On your own monitor, images will always look exactly as you edited them. Over time, they may vary slightly, but will still look similar to the way you envisioned. However, look at your images on someone else's screen, and be prepared for the worst…
Different computer screens are calibrated differently from the factory. And over time, screens can change too. The color's may be more vivid, or less saturated, darker, brighter, more or less contrasty, and may have a completely different tone. This is a serious issue that all photographer's must face, and is something not to be overlooked. When you send photos to a client, or families/friends, you want them to look exactly as you see them. This is especially true with magazines and anything that is sent to be printed. You want your action shots to look sick in magazines, right? So how do you do this?
(Image on left edited on correctly calibrated monitor, image on right edited on un-calibrated monitor)
Monitor calibration can fix this problem, but you'll need to purchase a colorimeter. A colorimeter is a device that you simply attach to your computer via the USB port, and follow the directions with the software provided. It will have you make adjustments to the basic monitor settings, and will need to be placed over the screen to analyze, then fix, your color profile. The color profile is what makes the screen colors look the way they do. With a correctly "fixed or "calibrated" profile, your screen meets a universal standard, and will allow you to edit your images to this standard that clients tend to expect. Even if you don't have clients, it will fix your completely messed up monitor so that when you send shots to friends, or view your Flickr feed at the office computer, they will look great!
There are several companies that we recommend looking into. We both use the Spyder 3 by DataColor, but the Pantone Huey, and the XRite i1 are also great colorimeters. This is something that you won't want to wait on. If you take yourself seriously as a photographer and an editor, you'll want to make sure the color on your screen is correct. We know it seems like one of those things you could keep putting off…. but grab one now and make your images the best they can be, after all, with photography, it's all about the end result!