Master Print Course and Screen Calibration

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon2 Comments

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New Master Photo Printing Course Available!

Brent has just put the finishing touches on his new “Master Photo Printing” video training course. Here are some things you should know about it.

Who Is This Master Photo Printing Course For?

With a name like “Master Photo Printing Course” you may think that it is only for those who are very experienced photographers who also know a lot about printing.  That isn’t the case. This course is for all experience levels of photographers. If you have never printed before it will help you get going. If you have printed but need some help to get better results, this course is for you as well!

Also want to make sure that everyone knows this course is not just for those who have printers in their office.  The course will certainly go over some of the things you can do if you have your own local printer, but those who want to stick with using labs for their prints will benefit a great deal from the course.

What Will Photographers Learn in This Course?
  • PPI vs DPI and pixel count
  • Paper options
  • Equipment needs, focus on epson and canon
  • Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop
  • Basic workflow, file formats
  • Color management
  • ICC profiles
  • Cleaning ink heads
  • Dealing with high ISO images
  • Creative side of things, anything goes.  Different types of images and intents
  • Differences in output sharpening for Epson and Canon
  • Paper types
How Long Is the Course?

There is a little over 8 hours of video content for the course.  Plenty for photographers to really sink their teeth into moving down the path towards mastering that part of the photography.  It is cut up into small bite-sized chunks so don’t worry about needing to do it all in 8 hours. You can take the course at your own pace.

What Options Are There For Taking the Course?

There are 4 different options for taking the course.  Photographers can pick the option that will work best for them.  You can choose any of these options by going to and choosing Courses in the navbar.

  1. Online course in a learning management system that tracks your progress
  2. Monthly group sessions for Q&A also available for the first 6 months after buying the course (need a mic and can share your screen)
  3. Virtual online workshop.  More expensive. Get everything already discussed and a one hour private Skype session plus the ability to send me 3 to 6 different images and I will give you feedback
  4. In-person workshop.  Walla-Walla area. 5 days, M-F.  T-F spending time during the day going through printing as a group.  Also gives

Screen Calibration

We have seen this question come in the Facebook group a lot, so I thought we should spend a little time going through it.  Good topic to combine with your printing course.

What Brightness Level Should I Have My Laptop At For Photo Editing?

There isn’t a one rule fits all for what brightness level photographers should have their display at for editing photos.  Not ever display works the same, some are brighter than others and you need a calibration device to help you with this.

Patrick Dougherty asked in the Master Photograpy Facebook group: “I was listening to Lord Page [our loving nickname for Nick Page who is a great photographer and friend of the show] yesterday about printing and they talked about setting the screens brightness being important for print.

I have a color calibrated monitor (Dell Laptop) using the Spyder 5 [a hardware device you can use to calibrate your screen]. I did not have it do the brightness (I set mine to around 25% as it seemed to match the few times I printed at home). The most recent time I allowed it to set the brightness to see what it would do and it had me a 75% which seemed very bright, and even when I tried to post a photo online it seemed very bright.

Understanding the environment can ‘change’ what I need is there a way to find that brightness or is it just a play with it and see what looks good?”

Brent’s Answer: Something very important on this device is the sensor that measures the ambient light – though this is only available on the Pro, and Elite models (the hardware device is identical, it is the software that disables the ambient light sensor in the Express version).  The first time around Patrick says that he didn’t have the software tell him what to set the brightness of the screen to be, then the second time he did and was surprised that it had him set the brightness of his display at 75% compared with the 25% he used when he did it himself.

The industry standard is 100 candelas/square meter but ambient light can affect this.  If you are doing your editing in a really well lit room, maybe a room that has a lot of natural light that can come in during the day, you may need to have your display be a little brighter so that you can have it look to you like it will on other computers and especially when you print.  Having a hardware device like the Sypder 5 Pro or the DataColor Color Munki Display help you to do this is really important.  How are you supposed to tell if you have your display at that “standard” brightness level without one?

Why Should Photographers Do Screen Calibration?

Photographers should calibrate their screens for editing their photos so that the results have the best chance to look good on other computers and to have the prints look the same as it does on the screen.

Most computers come configured to overdo the colors, contrast, and brightness.  Manufacturers do this on purpose. They want to make sure when you look at them in the stores, or right after you unbox the computer at home, the desktop wallpaper is going to look stunning.

Consider the images you see on Instagram here in 2019.  The photos that get the most likes are those that have over saturated colors, extremely high contrast, and bright elements (if not an entirely bright photo).  It is the trend or fad of the day right now and computer/display manufacturers know this is what will sell.

The defaults are all over the top and if you edit your photos on a display that is set that way it may look great on your screen but when you share that out to the world and look at it on another display that is configured a different way, it may look awful.  There is nothing you can do about those other screens out there and how they are setup.

What you can control is your screen.  When you calibrate that screen you establish a baseline so that there is a better chance your photo will look good across many different displays, phones, and printing.  The last part there is the most important point here, if you want to print (even if it is through a lab and not in your office) you absolutely MUST calibrate your screen.

When you calibrate a monitor you are setting it up to perform to internationally agreed standards defining brightness (luminance), contrast (gamma) and color temperature (white balance). No monitor (see the Mac note below) achieves 100% accuracy.  The calibration software works with the hardware device to determine how far “off” YOUR (super specific to the physical screen you have sitting in front of you) monitor is and creates a profile to correct it. Your editing software (not all software uses the profile, especially poor in Windows) then uses that profile to more accurately display colors as you edit your photos.

Should a Hobbyist Photographers Calibrate Their Screen For Editing Photos?

Hobbyist photographers absolutely should invest in a hardware screen calibration tool like the Colormunki Display or the Spyder 5 Pro .

Look, I get it.  $200 (a little less for either device) may seem like a lot for a hobbyist photographer to spend to calibrate their screen.  Especially if you are already happy with how your photos look on a variety of screens. You are constantly reading from photography-based content creators that you need to spend money on things and it is tiresome.  You are not made of money.

I (Jeff Harmon) am a hobbyist who looks for every way I can to spend the least amount of money to do what I want in photography.  I can tell you this is worth the investment. It absolutely helps make sure your photos look good across all screens and it will save you money if you are ever going to print your photos (you really need to print your photos!).

Hold on, spending $200 is going to save you money?  Sounds like the usual ad/marketing runaround doesn’t it?  Imagine how much time it will take you to send off test prints to a lab only too see that it doesn’t look the way you want so you make some changes to the editing of your photo and have to send it off to printing to see how it looks with those changes.  It takes a long time and that is worth something to you isn’t it?

Does a Photographers Who Edits Photos on a Mac Need to Calibrate Their Screen?

A photographer editing photos on a Mac still needs to calibrate their screen.  Mac computers have well built, high quality displays, but calibration is unique to a specific screen in a specific environment and ALL displays need calibration.

We see this question very regularly.  Whenever the topic of screen calibration comes up there are photographers who edit on Mac computers who have heard or believe that because they are using a Mac they don’t need to calibrate.

This is simply not true.  Mac displays are beautiful, capable (2018 and 2019 Macs support wider color spaces in DCI P3), high quality displays.  Apple puts a lot of effort into making sure they are fantastic.  What Apple can’t do is to make it so that calibration is not needed.  Check out this excellent article over at Photography Life for more detailed information.

Photographers should calibrate their Mac displays like everybody else does with their non-Apple displays.

Can Photographers Use Software to Calibrate Their Displays?

Photographers will be far better off with a hardware screen calibrator than trying to use software to help them calibrate their screens.

I am sure there are hobbyist photographers who are really hoping that the software they can get for free will help them to calibrate their screen.  It is the right price to be sure, I just wish it actually worked.

It isn’t TOTALLY useless, but pretty close.  There just is no real replacement for a hardware device to help you with this.  I compare the software based approach to visits to the eye doctor. You with perfect vision won’t understand this, but the eye doctor shows you two images and has you choose which looks more clear.  At first it is easy to choose, but as he narrows in on the correction you need to see perfectly the difference between the two images is so small it is really hard to say.

Software based calibration does a little something, contrast adjustments in particular are good.  It just isn’t good enough on all aspects for it to be something we can recommend.

What Hardware Calibration Device Should Photographers Buy?

Photographers are best served by the X-Rite ColorMunki Display to calibrate their display(s) for photo editing.

Like anything in photography you can spend as much as you want to on a hardware screen calibration device.  We think the best options here in early 2019 are the X-Rite ColorMunki Display (about $170) and the DataColor Spyder 5 Pro (about $140).  

There are some less expensive options, like the Spyder 5 Express or ColorMunki Smile, that we don’t recommend because they are missing things like ambient light detection or may only allow you to profile a single display.

Both the ColorMunki Display and the Spyder 5 Pro are colorimeters and they are the “cheap” way to calibrate your screen.  If you want to get serious about this then you need a spectophotometer and you have to spend much more money in the X-Rite i1Basic Pro 2 (about $1,400).

Which should you pick then, the ColorMunki Display or the Spyder 5 Pro?  Feature-wise there isn’t enough of a difference between the two products to say one is better than the other.  There are plenty of photographers who use both, most of whom are having great success, but I can only personally attest to the ColorMunki Display.  

It may be important to note here that there is some dated information (see this too) saying the X-Rite products have traditionally been more accurate and lasted longer than the DataColor products.  Even with the information dated, to be safe it may be worth spending the extra $30 to go with X-Rite. I personally only have experience with the X-Rite products and have been very happy with my ColorMunki Display.  Looking into this makes me want to do the research to compare the two myself.

By the way, Mac users will want to check out some 3rd party software called DisplayCAL just to see if you prefer the results you get there.  It seems the drivers for the ColorMunki Display (and I presume the Sypder 5) don’t work correctly with the DCI-P3 displays in the newer Macs.

How Often Should Photographers Calibrate Their Screen?

Photographers should calibrate their screen every 30 days unless they edit photos less often than that, then calibrate just prior to editing a shoot.

It would be nice if screen calibration was a set it and forget kind of thing.  It isn’t. Not only is this not something that is really possible for a manufacturer to do for you prior to getting your screen/computer, your monitor is going to drift over time and require recalibration periodically.

This monitor drift isn’t a dramatic thing.  It isn’t like it drifts from warm to cool in a day, a month, or longer.  But think about how much time you spend on getting the colors in your photos to look just you want them to as you edit them.  You don’t want that time to go to waste do you?

I have never done any scientific testing to see just how much a screen drifts over time, something I should probably do for my Photo Taco podcast.  I have seen some drift over time as I have calibrated my display, but it is really tough to quantify it. As further proof you need to do this more than once, the software all has options to nag you to recalibrate, which we recommend doing just to keep things as accurate as possible while you are editing your photos.


Jeff: MagMod MagGel ($25).  Have to buy a MagGrip too ($25) and a gelpack ($30).  I suggest the creative gels pack. Yes, that is $80 to get gels for your flash, but as I talked about in the episode with Trevor Dayley it really unlocks your creativity when they are so easy to use.

Brent: Canon PIxma Pro 100 or Pixma Pro 10.  Back on rebate through April 30!



  1. Hi, and thanks for the great information. I’m interested in purchasing a ColorMunki Display, but Mac OS 10.14 (Mojave) is not listed as a supported OS on the x-rite site. Is that just an oversight on x-rite’s part?

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