Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I had finished my second article on “prints too dark” with information identifying the cause and how it can be eliminated from the workflow. But it is in the works and I have no idea when it will be published. So, I continue to get e-mail from photographers whose digital prints are too dark.

Many of them report that their monitor is calibrated and profiled and they are following a color managed workflow. But my response has been that is not a solution because there is only color information in profiles and density information is actually in the image file being printed. so a color managed workflow is really incidental and not the cause of the prints too dark problem. Well, that is true as far as it goes.

Since finishing my report on how to avoid prints too dark I mentioned above, I have been testing a new LCD display, which incidentally is adjusted to a white luminance of 90.0 CD/m2. And as part of my testing I have gone to my CD collection of archived image files made in the last 2-3 years since I have been using LCD displays. Then my displays were set at a white luminance of 120.0 CD/m2 which then I had found I could not go below much without adversely affecting image reproduction quality on-screen, and it was also the default recommended by many color management companies like X-Rite. With a 30 point difference in display brightness, obviously the images on CD did not appear to have a desirable brightness on-screen, and needed to be adjusted if I expected them to print at an ideal density. But not only did I need to adjust the image brightness of theses saved image files, when I did lighten them to look right on my screen set at 90.0 CD/m2 I found I also had to adjust the level of saturation. That got me thinking that maybe brightness/density are in fact dots that need to be connected to make color management function fully.

If the goal of color management is to match color between display and print output, then if you took the measurement of a color that’s on the screen of a calibrated and profiled display, and then in the print out, measured the color with a spectrocolorimeter, what we used to call a reflective color densitometer, the RGB values measured should be the same. But if you are getting dark prints obviously there will be a big difference in the RGB numbers between the image on screen and print, so color management isn’t working. In other words the normal functioning of the popular monitor/display calibration and profiling software and sensor is not providing a profile that CAN match with print output if the monitor is a typically bright LCD display.

What is required is the integration of the display white luminance adjustment into monitor calibration and profiling so it matches the white of printing paper. In other words if you are working in Photoshop and you open a new white blank image, its brightness must be the same value as the white of the paper you will be printing on. When I have suggested this some have argued paper white can vary depending on how much light it is reflecting, how bright the illumination source is. But there is a standard if you want to measure paper white that is used for instance in the illumination that is provided in print viewing booths used in pre-press. For pre-press the default white luminance for a display to provide a match is 80.0 CD/m2. But for pre-press you are dealing with papers that are generally not as bright white as high quality photo printing paper for an inkjet, so I have extrapolated that difference applied to digital photography and have assumed a display white luminance of 90.0 CD/m2, and my test printing has confirmed it works.

The bottom line is color balance, saturation and brightness are dots that must be connected and matched for color management to function and provide the predictable results the system is intended to accomplish. But standard monitor calibration and profiling hardware and software is often incomplete and does not connect all the dots and match them, so many users have been led astray and as a result get too dark prints.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at: goofotografx@gmail.com

Friday, April 24, 2009


I don’t think my town is all that much different from a lot of places in America today. Not that many years ago there were three locally owned and operated camera stores, and today there are none. The only local selection of camera’s and photo gear is Walmart has to sell. Yet in the current economic situation the pundits and politicians talk about small business as the source of jobs and economic recovery, while I see ever more empty commercial spaces where another locally owned and operated business has disappeared; and the businesses that remain are big-box stores and corporate fast food, drug and office and home supply outlets. Maybe they (McDonalds and Best Buy) are a part of the businesses the media and Congress’ count as being “small”.

I can’t count how many times Shutterbug readers have e-mailed me for purchasing advise because there is no place they can get to and see in reality what to choose from to buy, much less talk to a knowledgeable sales person about personal needs and the products that might fill those requirements. Of course should I complain as it does keep me busy. But I cannot forget that when I was a young photographer the local camera stores in the small city I was in were an invaluable knowledge resource and it would have been much more difficult to acquire a basic understanding of photography without the generosity of those behind the counter, as well as the books and magazines not to mention all of the stuff in the stores you could not afford but piqued your curiosity. Those days are gone but for a few professional photographer’s stores in select large cities.

Obviously the clock can’t be turned back and the past restored, but there are a lot of people out of work these days, and I am sure many with a knowledge and understanding of computers and what it takes to set-up and run a digital darkroom as well as those who know something of photography; one, two or more living in your town. The economic gurus talk of entrepreneurship and making opportunities for one-self, but is there a way in today’s world? I can imagine with so many businesses closing there must be a wealth of goods that could be bought and resold to the advantage of many digital photo enthusiasts, but there is no go-between, no one on a small local level trading in used and surplus photo gear and computers. For instance, when the violence subsided in Iraq the street markets bloomed with shops like sprouting mushrooms, not here, however.

The reason that with so many Americans out of work are not going into business for themselves with shops sprouting in open lots like mushrooms, like we see in news video from Iraq, and many 3rd world countries almost daily, is that there is a built-in structural impediment in America. After decades of corporate big-box marketing expansion, often with the tacit approval of local governments, and and active encouragement I’m sure, walls of impediments have been built to shut out the small, locally owned individual kinds of self-employment, very high individual business license fees at a local level along with myriad zoning and use restrictions, safety issues, etc., etc., etc, and then at county and state levels the governments demand an assurance of their collecting sales taxes, and other requirements of a regulatory nature are met. Even at the federal level, income tax rules and rates favor being the salaried slave of the corporations, paying the IRS is automatic and relatively simple for the employed, but if you work for yourself, besides the burden of self-employment tax you have to document every day’s activity from beginning to end to be sure all your costs of doing business are proved on paper or you even pay taxes just for trying to do business, much less than just on profits. Some might say that only the naive or the masochistic would choose to be self-employed, and people like me who found working for corporations is worse.

You might get the impression that I am prejudiced against the corporations, but how can I be when there are companies like Canon, Epson, Apple and Adobe without which we would have no digital photography! But these last few months have revealed that the influence of corporations on our quality of life has been for the corporations like shooting themselves in the foot, not just one, but both feet. Although they claim the rights of an individual person, a corporation seems to lack the human ability to learn from their mistakes and can’t see that if what they do isn’t good for people, it isn’t good for them either.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at: goofotografx@gmail.com

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I recently submitted my report on how to avoid “prints too dark”, but I am still doing research trying to find affordable, even inexpensive, LCD displays that can used that can be adjusted for brightness to provide print density matching. There are $1,000 plus solutions that are easy to implement and effective, but as budgets are getting smaller, obtaining an effective reliable digital photography experience with a computer virtually disappears if the price is affordable. However looking at one low coat LCD display after another I noticed a new breed of displays that are specifically enabled to support 3D gaming. And today I received my copy of Computer Graphics World and the lead article is about 3D graphics including gaming, with the inside cover ad touting these new 3D LCD displays.

Serious digital photography to the computer industry is a small niche market that only obtains support in LCD displays with high-cost specialty brands and models like Eizo ColorEdge, LaCie and the very limited XL line of Samsung Syncmaster brand displays. I’d mention too NEC’s SpectraView displays (in the same high price category), but word is that many of their displays will not support a low enough brightness to match printing paper brightness. But I have had some luck with much more modest cost displays adjusting, calibrating and profiling them to provide both color and density print matching. However, there are hundreds of different consumer LCD display models and sadly the information (specifications) give no indication if they will or will not work and can be adjusted, calibrated and profiled successfully, and although I would like to find out and develop a list of affordable displays I can recommend for digital photographers, without actually testing some, it is not a possibility.

But in general, should putting together a computer system and setting up the component hardware and software to obtain color and density matching between display and output without “prints too dark”, be that difficult and expensive? It should not be so, as it is really not rocket science, although color management profile making software does involve high level color science, implementing a color managed work flow is relatively simple and involves well established known hardware and software elements. There are a dozen or so companies that can produce all kinds of ways to make it easy to do image manipulation that took time and skill manually with Photoshop, and they are selling plugins to all kinds of digital photographers either too lazy or intimidated to learn how to use Photoshop. There should be some of that resource of programming talent that could devise a Wizard that would walk a user through adjusting their display, and setting up their system to enable color management and a workflow that would output photographic images that aren’t either too dark or off color. So, why not?

It used to be a principle of business success to discover a need and fill it as a way to make money. But today it seems that everyone is trying to make some gee whiz gizmo, usually not needed, that will become the latest fad to turn a buck in the marketplace. I have been immersed in trying to find solutions to “prints too dark” for months now, and it still seems to be a taboo subject within the digital photography industry. I would think someone would recognize that making the challenge of putting together a moderate cost computer system configured and capable of inputting and outputting digital photographs of good quality, reliably, out of the box is a golden opportunity. Maybe some company has something in the works that’s still secret, but I am fearful maybe there is nothing because everyone just hopes the problem will go away because they don’t really understand what’s involved.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at: goofotografx@gmail.com

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I came across a YouTube video of Stephen Shore the photographer commenting about photography and his approach to it.
(http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=stephen+shore+interview&aq=0&oq=Stephen+Shore) In one scene about his experience teaching, Shore comments that photography is a solitary occupation that involves visual thinking, but teaching is a verbal activity that requires words that express those visual ideas. I had a parallel experience for a different reason than Shore’s, interviewing photographers first as a staff editor at Petersen’s PhotoGraphic magazine and then later on for a time as editor of PhotoPro magazine. I found many photographers are like Shore described, used to the solitary, purely visual experience of making photographs, and often not prepared or comfortable verbalizing what they did with a camera or why.

That the verbal and visual worlds are somewhat separate and seldom brought together is evident in how little serious writing has been published about photography by philosophers and scholars who live mostly in a n environment of words, although when photography was new at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries many essays about photography were written and published by enthusiasts, advocates and detractors alike. Among philosophers Roland Barthes book Camera Lucida and Bill Jay’s Negative/Positive are exceptions as well as articles and essays published by The Friends Of Photography featuring Jay and Beaumont Newhall amongst others can be found. In modern culture photography does not stand alone, it is very much a part of what we now call media, and in this context the most insightful commentary about the photograph is in Marshall McLuhan’s book Understanding Media published in 1964 found on page 188. I think most photographers won’t get beyond the title of chapter: 20 The Photograph: The Brothel-without-Walls. But I assure it is an allusion without pejorative connotations. Photographers are part anthropologist, somewhat participant observers of life and the world, voyeurs of a curious kind of usually innocent purpose.

If I may quote parts of one paragraph from Marshall McLuhan, “A century ago the British craze for the monocle gave to the wearer the power of the camera to fix people in a superior stare, as if they were objects. .... Both monocle and camera tend to turn people into things, and the photograph extends and multiplies the human image to the proportions of mass-produced merchandise. The movie stars and matinee idols are put in the public domain by photography. They become dreams that money can buy. They can be bought and hugged and thumbed more easily than public prostitutes. Mass produced merchandise has always made some people uneasy in its prostitute aspect. Jean Genet’s The Balcony is a play on this theme of society as a brothel environed by violence and horror. The avid desire of mankind to prostitute itself stands up against the chaos of revolution. The brothel remains firm and permanent amidst the most furious changes. In a word, photography has inspired Genet with the theme of the world since photography as a Brothel-without-Walls.”

Marshall McLuhan writing in the early 60’s, long before the word paparazzi was a part of our cultural lexicon, and before Britney Spears’ parents were probably born, described exactly how the era of celebrity would develop. It is good to know and understand how the media’s use of photography has evolved. But to what extent does the media even as pervasive as it is today affect photography as a folk art, the way it is practiced by amateur enthusiasts? I think some of it rubs off and colors the experience especially how the camera’s use affects others, and objectifies the person by putting them on the pages of a family album to be scrutinized out of the context of time. How many people are embarrassed by their drivers license photo? Does the merchandizing of Paris Hilton and every celebrity make most of us uneasy and give rise to second thoughts about photography when we see riotous crowds of paparazzi on TV news?

A generation ago Duane Michaels scribbled notes on Polaroid snapshots and it was elevated to fine art, and today we have FaceBook. But little real understanding or insight seems to be recognized about the relationship between words and photographs, it’s like a dysfunctional marriage, occasional shouting and little mutual understanding. That words and pictures do go together is a fact, but it is not something even a writer/photographers like myself fully appreciate. And after writing captions for photos to be published for almost 40 years, my mind still balks at the task, and goes numb until I prod myself that it has to get done no matter how uncomfortable it is.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at: goofotografx@gmail.com