A less expensive alternative? A souped-up iMac. Popular among Adobe engineers, the iMac, when loaded with the maximum amount of RAM and dual hard drives, is a powerful, albeit not so easily upgradeable, option.
PC users, as usual, have a wider range of choice. But the essential requirements for making the most of Photoshop are similar, and a really powerful desktop PC, such asa the HP Z400, can be just about as pricey as a Mac Pro.
Almost as important as the computer you work on is the monitor (or monitors) on which you view your images. Two monitors are better than one, and many retouchers choose a high-quality display for their primary work, keeping a secondary consumer-level display for their panels and toolbars.
Contemporary monitors are primarily made using one of two LCD technologies. The vast majority of mainstream displays are twisted nematic, or TN; higher end displays use in-plane switching, or IPS. The main difference between them is viewing angle. With TN, you’ll see color corruption when you view the screen from almost any angle other than straight on. IPS displays are wide-view and can show color that is more consistent and accurate across the panel. For better color accuracy, LED backlight technology is key, but not all LED backlights are created equal. HP’s DreamColor LP2480zx Professional Monitor, for example, has an RGB-LED backlight for precise setting of the white point.
We’re always talking about profiling your monitor to get greater color accuracy, but such high-end displays as the DreamColor and Eizo’s ColorEdge CG245W (shown on page 55), which have wider color gamuts than consumer-level monitors, work differently. These monitors allow you to do a true hardware calibration, which goes beyond just using a sensor on the monitor to talk to your operating system and graphics card. Instead, the lookup tables, normally stored in an ICC profile, are stored in the chip circuitry of the display itself.
This has a number of advantages, among them that the displays stay calibrated for far, far longer. HP says the factory calibration its DreamColor comes with is good for at least 1,000 hours; Eizo says its can last up to 5 years.
High quality IPS displays can be expensive, but some options cost less. Mat Baker’s studio, for instance, uses Dell’s discontinued Ultrasharp U2311H; a current model, the U2412M, sells for $360.
Getting the best setup can be pricey, but the more you invest, the faster and more accurate your retouching station will be. And if you are dedicated to using postproduction for your photography, nothing boosts your creativity like the ability to speedily perform every operation you imagine.
Datacolor’s Spyder4 Elite can help you profile a display if your monitor doesn’t come with its own system.