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Screens and prints (MacBook Pro)

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I am considering getting the new 16 inch MacBook Pro M1 Max. I would like to know if the screen is fine for getting first rate prints. I am used to the IMac 2017 which has allowed me to get excellent prints—that is to say I can get the print to match what I see on the screen. I would think with calibration the laptop’s screen could work fine for proofing and printing, but I have noticed that people often combine a laptop with a large external screen and while I’d love to do that too, I would like to avoid the expense if the printed results are just as good. Thank you.
 
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He is not choosing an icc-profile because you cannot choose an icc-profile. You can choose one of Apple’s “presets” and change that (like he shows), but these “presets” are not icc-profiles.
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The screen is excellent, but there is something special: you cannot calibrate it with the usual tools. You can make an icc-profile with those tools, but you cannot select that profile in System Preferences - Display.
https://www.macrumors.com/2021/10/28/how-to-custom-calibrate-macbook-pro-xdr-display/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLl01EjHU3Q
Thank you very much Johan for your reply and links. I will read up and learn more about this before asking more questions. Printing is a crucial part of my process.
 
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The screen is excellent, but there is something special: you cannot calibrate it with the usual tools. You can make an icc-profile with those tools, but you cannot select that profile in System Preferences - Display.”
https://www.macrumors.com/2021/10/28/how-to-custom-calibrate-macbook-pro-xdr-display/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLl01EjHU3Q
Great links, Johan! Thank you so much! new questions: In the video he uses a “Calibrite” device. I have a ”Datacolor spyderxPro.” Do you know if that will work? Also, he raves about the factory settings and at the end I believe he suggests holding off before using the colorimeter. He also goes through how to select a profile for photographers that is in the computer. So I don’t understand what you mean by “You cannot calibrate with usual tools. You can make an icc profile with those tools but cannot select it in System Preferences-Display.” ? It seems to me he is calibrating the monitor with usual tools and selecting the profile. What am I missing?
 
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The screen is excellent, but there is something special: you cannot calibrate it with the usual tools. You can make an icc-profile with those tools, but you cannot select that profile in System Preferences - Display.”
https://www.macrumors.com/2021/10/28/how-to-custom-calibrate-macbook-pro-xdr-display/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLl01EjHU3Q
ok, in the video he uses a
He is not choosing an icc-profile because you cannot choose an icc-profile. You can choose one of Apple’s “presets” and change that (like he shows), but these “presets” are not icc-profiles.
He is not choosing an icc-profile because you cannot choose an icc-profile. You can choose one of Apple’s “presets” and change that (like he shows), but these “presets” are not icc-profiles.
are you talking about the icc profiles you download when printing?
 
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No, I am not talking about icc-profiles for printing. I am talking about how you normally calibrate a screen, and make an icc-profile for that screen. That icc-profile is then used by your applications when they send an image to that screen. You can’t do that for the new MacBook Pro screens. I believe that the two links I gave you explain this in much more detail than I can do here.
 
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First: If the “wall of text” below is too intimidating, here’s the short version of how most people should use the Liquid Retina XDR display:
  1. Don’t pick up your color measuring device.
  2. In the Displays system preference, choose the Reference Mode that most closely represents your production standard. For example, many in this forum might choose Photography (P3-D65).
  3. Close System Preferences and enjoy your photography.
If none of the Reference Modes is close enough, customize it: Select the closest one, choose Customize Presets, name your new preset, and adjust the settings. For example, I wanted my photography preset to be D65 at a luminance of 110 nits (cdm2) SDR for print, so I set that up.

macOS-Displays-for-Liquid-Retina-Display-XDR-with-custom-reference-mode.jpg


Apple considers the Liquid Retina XDR display to be precisely calibrated at the factory. They have designed the settings around the premise that you should not have to recalibrate. Whether or not that’s true, they do allow you to fine-tune that calibration (this is mostly for shops with highly specific production standards), but they recommend doing it with very precise and expensive measuring devices most people don’t have. Why? Because Apple thinks their factory calibration is so good that you can’t beat it with a sub-$500 measuring device.

Art’s video shows how you can do calibration fine tuning if you have a measuring device with software that has the right features. But if you do this, you are making an assumption that your device is at least as precise as those Apple recommends in their calibration fine-tuning instructions. Because if your device is not as precise, then you risk entering measurements that are not precise enough to improve on the factory calibration.

In the video he uses a “Calibrite” device. I have a ”Datacolor spyderxPro.” Do you know if that will work?
Calibrite is a new brand name that X-Rite came up with for their color products. Over the years, X-Rite has bought up many of the color management brands like GretagMacBeth (makers of the ColorChecker target).

Datacolor is another traditional maker of color management devices, and one of their products should work just as well. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the Datacolor Spyder, but the video makes it clear what it will need if it’s going to work for this purpose: The software you use to run the Spyder must have a feature that displays a target and reports the values read off the screen by the measuring device. You can then manually enter those values the way Art did.

That is an advanced-user kind of thing, different than how these devices are typically used to profile the display, which is: Use their software to 1) display a known color target on the screen, 2) measure it, then 3) use those measurements to generate and install an ICC profile describing how far off the screen is. macOS then uses the ICC profile to correct the display by that much, kind of like putting on eyeglasses tuned for a specific person’s eye defects. This is usually an automated thing; you click once, stand back, and wait for it to finish.

The Apple Liquid Retina XDR Display allows more direct manipulation than that, similar to how a high-end desktop display works: It doesn’t need to generate and go through a corrective ICC profile (put on eyeglasses), because the display hardware itself can be calibrated (laser surgery on the eye itself). That’s why Art does not go down the more common road of generating a profile.

At about 21:30 in the video, Art uses the color measurement device’s software to report what values the display is producing for a given white target. He then enters those numbers into the Fine Tune Calibration dialog box he opened at 17:05, and that updates the Reference Mode calibration. This direct adjustment is something that has not been possible on any Apple display before, except the $6000 Apple Pro Display XDR. (This calibration procedure is more automated on traditional high-end displays such as the NEC SpectraView or Eizo ColorEdge.)

All of this can be very confusing because you must first understand how the Reference Modes work before you can properly fine-tune the calibration. For example, if you leave your preset on one of the first two settings (Apple XDR Display (P3-1600 nits)) or Apple Display (P3-500 nits)), you can’t choose Fine-Tune Calibration. You have to create your own first, based on your production standard. And you probably want to, because for photography and print, for now it’s probably better to use a Reference Mode based on SDR; that is how Apple has set up its photography Reference Modes. (The default Reference Mode is HDR.) Also, some reference modes don’t allow adjusting brightness, because a specific luminance level is part of that reference mode so it must stay locked to that value (I set up my photography Reference Mode that way). Adjusting the display is a lot easier after understanding why all those things work the way they do.

Again, if this is too confusing, it’s because Apple does not expect most users to do all of that. Apple tried to produce a display where you don’t have to measure and correct it, you just enter the values that define your production standard and start having fun making photos.

So for most users (other than color experts), the best thing to do is don’t rush into recalibrating a display that was recently calibrated precisely at the factory. Instead, choose or carefully create your Reference Mode, use it for a while, make some prints, and if necessary and if technically justified, decide whether you want to adjust the Reference Mode or fine-tune the calibration.
 
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Thanks much, that's a much better explanation than I found at apple.com, and out of general principle, I don't watch videos if I can find text instead :->

Do you know of anyone else that has tried to rigorously test the claim that out-of-the-factory calibration on these screens is better than what the typical photographer's calibration hardware can do?

Do the screens (and thus their calibration) change with age?
 
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Do you know of anyone else that has tried to rigorously test the claim that out-of-the-factory calibration on these screens is better than what the typical photographer's calibration hardware can do?

I haven’t looked hard enough yet, but in the first link posted by Johan Elzenga (the thread at macrumors), it’s worth reading the posts by David Abrams who appears to have measured it and posted charts. In that thread he said:
In terms of the MacBook Pro XDR, we found the out-of-box measurements to be quite good on the sample tested; of course, there may be manufacturing tolerances where one may be further off, but overall the display wasn't terrible. Thankfully, Apple provides the 'Fine-Tune Calibration' in order to accommodate for out-of-the-box variables and drift over time.

Do the screens (and thus their calibration) change with age?
I would think so, but the question is how fast. CRTs went out of calibration relatively quickly, within weeks. LCDs lit by CCFLs would drift visibly as the fluorescent bulb aged, but I think they took longer to drift than a CRT.

I am under the impression that today’s displays, lit by long-lasting LEDs, are much more stable and drift over time much more slowly. I would also like to know how much time passes before the typical LED-lit LCD drifts enough that it should be recalibrated.

It seems like a reason Apple guidance for recalibrating is clearly aimed at pros with specialized equipment is because they are so confident that the drift rate is sufficiently low. I hope someone plans to measure that over time to see how true it is.
 
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Thank you so much Conrad for your amazingly fast and detailed explanation which I can basically follow up to the graphic. After that I can make sense of some parts but can't follow much of it. I have always calibrated my monitor (at least I think that is what I have been doing) using the DataColor Spyder I mentioned. It creates a "profile" which I then import and use. I may be completely wrong, but I have operated with the assumption that creating and using this "profile" is why my prints (I soft - proof them) look like what I see on my display, and are not too dark, or green, or dull etc. I think it's what you refer to as "putting on glasses." (I did notice that Art specifically mentioned the "Calabrite" which is why I asked about the DataColorSpyder I have been using). So at the end of your explanation you suggest choosing a Reference Mode and using it for a while and then deciding on whether any adjustments need to be made. If adjustments are needed am I going to have to go through this complex process? Or is there a simpler way? And In your own experience, if you use the MacBook Pro, are the factory settings of the Reference Mode adequate for printing? Thanks so much!
 
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What I would advice you to do is in the video, and what I have done on my 16” MBP. Start by selecting the Photography preset. Then create your own preset based on this, but with L changed to 90. Then simply try a few prints to see if that works. I did not make prints yet, but I compared my MBP screen with this custom preset with a calibrated professional LG screen that cost almost as much as the MBP and they compare very well.
 
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Just in case you missed my addition: I did not make prints yet, but I compared my MBP screen with this custom preset with a calibrated professional LG screen that costs almost as much as the MBP and they compare very well.
 
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What I would advice you to do is in the video, and what I have done on my 16” MBP. Start by selecting the Photography preset. Then create your own preset based on this, but with L changed to 90. Then simply try a few prints to see if that works.
I don't have it yet. I'm thinking of getting one because of the outstanding reviews. But I've been trying to think of problems down the road. It would be a shame to make such a big investment and not be able to get a decent print without spending more on a screen or new colorometer.
 
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I don't have it yet. I'm thinking of getting one because of the outstanding reviews. But I've been trying to think of problems down the road. It would be a shame to make such a big investment and not be able to get a decent print without spending more on a screen or new colorometer.
I’m sure that won’t happen. You may need to make a few more testprints like one did in the darkroom days, but in the end it should always be possible to find a setup that works well.
 
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If adjustments are needed am I going to have to go through this complex process?
First make sure the Reference Mode specs are consistent with your printing and viewing conditions. Don’t go into Fine-Tune Calibration before verifying that. This might take some experimentation. For example, mine is set to a white point of D65, but some say a display white point of D50 tends to produce a screen display that is a better visual match to prints. If I end up finding that’s true, I would adjust that. Or, I might find that Maximum Luminance at 110 still makes prints look too dark, then I would try setting it to 100 or less. All those settings are determined by your reference viewing conditions. For press pros, that means the white point and luminance of their calibrated print viewing booth; for fine art it might be something else like museum/gallery lighting conditions.

Fine-Tune Calibration is probably not something you need to go through unless you are first absolutely positive that the Reference Mode specs are correctly set for your reference viewing conditions, and you are also absolutely positive that the display is too far off to produce a measured or visual match to those conditions. Then you might consider using a measuring device to update Fine Tune Calibration. But if you do, the process isn’t that complex, you just read the numbers and type them in, as Art did in his video.

And In your own experience, if you use the MacBook Pro, are the factory settings of the Reference Mode adequate for printing?
I have to admit I haven't tested the display that way yet. The reason is that I have long owned a nice desktop display that can be hardware-calibrated, and it’s all dialed in, so when I’m editing for print, my MacBook Pro is always plugged into that big display and I soft-proof the prints on that.

Despite that fact that I did a lot of explaining, I still have other questions about the Liquid Retina XDR display. Like, if a photographer leaves the reference mode at its HDR default (Apple XDR Display (P3-1600 nits)), does the HDR setting mess up photo previewing and soft-proofing for print? I'll have to try it and see. (The current version of Photoshop has a new setting called Precise Color Management for HDR Display, but Lightroom Classic does not have that, so that makes me wonder whether Lightroom Classic needs such a setting to display properly on a display set to HDR.)

For most people I think the easy/safe thing to do is start with the built-in Photography preset (Photography (P3-D65)), and work with that for a while as a basis for editing and soft-proofing in Lightroom Classic. If prints are too dark, create a custom preset based on that one, with Maximum Luminance reduced to 120 or below. If colors are off, leave the Color Gamut at P3 but try setting White Point to D50. If those steps don’t improve things, then maybe Fine-Tune Calibration is the next step.

The other big-picture perspective on your question is that even if this display is not 100% spot-on, if it performs anywhere close to what Apple thinks it does, it’s potentially closer to perfect than any laptop display Apple has ever made. And potentially better than low/mid-priced desktop displays. 30 years of photo prints have been edited on Mac and Windows desktop and laptop displays that were not as capable as this one. It’s probably safe to assume this wide gamut, high dynamic range, factory-calibrated Liquid Retina XDR display has got to be good enough for printing…when set up appropriately.
 
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Just in case you missed my addition: I did not make prints yet, but I compared my MBP screen with this custom preset with a calibrated professional LG screen that costs almost as much as the MBP and they compare very well.
Yes, I have not seen that. Where might I find it? Thanks!
Despite that fact that I did a lot of explaining, I still have other questions about the Liquid Retina XDR display. Like, if a photographer leaves the reference mode at its HDR default (Apple XDR Display (P3-1600 nits)), does the HDR setting mess up photo previewing and soft-proofing for print? I'll have to try it and see. (The current version of Photoshop has a new setting called Precise Color Management for HDR Display, but Lightroom Classic does not have that, so that makes me wonder whether Lightroom Classic needs such a setting to display properly on a display set to HDR.)
Conrad, Thank you so much for making these complex processes understandable in this clear detailed response which I will be referring to if/when I get the laptop or I guess any one of the M1 Max computers coming out (if the desktops will also be calibrated this way?)

In the above quote from your passage, are you questioning whether the HDR setting might mess up photo previewing and soft-proofing for print on all images, or just those taken in HDR mode? Also, I've noticed in my online research on the new MacBook Pros that people seem to use it with external monitors and i had assumed this was because they liked the size of the desktop when at home, but liked the portability of the laptop and thus could have the best of both worlds--a big screen and a portable laptop. But now I am wondering if it might have to do with this new calibration issue?
 
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In the above quote from your passage, are you questioning whether the HDR setting might mess up photo previewing and soft-proofing for print on all images, or just those taken in HDR mode?
All images, because traditionally an SDR display uses certain widely used settings for gamma or tonal response curve, and I am under the impression that how HDR handles that might be significantly different. Also, for print, HDR is capable of a luminance range that is far wider than what paper could ever reproduce, so I'm wary of how that affects previewing. For example, I need to try out soft-proofing when the display is set to HDR.

And also, again, the fact that Photoshop had to add a new setting for proper color management on an HDR display makes me wonder if an HDR display works for print photography when an application does not have that kind of setting.

Also, I've noticed in my online research on the new MacBook Pros that people seem to use it with external monitors and i had assumed this was because they liked the size of the desktop when at home, but liked the portability of the laptop and thus could have the best of both worlds--a big screen and a portable laptop. But now I am wondering if it might have to do with this new calibration issue?
I don’t think the “calibration issue” has anything to do with it. What they’re saying is a lot like what I decided. I specifically chose the 14" because it travels so much better than the 16"; in fact the 14" fits in a nice little bag I have that was really meant for an iPad. But a 14" display does not leave much room for an image when a lot of panels are open in Lightroom Classic or Photoshop, so it’s just so much nicer doing photo editing on a big calibrated external display. Many photographers who travel have gotten used to this setup, and are simply continuing to do it. Edit on a great laptop display when mobile, plug it into a bigger display when at the desk.

With the M1 Pro and Max laptops, it’s almost the best of both worlds now. Both the laptop and the desktop display can be of a very high quality, the only compromise of the laptop being the display area.
 
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