October 27, 2008

LED/LCD Glossy Displays

While I’ve addressed this on the TWIP podcast and on TWITTER (scottbourne) I still receive questions about using LCD/LED displays for photography.

Much of this discussion stems from Apple’s recent decision to ship most of its new computers as LCD/LED displays with glossy screens.

I used to be an old die-hard supporting CRTs. But I’ve come to the realization that there are some absolute benefits to LCD/LED displays.

1) Size – The typical LCD/LED will take up less desk space and be considerably lighter than a CRT.

2) Environmental – LCD/LEDs use less electricity than CRTs. Not only are they less expensive to operate, they are less harmful to the environment.

3) Sharpness – while I don’t have fancy test equipment I do trust my eyes and there’s no doubt that my LCD/LED displays are sharper than my CRT displays.

4) True Color – When you use a CRT, you have to calibrate often since display pixels on a CRT are dying daily. They change and become less bright, requiring frequent profiling. LCD/LEDs stay true to color much longer.

5) Eye Strain – LCD/LED’s offer lower eye fatigue than CRTS.

There are some downsides to LCD/LEDs. Primary among them are the need for direct viewing angles.

The other downside is the most controversial. Many LCD/LED screens offer a glossy finish. Here, it’s simply a matter of opinion whether or not you like gloss or not. While glossy screens do create more glare, you can diminish this problem by using proper lighting and viewing angles.

The advantage of glossy screens is that they’re simply beautiful and more fun to look at.

For me, there’s no problem using glossy screens. For those who work exclusively on a laptop and who need to work in places like coffee shops, train, plane and bus stations or other public places where you won’t have the ability to control lighting, a matte screen might be a better choice.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 46 Comments

  1. Glad to hear your comments on his much talked about topic. Have you noticed any loss in details in the shadows or highlights when you went from CRT to LCD?

    Cheers,

    Reply
  2. Glad to hear your comments on his much talked about topic. Have you noticed any loss in details in the shadows or highlights when you went from CRT to LCD?

    Cheers,

    Reply
  3. What Happened to #3?

    I still cannot get used to the Glossy on a Laptop. I ordered my 17″ Macbook pro with the matte screen option and cannot stand the glare with my 24″ iMac unless all the lights are off in the room. The Glossy is much sharper and more vivid, but only in controlled lighting conditions.

    Reply
  4. What Happened to #3?

    I still cannot get used to the Glossy on a Laptop. I ordered my 17″ Macbook pro with the matte screen option and cannot stand the glare with my 24″ iMac unless all the lights are off in the room. The Glossy is much sharper and more vivid, but only in controlled lighting conditions.

    Reply
  5. @JP not noticed that at all.

    Reply
  6. @JP not noticed that at all.

    Reply
  7. The older glossy MacBook Pros do have a light antireflective treatment, it’s not pure shine and it isn’t a texture. In comparison to photo filters, it’s close to what I see on my mid-level Hoya filter. Not the best, but still a lot better than just glass.

    The new glass surface models do not appear to have any such treatment at all.

    Reply
  8. The older glossy MacBook Pros do have a light antireflective treatment, it’s not pure shine and it isn’t a texture. In comparison to photo filters, it’s close to what I see on my mid-level Hoya filter. Not the best, but still a lot better than just glass.

    The new glass surface models do not appear to have any such treatment at all.

    Reply
  9. I have a glossy 24 iMac …. hate it. Only use it in the bedroom now as a video/tv since we only watch when it’s dark.
    They look beautiful, agreed, but working on them is not so good for there are always reflections.

    Reply
  10. I have a glossy 24 iMac …. hate it. Only use it in the bedroom now as a video/tv since we only watch when it’s dark.
    They look beautiful, agreed, but working on them is not so good for there are always reflections.

    Reply
  11. For those who are having a bad experience on the glossy screens do you have to work in a room where you can’t control the light? I agree they wouldn’t be the best choice under those circumstances. Then again, I wouldn’t do ANY photo editing on ANY screen in those circumstances since best color management practices require working in a room where you can completely control the ambient light. In a companion post I’ll describe how I control the light with 100% effectiveness.

    Reply
  12. For those who are having a bad experience on the glossy screens do you have to work in a room where you can’t control the light? I agree they wouldn’t be the best choice under those circumstances. Then again, I wouldn’t do ANY photo editing on ANY screen in those circumstances since best color management practices require working in a room where you can completely control the ambient light. In a companion post I’ll describe how I control the light with 100% effectiveness.

    Reply
  13. I use my sole computer (a Macbook with a glossy screen) for all of my photo editing. Frequently in coffee shops and other not very-well-controlled lighting situations, and it has never been a problem for me. It’s much prettier to look at – sharper, brighter, and more vivid than matte/non LCD screens that I have viewed. Just my experience so far ;-)

    Reply
  14. I use my sole computer (a Macbook with a glossy screen) for all of my photo editing. Frequently in coffee shops and other not very-well-controlled lighting situations, and it has never been a problem for me. It’s much prettier to look at – sharper, brighter, and more vivid than matte/non LCD screens that I have viewed. Just my experience so far ;-)

    Reply
  15. Glossy screens can look great under the right lighting…but sometimes present what seems to be an exaggerated contrast and ovresaturated image which has to be compenstated for especially for print. Personally, I can’t stand a glossy for regular use. Fortunately, there are a number of companies that produce anti-glare films that can be overlaid onto the LCD.
    http://www.powersupportusa.com/products/ef.php?category=pb
    http://www.photodon.com/lcdprotect-sheet.htm

    Reply
  16. Glossy screens can look great under the right lighting…but sometimes present what seems to be an exaggerated contrast and ovresaturated image which has to be compenstated for especially for print. Personally, I can’t stand a glossy for regular use. Fortunately, there are a number of companies that produce anti-glare films that can be overlaid onto the LCD.
    http://www.powersupportusa.com/products/ef.php?category=pb
    http://www.photodon.com/lcdprotect-sheet.htm

    Reply
  17. I think the issue with the glossy/matt complaint is that most of us are not full time photographers. I do my photo work at home in a controlled environment, on an external screen. It’s the other 95% of my work where I don’t have control over the factors and where the glossy display sometimes really bother.

    Reply
  18. I think the issue with the glossy/matt complaint is that most of us are not full time photographers. I do my photo work at home in a controlled environment, on an external screen. It’s the other 95% of my work where I don’t have control over the factors and where the glossy display sometimes really bother.

    Reply
  19. Quin: Exactly right. Glossy is the best default.

    If you want a matt screen (like I do), just add an overlay. If you have an matt screen to start with, it’s pretty hard to add a glossy overlay :-).

    If you can control your lighting, glossy screen are pretty tough to beat.

    Reply
  20. Quin: Exactly right. Glossy is the best default.

    If you want a matt screen (like I do), just add an overlay. If you have an matt screen to start with, it’s pretty hard to add a glossy overlay :-).

    If you can control your lighting, glossy screen are pretty tough to beat.

    Reply
  21. I have the 24 inch aluminum Imac and my experience in switching from CRT is as follows:

    1. Judging brightness was a big issue initially. They are soooo bright and this can mess up your assessment of brightness when printing. I recommend downloading ‘Shades’ and set to the minimum brightness level. Just be sure you apply a neutral colour (it acts like a filter) when calibrating and make sure you calibrate at the level in which you will normally edit.

    3. Images are gorgeous to look at. Stunning. You will get alot of wows from people who view images on these monitors. They are amazing to look at for sure. Just don’t expect the same saturation in your prints and be sure to adjust images via live proofing (if using Aperture) using whatever colour profile you have. I use my labs printer profile and it results in a much lower saturation and contrast perspective when editing, versus Apple RGB or other standard colour profile.

    4. Controlled lighting is a necessity for colour correction and contrast adjustments. I did not mind this as my Imac is in my office and a have heavy drapes. Plus avoidance of ‘light pollution’ has always been a must for me even with CRTs.

    5. On the 24 inch Imac the panel is much higher quality than the 20 inch version, which I believe is a lesser quality TN panel. I have not heard how the Macbook compares to the Macbook Pro but I suspect the Pro will have a better quality screen as well. Make sure you compare both before buying.

    6. They do not show as much in the dark levels and shadows as CRTs. You will get used to this but I do miss the deep blacks and solid contrast of my old CRT.

    Bottom line is I do enjoy these displays but they do take some getting used to and trial and error. If you do not print you will not have these issues.

    Reply
  22. I have the 24 inch aluminum Imac and my experience in switching from CRT is as follows:

    1. Judging brightness was a big issue initially. They are soooo bright and this can mess up your assessment of brightness when printing. I recommend downloading ‘Shades’ and set to the minimum brightness level. Just be sure you apply a neutral colour (it acts like a filter) when calibrating and make sure you calibrate at the level in which you will normally edit.

    3. Images are gorgeous to look at. Stunning. You will get alot of wows from people who view images on these monitors. They are amazing to look at for sure. Just don’t expect the same saturation in your prints and be sure to adjust images via live proofing (if using Aperture) using whatever colour profile you have. I use my labs printer profile and it results in a much lower saturation and contrast perspective when editing, versus Apple RGB or other standard colour profile.

    4. Controlled lighting is a necessity for colour correction and contrast adjustments. I did not mind this as my Imac is in my office and a have heavy drapes. Plus avoidance of ‘light pollution’ has always been a must for me even with CRTs.

    5. On the 24 inch Imac the panel is much higher quality than the 20 inch version, which I believe is a lesser quality TN panel. I have not heard how the Macbook compares to the Macbook Pro but I suspect the Pro will have a better quality screen as well. Make sure you compare both before buying.

    6. They do not show as much in the dark levels and shadows as CRTs. You will get used to this but I do miss the deep blacks and solid contrast of my old CRT.

    Bottom line is I do enjoy these displays but they do take some getting used to and trial and error. If you do not print you will not have these issues.

    Reply
  23. What is a LCD/LED display? There are LCD displays with LED backlighting but most are still lit with a CCFL. Then there are OLED displays which for right now only appear in tiny displays on digital music players and possibly some compact camera displays. There is not one commercially available LED display technology in a monitor of any sort that I know of.

    Reply
  24. What is a LCD/LED display? There are LCD displays with LED backlighting but most are still lit with a CCFL. Then there are OLED displays which for right now only appear in tiny displays on digital music players and possibly some compact camera displays. There is not one commercially available LED display technology in a monitor of any sort that I know of.

    Reply
  25. You would think as photographers, we would understand what glare is and how to avoid it. I think the fact that a high gloss surface produces much less diffuse light than a matte surface is actually a huge advantage when it comes to color correction. This is why it seems like glossy screens have more contrast, it is because there is no “spill” from any diffuse reflections. Yes, you do need to compensate for this in print, but you would have to do that anyway with proper color management no matter what type of monitor you were using.

    Instead of a anti-glare coating, all you need to do is fashion a hood that covers your screen. This can easily be made from some cardboard and black construction paper or a little paint.

    Reply
  26. You would think as photographers, we would understand what glare is and how to avoid it. I think the fact that a high gloss surface produces much less diffuse light than a matte surface is actually a huge advantage when it comes to color correction. This is why it seems like glossy screens have more contrast, it is because there is no “spill” from any diffuse reflections. Yes, you do need to compensate for this in print, but you would have to do that anyway with proper color management no matter what type of monitor you were using.

    Instead of a anti-glare coating, all you need to do is fashion a hood that covers your screen. This can easily be made from some cardboard and black construction paper or a little paint.

    Reply
  27. I just wanted to offer a quick note on terminology. LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are now being used as a backlight for LCDs, but they are not a separate type of display. The older backlight technology, still used in most LCDs is CCFL or Cold Cathode Florescent Lamp. In comparison, LEDs offer more natural looking light, use less energy, don’t require any time to warm up and take up less space, allowing for slimmer LCDs.

    (Full disclosure – I used to do PR for LG Display)

    Reply
  28. I just wanted to offer a quick note on terminology. LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are now being used as a backlight for LCDs, but they are not a separate type of display. The older backlight technology, still used in most LCDs is CCFL or Cold Cathode Florescent Lamp. In comparison, LEDs offer more natural looking light, use less energy, don’t require any time to warm up and take up less space, allowing for slimmer LCDs.

    (Full disclosure – I used to do PR for LG Display)

    Reply
  29. Welcome to the party Scott… many of us have been here some time already :)

    (and thanks for your continued efforts with TWiP)

    Reply
  30. Welcome to the party Scott… many of us have been here some time already :)

    (and thanks for your continued efforts with TWiP)

    Reply
  31. There seems to be some confusion here.

    1, OLED displatys do exist. however currently they are not much larger thean 9″ and are VERY pricy to the tune of 2k+.

    2. Viewangles are not really an issue anymore especially on matte type screens.

    3. Also no one touched on the different panel types. (TN, pvma, etc) Basically most of those super deal monitors you see are generally a TN based panel and would not buy one regardless of the cost. Stick to either a p-mva or an IPS based panel as they will give much better color reproduction.

    Reply
  32. There seems to be some confusion here.

    1, OLED displatys do exist. however currently they are not much larger thean 9″ and are VERY pricy to the tune of 2k+.

    2. Viewangles are not really an issue anymore especially on matte type screens.

    3. Also no one touched on the different panel types. (TN, pvma, etc) Basically most of those super deal monitors you see are generally a TN based panel and would not buy one regardless of the cost. Stick to either a p-mva or an IPS based panel as they will give much better color reproduction.

    Reply
  33. @Mike this wasn’t intended to be a thesis on all things LCD. And I disagree that viewing angles are not really an issue. While that situation is improved, I’ve sat in front of many an LCD where it was still a factor – especially when it comes to color correction work.

    Reply
  34. @Mike this wasn’t intended to be a thesis on all things LCD. And I disagree that viewing angles are not really an issue. While that situation is improved, I’ve sat in front of many an LCD where it was still a factor – especially when it comes to color correction work.

    Reply
  35. Here’s some info for those whose future eyesight is still important: http://www.aoa.org/x5515.xml
    A list of what to look for when buying anti glare filters published by the American Optometric Association.

    Reply
  36. Here’s some info for those whose future eyesight is still important: http://www.aoa.org/x5515.xml
    A list of what to look for when buying anti glare filters published by the American Optometric Association.

    Reply
  37. I’ve had a SONY Vaio 15″ notebook for around 18 months now. Its main selling point was its glossy, super bright, wide colour gamut LCD display, and I’ve never had a minute’s regret in my choice. The clarity, sharpness, and contrast of the screen has been ideal for photographic work (in a dark room & with calibration). And the new MacBooks look absolutely gorgeous…

    Reply
  38. I’ve had a SONY Vaio 15″ notebook for around 18 months now. Its main selling point was its glossy, super bright, wide colour gamut LCD display, and I’ve never had a minute’s regret in my choice. The clarity, sharpness, and contrast of the screen has been ideal for photographic work (in a dark room & with calibration). And the new MacBooks look absolutely gorgeous…

    Reply
  39. Scott, My understanding is that color fidelity is an issue with glossy LED screens and that calibration may not be as true. Now that you’ve got your new MB Pro, have you tested that out or is your laptop simply a travel solution until you can do critical editing at your studio?

    Reply
  40. Scott, My understanding is that color fidelity is an issue with glossy LED screens and that calibration may not be as true. Now that you’ve got your new MB Pro, have you tested that out or is your laptop simply a travel solution until you can do critical editing at your studio?

    Reply
  41. @Wayne the color fidelity issue is not a problem. I think you mean to say PROFILE when you say calibration but in any event, I have tested the output and find it to be very close to what I get from my 24″ iMac – which is also a glossy screen. Both provide consistent color results when matched with a printer in a calibrated workflow. That said, I NEVER do critical editing in the field. I always wait to get back to the studio where conditions are perfect.

    Reply
  42. @Wayne the color fidelity issue is not a problem. I think you mean to say PROFILE when you say calibration but in any event, I have tested the output and find it to be very close to what I get from my 24″ iMac – which is also a glossy screen. Both provide consistent color results when matched with a printer in a calibrated workflow. That said, I NEVER do critical editing in the field. I always wait to get back to the studio where conditions are perfect.

    Reply
  43. I was making a safe assumption that you didn’t edit in the unless ABSOLUTELY necessary, but sometimes one needs that ability to get in a submission that is requested PDQ. I appreciate your input on the screen. There seems to be a lot of contradicting info on the subject and I wanted a real world, real photo opinion. Thanks again.

    Reply
  44. I was making a safe assumption that you didn’t edit in the unless ABSOLUTELY necessary, but sometimes one needs that ability to get in a submission that is requested PDQ. I appreciate your input on the screen. There seems to be a lot of contradicting info on the subject and I wanted a real world, real photo opinion. Thanks again.

    Reply
  45. BTW, enjoy the new MB Pro. I’m envious. Not in the budget this round, but I did move to the last gen MB Pro 15 for processor, RAM, and the LED. The refurb prices are just bottomed out right now. Hard to say no.

    Reply
  46. BTW, enjoy the new MB Pro. I’m envious. Not in the budget this round, but I did move to the last gen MB Pro 15 for processor, RAM, and the LED. The refurb prices are just bottomed out right now. Hard to say no.

    Reply

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