As laptop computers become more powerful, I see more and more photographers processing their images and videos on their small laptop screens. Now I will admit, us old guys prefer bigger screens to work on, but even if you are working on an iMac like I do – the screens tilt.
And that is the problem that you didn’t know you had. Every time I set up my laptop in the studio, I naturally adjust the screen to an angle that I think looks good. But what this means is that every time I set up my laptop I have the screen at a different viewing angle and it’s not necessarily the correct one – I’m just eyeballing it like everybody else.
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Just like everybody else, I want my images to look their best on all devices and I go to the trouble of calibrating my screens on all my computers. But as I change the angle of the laptop screen, the brightness and tones of the image change also.
The brightness of the image appears to change as your angle to the center of the screen changes. So if you are processing your photos with your laptop on your lap or even on your desk, there is a high likelihood that your brightness and contrast adjustments are not what you think they are because you don’t have your screen at the proper viewing angle.
Now, you could buy yourself a protractor – you know one of those half round things you learned about in math class back in middle school – or you can get this simple little gadget from the folks at Acratech called a Monitor Viewing Angle Gauge.
This little gadget is brilliant and so simple to use. It comes from Acratech, the company who makes the awesome tripod ball heads that I talked about in this post.
It attaches to your laptop or computer monitor with a simple piece of velcro and removes easily when storing the laptop. Acratech has a real simple video on their YouTube channel that shows you how to measure and attach the velcro at the proper spot – in less than a minute.
Once attached, simply adjust the angle of your screen until the marker lines up with the matching cutout and you are now seeing your screen at the proper viewing angle, which means that you are seeing your image at the calibrated brightness and tones.
Proper viewing conditions
Researchers agree that at rest, our eyes naturally assume a straightforward and downward line of sight. Numerous field studies among people that do intense visual work indicate that looking upwards is tiring. So for comfortable viewing of images on a computer screen, place the monitor slightly lower than eye level.
If you are sitting at a desk, make sure that your seat is tall enough to place your eyes near the top of the monitor and then tilt the monitor for the proper viewing angle.
Unfortunately, when most of use a laptop it’s usually in our laps or sitting on a desk. Based on the science the best approach is to at least keep the screen properly angled using a device like Acratech’s Monitor Viewing Angle Gauge.
Ideal distance for most people is to be seated with your eyes approximately 20-26 in. (50.8-66 cm) from your computer screen.
I hope find this quick tip useful.
And don’t keep all this cool stuff to yourself – please share it with your photography friends. Remember: photography is not a competition – it’s a passion to be shared.
Now, go pick up that camera and shoot something, because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot. So keep learning, keep thinking, and keep shooting. Adios!