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What Should Real Estate Photographers Do For Monitor Calibration?

Published: 17/09/2014
By: larry

MonitorCalibrationI got a great question yesterday from Kimi who is a real estate photographer. Here's Kimi's question:

We have been having issues with a particular team of agents (too many hands in the pot), but I feel it has raised a good question. When processing photos in LR, how important is the monitor that you are processing on? Are there any "standards" or suggestions that can make things pretty uniformed for the consumers in comparison to what we are seeing on our screens? I understand that every monitor is different, but I am starting to question if MY monitor is appropriate or if there are certain settings that I am not aware of to make things better so I do not hear my clients telling me the photos are too light on their screen, another agent feels they are too dark, etc. Any suggestions?

My answer: Yes, monitors vary quite a lot. Picky agents or home owners will complain if they think the colors in property photos don't look "right." You can adjust colors so they look good on your monitor but if your monitor is not calibrated and your clients monitors aren't calibrated the image will look different to them.

As someone supplying images to others it is imperative that you calibrate your system to a standard. For images used on the web the standard is sRGB. Of course, calibration of your monitor won't eliminate color arguments if your clients don't also calibrate, but at least your images will be created according to the standard. It's not likely that most of your clients will go to the trouble to calibrate their monitors but at least you know that your system is not causing the problem. If your monitor is calibrated you could suggest to picky clients that they also calibrate their monitors. More and more real estate images are viewed on tablets and smartphones (these can't be calibrated but are fairly consistent among the same manufacturer) so these make a good reference. You should occasionally see what your images look like on the more popular tablets that you know your clients use.

Resources for calibrating your monitor:

  1. Matt Granger's YouTube tutorial on calibrating your monitor
  2. Tom Niemann's monitor calibration explanation.
  3. A relatively recent discussion in the PFRE flickr group on monitor calibration.

The above resources make several suggestions for hardware and software for monitor calibration. Here is a summary of some popular monitor calibration products that are suggested in the above references:

  1. X-Rite CMUNDIS ColorMunki  Tom Niemann's, also suggested by several in the flickr group.
  2. Datacolor Spyder4Elite Matt Granger's, also suggested by Iran Watson in the flickr group.
  3. X-Rite i1 Display pro, suggested by David Eichler in the flickr group.

Feel free to add your experiences with monitor calibration.

12 comments on “What Should Real Estate Photographers Do For Monitor Calibration?”

  1. I love the ColorMunki system, I use their color card for all of my shots and all of my monitors are calibrated every two weeks. I edit under a daylight color temperature bulb with blinds closed so that I get consistent color for all of my images. I had used the Datacolor spyder system but was getting inconsistent results.


  2. Converting ALL of your output files to sRGB, regardless of whether they are destined for web or print, will probably solve the majority of client complaints.

  3. 'Converting ALL of your output files to sRGB, regardless of whether they are destined for web or print, will probably solve the majority of client complaints.'

    Have to agree with the above.....make sure you calibrate correctly and recalibrate regularly. Like many I've seen some shocking examples of my images displayed on client monitors that have quite clearly never been calibrated

  4. Kimi, it's important to calibrate your monitor at least every month (some do it weekly).
    It's not that you will see a big change, unless your monitor is old or going bad, but for peace of mind. For this reason alone, you will be able to tell your agents that your images are edited on a system that is carefully and precisely color corrected and set up to strict standards.
    also, if your agents complain that there is a color issue, or images are too dark or too light, have them view their images on at least 3 different computers. One of my agent uses a MAC Laptop at home, which looks different than his PC at work.

    I have been using X-rite for many years and just upgraded to their newer i1-Display pro. B&H had a special sale, and X-rite had a rebate (which I've never seen before) total price was about $149. (normally $249) and is not too hard to set up.

    And as Ethan mentioned, try to edit under the same lighting conditions all the time so you will be consistent.

  5. Larry, Just checked B & H to see if the I-1Display pro was available at the $ 149.00 price that Eric mentioned in his post. I was told the special has ended. Sorry I missed that one.

    Thanks for all you do for us.

  6. John,
    if you subscribe to B&H Photo, they send out special e-mails with promotions or let you know about new products.

    I had the previous X-rite i1 Display device, which X-Rite stopped supporting. I didn't want to spend another $249 for a newer device, since mine still worked.
    Then, a B&H e-mail came in with a special deal. Keep looking.

  7. Aaron - Converting ALL of your output files to sRGB, regardless of whether they are destined for web or print, will probably solve the majority of client complaints.

    I agree. I don't convert to sRGB..I shoot everything sRGB, since everything ends up on the web anyhow. I took a photo workshop a few years ago with a very highly regarded Wedding photographer in Los Angeles. He shot in sRGB for everything!

    With most viewing photos on mobile devices, it's the way to go and you'll save a little time in the process.

  8. Great advice here re calibration which I won't repeat. But… if you are working on a properly calibrated system and your clients are NOT (usually the case when working for clients other than ad/ design agencies) the chances are their monitors "out of the box" will suffer from one of two problems: their brightness levels will be ramped up way high and the white balance bias of their screen be off, very often tending towards a cooler blue. Each of these can lead to a false impression of your supplied images and misunderstandings. For new clients I therefore supply a calibration file in the web gallery of shoot images I supply them: it contains a greyscale of tones from black to white: I include a message encouraging them to turn down the brightness of their monitor so that they can see sufficient tonal separation at the lighter end of the scale. Plus I ask them to check the neutrality of the middle grey values in the image: if their monitor is uncalibrated then it is here that the differences will show up, e.g. magenta or cool blue cast. They probably won't know how to fix these (!) but at least you can demonstrate that the problem lies with shortcomings in their viewing devices. Business idea…. visit agents and offer to calibrate their monitors every quarter…!

  9. Simon-
    I've thought about offering that to my clients, and do it as a 'Thank you for your business' add-on. (First one free. After that there would be a charge.)
    Just another way of taking care of them.

  10. Simon & Jim....I don't think that calibrating your clients monitors is wise. You are probably violating the EULA that came with the device/software.

  11. Kerry: good point: thanks: I use an X rite i1 profiler, but I thought a while back of becoming a reseller for a supplier I use for the rather simpler to use and cheaper Color Munki, again by Xrite: the plan was to help businesses with a requirement for calibrated images (e.g. real estate agents/ architects/ interior designers/ furnishings companies etc) to get set up with their OWN profiling device and then offer them on-site tuition/ back up for as long as required: so they would own the hardware and software and I would charge a per visit fee to run the profile. From my enquiries many just wanted the problem fixed (they are not photographers!) and I got the impression they would be happy just having me turn up and calibrate for them with their own gear. Life and business got in the way of that but I still think it's a potential income stream, as long as conducted legally, as you rightly point out. As Jim says, it's a potentially great way to help clients out and keep yourself known to them.

    In case anyone is thinking of offering on-site calibration: I have checked XRite's EULA on this useful site: ... Specifically relating to the example of using the software to create profiles for third parties they say:

    (c) You may provide a Licensed Profile to a third party as part of Your profiling services for such third party only if:
    (i) Such Licensed Profile is for personal use by such third party only on a specific input, display or output device owned by the third party for which the Licensed Profile was created;
    (ii) Your profiling services are conducted on-site for the third party (i.e., physically at the third party’s facility) and not using any other method or communication technique, including but not limited to, Internet-based communications and/or services; and
    (iii) The maximum number of Licensed Profiles provided to all third parties by You pursuant to this Agreement within a given calendar year does not exceed fifty (50) Licensed Profiles;
    You specifically acknowledge and agree that nothing herein shall be deemed to permit You to provide Licensed Profiles to any third party for distribution with and/or in conjunction with the distribution, promotion and/or sale of, such third party’s or any other party’s input, display or output device.
    (d) If You are an Educational Institute (as defined above) and/or a professional or trade association, such as standardization institute, You may provide a Licensed Profile to a third party for such third party’s own use or for distribution with such third party’s own products, provided such Licensed Profile is provided as part of your service to the public and for no consideration, and provided further that You and the third party clearly indicate in any material accompanying the Licensed Profile that the Licensed Profile was created using X-Rite Software [name the software].
    (e) Except as expressly permitted in this Agreement, You may not Yourself or through any other person, do any of the following: (i) sell, license, sublicense, lease, rent, lend, disclose, permit access to, or transfer to any third party, whether for profit or without charge, any Licensed Profile; (ii) allow any third party to use a Licensed Profile; or (iii) distribute to any third party a Licensed Profile in any way or form, whether by networks, electronic bulletin boards, web sites or otherwise. X-Rite may permit certain distribution rights under a separate written distribution agreement.

    Which sounds to me like you cannot use one licensed profiling device and software to provide profiles for third parties on a paid basis, or to actual businesses. Nothing to stop you setting them up with a low cost device though. Plus (last sentence above) Xrite indicate they may "play ball" for those out in the field who are effectively promoting their products to new customers.

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