- Full sRGB/Adobe RGB color spaces
- 3D LUT support
- Low Delta E
- Gamma preset options
- Screen uniformity compensation
- Premium panel technology
- Matte screen surface
- Hardware calibration ready
If you're looking for a monitor for photo editing, not every monitor will do.
You want to prioritize certain features in a monitor for photo editing, like color quality and clarity. You'll find the best color and clarity in professional monitors, which are more expensive, but definitely worth the price. After all, why spend so much time taking gorgeous photos if you don't have a monitor you can use to perfect them?
Below is a list of monitor features you'll want to consider when you're buying a monitor for photography work.
Features You Want in a Photo Editing Monitor
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Reading the spec sheet on a computer monitor is like reading the spec sheet on a new car. There are tons of features, some of which may or may not make any sense to you!
When looking for a photo editing monitor, you want to prioritize features that maximize the accuracy of what the monitor displays on its screen. Collectively, the features listed below have a significant impact on color, image quality, and performance:
You also want to look for a monitor with a screen size and resolution that works well with your workflow.
Let's take a look at these factors in a little more detail.
Monitor Features That Control Color
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Obviously, you want a monitor that has the most accurate colors possible.
This means looking at the color space, Delta E, and color engine specs.
For color space, you want at least full sRGB or Adobe RGB. Why? These color spaces will give you the greatest likelihood that most colors will be shown on-screen. If you view photos on a monitor that has a smaller color space than the one with which the image was taken, there will be colors missing from the image you see on-screen.
Delta E, on the other hand, measures color accuracy. The lower the Delta E, the better the color accuracy. An E<1 rating is best. An E<2 rating is okay. Many mid-range monitors have an E<3 or E<4 rating.
Regarding color engines, a monitor should have LUTs that are 10, 12, or 14-bit. A 14-bit LUT (like on my ViewSonic VP3881 38-inch monitor and ViewSonic VP3481 34-inch monitor shown above) offers 4.39 trillion colors for the monitor display. That's about 260,000 times the colors you get with a consumer-level monitor!
Check the Gamma Preset Options
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Gamma is a very complex subject, but the simple explanation is that it controls how vibrant an image appears to be on-screen.
By adjusting gamma, you not only impact the vibrancy of an image but you also influence the contrast - monitors with high display gammas result in darker images with greater contrast.
By and large, a gamma of 2.2 is accepted as the sweet spot. In fact, most monitors have a preset gamma of 2.2. But the difference is that professional displays allow you to adjust the gamma. This is called monitor gamma calibration or gamma correction, depending on the monitor manufacturer.
Look for this feature when shopping for a monitor for photo editing. You'll be glad you did!
You Want High Color Uniformity
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When you look at a monitor, you want the colors to be uniform. This increases your ability to accurately edit your photos.
The factor that most directly influences screen color uniformity is its viewing angle - the wider the viewing angle, the less color variation there will be.
For example, my ViewSonic VP3881 38-inch curved monitor has a 178-degree horizontal viewing angle and a 178-degree vertical viewing angle so I get beautifully uniform colors whether I'm looking at the screen head-on or at an angle.
What's more, the type of panel used in the monitor influences the viewing angle.
My ViewSonic has an IPS panel, which is a premium technology that offers the widest maximum viewing angle of 178-degrees. An IPS panel type is the cream of the crop, so keep that in mind as you explore your monitor options.
Quick Tip: Monitors either have a glossy or matte surface. For photo editing, a matte surface is desired because it minimizes reflections. Matte surfaces are also better for accurate color calibration. Additionally, you want a monitor that are hardware calibration ready. Calibrating the monitor modifies the monitor's internal LUT. It then stores optimized results in the display which gives you faster and more accurate results.
Get a Monitor That's the Right Size and Resolution for Your Needs
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I've had plenty of big monitors over the years, but I've found that my ViewSonic VP3881 38-inch monitor is the perfect size for my needs.
I can see the entire image while still having plenty of room for toolbars. Likewise, I can easily edit videos and have the entire timeline visible at once.
But not everyone needs or wants a monitor that big. If you're editing photos, opt for something in the 24-inch to 27-inch range at a minimum.
Adding a second monitor is a great idea as well. I've put my 34-inch ViewSonic VP3481 right above my 38-inch monitor and it has completely changed my workflow. Now I can view an image full-screen on my big monitor while I tend to other tasks on the smaller monitor.
Photo by gorodenkoff via iStock
Regarding resolution, screen resolution indicates the number of pixels a monitor can display. A 4K monitor, for example, has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.
The higher the display resolution, the more image data that will fit on the screen. This means you can see more of what you're working on with less scrolling.
Also, having more pixels means the image has greater clarity on-screen. That's certainly a nice feature to have when editing photos!
Wrapping It Up - What's the Best Monitor for Photo Editing?
I've tested a ton of monitors over the years from various brands, and I have to say that the ViewSonic monitors I currently use in my home office are the best of the bunch by far.
These monitors are hands-down the best monitors I've ever used for photo and video editing. The colors, clarity, and sharpness are next-level good, and with loads of adjustments, I can fine-tune the monitors' settings to my precise needs.
These monitors aren't cheap, that's for sure. However, you definitely get what you pay for!
As I said earlier, why spend a lot of time taking gorgeous photos if you don't have the proper display for getting the image edits just right?
Put as much of your budget as you can toward a professional-grade monitor. Believe me...you won't regret it one bit!