LR Identity Plate Test Image

One thing that is very problematic with digital photography is monitor calibration and having a consistent setup (screen brightness/room brightness). This is problematic because if you do not have those right, it can significantly affect your images and editing. 

This is a gamma test image.

Very few monitors can display such an image without any banding. Even my MBPr shows some slight banding in the darker grey areas after hardware calibration. This is a problem because if the image is edited to remove the banding, then a print made from the image will have less tonality than it could. But if it is not edited to remove the banding, then the display on screen will look worse than it could. There's no easy answer here.

If the image shows heavy banding on your monitor I would suggest you invest in a hardware calibrator. Actually, a good hardware calibration setup is something I think every serious photographer should have. My personal favorites are (2015) the ColorEyes Display Pro or the Spyder5 Pro. If you do a lot of your own printing you might consider a more advanced system such as the X-rite i1 Photo Pro... but it costs a whole lot more and you really need to know what you are doing to get the most out of it. And if you don't want to get very involved with calibration, then an earlier/cheaper setup can work equally well (i.e. Spyder4).

But this article isn't about advanced calibration, it's about setting up LightRoom in order to monitor your calibration. So, if you do see heavy banding in the image above, I suggest you start with changing your monitor's gamma setting by .1 increments until you get the best results; but don't shift too far from 2.2 as you will be sacrificing a lot at either end of the scale.

Once you have your monitor calibrated/adjusted as well as you can it's time to set up lightroom. Download this test image to your computer (right click>save image).

 

Now you're going to set LR up to use the image as a custom identity plate. Under the Lightroom menu select "identity plate setup."

And in the popup dialogue select "use a graphical identity plate" and then select "locate file." Locate the image and select ok. 

Now the test image will be displayed in the upper left of the Lightroom interface and it will always be visible. If the black at either end stands out from the Lightroom interface background (black) then your monitor is too bright or the room lighting is too dark. If more than the very ends of the test image start to blend into the background, then your monitor is too dark or the room lighting is too light (room lighting affects the perceived brightness/contrast of the display). And if the image starts to show more banding than before, then your gamma/calibration has shifted and it's time to re-do it.

A quick glance at the test strip when you open Lightroom will let you know what the situation is and your edits should be as good/consistent as possible!

BTW, Lightroom will have copied the test image into it's own file system... you can delete the original if desired.

Note that the image below and in the screen capture above is of a different test image which is more suited to monitoring the brightness of your screen relative to the ambient levels, and it is the one I am using currently. Along the top are alternating black and dark grey squares (luminance values of 0 and 4 respectively). The black squares will blend into the LR interface but you should be able to just barely distinguish the dark squares, if the dark grey squares are easy to see then your monitor is too bright. You should be able to distinguish between all of the shades along the bottom row (except black). And the white square should be about as bright as a piece of bright white paper in the same lighting (maybe a touch brighter). Many people do not have great control of the ambient lighting conditions and have trouble judging screen brightness. If you are one of them, then you might prefer to use this image instead.

 

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