I hope I’m not confusing my readers due to the three articles that preceded this one that focused on the calibration of the Dell 2209WA. Quality information on monitor calibration, print viewing conditions and color management isn’t all that easy to find on the web and very few good books are written on the subject. What little I’ve found is often dated and usually brings up more questions than answers. In any case, I take the knowledge I gather and experiment on my own. Hopefully my documented journey of discovery with its mistakes and triumphs will help others in their explorations.
Up until now, I have used an Ott-Lite TrueColor task lamp for viewing prints made on an Epson R1900 using icc printer profiles from Epson and Red River for the different paper surfaces that I use. There was a good match between the print viewed under this light source and the image viewed on the Dell 2209WA calibrated at 6500K though there were many times when the print just didn’t seem right or looked slightly more cyan than the monitor. From what I know now this was probably due to the color temperature of the Ott-Lite being around 5500K and the fact that it was a fluorescent light source, a source noted for having spikes in its spectrum.
I recently came across an article on the web offering advice on setting up a working space for digital color imaging and discovered that a D50 (5000K) light source was recommended for proofing. The D50 standard was chosen as it appears color neutral to the human eye and is close to the color temperature of most homes and offices that are illuminated with a combination of sunlight and tungsten or fluorescent. A SoLux lamp with a halogen 4700K bulb meets this requirement. So I did a search and bought a SoLux task lamp from a seller on eBay at a great price of $55 — the seller no longer stocks them and they are getting more difficult to find on eBay. Tailored Lighting sells two different clamp-on fixtures that are reasonably priced. If you purchase one, don’t bother with the diffuser.
It’s extremely well made and came with a 50 watt, 36 degree, 4700K SoLux halogen bulb.
The SoLux bulbs are highly recommended by many professional photographers as the light of choice for viewing prints in a digital imaging environment. This is due to the spectrum of the lamp being a close match to daylight as shown in the image below.
You may find a less expensive alternative by finding a lamp at a local lamp or office supply store that will take a MR-16 type bulb as the SoLux halogen bulbs can be purchased separately.
When I first viewed a print under the SoLux lamp it appeared warmer than the monitor image. A tech at Tailored Lighting suggested I remove the diffused glass element in front of the halogen bulb that came with the lamp. This brought the match closer though the print still appeared slightly warmer. Then I read that some photographers felt the monitor needed to be slightly warmer than the standard of 6500K to get a good print match with a D50 viewing lamp… somewhere closer to 6000K.
From previous experiments I discovered that the native color temperature of the 2209WA with its default settings (RGB settings at 100%) is warmer than 6500K. So I set the Spyder2Pro initial calibration settings to native 2.2 and chose a measured luminance and aimed for a 140cd/m2 white point. To achieve this I ended up having my contrast at 73% (this was needed to flatten the gamma curve produced in Colorimetre HCFR) and my brightness at 17%.
Note: Please don’t assume you can use my calibration settings or even my profile if I provided it and hope to achieve the same results. My settings are only provided here as a reference. You need to calibrate your own system with a colorimeter and produce your own profile based on your particular 2209WA and your video card.
After checking my results in Colorimetre HCFR, my color temperature was shown to be slightly higher than 6000K. The gamma and luminance curves looked fine. The match between the image on the monitor and the print viewed under the SoLux bulb was outstanding. The SoLux bulb was a big improvement over the Ott-Lite.
At this point you might be wondering why a match occurs between a print viewed under a D50 light source and an image on a monitor calibrated at 6000K when the color temperatures of the two sources differ. As I understand it, the brain “sees” an image on a monitor (emitted light) differently than it “sees” a print viewed with reflected light. A slightly bluer or colder light from the monitor makes up for this difference and thus one can then get a good color match. And I’ll bet the color temperature difference needed is probably not the same for everyone. Others may require a warmer color temperature for the monitor than I have to get a match while others may require a cooler temperature. There doesn’t seem to be a solution that works for everyone. And this is probably because not everyone perceives color in exactly the same way.
I currently don’t have ideal conditions in my “digital darkroom”… the walls and counter space are not neutral grays and the ambient light is not consistent during the day though the SoLux bulb provides the only ambient light at night. This setup works for me at the moment though I know it can be improved upon. One person wrote that the degree of color match between print and monitor is directly related to how much money you are willing to spend. So far that bit of info in my search for knowledge on color management holds the most truth.