Monitor Buying Guide; Best Monitor for Photography and Film Editing

There are all sorts of LCD monitors out there, from workhorse monitors aimed for programming and heavy multi-tasking, bargain-basement models that works just fine for light office tasks, and feature-packed gaming monitors with higher pixel response and refresh rate for smooth gameplay and movie experience. For photographers, film editors, or any professionals who demand to translate displayed images to print or photobook exactly as they’re displayed on the screen will need excellent color accuracy and other specific priorities. This entry of Dual Monitors Guide, we will break down the things you need to look for in a professional-grade monitorphoto-editing monitor to be specific.


 Professional photographers spend as much time in front of their computer as with their camera, if not more. If you’re the kind of photographer who spends long hours of your day processing, retouching and reviewing photos, it is quintessential that you invest in a high-quality LCD monitor to meet your demands of excellent color accuracy.

Those who are not technically inclined may find the searching overwhelming. The truth is, you need to know all the jargons monitor manufacturers use with their products. You just have to understand the five basics things. Here are a few of the most important things to look for when buying a photo-editing monitor.

 

Size and Resolution

(image from Amazon)

For starters, you should know that size matters when it comes to choosing a perfect display for photo editing. Go for the biggest display your budget and workspace can allow, and choose the one that has appropriately dense resolution. If you’re shooting pictures with your DSLR, which is usually 20MP or higher, then a 1920 x 1080 display will not be enough as it is only 2MP. A good middle ground for tight budget is a 27-inch monitor with 2560 x 1440 resolution. If your budget can stretch, then invest in a 4K display, as it runs with 3840 x 2160 resolution. For iMac users, the iMac with Retina 5K display is the best option there is, as it is solid in both power and resolution, while its 27-inch screen brags 5120 x 2880 resolution, enough to support 14.7 MP image at full resolution. 27-inch is an ideal size, going lower than that can become a pain to work with in the long run.

(image from Amazon)

Also, you may want to consider a secondary display through a dual monitor setup. This can be a pretty convenient setup when you’re working with various software and photo-editing tools, regardless of what LCD monitor you choose as your primary display. Lightroom tools look pretty good in a glossy 27-inch display, it will let you browse through its catalogs and do the adjustments and editing there and view the full-screen preview version of the image you’re working on the other monitor.

 

Excellent Color Accuracy and Wide Gamut

Color accuracy should be on top of your list when choosing a new photo-editing LCD monitor. It’s also should be consistent in scaling light and dark, capable of displaying images in clear details, even with bright lights or dark shadows. IPS or In-Plane Switching monitors have the most accurate colors. They may cost a bit more, but they surely are worth it for their high color accuracy, sharp details and wide color gamut, as they are fully capable of displaying more colors and shades than any other panels in the market today.

Wide-color gamut monitors have over a billion of colors, giving professionals easy time seeing subtleties of colors. If you’re working on 14-bit and 16-bit RAW file, then a monitor that is able to show the subtleties contained in each image you capture is the way to go. This will need special digital connections, namely DisplayPort, DVI or Thunderbolt to connect your camera to the computer or straight to the monitor.

IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel monitors are the ideal panels for photo editing tasks. Look for something with at least 8-bit LUT (lookup table), as they can pull images from 16.7 million color palate. If you have the budget, which most likely is when you’re looking for professional-grade monitor, look for an IPS monitor with at least 10-bit LUT that expands up to a billion color palate. To get this number though, you have to choose display manufacturer that specially caters their products to photographers, like Eizo, and it can be quite expensive.

 

Comes with Calibration Tools

Yes there are lots of online calibration tools you can use for your monitor, but most of the time, these calibration tools are not meant to work perfectly with specific brands. And if you happen to get those specific brands, then you may have a tough time calibrating your display.

Your best option is to find a professional-grade monitor integrated with calibration tools. Many monitors for photo editing are actually bundled with calibration tools, some even have internal systems that sets the calibration sensor right for the display. Some brands ship their products with external colorimeter that you can drape over their monitor to calibrate. This will show a series of color patches and uses software to make an ICC profile to adjust colors properly.

 

(image from Amazon)

Of you want to combine your monitor with a separate ICC profile for your printer and paper type, then there are lots of soft proofing tools available online for you, such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, which lets you see how the end-product will look on paper through your display. If your monitor doesn’t come with a calibration tool though, then you might as well choose the best calibration tools out there, such as Datacolor Spyder4 PRO or X-Rite ColorMunki Display. Also, you will have to calibrate your monitor at least once a month.

 

Finish

(image from Amazon)

Most average computer users overlook this aspect, but photographers like you should always consider the finish of the display for more accurate calibration. High-gloss displays may look better in retail stores, but they’re not actually accurate. As a matter of fact, they tend to oversaturate colors and can handle glares and reflection problems, which is common in home offices and work settings. Matte on the other hand, provides better calibration, as they tend to show truer images.

The AOC i2757fh for example, uses matte coating to eliminate glares and reflections, making it a comfortable display for working, even in well-lit environment.


Hood

(image from Amazon)

Computer hood may look silly for average users, but for professionals working on a highly-lit environment such as office cubicles, it is an essential tool for blocking ambient light that comes straight to the display from the top and sides. As you know, light can be a hindrance in color accurate tasks, and light intensity and direction vary at different points in the day. There are lots of third-party generic computer monitor hood for iMac and notebook, but your best bet is to choose an LCD monitor with a dedicated hood from its manufacturer included in the package or available as an accessory to get the best fit. 

 

Bonus Features Such as Ergonomic Features

I said five, but this one is pretty important for almost all types of monitors, especially for work displays.


Since you will be working on your computer for hours, you might as well get a display that will help you feel comfortable while working. An LCD monitor with an adjustable stand will help keep your head, neck, shoulders, back and arms at the right working position, keeping you feel comfortable as you work. Adjustable stands allow variety of adjustments to suit your work position needs, such height adjustment, tilt, and swivel. Some even come with pivot feature that lets users turn their monitor 90⁰ to switch from landscape to portrait orientation and vice versa.

If you’re working on a dual monitor setup, or you want a more comfortable and ergonomic workstation, then you should purchase third-party ergonomic solutions, such as LCD arm desk mounts or fully adjustable stand that provides wider adjustment range. You can also opt to wall mount your display and have it look like floating above your desk. For this, you need to look for a monitor with VESA mounting holes.

 

Quick Round Up of Some of the Best Photography Monitors in Amazon


NEC MultiSync EA244UHD ($1,047 Amazon)

(image from Amazon)

The NEC MultiSync EA244UHD is a mid-sized (24-inch) 4K monitor that delivers excellent color and gray-scale performance, with crisp Ultra High Definition imagery, and generous set of connectivity options for its high price. It is catered for graphics design professionals and pro photographers who doesn’t like or enormous displays on their desk. It’s a bit expensive yes, but it delivers outstanding performance. It’s a business monitor that comes in a small package, but brings a lot of big things to the table.

 

HP DreamColor Z27x ($1,056 Amazon)

(image from Amazon)

The HP DreamColor Z27x professional-grade 27-inch monitor that delivers stellar performance across the board, and is equipped with a plethora of features, including built-in calibration software, and a six-port USB hub. It’s a reasonably priced display fully capable of delivering professional performance. It has 1.07-billion-color DreamColor engine, wide array of factory-calibrated color gamut presets to fit all your viewing and working needs, as well as embedded-calibration software to fit the needs of any graphics professionals in their transition from one color space to another with a simple touch of a button.

 

NEC MultiSync PA322UHD ($3,030 Amazon)

(image from Amazon)

The NEC MultiSync PA322UHD is a massive 32-inch, professional-grade Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) monitor with real 4K performance. It is something you would really expect from a 4K UHD display – incredible color accuracy and gray-scale performance, excellent viewing angle, and its big screen maximizes the 3480 x 2160 resolution and far more readable on poor behaving legacy apps such as Windows 7 running Photoshop. It may be expensive, but if you’re a graphics professional, photographer, or anyone who requires professional quality to meet your professional needs, then you definitely need to consider display for your next upgrade. It has extensive setting menu, wide color-gamut coverage, as well as 14-bit LUT for precise calibration and has better all-around performance than many of its competition.

 

Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD UP3214Q ($1,656)

(image from Amazon)

The Dell UltraSharp UP3214Q is an enormous 32-inch Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) monitor that delivers exquisite 4K image detail, along with very accurate colors. It uses IGZO/IPS panel which delivers excellent UHD image details, with extensive set of picture settings and wide viewing angles. It is expensive yes, but it great display for graphics pros, photographers, designers, and content creators who require top-shelf performance and bigger screen.

 

CTL X2800 ($673 Amazon)

(image from Amazon)

The CTL X2800 is a budget-friendly professional-grade 4K monitor.

It’s an ideal tool for professionals whose work heavily requires excellent detail information or incredible precision, such as graphic artist, designed, photographers, videographers, etc. It takes pride in its razor sharp colors and strong contrast, very versatile for multi-tasking, making it a great work monitor. Plus, it’s decently fast for gaming as well. It’s an ideal tool for professionals whose work heavily requires excellent detail information or incredible precision, such as graphic artist, designed, photographers, videographers, etc.


Bottom Line

If you are serious about your photography work, say for example you’re into wedding photography constantly dealing with demanding clients for perfect prints, then these are the most important things you need to look for in a photo-editing monitor. If you’re a photography hobbyist who prints pictures once in a while or share them online, then you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for high-end displays.

 Buying a professional-grade monitor is an investment, thus before you purchase a display, you need to read some reviews from trusted review sites such as Dual Monitors Guide to get a good idea of the device’s performance. You can browse through this site for more in-depth reviews of the products we’ve reviewed.



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