As a photographer, your choice of a monitor is an important one. It is easy to get caught up in the resolution and forget about other important aspects of a new display, so today I wanted to focus on the important specs to pay attention to when buying a new display for your computer.
5 Important Specs To Look For In A New Monitor
Since we are a photography site, these 5 things will be from a photographer’s perspective. Though, if you also use your monitor for other things, like watching movies or playing games, then some of these things will be more important than others.
Let’s just get this one out of the way. As a photographer, you want to be able to see as much of your image full sized as possible, and that means more resolution. 1080p displays are great for watching HD videos, but what you miss out on for photo editing is that when you are zoomed in to 100%, you are only seeing a very small portion of your image.
On a 4K display, like the Samsung 32″ I just reviewed, for example, you see 4 times as much of your image when zoomed into 100%. This makes processing your images so much easier. That is not to say you can’t do it on a 1080 display, or a 2K (1440p) display, but in general, from a photography perspective, the more resolution, the better.
2. Size & PPI
The size of your screen also plays an important role in how nice things look on your display at your chosen resolution. What this comes down to is PPI, or Pixels Per Inch, and you want this to be as high as possible so that everything looks nice and crisp. The standard measurement for screen size is the diagonal measurement, from the bottom left corner to the top right corner.
For example, on a 27″ display, a resolution of 1920×1080 gives you a PPI of 81.5; this is not a great PPI. Ideally, you want to be over 100PPI for the best desktop viewing experience. The tricky part is, most monitors don’t publish their PPI, so you have to calculate this yourself.
I have found a great tool online; just go to http://pixeldensitycalculator.com/ and enter the resolution you will be using on the monitor, and then the screen size. So in my case, 2560×1440 and 27″. Then the calculator kicks back your screen’s PPI, which in my case was 103 – just over that 100PPI minimum ideal mark.
3. sRGB and AdobeRGB Support
This is arguably the mot important part of a new display for a photographer. In general, you want a display with 100% coverage for both sRGB and AdobeRGB, but these are spendy, and in reality, not everyone needs it. So in order to prioritize a display, you need to know what color space you work in the most.
In this digital age MOST of us work in sRGB the majority of the time. This color space is most ideal for web and digital delivery of images. If you are someone who primarily puts your images online, rarely prints anything out, then you can get away with a screen with high sRGB support and a mediocre AdobeRGB support.
If you do a lot of printing, and your lab(s) supports AdobeRGB (some just convert to sRGB) then you will want to make it a point to prioritize AdobeRGB support on your display to make sure that your images turn out as planned when printed.
4. Contrast Ratio
The contrast ratio is another important spec to consider when buying a monitor. In photography terms, think of this as the dynamic range of your monitor. This is the ratio of how bright the brightest pixels on your display can be vs the darkest they can be. In general, you want this to be as high as possible.
For example, the Samsung U32D970 had a static contrast ratio of 1000:1. This is a good number to be around. There are better contrast ratios out there, but there are much worse too.
The tricky part is that there are static contrast ratios and dynamic contrast ratios. Static contrast ratios are generally displayed as thousands (1000:1) and dynamic numbers are generally in the hundreds of thousands or millions (1,000,000:1). You want to find or pay attention to the static contrast ratio, as generally dynamic contrast ratios are lab results and are not true to what the display is capable of in the real world. Not all manufacturers display both numbers, so just know if you are seeing numbers in the hundreds of thousands or millions, it is likely the dynamic contrast ratio and you may need to do a little more digging to find the static one.
5. Viewing Angles
An important aspect of any display is the viewing angles. This governs how you perceive the image on the display from certain angles. For example, TN based display panels are known for their fast refresh rates, but poor viewing angles, meaning that if you look at the center of the screen that is a solid color and then to one of the far edges of the screen, you will notice a color shift. This is NOT good for photographers, as we want our colors to be accurate across the screen.
In general, a good viewing angle to shoot for is 178° or higher. This is also generally going to mean an IPS or IPS-like display technology. If you want to learn more about display technologies, you can read our in-depth post about IPS displays here.
Those are just 5 areas to consider when looking for a new monitor from a photographer’s perspective. If you also plan to play games or watch lots of video content then other important features will be the refresh rates and response times, but strictly from a photography perspective, those specs are not as important.
There are a lot of things to look into when buying a new monitor, so it is important to prioritize features that are important to you and what you plan on using the display for. For a photographer, the above specs should be near the top of your list when looking into new displays.
If you have any questions or want to chime in on other important specs to consider, make sure to leave a comment below!