Grayscale Monitor Calibration

“Can I see your work online?” is a frequent questions I get. My silver-gelatin prints are designed to be seen on your wall, or at least viewed directly with nothing between their surface and your eyes, except, perhaps, some quality glass. They have a brilliance and tonality that no computer monitor can show. Still, I need to be able to show you a good approximation on my web site. For that reason, I rely on your monitor’s ability to show the entire grayscale.

To be faithful to each print I create a good reproduction of if. I use studio flash lighting, the parallels are maintained and I shoot with a prime lens on a DSLR. The image is as close to the print as possible. Unfortunately, I would guess that fewer than 25% of screens are adequately calibrated in a way that shows the brightest whites without bleeding them out, or the darkest grays, without blocking them. I want you to be able to see the clouds and their feathery edges, not a sheet of spilled milk. I would like you to enjoy the subtle game of shadows without seeing a big black blob.

As a black-and-white photographer, I am faced with a major hurdle, as most of the fun of a picture happens in those low and high extremes. If I worked in colour, I would know that your eye can spot even a subtle difference between a rock’s edge and a shadow cast on it, no matter how well calibrated your monitor was.

To help you, I have created a very simple tool. I photographed a reliable grayscale and I adjusted it as a JPG image in a way that matches the extremes of tones contained in my web reproductions. It is very easy to use:

  1. Make it large enough on your screen to see each numbered bar.
  2. Adjust brightness and contrast controls of your monitor until you are satisfied that you can see a difference between every numbered bar. The goal is to be able to differentiate between every neighbouring bar, especially the darkest and the brightest five.
  3. Ideally, the darkest would be as black as you can make it and the brightest as white, but this is not necessary.

That’s it! Now you should be able to see what my reproductions offer. Still, I would prefer to show you the original print…

Let me know your thoughts and suggestions.

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