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Exposure Level and Monitor Brightness

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by TwoWheels, May 24, 2015.

  1. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    679
    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    Evan
    A while back I posted pictures I had taken on a vacation and someone commented that they all looked dark/underexposed. I looked at them on my work computer and agreed, but when I looked at them on my iMac that I used to process them, they looked fine. Since then i've noticed that I can process a photo to the point that it looks great on my iMac then when I look at it on my phone or another computer, it sometimes looks too dark or underexposed. I don't crank up the brightness level on my iMac screen. I generally have it below the halfway mark.

    How do I set my iMac screen brightness so that when I adjust the exposure level of a photo, it ends up at the right level. Is there any way to separate exposure from screen brightness? Are some screens are just inherently brighter than others? If so, how do I compensate for that? Does anyone else have this issue?
     
  2. Wandering Aengus

    Wandering Aengus Mu-43 Regular

    105
    Mar 23, 2012
    Common problem. Short answer is that you set your monitor to match your desired output. Problem is if your desired output is web viewing by me, for example, you don't know what the target is because you don't know the brightness of my monitor.

    If you are printing, the correct answer is to set your monitor to get a monitor / print match.

    All that said, you might try turning it down. Does it have a contrast adjustment? Turning it down might help as well.
     
  3. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Could be the iMac is in a darker room.

    Could be the image editing software you use on the iMac is set for a dark grey/black surround, which will make you feel 'right' with lower brightness.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. Wandering Aengus

    Wandering Aengus Mu-43 Regular

    105
    Mar 23, 2012
    Another thought. Do you have histograms in your image editing software? Not a good test on all images, but if they are all towards the dark end, might be a clue.
     
  5. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Excellent point. But I think the key question in the OP is "how do I set it... at the right level?", and the answer is, no such thing. As you said in post #2. :)

    There is only one right level for one viewing situation. He has to pick his viewing conditions and work to that.

    I work my photos to satisfy myself, primarily. But if the aim is for a general audience on their iPads in the sunroom, the car, the bus window seat, all they notice is how bright and punchy the faces are. Even in the shade!! Plus how green the trees, blue the skies, and red the sunsets. Assuming you don't want to do detailed PP for such unsophisticated viewers, find a generic boost in level of contrast and shadows, maybe a little exposure, and do a special global export for them.
     
  6. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    P.S. dont' send the results to us! :eek: Keep posting your iMac results here, we're appreciative. :bravo-009:
     
    • Like Like x 2
  7. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    A standard display brightness level is 120 cd/m^2. To actually set the brightness to this level, and calibrate the colors, a calibration package is needed. It comes with a puck that measures the monitor and software to create a profile. Since I print my own pictures, I've used calibration packages for years. (Trying to print pictures without a color managed, calibrated system is a giant waste of time.) I recently bought an X Rite i1Display Pro when it was on sale for $150 to replace an older package, and I'm very pleased with it. If nothing else, once your setup is calibrated, then you can ignore comments about you work looking wrong.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    A standard brightness level applies only to a standard ambient light level. Which is actually pretty dim. Put a calibrated display in a brighter room and it will look dim.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    679
    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    Evan
    Thanks for the input everyone.

    That was what I thought, but I didn't know if I was missing something.

    Yes and yes. Good points. The monitor is turned down as I mentioned, but it is in a relatively dark room and the background (Lightroom) is dark. I should take that into account or try to change it. I'm guessing there is some way to change the background colour in LR 6...
     
  10. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Really as long as you have appropriate black/white levels set, it shouldn't matter too much how bright the display is. Here's a decent resource to walk you through some easy calibration steps. Of course the next level is buying a hardware color calibration device.

    http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/

    You can also check the histogram of the individual photo as a quick way to decide if the photo is bright or dark in absolute terms.

    Apparent print brightness is also a function of the amount of reflected light. Viewing a print in a dark room and it is dark. View it outside in the sun and it is bright.
     
  11. bredman

    bredman Mu-43 Veteran

    458
    May 30, 2013
    Sherwood Forest
    Pete
    Lightroom -- Preferences -- Interface.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  12. Wandering Aengus

    Wandering Aengus Mu-43 Regular

    105
    Mar 23, 2012
    Just for clarity, I don't think we are talking about prints here. I mentioned prints in my initial reply only as an example of a specific output to be matched. The OP only mentioned posting pics online.
     
  13. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    People state that iMac's all use 2.2 gamma and have since 2009 (in my experience... no) however you might want to check the profile it's using and make sure it is actually set to 2.2 not 1.8.

    If your display is using the a different gamma curve what you see is going to be vastly different to another device using a standardized curve.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  14. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    679
    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    Evan
    I just went back and reviewed the histograms on the particular photos that generated a comment about being too dark. Most of them looked fine although there were a couple that were skewed to the dark end more than they maybe should be. I'll have to be more careful to watch that.
     
  15. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    I've had an epiphany thanks to this thread. People will spend all sorts of money on camera gear, but not spend $100 to actually know what their images look like. It doesn't matter if they're too dark/light, if the colors are anything like what they see, what the contrast is. This explains the fixation on sharpness and bokeh: it's all they can see. Without some sort of real calibrated viewing setup, one may be serious about camera gear, but not about making images.
     
    • Agree Agree x 3
  16. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Calibration doesn't necessarily solve it either, since it requires everybody else to calibrate to exactly the same settings. Those calibrated settings aren't necessarily optimised for viewing other content, like games, movies, or documents, or different ambient light levels. You need multiple profiles to cater for these requirements.

    Set a profile for print. Make sure your print exports look good on the print profile, and actually look good in print. Web exports are another matter.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    Actually I find calibrated monitors fantastic for watching movies, I try to have a movie going next to me when I'm working so I have a reference for colour (TV shows / movies make great moving references as to what skin should look like... I'm really bad with skin tones).
     
  18. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Yes, I calibrated my home theatre projection system using a test disc and special transparent colour filters for viewing test colours. It makes a difference for sure.
     
  19. piggsy

    piggsy Mu-43 All-Pro

    Movie and TV colours? Oh we got both kinds, we got orange and teal.
     
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    • Funny Funny x 1
  20. felipegeek

    felipegeek Mu-43 Enthusiast

    113
    Jan 8, 2014
    Miami, FL
    Felipe
    I have a Spyder display calibration device and it seems to do a decent job of setting the display to some reasonable reference point but if the viewer is using an $90 TN display with 80% of the sRGB color gamut it's not going to look like your $300+ IPS display with a 95+% sRGB color gamut no matter what you do. It will probably look good enough for the viewer that likely doesn't know any better. I've been critical of display quality for a long time and often wonder how some computer users can stand the washed out colors and lack of gradation that makes even the standard Windows interface and application text look horrible. On some displays no matter how you adjust them you can't even see the differences in the lighter colors and grays - they all appear as awful shades of eye-burning white. I think the rise of tablets and mobiles with better displays than what PCs typically have is driving a change. The price of IPS screens keeps coming down and PPI (Pixels per inch) is a spec users are starting to look at. Hopefully, TN displays will go the way of the dodo soon.
     
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