Tuesday, January 27, 2009


One of the primary functional advantages of Color Management for most individual computer users who are digital photographers is to facilitate making prints that match what they see on-screen in their computer’s display. In terms of color consistency, a Color Managed print workflow does achieve that goal, although too much complication and confusion can ensue in the implementation of a color managed print workflow, in my humble opinion.

Unfortunately the “prints too dark” problem many are having, and finding few resolutions to correct density mismatches between screen image and print image, was never anticipated when Color Management was designed. At that time the only way to display an image with a computer was a CRT monitor, and because they match the range of values in a digitally made print, display luminance to print density matching was not an imagined need.

Today with LCD displays that are much brighter than CRT’s by at least 25%, and often more, there is a problem due to that mismatch in the range of values of a display and the range of values that are reproduced in a print.

If this were an ideal world, the luminance range defined when a display is calibrated would be included by white and black luminance measurement figures recorded in the display profile for the display. Also an ideal would be one that image editing applications that support color management would use workspace profiles which would respond to the display profile luminance range and measurements and pass on the white and black luminance levels when the workspace profile becomes the Source Profile for making a print. Then a printer driver would have a reference to the brightness range of the display used for editing the image and could accommodate and interpret an image file’s midpoint setting to result in an adjusted printing midpoint that will produce an output density matched to the screen image.

Sadly this ideal world would require an overhaul of the Color Management System, an undertaking that would take years and cost Apple, Microsoft and Adobe millions in extra programming hours. A shortcut fix is to edit existing output printer profiles to include a print density adjustment. But there isn’t a profile editor available as a stand-alone application at a reasonable cost. So as long as there is no resolution or a fix/patch from those who could provide one, namely all the printer companies in the printer drivers they publish, or in photo image editing application software, everyone looses?

Monday, January 26, 2009


I was at least subliminally aware of LG Electronics between 2 and 3 year ago when I searched through their LCD Display offerings and decided to purchase one of their Flatron L2000C 20 inch displays. At that time in America LG Electronics was a barely known brand name, but has gotten more cache in the last year or so, but mostly for cell phones and TV’s, and little awareness in the LCD display market for computers. Since I purchased my 20 inch LGE display I have acquired two more different brands and tested and reported on several more, including LaCie and Eizo, both of which are familiar brands only in the niche pro-graphics market.

When I am asked for recommendations of LCD displays (a frequent occurrence), I usually include the LGE L2000C as my experience with it using it daily for well over two years now has been good, and the performance so close to that of two to three times as expensive more highly touted brands that I’d buy and use nothing else but the LGE were I to begin again and know what I know now. Yes, the most expensive professional displays do have a larger color gamut, but it is neither that big a difference or that significant an advantage that it is a must have attribute, especially at such a much higher price.

But why am I now singing the praises of the LGE Flatron L2000Cp, my display’s current model designation? First of all I got a Consumer Electronics Show news release about a new line of LGE LCD displays that were announced. Then I got an Apple Computer news item in my in-box announcing that an agreement was signed between LGE and Apple amounting to Apple’s payment (in advance) some $500 million dollars to secure an ongoing supply of LGE LCD display products. Interesting news because it confirms to some extent a long standing rumor as to the source manufacturer of Apple’s displays. Anyway, my interest was piqued so I got in touch the LGE’s PR agency, and the ensuing exchange revealed another bit of information I found interesting and answered why LGE L2000Cp displays are sold by so few of the typical sources for LCD displays. LGE does not consider the Flatron L2000C model a consumer product, but a business product that they usually expect to sell directly in large lots. And by the way LGE is the second largest manufacturer of LCD displays. How can that be you might ask, and the answer is that LGE has been an OEM supplier and they manufacture LCD displays sold under many brand names.

So, the one source I purchased from and I have pointed others to because they have been one of the few with LGE Flatron L2000Cp 20 inch displays in stock rather consistently, is Amazon.com, I just checked Amazon’s web site again. And the site indicated availability, and a list price of $732.26 with Amazon’s price of $402.48. Now that is really a best buy. And, Oh! The new LG displays announced at CES are not intended to replace the Flatron L2000Cp, they’re consumer models.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The “prints too dark” problem inadvertently involves almost every aspect of computer image processing, displays, printers and their drivers, color management, and of course image editing. Yet it is just a single issue of prints that don’t match the screen in density/brightness. The explanation of why the problem seems insoluble is that all of these separate but involved functions are the domains of companies which compete with one another in a marketplace that discourages standards. For instance the driver interface for each brand of printer is different, as are the on-screen controls of each brand of LCD display. And of course the people who run these companies and the technical people who design the products do not see reality from the same perspective as users, who of course are an even more diverse population.

However, the “prints too dark” problem is a rather universal shared frustration that reduces individual satisfaction with the digital photo experience. So where do we look for answers and solutions? I have been exploring that with so far little success and a lot of time and effort consumed. Which made me think about what a better digital photo reality would look like, that would not have this problem caused by a differences in the brightness of LCD displays compared to prints on white paper.

That this is a problem is because each brand and model of LCD display tries to be brighter and contrastier than the competition because consumer think they want brighter and contrastier, yet the adjustment controls on every LCD display do not provide users with an exact method to achieve a known, objective brightness and contrast for a specific use like editing and processing digital photos. Those specific performance factors are largely agreed on; and they are a display color temperature of 6500K, a gamma of 2.2, a white luminance of 120.o CD/m2. So if LCD display makers would accept those aim points as standard and provide in the display controls a single option “PHOTO” that would preset the display to output at those levels, everyone would have a similar and dependable way to use their computer’s display to do digital photography more effectively and reliably in terms of results. Of course if LCD display makers offered a standard PHOTO preset, they would also need to provide a display profile file that accurately reflected the display’s characteristics in that PHOTO mode.

However that still leaves a part of the problem unresolved, and that is that an LCD display ideally adjusted, calibrated and profiled, is still brighter in luminance range than what a print on white paper can be, and that differential will result in prints that are 10 to 15% too dark relative to the screen image.

There are two ways to make photo prints. One is to let the printer driver adjust the image values to internal standards determined by the driver to achieve a good print, more or less as the printer designer sees what should be an ideal print image. The other is to have the image editing application from which a photo is being printed control color, which is referred to as a color managed workflow, which is a precise method to match the print output colors to what is seen on-screen. Unfortunately, the printer paper profiles used only contain information to provide color matching, the profile and color managed workflow does not match screen image brightness to print density because there is no density midpoint information in a profile to tell the print driver how light or dark the print should be.

Ideally then the color management system needs an upgrade to include brightness range midpoint matching correction. But such an overhaul of the entire color management system would be a massive undertaking and require possibly years and far too much cost to implement.

An alternative then must be in the hands of the printer companies to add an output print density adjustment for color matched printing in the printer driver dialog. Or color managed photo imaging application software needs to include a way to adjust the midpoint image brightness of the file information that is sent to a printer so a correct print image density is achieved. Implementing this may be most easily achieved with a plugin utility similar but simpler than Photoshop’s output Transfer Function.

How will those who have the means to facilitate a fix for “prints too dark” will respond to the problem remains to be seen. I have done just about all I can in my role as a gadfly to define and describe the problem as I have come to understand it and convey that information by all the means available to me. I am open to discussing the problem and possible solutions, but to be candid, I want a fix I can offer to users who communicate their frustrations to me, as well as a rest from writing about this same thing that has dominated my attention for weeks now. Anyone with a problem or a solution is welcome to contact me at goofotografx@gmail.com, or if more background is needed on the general subject my Digital Darkroom Resource CD is available and is described at: https://sites.google.com/site/davidbrooksfotografx/

Sunday, January 11, 2009


How many things do we continue to do out of habit that we don’t change until circumstances force us to? That questions as far as tradeshows go seems to be one that 2009 is answering. I followed what was happening at the MacWorld show in San Francisco via the Internet, and what was reported was mostly disappointment overall. A lot of the anticipated new products from Apple did not materialize, so maybe besides having his own health problems, Steve Jobs did not make his annual keynote presentation just out of habit. Why bother in these difficult times doing something just for show and to keep an unneeded function alive? Like Jobs my health is a personal issue but more important I don’t need to go to a tradeshow to learn what new products there are available, the companies that have anything of interest to me have already sent me a news releases by e-mail. The only thing I found new shown at the Moscone Center floor of MacWorld is a neat, new inexpensive software package to design, format and output words and pictures in a Acrobat .PDF documents called iPublisher from iStudio (http://www.istudiopublisher.com/index.php/home/home/). Of course thats not all that was new, beside another MacBook model, Apple upgraded their functional software suites iLife and iWork with their usual evolutionary efficiency improvements.

Now the tradeshow disappointment is now focused on the carshow in Detroit. No one expected much from the big three considering they are alive only because the government is keeping them afloat. But besides making themselves anachronisms by their blindness to a future that was predictable, GM, Ford and Chrysler are creatures of habit making cars for habits people can no longer afford.

It’s really scary because so many will suffer in this near Depression economy, those creatures of habit that don’t like change the most, but adaptation and finding better ways to accomplish the essential things we value for less may now get more attention. We are so used to working with bloated over-priced software like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop maybe its time to try doing more with less. That’s what caught my eye with iStudio’s iPublisher software, priced at $50 it promises, “desktop publishing simplified - stunning results with a simple and intuitive user interface with everything in easy reach – less windows, less time trying to find elusive features, more design space, more possibilities. Why not give it a go?” I downloaded the trial and will give it a go. If I find it is worth the license price, I’ll pay that too and at least put a line in this blog that it works for me, if you have not tried it yourself, nothing like a free trial, drive it around the town a bit. I may also do a lot more image work with Photoshop Elements too, if for no other reason than to find out if there is really any need to have anything more costly.

But back to the question of whether tradeshows are anachronisms. I think they are and would not mind at all seeing the Photo Marketing Show or Photokina for that matter disappear. But does their functional usefulness have to disappear as well? I can easily imagine a virtual tradeshow organized and presented on the Internet (where you could even invite the public), and you could visit the booths of various companies represented in a virtual show floor, even go in a booth and have a face to face video conference including a presentation on all the new stuff being offered. For press people like myself that is something we have already gotten used to, and it works. I wonder how much less it costs both the companies and the individuals who would otherwise travel to a tradeshow, stay in a sterile hotel and eat mediocre overly priced food? A lot less I would think, but then you’d have to booze and schmooze by yourself. I won’t go any further with that thought.

Obama promised change, but a near depression economy will likely bring more possibilities for a better way to do things than the politicians Obama has to deal with, in my humble opinion.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


From my experience from a lifetime of photography I have learned better than a new lens, or camera, any gadget or gizmo the best resource for getting better pictures and enjoying making photographs is information, understanding the tools I already have and how they work. The only way to get out of a camera all that it can reproduce is to know how it works, the only sure and easy way to control the photographic process to reproduce the images that you imagine and hope for is to understand how the photographic process functions.

I receive usually several e-mails each day asking questions about digital photography, and attempt to answer them all to the best of my ability. Although some may have the impression I am a walking encyclopedia, I sometimes don’t have the answer off the to of my head, but I know where to go to get the needed answers, so most questions get a resolution. In this process some of the questions are worded in ways that have produced a picture in my mind of what many Shutterbug readers don’t understand and why sometimes digital photography is a challenge, maybe providing less fun, enjoyment and satisfaction in the photographs obtained than many would like. A lot of Shutterbug readers are individuals who have had photography as a hobby for some time using film and have at least a working understand ing of the analog process of making photographs and know how to handle a camera to make an exposure to obtain a photograph using film. And because, especially with dSLR’s, a digital camera looks much like its analog film predecessor photographers are misled to think digital is just a different kind of film. But when it comes to how a digital photograph is made and reproduced, even though the lens, shutter, light meter function as well as auto-focus works similarly a digital image has almost no similarity to a photograph made with film. Analog film and digital photographs and the process that produces each could not be much more different and have so little in common. So cameras and lenses mislead photographers to believe their thinking about the film based process of photography can be applied to digital and what they do on the basis of that old analog thinking will work. Well, some of it may up to a point and when reached I get an e-mail asking a question because a problem arose and an expected result did not materialize.

To me one of the most obvious differences is the fact a digital image have no material existence and a film image is a physical thing locked into the film it is recorded on, and is something my curiosity revealed early when I first began doing digital scanning, but few others believe. Digital images made with a sensor, whether an area array chip in a camera or a lineal CCD in a scanner in a raw capture are very soft and low contrast. If anyone who has a dSLR and sets it on Raw and turns the sharpening in the LCD menu on the camera’s back down to zero or as low as it will go, and then takes a picture of a detailed subject, on screen the downloaded image on a computer display will be very soft and low in contrast. Zoom in with Photoshop or any image editor so you can see the individual pixels and you will begin to realize why. Compared to film grain pixels, individual sensor chip receptors are huge and all they record is the amount of light that they receive from a corresponding square of the reality from the subject scene, which in a pixel on screen is one even toned square of density and color. A digital sensor does not record the sharpness of image detail like film. A digital camera image is delivered sharp and at normal contrast only after being processed by a chip in the camera after exposure that adds sharpness and contrast. Sadly I must conclude that very few photographers ever examine a digital camera file very thoroughly to see what is really there, and particularly in a true, raw, unprocessed form that is the image information actually captured by a camera’s sensor chip. This is not my opinion but is well documented information that’s widely published.

So what I am going to suggest is a way to get more fun and satisfaction as well as better digital photographs easily that costs nothing but a little time and effort, but may do much more than any new expensive digital gizmo you may no longer want to afford to buy in these hard times. When I first got into photography in the early 50’s I was eager to learn, and read all the magazines like Popular Photography, Modern Photography and several other publications no longer in print. All had one thing in common, many kinds of stories and pictures that were exciting and inspiring, but little or no information about how I could make pictures like what I saw reproduced in the magazine. This was frustrating because even if you wrote to the author of an article, and I often did, but either got no answer at all, and if I did get a letter back in response it was just an acknowledgement my letter was received. In addition local libraries had few how-to books on photography if any, and the books in camera stores were expensive especially considering most were not all that helpful. Obviously those impediments did not stop me as I did find ways to learn photography although it was a longer and harder road than it would be today with digital. We now have computers hooked to the internet and a wealth of useful information available.

I’m not looking to receive fewer reader e-mails asking questions of course, but here are a few tips to access a better understanding of why and how digital is different from film and how you can make it work better for your photography success and enjoyment. All of the major computing companies and the software publishers like Adobe, as well as all of the photo companies from Kodak to camera makers like Nikon and Canon have web sites. In addition there are all kinds of independent repositories of information on the web. Nearly all of these web sites have support sections and what is often called a knowledge base (digital library) of documents, articles and papers about their technology and products. For instance for PC Windows users you might not imagine that there is a lot of good information on that often puzzling topic Color Management on the Apple website. Just go to: http://www.apple.com/search/support/?q=colorsync, and in the colorsync section under “markets” there are many good articles listed on the subject of color management. OK so I’m a Mac guy can you do the same thing for Windows? Of course just go to the Microsoft web site and click on Support, then knowledge base, then in the search box type in Color Management and specify which version of Windows and you’ll get a list of articles you can open, read or print at: http://support.microsoft.com/search/default.aspx?mode=r&query=color+management+windows+xp&spid=global&catalog=LCID%3D1033&1033comm=1&res=20. Or maybe you want to explore information about how to scan slides and color negatives. You might try Lasersoft at: http://www.silverfast.com/documentation/en.html, where you will find the complete SilverFast software users manual, or just individual chapters to download, as well as information on subjects like workflow and color management. In addition there are reprints in Acrobat .PDF of articles about SilverFast from various publications. If you click on the “scholar” icon at the top of the main homepage for SilverFast and go to the site’s knowledge section they can be downloaded.. Of course one of the richest resources for digital photography is the support section knowledge base on Adobe.com where you can find all kinds of tutorials about using Photoshop for instance, at: http://kb.adobe.com/selfservice/microsites/searchEntry.do. And finally there is Google’s search capability. However I would suggest you learn how to use their Advanced Search function so you can narrow your looking for information as doing a general search for generic digital photo subjects will often return thousands, even millions of references and going through pages of stuff to find a few useful gems of information articles can be extremely time consuming and tiring.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Some months ago a photographer posting in the Shutterbug Forum mentioned he had purchased a Kodak Kodachrome K3 IT-8 profiling target slide from B&H. I must confess I did not know Kodachrome IT-8 target slides existed only those made on Ektachrome for calibrating and profiling a scanner. I thought I had kept up with Kodak Color Management, but maybe the company never catalogued or made public the existence of Kodachrome IT-8 target slides, but on the internet in the Kodak FTP site I did find an Index File to enable using the Kodachrome K3 IT-8 I purchased from B&H, And then after borrowing a Color Management suite from X-Rite containing software to make input profiles I was able to use the Kodachrome IT-8 to profile my scanners and run some tests.

Kodachrome was one of the first color slide films and always held a unique place in the film world. Besides being unusually sharp, rather contrasty and with a unique color palette unlike any other slide film, it found a large following among photographers, and is still produced today although there now is only one plant available located in Kansas that processes the film. But my interest is not in current Kodachrome film use but in the millions of Kodachrome slides photographers have which until now have always been more or less of a challenge to scan. The reason for that has in part been a scanner profile made using an E-6 film IT-8 target does not produce a profile that favors the characteristics of Kodachrome, either in color palette consistency or in characteristic curve response. So scans from Kodachrome can be difficult to color correct and adjust ideally sometimes reproducing odd color anomalies that are hard to eliminate. Using the Kodak made Kodachrome K3 IT-8 target slide (dated 1999) to calibrate and profile proved to make scanning Kodachrome easier, more effective and produced image results that better preserved the look of Kodachrome. But there were still inconsistencies and anomalies still, so I can understand why Kodak never made the Kodakchrome K3 IT-8 widely available. How B&H acquired the supply they have been selling is a mystery to me, as was the existence of Kodachrome IT-8 reference slides until recently.

However, the results I got with the K3 Kodak IT-8 target although less than ideal was enough better than using an Ektachrome profile for me to try to find a way to solve this problem. And because I have had a long relationship with the very best scanner software company, Lasersoft Imaging, I sent my results to them and alerted the president of the company of my interest in finding a solution to calibrating and profiling film scanners specifically for Kodachrome film scanning. It was not long and some conversations ensued and I learned that Lasersoft was already on the same page, and we were able to exchange ideas about possible solutions.

I did not have to wait very long and Lasersoft Imaging issued a new version of SilverFast Ai for some film scanners that contained not just the usual scan mode selection of Positive for transparency film and Negative for print film, but with a third mode selection: Kodachrome! What this does is to use the calibration profile for the scanner on file and essentially create a new virtual Kodachrome profile to scan Kodachrome using LUT’s based on the color and contrast differences between E-6 and Kodachrome to provide a simulation of actually calibrating and profiling the scanner using a Kodachrome IT-8 target.

Of course I downloaded this new version driver for one of my scanners and gave it a try scanning a number of Kodachrome slides. Actually the results were better than using the profiles I had made from the Kodak K3 Kodachrome IT-8, and should provide a substantial functional advantage to most users of scanner who are scanning Kodachrome film. Of course the more accurately the scanner is calibrated and profiled with an E-6 Ektachrome IT-8 , say compared to using a manufacturer supplied generic profile for the scanner, the better the performance and results.

That was a few weeks ago. In the last few days Lasersoft Imaging announced and made available new Kodachrome IT-8 target slides for calibration and profiling, and I got my hands on one as quickly as possible to try it out. With this new Lasersoft manufactured Kodachrome IT-8 I calibrated and profiled my newest 35mm scanner and selected a couple dozen of my most challenging, difficult to scan Kodachrome slides to begin testing. This new Kodachrome IT-8 used to calibrate and profile provided markedly better scans of Kodachrome that are clean and free of color casts and anomalies, allowing me to obtain scanned image files I am as satisfied with as any scan I have made from an E-6 film original, easily and directly without twisting and bending the software to obtain an ideal color correction, and that reproduces the color in the slides with precise fidelity - the Kodachrome look that has until now been so illusive.

I will do quite a bit more Kodachrome scanning and then write this entire story in greater detail for a possible article in Shutterbug health permitting. In the meantime I felt the news being so good it could not wait. Check it all out at: http://www.silverfast.com

Monday, January 5, 2009


Over the holiday season the mass media’s pundits, columnists, and political soothsayers dusted off their crystal balls and polished their moral compasses to spin their usual self-serving conventional wisdoms while obfuscating carefully not to embarrass any of their benefactors. The same exercise as any New Year brings out, but this 2008 to 2009 passage involved factors that deserved much more insight and candor, but apparently the courage and fortitude of journalistic celebrities remains tempered by the fact the mass media is the mouthpiece of corporate America and it is never wise to bite the hand that feeds one. I don’t get paid enough by a long shot to be restrained in the same manner, but at the same time I have not risen to a level of celebrity that induces an audacity to think I can see into the future.

So lets consider what we do know presently and what is happening in the marketplace to see if 2009 will look much different from 2008. For sure with Circuit City already a thing of the past the number of retail outlets for digital photography products will be fewer, in part because the pie in terms of consumer spending has shrunk, but then the stores that remain will have a larger share of the pie if there are fewer stores. In other words it will be easier to shop around for a digital camera because you won’t have to visit as many vendors, and the really low-ball prices will probably disappear because the stores cutting the margins too close will not survive a reduced volume of sales and will likely disappear. Sadly in my view, the one store chain I would like to see disappear from the scene, WalMart will likely survive, but that is because it has been dragging America down to the bottom of the barrel on every front and too many just can’t resist the lowest price regardless that the product quality is second rate.

At the manufacturing level I don’t see much change in the immediate future, and I think the MacWorld show in San Francisco this week will bear me out. My rationale is a simple logic that all the new stuff has been in the pipelines of the big producers for 2, 3 or more years, so the investment in development has already been made, so not bringing a new model or an evolutionary upgrade to market would save little and cost more in no sales at all, and the hype of the new will help preserve public awareness and market share. So what I am looking for are possibly several new Apple evolutionary model upgrades, and one rumored one in particular I think digital photographers should take very seriously. I have been using Apple Mac Mini computers since they were first introduced about 3 years ago, and with great satisfaction in the performance and reliability of a really modest cost computer with unique advantages, one being it is just a 1/10 the size of a typical PC tower. The new Mac Mini is said to have much improved video support including possibly two interface connects for dual displays, and very likely it will have a faster processor and in the top-of-the-line model maybe even a single Quad Core processor. But MacWorld isn’t just Apple products it is also heavily invested in all kinds of graphics hardware and software, some of which will support PC Windows use as well as the Mac crowd. So beginning tomorrow look for digital photography news out of Moscone Center in San Francisco.

I don’t think the excitement and enthusiasm will be any less in 2009 for those latest and greatest new goodies that are offered, but the realities of an economic environment 2008 brought us will have a large impact on individual’s thinking and consideration of making a purchase decision. That is reflected in what you see in the personal for sale advertisements in newspapers and on-line for the largest SUV’s both in the huge numbers for sale and the actual prices they are selling for. But I think there are many more gas guzzler’s sitting not driven in driveways because more is owed on them than they are worth. Reality has had its impact and mindless expenditures just to satisfy one’s self image may be set aside for more realistic and practical choices. Will so many tack a couple of $1,000 plus lenses to their dSLR kit so readily, or will they realize they can obtain just as sharp an image with a lens that is a fraction of the cost of the super XXX model. No one has listened to me in the past that optics are much less a factor with digital SLR’s compared to 35mm film SLR’s, because no one has taken the time and effort to examine a true unsharpened raw digital camera file to see on a computer display just how soft and low contrast what is captured by a dSLR camera is. On the other hand a frequent correspondent who is even older than I, (if that possible) am and still shooting just got a Canon G10 and sent me some prints from a small segment cropped from an image made with his G10 - he was literally cooing about the results he was so pleased, and for good reason I could see in the prints - better acutance and detail definition than anything I have seen from a medium speed 35mm film frame, plus no grain.

I think 2009 will not be that different in digital photography, in part because momentum will keep the business percolating, although with slightly fewer players. But after the mortgage shoe dropped in 2008; if the other shoe, credit card debt, causes more big financial institutions to go belly up, 2010 may be a very different situation. In the meantime with a little more time on our hands in a slower economy even more digital pictures may be taken, it is a time to stop and smell the roses and shoot a picture or two.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Have you ever blown through a red light in your car, and as soon as you got through the intersection you realized what you had just done? Other than worrying about whether a cop saw what you did, you may have realized that your eyes saw the red light, but your mind did not register the perception and respond as usual so you could stop and wait for the light to change. What this kind of incident illustrates is that human vision is made up of two distinct functions, what our eyes see and what our mind perceives. As well as a third factor memory, which allows us to not pay conscious attention to everything familiar our eyes see in the course of daily activities, otherwise we would never get anything accomplished if we had to consciously deal with everything in our vision familiar or not.

So what does this have to do with photography and any current digital problems like “prints too dark”? Back in the 70’s an intense interest in Ansel Adams Zone system was appended by Adam’s stress on “visualization” as a way to exercise some control between perception and a predictable photographic result. Around the same time Richard D. Zakia at RIT published a book of articles and scientific papers called Perception and Photography that was rather widely read providing a more modern understanding of human vision and how it can be more successfully employed as part of the process of making effective photographs and controlling the performance of the media. Thirty some year later perception has a somewhat different photographic role and even more important imaging function with photographs that are the result of what is done visually on-screen to edit and manipulate the attributes of a photograph in applications like Photoshop. Which brings us to the current problem of a mismatch in density or image brightness between what is seen on-screen and sometimes in a very different, too dark, print result.

That there is a problem today is due, in large part, to the introduction of very much brighter LCD displays compared to the CRT’s monitors that preceded them. What is perceived on screen does not match what results in a print in density, even though in a color managed workflow the colors seen on screen can be accurately reproduced in a print quite reliably. It should be noted here that digital camera JPEG images adjusted by a camera’s post exposure processing, if just opened in a computer and printed without editing, will very likely NOT suffer the “prints too dark” problem. So the only sure way the LCD brightness problem will result in print darkness is if the image is edited by PERCEPTUAL adjustment for brightness on-screen with an LCD and the file is then saved and printed.

Sometimes just reading the data and coming to conclusions on the basis of the fact an LCD display, even when optimally calibrated and profiled to a brightness luminance of 120.0 CD/m2, compared to the lower range of a typical CRT monitor with an average white point luminance of 90.0 CD/m2 (which did not induce “prints too dark”), is not totally convincing nor entirely complete evidence. So, fortunately for this research, I had a very good Sony Trinitron 520 Pro model 21” CRT stored for the last 3 years and after only a couple of years of use. And it just happens my Mac Pro will run two different kinds of displays in mirrored mode with both having the same signal image on-screen, as well as both being individually and independently calibrated and profiled. So after some digging in my closet I dragged out that 100 pound monster and set it up beside my NEC Multisync 2090 UXi LCD display. Both screens happen to be the same measured size, but once turned on and warmed up they do look very, very different and it is not just the NEC LCD display is a bit brighter. There really is not that much brightness difference as the Sony 520 CRT produces a maximum white point density on the high side at 97.0 CD/m2 compared to my LCD sitting next to it at 120.0 CD/m2.

Even though both were calibrated and profiled to the same aim points of a color temperature of 6500K and a gamma of 2.2, there was a difference in perceived contrast that looked higher in addition to greater brightness of the of the LCD, but what was really surprising was after precise calibration and profiling the neutral gray of the two displays looked very different, with the Sony CRT appearing to be warmer and less neutral than the NEC LCD. In other words they measure the same but look different, which may be due to a difference in light frequency and modulation because of the distinctly different light sources involved. The bottom line is that not just brightness but every visually apparent factor will affect and influence perceptual image editing adjustment between the two kinds of display, and the resulting images will reflect some of that difference. I think in my case when I switched to LCD’s from CRT’s I was consciously aware a perceptual accommodation was needed and I altered my image editing accordingly, because my print output was pretty consistent. However, I do my own custom printer profiles and I did make some print density adjustments in the printer profiles I produced in the las 2-3 years I have been using LCD displays.

Although it would resolve the prints too dark problem, would I want to go back to CRT monitors if they were still made? Not on your life, because LCD’s provide a more neutral gray, greater internal light and color contrast to reveal tone differences and easier editing, and at least my LCD’s are much sharper than any CRT I had used in the past. So let’s hope for a print brightness fix and keep the LCD’s!