If you are a photographer and a happy owner of one of the new MacBook Pros you will undoubtedly have noticed not only that you have an excellent quality display on your hands but also that properly calibrating and profiling the new Liquid Retina XDR (MiniLED) panel is not among the most straightforward operations. Unfortunately, it is really easy to get a suboptimal result that will negatively impact our images.
Through this guide, I will guide you in calibrating and profiling your MacBook Pro Liquid Retina XDR (MiniLED) for photographic use. The guide was written using macOS Monterey as a base and should adapt well in case of future updates. In case you have any problems, you can always contact me!
Preliminary operations to calibrate and profile the MacBook Pro
As usual, there are good rules that it pays to follow before calibrating and profiling.
Before we start, clean the monitor! It sounds trivial, but dirt or fingerprints at the surface where we will place our probe would compromise profiling.
Here are some suggested settings to set in System Preferences before you start calibrating and profiling:
- In Display, uncheck “Automatically adjust brightness”
- In Display, uncheck “True Tone”
- In Display, make sure that “Night Shift” is not active
- In Accessibility, set “Monitor Contrast” to “Normal”
- In Power Saving, disable the various power saving modes
Another very important thing before calibrating: leave the monitor on for at least half an hour. This will thermally stabilize all the components, better simulating the conditions under which we will work later.
Now we are ready to calibrate the monitor!
Fine-Tune Calibration of the Liquid Retina XDR (MiniLED) Display
The new Liquid Retina XDR (MiniLED) panel mounted on the latest generation of MacBooks is something unexpectedly good. While as usual these monitors are oriented to a DCI-P3 color space, they have a respectable gamut and accuracy that can allow us to work on our images with confidence (at least for screen viewing, not for printing where an external photographic monitor is always recommended).
On the other side, the new macOS systems have complicated things slightly, so we will need to do the calibration “manually” to achieve truly excellent results.
As usual, in addition to a software component (which for calibration will be macOS itself while for profiling will be a dedicated application), I use the Calibrite ColorCheker Display Plus colorimeter. It is essential to specify that this guide is compatible with the whole range of Calibrite colorimeters (and wanting spectrophotometers) so also with the Display, Display Pro, and Studio versions as well as the whole “old” range of X-Rite colorimeters and spectrophotometers.
The first thing to do is to go to System Preferences and select Displays.
At this point from “Presets,” which will likely be set to “Apple XDR Display (P3-1600 nits),” we open the drop-down menu and go to select the preset that is called “Photography (P3-D65)“.
Once selected, again through the Presets drop-down menu, we go to select “Customize Preset”
At this point, a new window will pop up and what we need to do is to go and select “Photography (P3-D65)” making sure to check the box on “Show in Menu” and then hit Save.
Once that is done, let’s go to the “Presets” drop-down menu again and for the newly created profile let’s select “Customize Preset”
At this point, we will find ourselves inside a new box in which we are asked for several pieces of information.
First, we go to specify the name of the preset (perhaps calling it “Photography (P3-D65) L120”), and we go to enter notes to help us remember why or how this profile was created (e.g. “Frank Preset”)
On Color Gamut we leave P3 indicated, on White Point we leave D65 indicated, and on Maximum Luminance SDR we go to indicate 120.
At this point we go to press Save.
Now let’s go back to the “Presets” drop-down menu again, and this time go to select “Fine-Tune Calibration”
We will be presented with a new menu, this time apparently more complex. Let’s leave it open without doing anything, as we will need it in a moment.
What we need to do instead now is to connect the colorimeter to our MacBook and open the profiling and calibration application ccProfiler, which comes with the Calibrite and X-Rite colorimeters (and that can be downloaded HERE).
Let’s not be frightened by the interface because once again I will guide you step by step.
First, let’s make sure that the probe is correctly detected (and if it is not, go to the drop-down menu on the right side of the application under “Application Settings”) and select “User Mode: Advanced“.
Now in the upper left-hand corner, under “Displays,” let’s go and select “Profiling“.
At this point, to get our calibration as perfect as possible, the following steps need to be taken.
First, in the section related to the technology of your display, go to select “White LED” (very important).
On White Point, instead of selecting the usual D65, go to the drop-down menu and select “Measure…”
In the drop-down menu just below, after precisely selecting “Measure…” go to select “Secondary Display“.
At this point, we will see that a white square box will appear on our screen.
What we need to do now is to arrange our desktop so that the ccProfiler application is on the left, while the white square box is on the right side of the screen outside the ccProfiler window (very important).
Now let’s place our probe on the white box and press in the ccProfiler application the “Measure” button located on the right side of the application.
After a few seconds, on the right-hand side of the ccProfiler application, the famous chromaticity diagram will appear and below it the x and y coordinates of the white point and a Luminance value, probably slightly different from 120 cd/m2.
In fact, what we’ve gone to do so far is to go and create a Preset at Luminance 120 cd/m2 and Whiter Point D65, and then through the Calibrite probe and ccProfiler, we’ve gone and taken a reading to see how accurate the manual setting we’ve entered is.
So at this point, we have to go and tell our Macbook how much it’s doing wrong every time it thinks it’s at 120 cd/m2 and D65, and to do that we go back to the “Fine-Tune Calibration” window that we had left open some time ago.
Now let’s pay close attention.
On the first line, which is called “Measured,” we are going to enter the x and y and Luminance values that we obtained previously through the reading with the probe. The values listed in this guide are for my reading, which will undoubtedly differ (though not by much, I hope) from yours.
On the second line called “Target,” let us instead enter the x and y coordinates of White Point defined in the Adobe RGB color profile, which are respectively:
- x = 0,3127
- y = 0.3290 (also enter the final zero, which is important)
Very important to put these exact values.
Also on the second line of Target, on Luminance we enter 120.
Now we press OK and we will see that our screen will undergo some minor changes.
At this point, our screen is perfectly Calibrated. We will now have to Profile it.
MacBook Pro Profiling with Liquid Retina XDR (MiniLED) monitor
To perform the profiling for photographic use, let’s open again the ccProfiler software.
Once again let’s make sure that we are in “Mode: Advanced” and that the correct probe is selected, and let’s go again and press “Profilation” in the Display section.
Let’s go and set the parameters as in the screenshot you see below, and specifically:
- Display Technology: White LCD
- White Point: D65
- Luminance: 120 cd/m2
- Gamma: Standard (2.2)
- Contrast Ratio: Native
- Flare Correct and Ambient Light: as desired, I suggest disabled
At this point, we can press Next.
At this point, we will be in the Profile Settings section.
Unless you really know what you are doing, I suggest you set:
- Chromatic Adaptation: Bradford
- ICC Profile Version: V2
- Profile Type: Matrix based
Again, when done, we proceed to the next step by pressing the appropriate button.
We will now be on the Patch Set page where we can go to specify how many color patches to have measured. Without hesitation, we select “Large” from the drop-down menu to make a measurement of 461 color patches and have the most accurate profiling possible.
Advancing to the next window, we will find ourselves on the Measurement page where we are going to physically perform the measurement of the color patches by pressing the right-hand “Start Measurement” button located above the table of colored patches.
At this point, all we have to do is follow the indications shown to us on the screen, which consists of placing the probe in the indicated space and proceeding with the actual measurement.
You will see that when the screen’s brightness is measured, you will not have to take any action since thanks to our fine calibration, the monitor is already at 120 cd/m2!
Once the measurement is finished, you will see the ICC Profile page appear where you can go and name the ICC profile you have created (I recommend always using “speaking” names i.e., that tell you the main features of the profile you have created) and make it active immediately by pressing Save Profile.
At this point, our monitor is perfectly profiled!
Quality check of the created ICC profile
Thanks again to ccProfiler we can simply check whether the profile created is indeed correct.
To do this, after opening ccProfiler and, as usual, selecting “Mode: Advanced” and the correct probe, let’s go and select in the left column under Display the “Quality” option.
Let us now select White LCD as the monitor technology and leave, unless specifically needed, the Standard verification set patch indicated. We press now Next to continue and follow the on-screen directions to take the measurement.
At the end of it, we will be presented with a report where we can read the deltaE values, that is, the difference between the expected measurement and the measurement actually taken for each patch.
The lower the deltaE value, the better. For displays of this type, we can be very satisfied if we never have spikes above 2, with an average of around 1.
If PASS appears as the result, then the profiling was successful, otherwise we will need to go back and try to figure out what went wrong.
Checking and selecting the ICC profile from the macOS operating system
You may have noticed that in new macOS operating systems you can no longer go and select the ICC profile to be used with the monitor through System Preferences and then Display as was previously possible to do.
But how can we then go about checking which profile is really in use and how to change it manually?
To do this, we make use of the ColorSync Utility application in macOS. Once open, we select the Devices tab and then Displays. As soon as we do that, we will see on the right side of the window a section where we are told what the factory profile is called and a section called “Current Profile” where we go to read the name of the profile currently in use, which as you will see will be the one that you just created in profiling with ccProfiler.
If for some reason you would like to change the ICC profile manually or simply reset the original profile, all you have to do is to press on the drop-down menu and select “Set to Factory” to return it to the original profile, or “Other…” to set another profile manually.
Calibrating and Profiling a monitor is, as usual, absolutely essential if we want to see our images correctly, and it is a prerequisite for any subsequent use of our images ranging from online publication to printing.
With the new MacBook Pros with Liquid Retina XDR (MiniLED) monitors things get a little more complicated, or at any rate the process is not the same as what we have been used to for years.
This does not mean we have to give up Calibration and Profiling, just that we will have to follow new directions that I hope you have found simple and usable in this practical guide!