors are displayed on different devices.

Color Management

Color Management starts from the capture of an image through to the end point of displaying the image across devices. To accomplish this the same color gamut must be selected in the camera, photo editing software (in our case Lightroom), monitor and the printer. In addition, color calibration must also be performed on each output device used. This ensures the colors of the photos are the most accurate.  Post-production software embeds the ICC profile when the file is saved enabling color consistency across devices. The correct color space must be available and selected for this to work. We must keep in mind how the image will be utilized and the capabilities of the devices we will be reproducing it on.

Look-Up Tables

Look-Up Tables interpret color signal, find the corresponding output value and display the result on the monitor. Images are comprised of pixels.  The information or bit depth stored in each pixel is color information. In monitors a LUT (Look Up Table) is an index. To display colors efficiently new values are found in the monitor's LUT and displayed. There are two types of LUTs found in computer monitors; 1D-LUT and 3D-LUT. In newer and higher end monitors a 3D-LUT is utilized because it can display correct colors more accurately. When hardware calibrating a monitor the color management software will analyze the measured data and save related information in the LUT of the monitor.

LUT

The Monitor

In conclusion, there are several choices available for photo editing monitors.  They all are capable of displaying Adobe RGB accurately and have a 3D-LUT.  The cost of the monitor vs. capability is the question of cost comes into play. Monitors that are built to accommodate photographers range in the $1200.00 to $3500.00 price range.  BenQ monitors tend to cost a bit less but match the specifications of much more expensive monitors. Here is the BenQ that I use.

Photo Editing Monitor - BenQ SW2700PT
Photo Editing Monitor - BenQ SW2700PT
Photo Editing Monitor - BenQ SW2700PT

The cost of this monitor is a fraction of the cost of the Dell Ultrasharp Up321 8K or the Eizo ColorEdge CG318-4K but performs well within the same arena for photo editing.  Here is a link to the specifications of this monitor.  

Hardware Calibration

Another very important consideration with a photo editing monitor is it's ability for hardware calibration.  Hardware calibration is critical for any photographer who wants accurate and predictable photographic prints. In order to hardware calibrate a monitor the monitor must have its own Look-Up Tables (LUT). Hardware calibration can only be performed on monitors that offered color gamut transformation functionality. Hardware calibration thoroughly adjusts internal display parameters and LUTs (look-up tables) on a much deeper level than software adjustments. The results are far more accurate than software calibration. In the next article I will detail the software, hardware and steps to perform a monitor hardware calibration on a BenQ monitor.