Printing for a show, output unexpectedly dark

Discussion in 'Printing' started by ex machina, Mar 5, 2015.

  1. yes

    3 vote(s)
  2. no

    4 vote(s)
  3. sometimes

    5 vote(s)
  1. I've been asked to provide 30 pieces for a show. This is all very new and exciting to me, but the printing angle is making my head hurt.

    I've decided on Bay Photo's print on aluminum product. In preparation I took advantage of Bay Photo's evaluation print offering and found all my prints were really quite dark -- color was fine, just unexpectedly dark.

    I had previously ordered an aluminum print that also was returned darker than expected, but I wrote it off due to my having chosen the "sheer" finish that allows the aluminum texture to present in highlights, normally covered by a white base, figuring that would have the effect of darkening the print. That photo had no external processing and was straight out of camera.

    Today I am not running a calibrated screen, but rather a late 2012 27'' iMac with I'd guess about a 20% screen brightness setting. It seems to me I should be in the ballpark at least.

    So, a couple of questions:

    I've noticed that Lightroom has export workflow option that allow for things like sharpening for print surfaces, and the Print module in Lightroom has an output brightness control -- is usage of these features typical, and what settings do you folks who use these features tend towards?

    Given my system and experience described above, how critical is screen calibration?

    Is it just to be expected that print output will be darker than screen, and thus compensation is often called for?
  2. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
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  3. m4/3boy

    m4/3boy Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 21, 2013
    Briefly you need to have properly calibrated monitor and use proper CM protocol.

    If you aren't you are wasting your time and money.

    I'm not trying to sound snarky but until you use proper CM protocols you are pissing into the wind.
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  4. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    1) get a calibration device. Even the simple ones help set color and brightness.

    2) what ambient light are you editing in? I find the shots i prep for print - particularly with a lot of blacks - tend to be significantly brighter/lighter than what looks ideal on screen. Difference between reflective and backlit images (print vs LCD). Unfortunately I think it's mostly down to getting used to what to expect from a print vs screen.

    I use photoshop with NIK to finish up my pre-printing, so can't comment on the develop feature in LR.
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  5. I can't distinguish between the the two darkest of blacks, pure white is indistinguishable from the background, so I get 31 of the 32 possible. This suggests I'm in the ballpark.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
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  6. DynaSport

    DynaSport Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 5, 2013
    I use a Macbook Pro, but I have also found this true on every monitor I have ever used. I do think Apples are the worst, though. Apple seems to over brighten their monitors to make things snap. I have tried calibrating my MacBook with the built in tools, with no success at all. So, I have just learned to lighten photos before printing them. Perhaps I am pissing in the wind, but with experience I have just learned to lighten photos up about half a stop or a little more for good prints. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to properly calibrate my laptop, but in the meantime I just lighten things up.
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  7. The room I edit in has subdued lighting and I keep my screen brightness pretty low, probably 20% above the lowest setting on the scale.

    My content is primarily darker subject material and I do dance around that too-dark line, so I'm thinking the difference i'm seeing maybe is more of that reflective vs backlit than a way-off monitor.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
  8. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    In lightroom, go to the print module. There is a slider to adjust your printer darkness. There was just a video on this by Scott Kelby. I'll see if I can find it.

    The Lighroom Show podcast.
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  9. Anyone have a recommendation for a screen colorimeter for an iMac 27"?
  10. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    Another thing to note is that prints are passively lit. If you are viewing them in a one lightbulb basement, they will appear much much darker than if you take them out on your front porch at noon. Make sure you compare brightness vs where they will be displayed.
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  11. Yup. These metallic prints look great under strong light, but unfortunately we'd need searchlight-strong for these to approach what I see on my monitor.
  12. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    What gamma are you running?

    You might be running the old 1.8 gamma and printing at 2.2, doing a good calibration should fix it, It's a pretty common problem with old macs.
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  13. That's exactly what the problem looks like, but modern MacOS has been using a 2.2 gamma value for about 6 years now.
  14. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    In theory yeah, in practice I've seen newer machines still using it.

    Get a colorimeter and calibrate it, nothing short of working with a system that's colour managed is going to work. You can waste money doing test prints to try and get it closer or just bite the bullet, calibrate, and get it right.
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  15. sgreszcz

    sgreszcz Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 7, 2012
    I have been learning Lightroom recently, never having post-processed before.

    I am also trying to learn about printing, having been disappointed in both the colour and brightness when using an online print lab.

    Scott Kelby's new "The Lightroom Show" has been talking about brightening photos for printing and the problems with screen vs. print (I think the first episode). The other shows discuss about printing to JPEG at various increased brightness percentages (10%, 20%, 30%, 40%) on the same test proof at your lab to see what looks best going from screen to print.

    Anyway, there are only 4 episodes so far and each show is about 10 minutes long.
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  16. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    Using a calibrated monitor and printer with profile my output from print matches what I see in the soft proof (ctrl + Y in photoshop, ctrl + shift + Y will give out of gamut warning - assuming you have the correct profile selected). I don't believe that time spent making test prints is worth it when you can just calibrate and be done with it removing as many random factors from the equation as you can (over a much longer time frame as well).

    There's a reason professionals do it (and it isn't just force of habit), it really does work and anything short of it is just educated guessing.
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  17. sgreszcz

    sgreszcz Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 7, 2012
    I agree, which is why I plan on investing in a calibration tool and epson or canon printer. I've been disappointed even with the better (pricier) online print labs.

    However if I were to use a printing service, you are at their mercy in some ways and I think that sending some test prints is helpful. Assuming the lab is somewhat consistent.

    Strangely I've made many photo books via apple/aperture and they've all turned out quite well with good colour and brightness.
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  18. I rather suspect that the photo book services are doing some amount of correction before printing. I'm of half the mind to let Bay Photo do their correction on a couple test prints.
  19. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I use Lightroom soft proofing with printer profiles provided by the actual printer in the print shop I plan on printing. Makes a big difference. Actually, huge difference.

    Would not even bother without a properly calibrated quality monitor.
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