A Tutorial on Display
I’ve looked around and have yet to find a good discussion or tutorial on considerations of display or vision. I was hesitant to post this, yet it seems something worth exploring if you want to have full control over the results of your images. A recent blog post by Ryan Vaarsi reiterated the need for me to post what I thought at first was an unnecessary point of discussion. The eye deceives us. The brain adapts (and rather quickly) to changes in vision. A routine viewpoint can weaken one’s eye for nuance. Just a quick read on perceptual adaptation will make clear how quickly the brain can adapt what it sees out of even the most extreme visual input. This adaptation to things perceived even affects how we behave as ethnic individuals within ethnic groups and towards other ethnic groups!
Keeping the brain in mind — that’s a pun — it has become pretty important for me these days to keep a close eye on the nature of my display, and the variation an image can have in small or large format, on a phone, a PC, or in print. Photographers intuitively compensate for their screens to some extent, I think. I hope. We are aware, through general and continuous use, of how the phone screen looks, and how we ought to compensate for that. The look of one’s screen is, however, a relative look. In fact, at any given moment the same screen doesn’t even look identical to two different persons, as our own perception collects minutely different aspects of the same light. Ryan pointed out that, because he uses several different phones, he notices various discrepancies when viewing images on one or another.
Photographers definitely think over similar thoughts to these when we go about printing our works and framing them. Yet in a digital world, we aren’t discussing color range, hue, screen brightness, etc. The sort of paper, ink and other variables of printing are all taken carefully into consideration to get the right look, feel and presentation result. In this tutorial — perhaps it is more a point of discussion — I will cover those settings and aspects of the Galaxy SIII display (running on Android 4.3) that should be kept in mind when post processing images. While this tutorial will be limited to one particular device and platform, it is relevant to consider regarding all phones and operating systems.
From a physical standpoint, the Galaxy SIII, as Ryan Vaarsi expressed, is somewhat desaturated. You can read up on the physical aspects of the SIII display here, and a deep comparison of light wavelengths for the screens of the SIII, the S4, and the iPhone 5 here.
Hardware can’t be changed excepting by changing phones. In the meantime, we can look at those settings of the SIII that can be manipulated, that do affect how we see our screens. These might not affect display while in third party apps, but it is worth considering that the habitual use of crtain screen modes affects our vision of our own images. In Android 4.3, there are three aspects of display that need to be taken into account. These are Screen mode, Brightness, and Auto adjust screen tone. Go to Setting / My device / Display to access these. We’ll discussed them in their order of appearance.
In screen mode, there are four available display modes available in Android 4.3: Dynamic; Standard; Professional photo; Movie. I recommend that you select each of these and view the image displayed. How does each image appeal to you? Do you prefer one over another? Ask yourself why that is so! Trust me, it matters. If you enjoy the duller colors of movie mode, consider that what you see does not actually have these muted colors, but that they only appear so when viewing. This is true of your photos too when viewing them in your photo gallery. Your photos are not going to appear in these duller tones should you view them on a personal computer, or in print. This setting is how they are presented on your phone, in the Android gallery app. So consider what sort of viewing mode you use, take it into account when viewing images in your gallery, and act accordingly. I prefer Professional photo, as I find it has rich (but not false) reds and an even distribution of color. I take this into account that my photos, when I view them in my phone gallery, might actually be brighter than this in reality.
If you are concerned that these four display modes might have affected how you edit your images all this time, don’t worry. Clicking on the Adapt display option will reveal the following:
This mode automatically optimises the colour range, saturation, and sharpness of your display for the following applications:
– Google Play Books
This mode does not apply to third party applications.
This mode allows your phone to switch between the other four modes depending on what is being viewed. As it states, this mode (and the other four) only apply to your phone gallery, camera, etc. These display variables do not apply to other apps used. That is to say, if you edit an image in Snapseed, it will appear identical in that app no matter which of these display options you choose. What you see in third party apps is approximately how these images will appear on a PC or in print. However, after saving that image to your gallery, the display mode will apply when viewing it there. I do not recommend the adaptive display setting for mobile photographers. The mind adapts quickly, becomes familiar with such minor nuances in color, saturation, etc. A consistent variable in which to view your images, when shooting and reviewing, is best. Though I’d be interested to hear arguments against that recommendation.
The feature image of this tutorial, a collage of four screen shots of the four different Android screen modes, reveals four nearky identical images. Screen capture captures the image that is displayed, not the image previous to this display modification. What you see is what you get. On a PC, the featured image might appear identical, yet on a Galaxy SIII, the difference is quite clear. Test for yourself!
Brightness is pretty straightforward. There is simply no reason (to my knowledge) to not edit in full brightness on one’s display. However, you may want to consider the brightness of the room you are in when editing. Editing in the dark is both hard on the eyes and gives a false sense of the vividness of images. It can help spot nuances though that might not be notices in plain daylight. In any case, an evenly lit room is, in my view, still the best lighting condition to edit in. Nothing extreme.
Auto Adjust Screen Tone
While Display mode doesn’t affect third party applications, Auto adjust screen tone will! Find it at the bottom of display settings. Be sure you have that button de-selected, as it will modify screen brightness while editing high key and brighter images. This may affect your results slightly, so it’s worth being aware of. It does save you battery life though.
Another aspect of display I can’t emphasize enough is the need to view images on a full screen PC. At one time, mobile imagery was acceptably viewable on one’s phone alone. A small viewing format was justification for the lack of resolution and small image sensors on phone cameras. Today, that just doesn’t cut it. More and more, mobile photography is moving into large format viewing and printing. Yet there is a differential between how an image looks on one’s phone and how it looks on a PC or paper. The ease of sharing means we can post images without ever having seen them on anything but our phones. Yet the phone screen concentrates, saturates, and sharpens what may otherwise be unsaturated and slightly blurry. Keep in mind that this is true of others’ works you may chance to view as well.
In fact it was just such an incident that caused me to consider these elements of mobile photography. I recall seeing an image on my phone (on Instagram) that looked quite beautiful, with the ground of the image fading into the border that extended all around the image. I chanced to view this same image later on the PC, only to find that the ground and border didn’t fade into one another nicely at all. There was, in fact, such a discrepancy between the black border and the dark, dark green, silhouetted ground that the image lost a great deal of appeal for me. It likely appeared to be black through and through, for them as it did for me. The mobile screen was lying to the eyes of both creator and viewer.
An unfortunate display issue which could have been fixed by altering image tonality (curves) slightly. But only if you know it is there.