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More About Monitor Brightness

Last week, I wrote about an increasingly common problem photographers have with prints coming out too dark because their monitor is too bright. This week I'd like to address some questions I have received in response.

You referenced using a certain Registry value to numerically check what your monitor brightness is set to but I don't find that on my computer.

I recently upgraded to Windows 8. Some aspects of the new version took some getting used to. Others took some effort to figure out how to turn off so I could get back to the way things were on Windows 7. But at least some things came as a welcome change. For those of you who have yet to take the plunge into Windows 8, my apologies for not being more clear. The "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Brightness" Registry setting exists only on Windows 8, not earlier versions. So far as I am aware, there is no equivalent on Windows 7 and Vista. The slider for Brightness is there as part of the Control Panel Power Options, but the setting appears to be saved in a form not easily seen in the Registry. Oh well. If you know of an equivalent Registry setting on Windows 7 and earlier, let me know and I'll post it here.

Reader TS alerted me to a free third-party application called ScreenBright that works for some displays and does display numerical values. There are likely others if use your favorite search engine.

Doesn't my monitor need to be brighter if room conditions are bright and correspondingly less bright in a dimly lit room?

In a manner of speaking, yes, it does. The more ambient light there is in the room, the brighter your monitor will need to be to overcome the other light sources. The traditional approach to monitor calibration involves plugging the device in, creating a profile, and then unplugging the device. A number of monitor calibration devices, including my ColorMunki Photo, can operate in a more active mode that includes measuring ambient light levels and compensating screen brightness to match. This means the device stays plugged into your USB port all the time, positioned so that its sensor can gauge room illumination.

But if the room is too bright, your monitor simply can't reproduce dark colors well. While it is possible and indeed necessary to increase monitor brightness to compensate for higher ambient light levels, you correspondingly lose the ability to display dark colors since the brightness of everything gets bumped up. Turn your monitor off completely and the unlit screen will look gray not black under sufficient room light.

A better answer therefore is to do what you can to control room brightness so it stays comfortable but not overly bright. If you can keep it relatively constant throughout the day, you won't need to worry about room brightness when you profile your monitor or edit your photos.

If I take the time to set my monitor brightness correctly, won't all my friends think the images I email them are too bright, and what about images I post online?

This one is a dilemma with no good solution. The bottom line is that the only thing you can do is to take responsibility for your own monitor. If your friend hasn't calibrated their monitor brightness and profiled it, it probably displays both brightness and color wrong. It would be hard for it to be otherwise. At least if you have your own monitor properly set and profiled you can explain to your friend what they need to do to fix theirs. Or you could ask them read my website if you want....

Date posted: June 30, 2013


Copyright © 2013 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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