Dr Les Walkling - Fine Art Photographer & Colour Scientist31/10/2016 | Reviews
EIZO Monitors for Photography
Dr Walkling with Masato Nakashima of Eizo Corporation, at Photokina, Cologne, Germany
Dr Les Walkling Explains
Les Walkling is a fine art photographer, educator and consultant. Previously the Program Director of Media Arts at RMIT in Melbourne, today he is one of Australia’s foremost experts on colour management and fine art digital reproduction.
And he’s an EIZO enthusiast.
The Right Display for Photographers
Les stresses the need for graphics monitors for photo editing and pre-press work. “A monitor reveals the latent image in our digital files prior to processing and printing. We’re glued to our monitor, so if it can’t show us exactly what’s in our images, we don’t have a clue about what’s really going on.”
Les says many LCD screens are so bright and contrasty that it’s not possible for them to replicate our printed images accurately. “Some monitors only have power and brightness controls, so the calibration is done on the video card inside the computer and you end up sending a depleted signal to the screen.”
In the early days of electronic display, Les and his colleagues at RMIT searched the market for the best monitor available. “EIZO as a name kept coming up on high end discussion forums. Importantly, the EIZO screens had their own internal processing. This meant they could be precisely calibrated resulting in an incredibly accurate, perfectly smooth and luminous reproduction.”
Contrast ratio is a critical aspect of monitor design. This includes the ability to calibrate both the white and black points (which define the monitor’s contrast ratio).
“This is one of the reasons I fell in love with EIZO ColorEdge monitors. You can work with the highest resolution monitor in the world, but if it displays an unrealistically high contrast ratio, it can’t help you to accurately ‘soft-proof’ your images. As a result, your prints will then appear too dark and flat compared with the image on screen.”
“In my experience the closer the contrast ratio of my calibrated monitor is to the contrast range of my print, the more accurate my soft proof will be, especially with regard to shadow detail and any black point compensation. The monitor’s black and white points define the monitor’s contrast ratio, but without control over setting the black point I cannot easily or accurately match the contrast of the screen to the contrast of my prints. For instance, when I measure the density scale of my richest looking and most beautiful glossy black and white print, I end up with a contrast ratio of approximately 1:200. Knowing this I can set the white point on my EIZO monitor to 80 cd/m2 (a typical aim point for high end monitors) and my black point to 0.4 cd/m2 to reproduce the same contrast ratio on screen. Soft proofing now becomes more accurate and the assessment of the print more predictable. I believe that control of the black point is absolutely critical, for both photography and pre-press work.”
EIZO’s ColorEdge monitors are adjusted and pre-set at the factory, so all the photographer needs to do is customise them to their production conditions. Explained Les, “The EIZO monitors are incredibly consistent. Their hardware settings straight out of the box are so close to what we’re aiming for that the amount of adjustment required is minor. You also have to let the lamps warm up and stabilise before commencing critical editing work, and this is rapidly facilitated by their internal stabilisation firmware. Within minutes of commencing work I am confidently able to make output edits and predictions.
“Best of all, we don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul – we don’t have to force the monitor in one area of the colour gamut which could compromise the gamut elsewhere. This is why monitor hardware calibration through the on-board LUT has such a profound advantage over those monitors with no hardware calibration where the computer’s video card is all that can be adjusted.
“EIZO also provides a light hood for its high end models. This is very important because when viewing a monitor, we should shield it from direct reflections and ambient light so as to minimise on screen flare which lowers contrast. Consistent viewing conditions without distracting lights and reflections also reduce operator fatigue and promote confidence in our tools and processes.”
An ideal working environment is needed to get the best out of any monitor. “It’s so easy to put up blinds or turn off lights”, said Les, “yet I walk into a lot of studios and pre-press shops to find excessive screen flare, inaccurate shadow rendering and unrealistically bright highlights. Therefore the ability to precisely control the monitor’s appearance through hardware calibration is critical, especially if you are forced to work in less than ideal ambient lighting conditions.”
And accurately calibrating an EIZO monitor is simplicity itself. “Just launch the EIZO ColorNavigator software and press the proceed button. It’s completed in a couple of minutes and fully automated which further reduces the possibility of operator error and inconsistency. The resulting screen images are not only accurately displayed but look superb. A monitor profile is then saved for use in colour savvy applications like Adobe Photoshop™.”
How Even is the Screen?
“Many photographers like to edit images side by side on their monitor. A portrait photographer might place a master image on one side of the screen and bring up subsequent images on the other side to match skin tones and fabrics, but there’s not much point if it’s not even in colour and brightness across its surface.”
These problems are most disturbing when working with black and white images. “Our senses notice the slightest change of colour in a black and white image, so it can be very disconcerting to drag the image from one side of the screen to the other and see it change colour and density!”
“The ColorEdge range have Digital Uniformity Equalization technology which guarantees evenness of illumination and chroma across the screen within very tight tolerances. The first time I saw an image on my old CG221, I couldn’t believe how extraordinary it looked. The evenness and smoothness was incredible, and when I dragged the image anywhere on the screen, nothing changed in its appearance. EIZO ColorEdge monitors display the finest rendering of a print I have ever seen.”
Colour is another critical aspect of monitor design. Conventional LCD displays cover something similar to or less than the sRGB colour space, but EIZO ColorEdge monitors cover 99% of the much larger AdobeRGB (1998) colour space. When it comes to accurately soft proofing your work, these are the monitors you want to be looking at.
“Unfortunately, conventional monitors cannot accurately display the most saturated colours we work with, yet as digital cameras evolve and photographers capture in RAW, we’re being encouraged to process our files into very large colour spaces to make sure we preserve all of the colours the camera is capable of capturing.”
Les says it’s important to understand how our monitors represent out-of-gamut colours. “Most monitor profiles force a relative colorimetric transformation, which means any out-of-gamut colours are not harmoniously moved into monitor gamut, rather they are clipped off and turned into undifferentiated blobs of colour.
“For instance, the texture in a brightly coloured jumper can be completely lost on the monitor, even though the detail is still there in the file. Unfortunately, if you edit the file trying to fix the colours on the screen, not only might you be making unnecessary corrections, you’re often creating additional problems elsewhere in the file. This is why I believe it is critical to be able to see as many colours as possible correctly displayed on the screen. It is especially important to be able to see all the colours our printers and presses are capable of producing so that we can accurately soft proof the compression of out-of-gamut colours.”
The Final Word
“A lot of people I meet spend a fortune on their computer, but invest relatively little in their monitor. My principle is the opposite, I tend to invest more in my production monitor than the computer because the monitor is the window into my creative world. I don’t hold back when it comes to the quality of my images, no matter where they are displayed.”
Dr Walkling, Fine Art Photography Printing workshop