How to Choose the Best Monitor for Photo Editing

How to Choose the Best Monitor for Photo Editing

Beautiful pictures don’t just rely on cameras, a professional-level monitor is also key to producing great shots. When choosing a monitor calibrated for photo editing, color is king. It should deliver optimal color accuracy, high contrast, and maximum clarity.

Deciding on the right monitor for photo editing can be daunting, but there are some key factors to keep in mind before investing. Or explore ViewSonic’s professional ColorPro monitor series here.

Why do you need a pro-level monitor for photo editing?  

Photography and editing work require true-to-life color reproduction on the screen for high-quality pictures. A less accurate monitor will not be capable of displaying the full spectrum of colors in true accuracy. As such, your photos might turn out oversaturated or off-balanced when printed.

Unlike consumer-grade monitors, professional ones are usually equipped with the latest panel technology and a broader pre-calibrated color spectrum. Built for photo-editing in mind, they ensure uniform levels of brightness, wider viewing angles, and exacting color precision. A color-accurate monitor is vital for photographers, both professionals and enthusiasts, to see their work in the best way possible.

What to look for in a monitor for photo editing?

Monitors offer a head-spinning array of features. When evaluating a pro-level monitor for photo editing, your goal is to maximize the accuracy of what you see on-screen. Several key features impact color, performance, and image quality.

Peak color accuracy

When it comes to color accuracy on displays, it largely depends on several different features to produce realistic images.  

Best monitor for photo editing color

Color space and color model

Before defining color space, you have to understand what a color model is. Derived from an abstract mathematical model, a color model assigns colors to tuples of numbers (think RGB and CMYK). They provide a visualization of the color spectrum, but without specifying how the colors should be interpreted or displayed on your screen.

A color space is a defined color combination within a color model. It takes aspects of color, brightness, saturation, and hue to reproduce color on a display. The three most common color spaces are sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB. Adobe RGB has a wider color gamut as compared to sRGB, which means there are more colors to choose from in the former.

Here’s a case in point: you have captured an image with a camera that uses Adobe RGB, and then viewed the same image on an sRGB display. What you see displayed will have missing colors that fall outside the color model. So, if you view photos on a monitor with narrow color space, you will have muddier, and less vivid colors.

Professional level monitors have expansive color spaces for more vibrant and detailed photos. When you’re shopping around, look out for displays with at least 90% sRGB (best for displaying your work on the web) and 70% Adobe RGB coverage (ideal for printed images).

Low Delta E value

Delta E measures how well the human eye perceives color difference. For photo editing, it’s a capable tool for knowing how well a monitor achieves true color. Delta E (ΔE or dE) is the change in visual perception of two given colors. The value ranges from 0 to 100. Numbers less than zero aren’t perceptible to the human eye. A value of 100 indicates colors that are exact opposites.

Delta E numbers are included on monitors designed for photo editing. To meet color critical needs, this number represents how well a color displayed by a monitor correlates to the “perfect” color value. The lower the number, the better the performance. Top-of-the-line displays can claim Delta E of 1 or slightly less. However, many professionals find Delta E<2 perfect for their photo editing needs.

Best monitor for photo editing tech

Optimized color calibration

Onscreen colors must be shown perfectly when printed out. A factory-calibrated monitor that allows advanced color management features will produce color-realistic photos.

Gamma adjustment and correction

Gamma is a complex term for how vibrant images look on a monitor. Adjusting gamma plays a critical role in getting the best results from your photographic efforts. When it comes to digital devices, gamma is defined as the mathematical encoding of brightness (also known as “luminance”) into a value for each pixel. The goal of gamma is to make a digital image look as vibrant as possible.

Gamma correction, or monitor gamma calibration, controls the overall brightness of an image. Images that are not properly corrected can look either bleached out or too dark. It’s essential to be able to fine-tune the monitor’s settings to control and enhance the visibility and detail in your photos.

Powerful LUT (Look Up Table)

The best pro-level monitors for photo editing have a hardware-embedded LUT to give them a big boost in color capabilities. LUTs deliver on-the-fly adaptability that adds color gradations as needed based on the image displayed. It’s an automatic function that applies complex color correction calculations to adjust gamma for optimal color mapping.

Measured in bits, higher LUT levels indicate more powerful color adjustment abilities and a larger color palette. Most consumer monitors are typically at 8-bit with a usable palette of 16.7 million colors. Professional monitors are equipped with up to 14-bit LUT power, delivering about 4.39 trillion colors – that’s a whopping 260,000 times more color precision than an average consumer monitor!

Color calibration tools

Having a pre-calibrated monitor is a great first step in achieving vibrant photos, but monitors lose color accuracy over time. To ensure that your monitor displays precise shades in the future, a monitor calibrator or a “colorimeter” is essential. Placed on the monitor screen to measure and adjust onscreen color, the colorimeter offers greater accuracy and ongoing reliability.

Unparalleled panel technology

IPS displays are the monitor of choice for color-minded users. They provide the best support for color space monitor technologies, deliver higher color depths and contrast ratios, and eliminate image distortion and color shifting.

Best monitor for photo editing specs

Screen size and resolution

The goal is to be able to see your work fully while still having room for toolbars. A minimum display size of 24” is recommended, but a bigger screen would bring you more real estate to manipulate your images in.

When it comes to resolution, the higher the pixels, the sharper the images. It is important to note that the resolution of a screen does not correlate with the size of the display. Screens of the same size can have differing resolutions. Most professionals tend to opt for a screen of 27” or bigger, with a 4K resolution for razor-sharp clarity.

Viewing angle and screen surface

Monitor screen surfaces are either in a matte or glossy finish. The latter delivers crisp, vibrant images that are great for gaming and viewing movies. However, the reflective surfaces are not ideal for photo editing. They perform poorly especially in bright-lit spaces and produce mirror-like reflections that will bring distractions to your photos. Matte surfaces with glare-reducing capabilities reproduce more accurate, realistic picture quality.

The viewing angle of the monitor impacts the uniformity of color. Images lose contrast when viewed from outside a display’s stated viewing angle. This image degradation makes it difficult to accurately view, assess, and edit images. The wider the viewing angle, the less image degradation as your view moves from the center of the screen. An ideal maximum viewing angle is at least 178º horizontally and vertically.

Other features to look out for

So you’ve your eye on a certain monitor that satisfies all your color and panel needs, there are a couple more aspects you might want to consider.

Best monitor for photo editing extras

Good design

A well-designed monitor doesn’t only tick the aesthetic box, it also improves efficiency and productivity. Monitors with a sleek, frameless bezel design maximizes the screen surface area for a larger, more immersive visual experience.

Some monitors are equipped with an ergonomic mount that tilts, swivels, and pivots to adapt to a more comfortable setup. Advanced swap and auto pivot features allow you to rotate the screen 180 degrees, getting a horizontal view of your image.

Flexible connectivity

A professional monitor that supports a variety of output ports like USB, DisplayPort, and HDMI, allows easier connectivity with other devices and peripherals that you own. USB 3.0 ports deliver device charging, while USB 3.1 Type C ports deliver charging plus audio for simplified setups. The ability to “daisy chain” two or more monitors via DisplayPort delivers added flexibility.

Making the final decision

A high-spec professional monitor with advanced panel technology and numerous color control features helps you to make the most of your images. They drive up color accuracy and image clarity so that you can view and manipulate your photos in their true splendor. If your work or passion involves photo editing, it’s time to invest in a monitor that features the mentioned factors.

Ideal for professional and budding photographers and editors, ViewSonic’s ColorPro™ professional monitors are calibrated to display stunning picture quality and ultimate color brilliance. Discover how a ColorPro monitor can bring the best out of your photos here.