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Looking for Specs and Recommendations for a Computer Monitor

Published: 04/03/2020

Phil, from Spokane, WA writes:

“Hi, I’m just starting out in real estate photography part-time. After spending a good chunk of money for new photography gear (new camera and a couple of Godox AD-200s), my desktop monitor just crashed! Are there certain things I should be looking for in a monitor, now that most of my computer time at home is going to be spent in Photoshop and LR editing my photoshoots. I'm trying to leave my full time job, where I work in an office and spend most of the day working on spreadsheets on a small laptop (not good), so I don't want to scrimp on this. Do you have any recommendations? ”

Thanks for writing in, Phil. I have no doubt that our community is going to offer many great suggestions on specific brands and specs regarding their own favorite monitors. So instead, I’m going to offer some suggestions on a few general things you should be looking for in a monitor. Based on some reading I’ve done, here are some things to keep in mind as you do your comparison shopping:

  • Color Space. This one is key. There’s no way to overstate how important it is to have proper color display. sRGB is the standard 8-bit color space for web. Everywhere I looked online said that a good monitor should cover a minimum of 90% of sRGB (and 70% of the AdobeRGB spectrum).
  • Resolution. Just like a bigger camera sensor allows for more pixels to be captured, higher resolution allows for more “information” on the screen. I’m thinking bare minimum is an HD (1920×1080) monitor.
  • Size. Phil if you’ve been looking at spreadsheets all day, then you can certainly appreciate that bigger is better and much easier on the eyes. I’d guess that most folks in our community have at least a 24” monitor that they’re working on.
  • Brightness. If you’re not working in a very dark room, then a bright screen is important.
  • Calibration. The bare minimum is to have a monitor that gives built-in 8-bit calibration on RGB, ranging from ‘0,0,0’ (black) to ‘255,255,255’ (white). The best practice though is to buy yourself a good calibration tool from a reputable company (e.g., Spyder, X-Rite)
  • Other Considerations. Some people I know have screens that allow them to physically rotate their screen from a horizontal orientation to a vertical one, which is great if you’re editing a detail shot that you might have shot in portrait orientation. Another consideration is black levels--generally speaking, darker is better.

I hope this has been helpful, Phil. I’m looking forward to seeing what specific recommendations our community makes.

Brandon Cooper

8 comments on “Looking for Specs and Recommendations for a Computer Monitor”

  1. Here we go, all the advice above is right on. Now your going to get a whole lot of 'this is best stuff'. Well that's all it is, stuff. Or a chance to tell you to use what they wish they where using.

    In my opinion, find a good gaming monitor (I use Asus ips monitors, but who really cares). Find a good one that has been replaced with marking upgrades and is being discontinued (save $200 plus). I use dual monitors but I have the desk space. Okay, your good to go. No, not really. Get a good calibration system, I used spyders, now I use iprofiler. Calibrate the monitor every couple of months, calibrate all your monitors, even the old one on the spouses computer (you may have to use in a pinch)

    What you want is consistency, not refresh rates, you want to deliver a consistent product. I am an old programmer, I love puters, I use three of them all the time, one is even mounted in my car. All give me consistently the same color and that's what is important, not the brand, not the refresh, not the hertz rate (or mhertz, something like that).

    When someone tells you your colors are off, you need to know it's their system, not yours. Now for size, what ever the budget will do, I use dual 27's on the desk and a 17 and 14 on the laptops and my finished product looks the same on all of them (well almost, but close enough).

  2. I have been using a 27 inch, 1920 x 1080 for far too long. The size is passable but the resolution is not. At least go for higher resolution than this. And I agree with the need for a calibration device, I have an x-rite, it is ultra easy to set up, and the difference between calibrated and uncalibrated is huge.

  3. Great insight above. One suggestion though, If you plan on editing your own photographs, I would suggest considering a two monitor solution, with a less expensive second monitor. Not only can you use that monitor to check what the image would look like on a typical consumer monitor, it also makes life much easier when viewing / editing photos.

  4. wow, I wish I read this discussion a few years ago before I bought a new computer.
    Phil, a few years ago, I was having issues with my PC, so I switched to a 27" I MAC, because I was told MACs are great for editing. it was a learning experience switching to the MAC from a PC. but when I saw how incredible my images displayed on the MAC, I was overwhelmed and impressed. But, I found out the MACs are set up brighter and with more contrast. so, I invested in x-rite i1display pro and calibrated my MAC, (which I do every month) and the display became more normal looking,and still very impressive. But, many of my friends still swear by PCs and said there are some excellent 4K and 5K monitors. so, the above comments are excellent, but just to add my 2 cents, (and this I learned from experience) is to get a monitor that the on screen controls are easy to access, so you can calibrate your monitor easily.
    The X-rite software, reminds you when it is time to re calibrate. just do it in the same lighting as you normally edit it in.
    And by the way, I lived in Spokane in the 70's and its a beautiful location. Washington stat is gorgeous

  5. I'll keep my response simple. I have a BenQ SW271. It covers the color space requirements Brandon mentioned above, is large enough and was reasonably priced, IMHO. That said, in hind sight I might have purchased a 32" monitor as I like the large area.

  6. I've used a few different monitor over the years and I wouldn't get anything smaller than 24" unless you either don't have the space or you're going to use a dual setup. With that said I'm getting ready to purchase another monitor and I think I have it narrowed down to a 27" BenQ, seems like a good monitor for the money. As far as calibration goes, I do think it's important but not as important as most believe. I used to shoot weddings and post process weddings so I made sure my screens were calibrated (with XRite) because these images were going to be printed...that's the main reason for calibrating a screen. I don't shoot weddings anymore but I still have my system set so it reminds me to recalibrate every two weeks. For real estate it's still nice to know that my monitor is "correct" but 99.9% of the people viewing our images are looking on a phone or screen which isn't calibrated. What I've found is that the uncalibrated screens are often brighter than a calibrated one so in some cases my clients have contacted me after receiving photos and said they look too "bright". Obviously this is happening because their brightness is more than likely turned all the way up. So now I have two profiles for my monitors and will edit photos in the calibrated profile and then before I send the photos I'll switch to the profile to the one that best matches my iPhone and view them on that before I send them.

  7. Regardless of which monitor you choose, proof your editing on an iPad or an iPhone. (maybe Galaxy, too). Those are the devices the public will be using to view listings. Sure, they might use their laptop or desktop... but its the small devices that have consistent luminance and color balance for viewers. Their computer monitors will be an inconsistent and impossible target to even consider, laptops or desktops. Way too many brands and variables.

    With that in mind, I edit on a Mac monitor, because its easy to match it's display properties to an iPhone or iPad.

  8. I just bought a new monitor from Best Buy.
    It is a 26" 2K gaming monitor. This was in preparation for when my laptop dies after which I will buy a 4K unit.
    Since the MLS has no use for 2K let along 4K, I bought this unit to improve detail during editing which I do myself.
    If I were using a 3rd party to edit my shots, I would not have spent the money on this monitor.
    Make no mistake, you can spend up to just under $1000.00 for a monitor but why.
    Take a good look at how you use the monitor and then set a price to stay under.

    Hope this helps

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