Skip to main content

Tip: Viewing your photos online

Like it or not, it's a fact that most photos are now viewed on computer screens or on cell phones. I admit, I think it's really cool that I can take a photo with my cell phone here in Dallas, and two minutes later, my daughters in San Antonio and Lubbock can view it on their cell phones. And a lot of photos—including some of mine—aren't so special that it makes a big difference whether they are viewed online.

But there's a down side to digital delivery, as well, and the higher quality the photograph, the greater the likelihood that digital viewing will diminish your experience. Viewing good photos on your computer screen (or, heaven forbid! on your cell phone) is like listening to Mozart through bad speakers. You may think that a person's face looks orange when it shouldn't. Or you might not see detail where you think you should.

Sometimes, the problem you see might actually belong to the photo. But quite often, there's nothing wrong with the photo. The problem is with your display. You should be aware that viewing photos on your computer screen is less than ideal, and depending on your computer's display, it may be a lot less than ideal.

For starters, it is often the case that you are viewing an image at a resolution considerably lower than the resolution at which the photo was originally taken. Proofs uploaded by professional photographers to their web sites are often downsized to decrease upload times.

But it's also possible that your computer screen may have one or more of the these problems:

  • It may not display colors correctly.


  • It may be darker (or, less often, brighter) than it should be.


  • It almost certainly shows fine contrast and detail less well than a high-quality print.


  • The color, contrast and other properties of your computer display may be adversely affected by the light in the room.




Seeing high-quality photos well on a computer screen requires, first, a high-quality display, and second, careful calibration of your display (usually with the help of a calibrating device). For much more info, go here, and/or here.


You should also be aware that, just as a photo printed with a matte finish doesn't look like a photo with a glossy finish, it's even more true that a photo viewed on a computer screen—even a very high-quality screen that is well calibrated—will never look the same as it does in a well-made print.



Note that prints can display a number of problems, too, especially problems with color. High-quality professional print labs offer color correction as part of the normal service when they make prints. Your local drugstore probably does not. If a print comes back from the drugstore and Aunt Lucy's face is green, well, it's possible she wasn't feeling well that day, or perhaps the white balance setting in the camera was wrong and she looks green on your computer screen, too; but if neither of those is the case, then the fault probably lies with your printing service.



A professionally made, high-quality, color corrected print almost always provides the best viewing experience of a good photo. After that, it's possible that the next best option is to view a high-res version of the photo on a high-quality, properly calibrated computer display. A bad print (say, made at your drugstore) may be marginally better than viewing the photo on a badly calibrated computer display, although it's easier to say what's best than to say what's worst.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Wireless control of Olympus OM-D E-M1 with OI.Share app

The Olympus Image Share or "OI.Share" app for smartphones allows you to do some very neat things with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera, like control focus, shutter and other settings, download photos to your phone, and geo-tag your photos. The only problem with this partnership between camera and phone — at least for me as a micro-four-thirds and Olympus novice — was getting it to work.

The documentation provided in the app and in the user manual for the camera is typically bad. I wrote this blog article from the notes I started making as I was trying to sort this out for myself. I hope I save somebody else an hour and some worry.

Ingredients To get started you'll need to have an EM-1 and a smart phone with the OI.Share app installed. I'm using an iPhone 5 running iOS 7 and version 2.1.1 of the OI.Share app. I downloaded the app from the App Store.

Addendum 7 January 2015: This article was first published a little over a year ago, in December 2013. I just went through the…

Why DxO Optics Pro 10 stays in my toolbox

You can read this post here, or read my reposted version over over at Medium.


I've used over a dozen apps in the last decade to convert my raw files and process my digital images. Today I rely on four main tools to process my images: Lightroom 5.7, the Nik suite of apps (now owned and published by Google), onOne Software's Perfect Photo Suite 9 — and DxO Optics Pro 10. I want to talk about Perfect Photo Suite some other time; it's my replacement for Photoshop and I really like it. But today, I want to say nice things about Optics Pro 10.

Might seem an odd thing to admit, but I don't really want to use Optics Pro. It can't hold a candle to Lightroom for browsing and managing images. And it doesn't support layers (like Perfect Photo Suite) or much in the way of selective editing (like Lightroom, Nik and Perfect Photo Suite do). I'm able to get what I want from most of my images using Lightroom, or Nik or Perfect Photo. So most of the time, I don't need Op…

Why I switched from Lightroom to Aperture

Read today an excellent article, "Why I use Aperture instead of Lightroom," by Mel Ashar; it's posted at the Aperture Expert blog edited by Joseph Linaschke. Ashar, a landscape and architectural photographer, provides a useful catalog of some of the reasons Aperture is a strong choice for photographers who use Macs. He focuses on the file-management advantages of Aperture that arise from the fact that Apple controls an entire file ecosystem, comprised not just of Aperture, but of iCloud and the file systems on both Macs and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad).

Now, notwithstanding the advantages Ashar enumerates, the consensus seems to be that, Aperture as a photo processing app lags way behind Lightroom. I disagree with the consensus. In fact, shortly after the public beta of Lightroom 5 became available, I started looking again at Aperture and this time I really gave it the old college try. To my surprise, I discovered that I liked it. I liked it a lot. So, instead of upgrading…