I was asked again yesterday by someone to explain why the pictures they display on their monitor, never look anything like the final image they print. Now this is one massive subject, with many areas where it can go very very wrong. As I have said before, I see little point in rewriting what is already available on the Internet. You will find masses of information out there to read, some of a very technical nature. For you dear reader, lets just adopt the 'Keep It Simple' approach....
All monitors are not identical, what's more they give us lots and lots of things to adjust and play with, brightness, contrast, colour temperature to name just three.
Your friend has just edited photos of a bridal shoot, all the wonderful detail of the dress is present on his screen, the embroidery is superb. They email you a proof copy. Oh dear, you look at a completely bleached out dress, with no detail, its truly a mess...
Hang on a minute who is seeing the correct representation?
Well, you may both be wrong, or one of you may be correct. But you cannot both be correct. With so many variables it is impossible to guarantee your pictures will be seen by others as you would wish them to be seen, or printed, as you would like them printed.
The only way to be sure is to have a correctly calibrated monitor. How can we do this?
Well, if you are just a 'domestic' user and are not too concerned, there are many web sites which have test images which you can use to approximate the settings. This can be a good place to start. Do this today.
One good site is Lagom. Go through the alignment pages which are pretty easy to follow, and you will get an improved viewing experience.
Next step up is to use hardware and software to calibrate your monitor. This does not have to be too expensive with entry level solutions form around £70 such as the Spyder 3 Express. A device sits on the screen whilst software runs through a series of tests to set the screen correctly. This should ensure that your editing will be accurate.
Now the important bit. If you come to print at home the chances are your pictures will still look wrong on paper. This is because the printer has to be calibrated too, and the range of colours that can be displayed on a monitor are not the same as those that can be printed. Again various options are available, to get the best match, but sticking to the printer manufacturers inks and paper will probably be good enough for domestic use. I never print any professional work at home anymore, too many variables, and I would rather be shooting than stuck at a printer!
But, and this is the important bit. When you start to work with a calibrated monitor, you are now working with the best possible match with your printing lab, who also work in a colour managed environment. This means that you should have no disappointing washed out prints or poor colour reproduction through a fault of your own.