The Importance of Ambient Light Sensors
by Jeff Lazell – May 3rd, 2014
We here at the X-Rite blog spend a lot of time talking about color, not only is it a big part of what we do for the photo industry, but it is an almost bottomless topic. However, there is another factor in your display’s calibration that can have a huge effect on the ability to match your display to print: brightness. The brightness level of the display can affect how much shadow or highlight information you can see or not see. Thus it can skew these same factors in the print.
On average most manufacturers set their displays three times brighter than what is considered optimal for photographic work. This is of course different if you a purchasing a monitor purpose built for photography, but even then the brightness level of the display needs to be checked to the conditions of the room it s being set up in. Also, the type of lighting around the display needs to be compensated for so that the color of the ambient light in the room does not skew the user’s eyesight white balance.
The ambient light issue is addressed through shifting the ColorMunki Display, ColorMunki Photo, i1Display Pro and i1Photo Pro 2 devices into their ambient light sensing modes. The ambient light sensors then take a reading of the room before the calibration process starts and then builds that into the custom profile. This insures that specific monitor is set up correctly for that specific room and that specific lighting condition. Thus giving you the confidence to know that all the shadow and highlight information you see on the screen is actually in the file and will appear that way in the print.
But what if the light changes? A constant lighting situation is of course the ideal for photographic work, but it is not always an option. Workspaces with large windows can cause large shifts in the ambient lighting as the sun moves across the sky. Again, ambient light sensors go long way to removing this variable from the equation. The ColorMunki Display and i1 Display Pro have an option for ambient light monitoring, where the device remains attached to the computer being worked on and checks the room’s lighting conditions every 5 minutes. Then, the software can be set by the user to either warn of drastic changes or constantly adjust with the changing light.
So, when selecting a device to calibrate your display be sure to remember the importance of an ambient light sensor and how many different factors it compensates for when creating a monitor profile.
*Updated 7/24/14 to clarify what models offer ambient light monitoring*
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