This last month my e-mail in-box has been rather full of messages in response to my article about Print matching on page 68 of the December issue of Shutterbug. The article seemed to hit a raw nerve, and my curiosity as to how extensive the problem is, was more than satisfied when I ran a Google search on “Prints Too Dark”, which elicited 1,930,000 results.
My inherent nature of being a gadfly caused me to make an e-mail message from that Google search result and send it out to many of my industry contacts as well as a few friendly corespondents. My friends answered and not one industry contact replied! I think the ”prints too dark” problem has caught most in the digital photography business off-guard and a little unprepared maybe? However, it seems the diversity of this problem involving all kinds of computers, photo applications and printers, but seems to be exclusive to those using LCD displays and not older CRT’s, confirms the former’s brightness as the culprit causing prints to be made too dark. That almost no one foresaw the much brighter LCD display might lead to a midtone (brightness setting) displacement is rather surprising. But I guess they can be excused because there is no reason why anyone was particularly aware of the fact that a CRT’s brightness range is very similar to the range of reflective values in a good quality photographic print - just someone like myself who has been using densitometers most of my professional life I suppose.
The other reason for the quiet and why the industry has no response is that other than the Transfer Function in the Output options of Photoshop CS, CS2 and CS3, I have not been able to imagine or find any other workaround, except maybe putting a neutral density gel over the front of the screen of an LCD display to reduce its perceptual brightness. That is an unlikely fix because I believe the LCD’s brightness is one of the attractions that has made them a popular selling upgrade. An environment for working with a CRT was often described as cave-like, dark in other words - while an LCD display allows having the room lights at a much more “normal” level.
Interesting though there was once a software package that ColorVision offered called Doctor Pro that supports editing profiles including particularly printer profiles. But sadly it is no longer available and will not run on any of my computers, although I have a copy on an installation CD. It worked rather interestingly by incorporating a Photoshop image adjustment saved as an Action to be incorporated into a profile Doctor Pro edited, with a new version of the profile resulting. Now my curiosity makes me wish I had one of my old computers so I could experiment and see if Doctor Pro’s profile editing would be a solution.
Does anyone else have any ideas how to solve the “prints too dark” problem? Drop me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org