Glamour Photography TipsSubmitted by Michael on Thu, 2010-07-22 15:45

Screen Calibration Kung-Fu: 3 steps to make your screen revealing every detail

Want to see as much detail as possible on your computer screen when doing photo retouching? Use this little diagram to add a YinYang-like balance to your screen settings. The goal is that you can differentiate between subtle nuances of black and white – just like the Pro’s can do.


Prepress professionals might work with hyper expensive special monitors. And they use professional metering hardware in order to calibrate their screens to a white brightness of exactly 175 lumen/sqare meter, a gamma of 2.2 and a color temperature of 6500K – as an example. This is clearly useful for working with photos. However, I made the experience that I can accomplish 95% of the screen quality by simply adjusting whatever screen I have at hand with the help of a little diagram.


Check out the video and then do it yourself:

How to calibrate your screen in seconds so that you see every detail of your photos

Download High Resolution, .mp4, 706MB
Download for iPhone and mobile, .m4v, 83MB

It just takes 2 minutes. Give it a try yourself:


Step #1

Make sure the room you are in is dimly lit. There should be enough light so that your eye can see every detail comfortably in your room. And it should be dimmed enough, so that your screen is the brightest thing in your room, at least when you have a lot of white on your screen.

So if behind your screen is this nice huge window which let’s you look into the bright sunny sky, then now is the time to let down the blinds. Really, whenever you work with photos on your screen, dim the lights in your room. Just don’t make it a real darkroom.


Step #2

Download the 

==> YingYang  Screen Calibration Diagram

Bring the YinYang symbol completely onto your screen. Can you see the 1 and the 10? I won’t give you a hint where they are, you have to find them. Found both? Congrats – you are already done. If not, adjust the brightness of your screen so that you can see both, the 1 and the 10. Done! If you can only either see the 1 or see the 10, depending on your setting, then choose a setting in the middle of the two extremes and go on with the next step.


Step #3

Dial back the contrast of your screen down to a point where you can see the 1 and the 10.  Oh, and if you are on a Mac (like myself) and don’t find a contrast setting on your LCD, then press and hold ctrl+alt+cmd and press "," and "." to adjust contrast

Probably you still need to make little tweaks to the brightness in order to achieve as you gradually dial back the contrast. Choose a setting at which you are just about to see both, the 1 and the 10. If this is not possible even though you cared for the right room light in step1 and you adjusted the brightness in step2, well, then your screen is not really able to show you everything. In this case try this two steps focusing on the 2 and the 9. If that ain’t work, choose the 3 and the 8 and so on.

I wish you good light!

-- Michael



Related links:

This video on Youtube:  3 steps to make your screen revealing everything


You really do not need the Photoshop version of the diagram. But just in case – there you have it:

YingYang Screen Calibration Diagram (Photoshop)


Like this post will be trying it out as I am forever forgetting to calibrate

Awesome. Let us know how it worked out.

Love the shirt...

Great video Michael. I have a Spyder system I use for calibrations but your technique looks interesting.

Yes, the spyder rocks. It calibrates the colors in the LUT. However, adjusting the brightness and the contrast correctly BEFORE using the spyder makes the result a whole lot better. The spyders also come with a help for adjusting contrast und brightness. Not bad either. And the people at Datacolor are very nice.

Shirt? Anybody wearing a shirt?

Hi Michael,
Can you not use another video player besides the Flow Player? Though downloaded but some how it is beyond my understanding on how to use the Flow player? Please do also link it to flash player.

Hi Inder. Sure.
I usually also add a link to the video on Youtube at the end of each post. Is Youtube working better for you?

Regarding the download versions of the videos: They do not need the flowplayer. They are standard mp4 files and open in what ever player you got on the computer. Just doubleclick the file - it should open just fine.

I wish you good light!
-- Michael

Hi Inder,

I am currently testing to player on this blog. For instance in the post regarding the Sandwich Lighting Setup. I hope this player is working better for you than the Flowplayer does. If I get positive feedback regarding the player, then I am going to use it for all videos on this blog.

Great... My old screen, which is the screen i use now, can't show any numbers from the black side of the ying and yang symbol... It's an LG 1915s

Anyway, thanks for the how to :)

OMG, deninho, well, then ... at least you will see some solid, clean, black areas in photos, where other viewers might see a bunch of disturbing detail ;-)

Actually, I'm not even kidding. People who can see the hotel room details in my Speedlights Topdown photos - a horseriding fetish series - they sometimes complain that the hotel room does not make sense in these photos. One even blamed me to be super lazy to not photoshop that background away. But I never had a complaint from those people who just see a simple black background. They think it's just fine.

I wish you good light!

-- Michael

I have paid a lot of money to buy systems to Screen Calibration this is a very very good tip... Thank you


It didn't work for me really. I have been trying to calibrate my screen for the longest! I use a 42in plasma as my monitor and have a mac mini. I think my problem is that I don't know where to set my tv settings and then my mac settings to make them equal. I just have it the best I can and when I use photoshop I just change the color profile to windows so all my colors with be right when posted on the internet. I just can't wait to get an actual monitor! any suggestions on what to do until then and on what monitor I should get. I know the apple ones are really good but I don't have enough money for it. I"m looking for more around the $200-$500 price range.
Thanks for the help though!

Hi! This tutorial it's really great. The only doubt that I have is how strong or weak should I see the numbers? I can see all of them. The 1, 10 and 9 are weak, the others strong gradually.

If you can see the - even if they are really weak - then your screen is perfect. The 10 and 9 have very very little contrast to the background so "weak" is correct.

Hi! Thanks for this great video! I have a new model of iMac 27". I thought -until now-, that is a good display. On the white side everything is okay. But on the black side i see just 6 and a little 7, nothing more :( Brightness and contras doesn't help...

Hi Anatole! Can't believe that the new iMac display is so bad in the shadows. I still think there is something else going wrong here. Did you dim the lights in your room? And under System Preferences / Display / Color, can you check that there is a profile selected that is recommended for your display?Filter by clicking the checkbox "Show profiles for this display only".

You are a genius! Its interesting.. I used "calibration"-button in System Preferences->Display->Color, and changed just the gamma from "Gamma 2.2 (Standard)" to "Gamma 1.8". And now I see all the numbers! Even the 10! Its interesting, because its recommended to use "the mac standard 2.2", which makes everything so bad..

Thank you very very much!!!

You figured it out! Awesome! I am glad I could help.

Hey Michael,

Thanks for sharing this very useful information. Unfortunately I can't seem to find the "1" no matter what setting I adjust on my monitor. I can see 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10

Am I doing something wrong here? Appreciate some help or tips. Thanks a bunch!


There is something about the ying-yang symbol that is intriguing.

Hi there Michael,

Thank you for posting this really useful and very friendly video on screen calibration. I am very new to looking at adjusting my screen calibration on my Macbook, after my illustration images looked so different on a professional printer's PC screen. I had to adjust my original images so that they looked almost a glowing bright red on my screen, and then finally printed out to a just about acceptable level.

I was able to use your Yin Yang diagram to help with my brightness and contrast settings; I could very easily see the black side, however on the white side I can only see the 4 and the 5, and only the 2 and the 3 when I tip my macbook so far back they become visible. I unfortunately cannot see the 1 at all!

Do you have any advice for me that may help? Perhaps this is just the limits of my screen?
I am considering getting a second hand Spyder 3 Pro to help with my colour calibration, I see below that you recommend them yourself and have read other positive reviews about them as well.

Thank you again, and I understand this is an old post now, but I really appreciate any advice you can give me.

Thank you!

Hi Emma,
sounds to me like your contrast is too high. Maybe we should drive down the Gamma a notch.

1. make sure you are in a room with pretty dimmed light.
2. On your macbook go to
Apple Menu > System Preferences > Displays > Color > Calibrate
3. Check the checkbox "Expert Mode" (don't worry, we photographers are sort of experts on vision, aren't we?)
4. Follow the steps while having th YinYan visble on screen
5. When it comes to choosing the Gamma value, then try something lower than suggested by the dialog. Try a gamma of 2.0 for instance.
6. Save the new profile under a different name, so that you can always switch back an forth easily

Does that help?

Hi Michael, thank you so much for your advice, I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to my message!

I have tried everything you said there, and each Expert Mode combination I try turns my screen (and the numbers in the Yin Yang) a blueish colour. And unfortunately I cannot skip through these 'making the apple disappear' settings in order to just change the Gamma. My Gamma is at the Mac standard 1.8 at the moment. I have read a lot of other Macbook users have experienced this problem with trying to make a custom profile, and many who were serious about their images have eventually realised that they are going to have to get a Spyder, so it looks like I might be joining them!

I'm just trying to weigh up the costs versus the benefit it will have - I would love to know just how -off- my screen is. Perhaps I will take it to the Mac Store and see if I can compare it to their screens there.

Thank you very much again, and keep up the good work on this site :)

In case - just in case - in the apple store they can tell you how to get rid of your bluish cast, would you mind posting over here how they did it? I'd be curious about that.

Oh, and yes: I also use the spyder. It rocks!

Hey, thanks alot for the help Michael. The step by step guide is really easy to follow aswell.

Also thanks for the Photoshop version ;) I appreciate it!



how come i dont see any numbers on the black part???

Either your room is too bright or your contrast setting is too high.

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