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Monitor Gamma Explained

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Category: General Photography

Understanding Monitor Gamma - Learn about LCD monitor gamma and how it effects your display.

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As gamma can have a significant impact on colour reproduction on LCD monitors we're going to look at the reasons for this and how an LCD monitor's gamma can be adjusted.

Some of the problems gamma characteristics can cause are  shadow areas and blown-out highlights. The can also cause images that were prepared on Macs to appear darker when viewed on a Windows machines. 

What Is Monitor Gamma?

In computer image processing, the term gamma generally refers to the brightness of intermediate tones (gray).

If we take a closer look at gamma in reference to how photographers and other people who work with images use computers, we all use various pieces of hardware – printers, scanners, monitors etc. which are connected to a computer. When connected, we input and output colour information to and from each of the devices but as each device has its own unique colour handling characteristics (also known as gamma characteristics), the output and input of the colour information won't be exactly the same.

How It's Corrected

A process is put in place to balance colour information so that the monitor gamma matches the characteristics of the gamma of the device you're using. This is called gamma correction and includes inputting data signals in which the intermediate tones (gray) have already been brightened  so they don't appear dark. 

Since gamma correction generally occurs automatically, users usually obtain correct colour handling on a PC monitor without much effort. However, the precision of gamma correction varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and from product to product which means some manual corrections are sometimes needed.

Operating System And LCD Monitor Gamma Relationship

A way to achieve close to ideal colours is by using a monitor with the same gamma value as the operating system you're working with (Windows, Mac etc.). When using a monitor where the gamma values can be configured from its menu, obtaining accurate results is a lot easier. You can also produce a similar result by adjusting the monitor's  brightness settings or by adjusting brightness in the driver menu for the graphics card. Although, it is easier to adjust gamma if you use a monitor designed for gamma value adjustments, such as those available from EIZO.

To equalize colour handling in mixed operating system environments, it's a good idea to standardise the gamma values between the two operating systems (if they're not the same to start).

For even better colour reproduction, you can set the gamma value and optimise colour reproduction by calibrating your monitor. 

Visit the EIZO UK website. 

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