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Why do my pictures "look bad" on different computers?

May 10, 2012 5:46 AM

I don’t know if this is something I can fix by adjusting my Lightroom workflow or not, so I figured I would ask.  I apologize is this post is off topic.


I notice this issue the most when I shoot a wedding, as the contrast between dresses and tuxedos can provide some challenges when squeezing the most tonal range out of an image.  (Not sure if that makes sense – I am no expert).  After I shoot an event, I’ll spend a few hours processing the RAW images. Fine tuning the saturation, WP/BP, and adding in some very subtle vignette effects to make the centre subjects pop out. I do all my work on a Power MAC running 10.7 with the older 23” cinema displays.  After that, I’ll upload the final set to my iPad and take a break so I don’t go bug-eyed.  I’ll do a final review on the iPad, making sure things look how I want them to, and then upload the images to my website using one of the standard web publishing plug-ins that come with Lightroom.

 

Now, I wish at this point my work was done, but no such luck.  When I go to view the same images that looked so great on my Mac and iPad on my wife’s Dell laptop, they look absolutely horrendous.  The brides dress is blown out in parts, the subtle vignette that I had given to some of the more intimate photos is basically gone, the tuxes are over exposed, there’s no depth or “soul” to any of the colors, and the white balance is off.

 

I have a Spyder3, but I never needed to use it on the Cinema displays.  When I use it on, my wife’s Dell, and then view the pictures again, they look MUCH closer to the way they did on the iPad and Mac.  The problem is that I won’t be there to calibrate my clients display before they view their photos.  Most people, have a cheap $500.00 PC / Laptop that they got from best buy.  If that’s what they’ll be viewing their photos with, then it’s a losing battle for me.  I notice the Dell and HP laptops at work have a bright and sickly blue tint to them straight out of the box.

 

How am I supposed to tackle this problem?

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2012 6:43 AM   in reply to adrianroy

    Nothing you can do about other people's variable quality, uncalibrated monitors...

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2012 7:44 AM   in reply to adrianroy

    You're going to laugh, and I'll admit that I'm completely out of my mind.  But the way I set up my monitor is that I matched the monitor to what my printer is producing, a simple eyeball adjustment.  Then, I always export sRGB JPEG copies to post on the web.  Now, I will admit/stress that I'm not a professional photographer.  Never have been, never will be.  But I help a few friends out occasionally, and they have never complained about my work.  In fact, in the last couple of weeks I have received two "wow" responses.  I'm not recommending that anyone do it this way.  But I'm satisfied.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2012 8:28 AM   in reply to adrianroy

    The bright, high-contrast, blueish look that most monitors & laptops have by default is designed to make them stand out from the others at Best Buy. Unfortunately you'll have to decide: do you want your pictures to look correct on a properly-calibrated monitor? or on the monitors that most people actually use?

     

    I calibrate my main monitor - but leave my second monitor set closer to "crappy default Best Buy mode". Before publishing images to the web, I make a copy, view them on both monitors, and try to adjust to a happy medium that looks "ok" on either.

     

    Also, you didn't mention it, but I assume you know to always publish photos on the web in sRGB color space. Even if your clients have a well-calibrated monitor, they may not be using a color-managed browser or other app to view pictures. Any color profile other than sRGB will cause trouble.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2012 8:32 AM   in reply to adrianroy

    As Keith_Reeder said already, there's not much you can do about other peoples monitors. Usually monitors are way too bright at factory settings - probably to balance the light in brightly lit offices. And colors of an uncalibrated monitor are always off.

    But images in sRGB color space usually look OK on most monitors - even if they are a too bright. You can alleviate the problem of un-calibrated monitors by not "maxing out" the contrast and color saturation of your uploaded photos.

    Also, since you shoot weddings and know your clients, you can educate them about monitor settings, so that they know what they see is NOT what they get.

     
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  • Andrew Rodney
    1,393 posts
    Apr 16, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2012 11:50 AM   in reply to adrianroy

    adrianroy wrote:

    I have a Spyder3, but I never needed to use it on the Cinema displays.

    Yes, you do! Displays are unstable devices. The RGB values you see today should look the same in a year. Working solely in sRGB is not the answer. You simply must calibrate and profile your display (to ideally match your output next to the display) and you have to do this on a regular basis. If you want what you see and someone else to match, they too have to calibrate to the same targets.

     

    See: http://www.takegreatpictures.com/software-tips-and-techniques/9785

     

    If that is too elementary, then read this:

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/why_are_my_prints_too_dark .shtml

     

    LR and Photoshop are ICC (color management aware) applications, they expect a calibrated and profiled display.

     

    The iPad isn’t a color managed device, don’t attempt to compare it to anything else.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    May 10, 2012 12:17 PM   in reply to Andrew Rodney

    I have an extra monitor plugged in alongside my workhorse (older LG) its never been calibrated.

    My main monitor is a controversial Samsung 46 3dtv un8000..

    Why? you ask, if my image makes it to TV it will be ready to view and calibrated for the target.

     

    You May want to ask friends and family to comment on your image rederings in private as well.

    My brain knows the rough tolerance of calibrations and I am the device compensating.

    It sounds like you problem is brightness adjust or contrast.

     

    B

     
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