When inspecting and editing my photos on a digital device, how do I evaluate brightness and exposure when the display itself is variable?

When taking photos with my DSLR and viewing them later on my phone, they frequently look a bit dim or underexposed at first, but if I crank up the brightness they usually look fine. (Well, duh, of course.) The thing is, however, that my phone’s display is optimized partly for prolonging the battery’s discharge cycle, and not necessarily for the purpose of looking at photographs. I could just disable the automatic brightness adjustment feature and use full brightness all the time, but then that can actually be annoyingly bright when I’m just reading or texting in a low-light environment. This issue also exists when I use my PC, though it is less significant since I almost always use full brightness on that device.

What’s going on here? If I need to turn up the brightness on my phone to make my photos look good, does this just mean that they’re underexposed and I need to address the problem at the camera? Or does it mean that one normally should turn the brightness all the way up when looking at photos? Or if not full brightness, than close to that? Is there a standard practice that experienced photographers use in that regard? In the old days you’d look at the initial prints or contact sheet and make adjustments based on that, but in the digital area you try to make sure the photo is good before you first print it.

To be clear, this question concerns photos in which I’m trying to achieve an aesthetic quality, as opposed to merely recording an event or experience.

For serious work, you need a calibrated monitor.

Back in the late 90s, I actually did a test where I sent files to a pro color output shop (on Syquest disk… $60 for 44 MB!), then compared their monitors and printouts to the same photos on different monitors.

A couple of professional monitors got close, but they were way too expensive for daily use (talk about a 4K screen, these were $4K monitors!). I was amazed when I tried a friend’s iMac… wow.

So I got an iMac.

Now, I knew lots of color calibrating tricks and the serious math involved. But, if I kept room light to a minimum (and no daylight allowed), and didn’t have any bright colors nearby to affect my color perception, I could adjust color til it looked right on the iMac.

This should work for any good monitor… which does not include your phone.

Aside from calibrating your monitor, the app you are using to adjust the images should have graphs and numbers that tell you actual colour information. That’s your best guide, those are independent of your monitor settings.

There are undoubtedly tutorials online to aid you, especially at sites like Skillshare.

I realize that color and saturation levels are equally important, but for this question I’m mainly concerned with general brightness/exposure.

TOTALLY depends on where you want it to look good. On your phone? Easy peasy… Brighten it 'til it looks good.

On a friend’s phone? Send it to him, have him show it you, and you can adjust it (or have him adjust it on his end and tell you what he did).

Same holds for someone’s desktop, or TV.

Look at it on the “target device”, and adjust accordingly. There are objective standards, but they won’t mean it’ll look right on Brenda Lou’s Galaxy or Jimmy Bob’s iPhone13…

(Trickier if you want it to look good in print… and might involve a test print or two)

How did you know my friends’ names? :smiley: