What kind of monitor should I buy for photography?

Mukul D January 17, 2014

My PC has a graphics card that does VGA, S-Video and DVI out. Right now I still use a CRT monitor but I want to buy a new one. I’ve found that some LED monitors have VGA an HDMI-in port (HDMI will cost me about INR.1000 extra). I am a professional photographer using a PC to edit digital photos and video, so based on my business what kind of monitor would be best? In particular I am trying to choose between 20″ or 22″, LCD or LED, HDMI or no HDMI. Thanks!

  1. Jan F
    January 18, 2014 at 3:23 am

    As a photographer you should certainly look for an IPS panel monitor as Rob suggested. They offer probably the best color presentation. At best one that offers hardware calibration but those can be very expensive.

    Another important point would be the brightness and its adjustment.
    Don't buy into falls advertising of "this one offering super high brightness" (cd/m^2 values). That's really not what you want, especially as a photographer.
    Usually the suggestion for correct image presentation is between 80cd/m^2 to 120cd/m^2 and you have to be "lucky" if your 300cd/m^2 monitor can be turned down to maybe 115cd/m^2 without introducing other issues.

    Last but not least brightness distribution and viewing angle is a factor too ~ both can only really be tested in "real world" with the monitor being turned on and looking at it. You don't want a huge brightness gradient over the screen or adjust it's position just because you moved your head a cm out of place.

    Two good sites offering reviews for monitors:

  2. Rob de Koter
    January 17, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I use an Asus Pro Art monitor, those are calibrated IPS monitors. the price of the Pro Art series starts at approximately 300 dollars.

  3. Oron J
    January 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    As will all such questions, there's no single answer, and the adage "you get what you pay for" applies to a great extent. There's a great tool to help you narrow down your choice at http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/selector.htm.
    All that said, here are some important factors:

    • IPS technology is a lot better than TN when it comes to colour accuracy and range (gamut). There's simply no contest there, so a cheap IPS would be better than an expensive TN screen.
    • A large screen is helpful. How big? That's up to you, but personally I'd go with 24" or even more if possible.
    • Digital interfaces (DVI, HDMI, Thunderbolt) are theoretically better than VGA. In practice, I've never seen actual differences when a monitor is fed a signal one way or the other, and I have done some controlled testing. Most decent monitors will have a digital interface anyway, but don't get caught up in hype, just concentrae on the actual quality of the screen.
    • As for LED screens. All modern monitors are actually LCD. The LED refers to the light source ("back light"), where LED has mostly replaced fluorescent (CFL) tubes. LEDs are generally better than CFL in terms of the accuracy of light (not always), but their main advantage is lower power consumption and much longer monitor life. The main problem with all back lights, regardless of type, is evenness of illumination, so when you consider a screen, read up on the reviews, and pay attention to that figure. 85% evenness is considered to be good, a higher figure would be better!
    • Finally, if you can at all afford it, colour calibrate your screen! Colour calibrators are not cheap (in the UK they range from about £100 to £300), but there are people offering a calibration service so you may be able to save some of that cost there. The reason it's so important is that no two screens are alike, and every input device (camera, scanner etc) and output device (in the case of printer, every combination of paper and ink) has different colour characteristics. If you use the best quality screen, but don't calibrate it, the colours you see on your screen are going to be significantly different from what someone else will see on their screen, or from a print out, so it's hardly worth using a good screeen to begin with! With calibration, your images will be "normalised", so while the images will still not look 100% correct on other (uncalibrated) screens or printers, they're likely to be much closer to how they look on your screen.
    • Dalsan M
      January 18, 2014 at 11:30 am

      In practice, using a decent resolution monitor would yield hardly noticeable difference with using DVI over VGA. What I have noticed, though, is that larger screens with lower resolution screen (as I am using a 720p resolution 32 inch tv as a monitor since the audio no longer works on it) does show a rather big difference in image quality, readability, and surprisingly, color depth. Results will obviously vary depending on the graphics card, monitor, and even cable quality.

      This brings up another point; for best image viewing, the higher the resolution, the better. 1080p would be the very minimum to get reasonable results. The higher the resolution, the more detail you can discern, and the better the ability to edit imperfections properly.

  4. Hovsep A
    January 17, 2014 at 11:47 am

    LEDs have better contrast ratios than traditional LCDs, LED display goes past CRT in color gamut. You'll want true 8 bit color resolution rather than the 6 bits that most TN panels get; You can not get 8bit colour out of a TN display regardless of the backlight, PVA and IPS panels can offer wider colour gamuts regardless of the backlight, While an IPS screen may have the ability to provide more accurate colors, out of the box there is no guarantee that it will actually do so unless it is calibrated. A wide gamut monitor displays more colors than the human eye can see, if you are printing, a wide gamut (aRGB) monitor will be useful, A wide gamut monitor will let you see some highly saturated colors that your printer can reproduce. You need IPS monitor for your photography work.

    For HDMi concerning photo editing there should not be any strong difference HDMI or no HDMI since you have the same graphic card, but video can get benefit from HDMI (HDMI cable can carry MUCH more information than the DVI cable), but if you use a DVI-I cable, you will not be able to get the 1080p resolution that you can get with a HDMI cable, now if you go to big screen resolution then get HDMI.

    Understanding Wide Gamut Displays

    wide gamut monitors
    Websites are designed for standard gamut monitors, the current standard for Web images is sRGB (if i am not wrong), and you'll have to limit yourself in printing to colors within the gamut of sRGB

  5. Dalsan M
    January 17, 2014 at 9:44 am

    You definitely should go with either HDMI or DVI as these are high definition digital signal, and VGA and S -video are analog. A DVI to HDMI cable or adapter would be needed if you go with an HDMI monitor.

    For the best color reproduction, especially across virtually all viewing angles, an IPS panel would be recommended, especially with sRGB reproduction. The LED labeled monitors are LCD, but use LED lighting instead of fluorescent bulbs. LED would definitely be recommended for contrast and color reproduction reasons. Most IPS monitors use LED now, anyways.

    Dell has some nice IPS panels, though the pricing may be too high. Samsung may be the same way. This may help you out with finding a budget monitor that should work out great for your purposes: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3374743.

    If you provided a budget to go by, then we could provide a good range of monitors that meets your needs.

  6. Jim
    January 17, 2014 at 8:08 am

    For editing photographs, the larger the screen the better. Rather than look at LCD vs. LED, what you need as a pro photographer is a screen with a wide color gamut so that the colors will show up correctly. If th monitor supports AdobeRGB color space or similar that would be ideal, but will be expensive. Next preference would be sRGB color space. You also need a monitor where you have good viewing angles. Else small shifts in your position in front of it will cause color shifts to show up on the screen. Thus your LCD/LED panel of choice should be IPS (In Plane switching) or VA (Vertical Alignment) and preferably NOT TN(Twisted Nematic). Series wise you should stick to the Dell Ultrasharp series, or the Asus Art series if are serious about photography. Most other panels from other manufacturers are all based on TN as those panel are much cheaper. Both these series will have all the connectors you will ever need.

  7. Matt S
    January 17, 2014 at 7:11 am

    20" vs 22" - just buy whatever works best for you. Most people agree bigger is better.

    LED vs LCD - Actually, all LEDs are LCDs. LCD is the panel technology, LED is the backlight. LCD monitors that aren't LED instead use some other form of backlight, which usually uses more power and isn't as uniform. LED LCD is the way to go, usually.

    HDMI vs no HDMI - You can buy an adapter to convert your DVI-out to HDMI-out. It works very well. I like the convenience of HDMI as you don't have to use screws to plug/unplug your monitor. However, in terms of image quality, I don't think you'll see a difference.

    • Mukul D
      January 18, 2014 at 8:35 am

      thank you very much for quick response.

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