That old saw “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, is applicable to the problem of bright LCD displays causing prints that are too dark, but at the moment that ounce is one ounce of gold. The ounce in this case is an LCD display that is not too bright, that can be adjusted, calibrated and profiled to match the range of values in a print. The one brand that currently has that capability as delivered is Eizo with their CG/CE ColorEdge displays. I’ll soon be receiving their least costly, the CG222w that has a list price just under $1,500 for test and review. I realize few of my readers want to spend that much, or can afford to, even for a display that does not cause the prints too dark problem.
So I am also into exploring less costly alternatives like the calibration and profiling software Color Eyes Display Pro (http://www.integrated-color.com), and some more modest priced displays that will adjust, calibrate and profile to a brightness level that matches the level that was usual with old CRT monitors, which did not cause a prints too dark problem. But on a broader and deeper level, the fact so many who have communicated with me about their bright LCD displays and dark prints don’t want to spend much on displays, I find troubling. To even be in this position digital photographers at least have to have a significant investment in a computer and printer, but I believe most put a display low on their spending priority list of what is essential to do good digital photography; when the display, its quality and performance, should be at the top of their list of priorities. Almost any personal computer today with a decent video card and a medium allotment of RAM will do Photoshop and most other digital photo applications and processing. So to be pragmatic and realistic it is not unreasonable or too extravagant to spend as much or more on a display than on the computer running it. Yes, that makes sense if you consider everything you do with digital images on a computer is controlled by what you see on-screen, so the better you can see all there is to see in your images on-screen, is the only way to be sure they are as good as you expect when finished or printed.
Getting back to the practical problem at hand, a search for displays that will function at the same brightness level as a CRT is my next task. A couple of years ago when I was testing and reporting on a lot of different LCD displays, I attempted adjusting, calibrating and profiling some at a brightness of 90.0 CD/m2 with the colorimeters and software available at that time, and although some would adjust that low the screen reproduction quality and color performance that resulted was unacceptable compared to running the displays at 120.0 CD/m2. One of those I bought, a LaCie 320 (which is a re-labelled NEC 2090 UXi). And recently I obtained an X-Rite i1Photo, a comprehensive color management suite of software and hardware to calibrate and profile displays, scanners, printers, the whole gamut. I used it to re-adjust, calibrate and profile my LaCie 320 at the lower brightness aim point of 90.0 CD/m2. I was surprised, it was successful, and I believe it was in part because the i1 Photo software adjusts the display through the DVI connector using DDC to interface with the display’s firmware, while in the past most of my attempts were made using the display’s control buttons and OSD to make the adjustments. I then tried to do the same thing with the ColorEyes Display Pro software and a Spyder3 colorimeter, again adjusting, calibrating and profiling the display through the DDC/DVI interface to match all the aim points I had chosen including a white luminance of 90.0 CD/m2. The result was an adjustment that provided as good reproduction quality and color performance as before at the higher brightness of 120.0 CD/m2, and a profile that checked out as good or better than the previous display profiles I had been using.
I put this to a practical test color correcting a set of photo image files, and then printing them, and voila, perfect print densities without any corrections of any kind, just using a standard color managed printing workflow. These test results do not just back up the points I made above, they substantiate the evidence that the cause of prints too dark is LCD displays that are too bright.
More of my writing on digital photography is available through my web site at: https://sites.google.com/site/davidbrooksfotografx/