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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