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Published May 4, 2023 5:00 PM
Monitors for editing photos offer a few specific features you won’t find in a typical (cheap) display. A quality photo editing monitor is as critical a tool as a nice camera and lens—something that every level of photographer can benefit from. It’s not unusual to see photographers in studio spaces shooting to monitors so clients can view work as it’s shot. Professional editors often bring their monitors to on-site jobs to ensure the images they’re processing look top-notch before they are uploaded to wire services or servers.
Ultimately a dedicated monitor for photo editing allows you to view your images at larger sizes to make precise edits to your images without having to squint at a small laptop screen. Having an external monitor helps ensure accurate colors in a wide color space. Plus, the extra real estate makes tasks like retouching or color correcting much more comfortable. The best monitors for editing photos will make your images look exactly how you want them.
How we chose the best monitors for editing photos
When selecting the products that appear in this buying guide, it was important to select photo editing monitors that would fit a wide variety of budgets while still providing excellent displays while covering a large percentage of the color spectrum. We also selected products that were created by a wide variety of companies. Most of the professional editors we’ve spoken to prefer a 4K screen for their editing jobs, and we considered that when making our recommendations. The products in this buying guide were selected through a combination of hands-on experience, editorial reviews, and user feedback.
The best monitors for editing photos: Reviews & Recommendations
While we have some specific models we typically recommend for different types of users, it’s worth looking through the entire list because there’s often overlap between the models and their features. You want a monitor that fits your space, budget, and editing style. These picks will treat you well no matter what kind of photography nerd you are.
Best overall: BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor
- Screen size: 32”
- 4K resolution
- Pantone Validated and Calman verified color accurate technology, 95% P3 and 100% sRGB color coverage with Delta E ≤ 3
- IPS panel
- ICC Sync Compatible, simplifies color mapping process
- Thunderbolt 3 ports for easy syncing and charging
- LCD display
- Also excellent for editing video or design projects
- Expensive: over 1K for a monitor
The BenQ PD3220U Thunderbolt 3 Monitor was designed with visual creatives in mind. It features Pantone Validated and Calman-verified color accuracy tech and covers 95 percent P3 and 100 percent sRGB color spaces. That’s more than most photographers will ever really need. Its 4K resolution makes it ideal for complicated retouching jobs because it accommodates a large preview, as well as on-screen toolbars.
In addition to Thunderbolt 3 ports, it has USB-C, USB-B, USB 3.1, HDMI 2, Hotkey Puck, DP1.4 ports. Its swiveling stand lets you view it in a horizontal or vertical orientation, while a blue light filter and anti-glare screen mean you can edit for hours without eye strain.
The monitor has multiple viewing modes such as Professional Mode, M-book Mode, Darkroom Mode, Animation Mode, and CAD/CAM Mode—making it an ideal tool for visual creatives working in multiple mediums (like computer-aided design or color grading). Although it’s more expensive than some of the models in this buying guide, this BenQ monitor delivers in a huge way, making it our best overall choice for photo editing.
Best value: ASUS ProArt Display PA279CV 27” 4K HDR UHD
- Screen Size: 27”
- 4K resolution
- Calman verified color accurate technology
- IPS panel
- USB-C, HDMI, Display Port 1.4, USB hub ports
- Ergonomic stand with pivoting screen for versatile use
- ASUS Flicker-Free Tech makes it easy on the eyes
- Affordable price point
- Using it with a Mac M1 may require a firmware update
- Limited coverage in AdobeRGB color space
The reasonably priced ASUS ProArt Display is one of the most affordable monitors aimed at visual creatives—and it keeps its price point low without skimping on features. It features 100 percent sRGB color space, has a 4K resolution, and Calman-verified color accurate technology. That comes in handy when you’re trying to match output devices like printers and you don’t want to waste money and ink with trial and error.
The “flicker- free” IPS panel makes it easy to edit on for long periods of time without straining your eyes. Its adjustable stand makes it easy to view the monitor in either a vertical or horizontal orientation. Although the monitor falls short in the DCI-P3 and AdobeRGB color spaces, if you are editing photos that will primarily be seen in a digital setting, the ASUS ProArt monitor is an excellent choice—especially when you consider the price.
Best high-end: Apple 32-inch Pro Display XDR with Retina 6K Display
- Screen Size: 32”
- 6K resolution
- P3 wide color gamut and 10-bit color depth
- IPS panel
- One Thunderbolt 3 port and three USB-C ports
- Up to 1600 nits of brightness
- Unique XDR display reduces screen blooming
- Super-wide viewing angle looks great when viewed off-axis
- Very expensive
- Adjustable Pro stand is sold separately
Apple’s Pro Display XDR monitor is a pro-level photo editing tool packed with flagship tech. This extremely expensive monitor certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, but for professional editors at the top of their industry (or with deep pockets), it’s an impressive machine. The 6K screen offers an extremely detailed view, making it an excellent choice for editors working on high-res images. The display is bright (1600 nits) and has beautiful 1,000,000:1 high contrast thanks to the XDR tech.
The display covers 99 percent of the DCI-P3 color space and 97 percent of AdobeRGB—making it a great tool for editors whose images will ultimately be seen in print. Those also come in handy for high-end video editing. Although there is a lot to love about this beautiful monitor, it does come with a few caveats. It only covers about 95 percent of the sRGB space—so if you are primarily working on images that will appear online, there are much better deals to be had. The Pro Stand is sold separately—and you’ll need to pay 1K if you want this big beautiful monitor to be able to tilt or swivel while editing. But if you’re investing in a commercial-grade Mac Studio, why not go all the way on your professional workstation?
Best ultrawide: Samsung 49″ ViewFinity S9
- Screen Size: 49”
- DQHD resolution
- DCI-P3 95% color gamut
- QLED display
- Superwide, curved screen adds extra real estate when editing
- Eye-saver mode minimizes blue light
- USB-C and Lan ports
- KVM switch allows users to switch between multiple sources
- Display doesn’t autowake
- Mac volume and brightness controls won’t be compatible
- Expensive price point
Although we wouldn’t recommend this superwide monitor for a traveling edit job, its massive curved display would be a nice fit for an office or studio space. The Samsung 49” ViewFinity S9 has a huge 49” display and covers 95 percent of the DCI-P3 color space. The curved screen design and eye-saver mode will cut down on eye strain during long edit sessions, and there are plenty of ports for connecting a variety of devices. There’s also a KVM switch that allows users to switch between multiple sources on the same screen. It’s not compact or inexpensive, but it’s a decent option for the photo editor who needs a lot of screen space when working.
Best budget: LG 27UL550-W 27 Inch 4K UHD IPS LED HDR Monitor
- Screen Size: 27”
- 4K resolution
- sRGB 98% Color gamut
- IPS panel
- Adjustable ergonomic stand
- HDMI ports and display port
- Affordable price point
This budget-friendly IPS photo editing monitor has a 4K screen and covers 98 percent of the sRGB color gamut—making it an excellent tool for photographers whose work will primarily be viewed online. It only weighs 9.7 lbs, making it a great option for bringing to onsite editing jobs where a larger screen might come in handy. At the same time, its ergonomic stand allows you to view it in a horizontal or vertical orientation. Although it lacks some of the higher-end features of some of the other photo editing monitors in this buying guide, the affordable price point makes it an appealing option that still manages to cover the basics.
What to consider before buying a photo editing monitor
While we love the monitors we’ve suggested with our specific picks, it’s worth knowing about some key variables when you’re perusing the different models. Here are some essential things to consider when you’re shopping for a photo editing monitor.
Monitors can only replicate so many colors with the technology they have onboard. That selection of colors makes up what’s called a colorspace and support varies from model to model. You’ll often find high-end models referring to the P3 color space, which is great, but also probably a bit overkill specifically for photo editors. When you’re looking for a monitor, you want it to cover as much of the sRGB and AdobeRGB colorspaces as possible so they can accurately show your images how they were meant to be seen. That will also help if you’re sending images out to clients or to print.
The most important thing to consider when buying a monitor for photo editing is your budget. Monitors can range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, and so having a ballpark idea of how much you would like to spend is an enormous help. While you’ll find some great deals out there, you probably still won’t get great performance out of anything in the sub-$200 range. At the same time, unless you’re doing a ton of high-end printing and you need absolute color accuracy, you don’t need to spend $1,500 or more.
IPS or OLED?
Most photographers and photo editors prefer an IPS monitor to an OLED display. While OLED screens offer excellent contrast and beautiful image quality, an IPS monitor can get much brighter and represent colors more loyally, offering a more comfortable and accurate photo editing experience. OLED is becoming more common in TVs but is still in its relative infancy when it comes to monitors, however, so they’re getting better all the time.
Consider what types of devices you will be plugging into the back of your monitor, and make sure it has ample ports to support all of those things. A powered USB-C port can be very handy for connecting your laptop to charge while transmitting the on-screen image data. That equals one fewer cord on your desk. Most USB-A ports on monitors don’t offer much in the way of power or transfer speeds, so they’re best used for simple peripherals like mice and keyboards rather than disk drives.
Size and resolution
Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to monitors. Your space and usage really dictate how big your monitor should be. For instance, some video editors prefer to work with a pair of 27-inch monitors rather than one big one because then they can keep their preview on one in full screen and their workspace on the other. I know photographers who work the same way. If you’re planning to work all on one screen, we recommend moving up to a 4K display since that will leave you more room for a large image preview with the editing software toolbars visible at the same time.
Q: Do I need a special monitor for photo editing?
Although you can certainly get away with editing photos on your laptop, having a larger dedicated photo editing monitor will typically be a more comfortable way to edit images. Dedicated photo monitors offer larger screen sizes than laptops and often have high-quality displays for precision editing. An accurate photo monitor is particularly important if your images will be printed because it will allow you to see the spectrum of colors in an image with true accuracy.
Q: What size monitor is best for photo editing?
The best-sized photo monitor depends a lot on your price point and the space where you will be using the monitor. If you are looking for a monitor that you can easily transport to on-site editing jobs a 27” monitor may be the most travel friendly. A 32” monitor is a great choice for use in a studio or at home. For editors wanting even more screen real estate, there are now ultrawide curved monitors that gamers and even some visual creatives swear by. Generally speaking, as monitor size increases the price will go up.
Q: Is an IPS or OLED monitor better for photo editing?
IPS and OLED monitors can both be good choices for photo editing, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two types of monitors. Traditionally an IPS monitor is the most popular choice for photo editors needing color-accurate work. Generally speaking, an IPS monitor can get much brighter while editing. OLED monitors essentially create an image where pixels are represented as self-emissive dots of light, making for excellent image quality and increased contrast.
Q: How do I calibrate a monitor for photo editing?
Calibrating your monitor will be a little different depending on what system you are using to edit images. On a Mac access the calibration tools through System Preferences > Display > Color > Calibration. From there, you will open a tool that allows you to calibrate your specific style of monitor. The type of monitor you are using will dictate what settings you will want to be adjusting to create an accurate calibration. If you are using a Windows operating system, you will want to right-click on the desktop, select Display settings and select Color Calibration. The monitor you are using will determine what settings can be calibrated. Certain monitors will come with individualized software that guide you through the calibration process.
Final thoughts on photo editing monitors
The best photo editing monitors will enhance the editing process and result in better images. Color accuracy and a high-resolution screen are two of the most important features to consider when shopping for a new monitor for photo editing—we’d recommend looking at displays that cover at least 90 percent of the sRGB color space. And remember you don’t always need to get the most expensive high-end monitor to get the job done.
Why trust us
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Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.