Sunday, August 23, 2009


I cannot say I have been at all successful with these last months trying to understand and find a solution to the “prints too dark” problem so many have reported. Oh! Yes! A few have reported that what I have written has been helpful to them and they have resolved the problem for themselves. But many more either do not get it, do not want to understand, or really don’t care all that much and are just happy to make prints the way their printer driver tells them it should look. But right now, is not a good time for reality, for truth with today’s politics and economics putting everyone at each other’s throat battling realities and fantasies, lies and truths with much confusion. I am maybe expecting too much.

But let me give it just one more try. Maybe seeing an image made by a camera and a print like two dancers going through the intricate steps of a tango, yes it is a bit complicated, it is definitely interactive, and if serious even a bit dangerous. The tango is a dance to a particular kind of music. There are many kinds of songs, music, poems and stories told by the countless tangos written during its long history, as there are many different subjects a camera can reproduce that can eventually become a print. That a tango, the music, and the movement of two dancers together interacting to the music, the rhythm, the mood and its story; is to me very much like a photographic image once captured by a camera can become after much interaction within a computer reproduced as a printed image on paper that tells a unique story.

With just a photographic image file on your computer, it is like one hand clapping. With just one dancer there is no tango, just a solo dance that is something else. If the two dancers doing a tango are not closely matched it is like Mutt & Jeff attempting the impossible, it is not a tango, it is some kind of farce. That is like a computer display that is very bright 200.0 - 300.0 CD/m2, looking way over the head of printing paper that is about 90.0 CD/m2. The dancers need to be a match, the same brightness or height. The paper cannot get brighter it will only reflect a little less than 100% of the illumination falling on it, but the display can be made less bright, so do it.

A calibration and profile for a very bright display cannot match that of what a paper can produce through a printer, so even if you use software and a sensor to calibrate and profile a very bright display, you have not created a color range that can be printed - they will not dance together. I learned this in the many hours I have spent since getting my displays to 90/0 CD/m2 completely re-color correcting, adjusting and editing hundreds of archived image files done with brighter displays. The difference is much greater than one would expect, the image must be re-adjusted for brightness, but once that is done the saturation is too low, and the color balance is off, and some colors need a different adjustment than others It is a job I will never get done, they are files I have made over that last 20 years, and I don’t expect to be doing this till I am age 96!

So, what I am saying is that the tango dancers of digital image capture and print reproduction, must be matched closely and precisely, not just by the color translation of a profile, but also by the other factors of brightness, contrast and tone distribution that is saved as the parameters of a photographic image file by a computer. They are the two tango dancers, there is color matching in the profile of a display that is set at 90.0 CD/m2, 6500K and and gamma 2.2, and the brightness/darkness, contrast and tone distribution of an image file corrected and edited by a computer. The two must match at the particular parameters that define what paper is upon which the image will be reproduced.

But you say you have never seen or paid any attention to a couple dancing the tango very well. I chose the tango because it more closely exhibits the principles I am talking about, but any kind of dance, ballet, jazz, samba, rock ‘n roll, where two people interact to play out a precise form on a floor, it is the same thing, the two dancers have to be very much alike or it will look incongruous, comical , a mismatch. For someone who has no appreciation of dance it is is in sports by taking the two forms of football/soccer and trying to play either with a team of the opposite kind, American Football, and a soccer team in the rest of the world - the players must match the rules of the game. Basketball players don’t usually make ideal tennis players, golfers are different from wrestlers.

We have a very serious problem today because most of the LCD displays made in the world are constructed for the needs of offices and brightly lit homes - too bright for digital photography. Color Management with profiles was designed when there were only CRT’s monitors available, and all of them had a very limited maximum light output on average about 90.0 CD/m2. Technology advances, like LCD displays screwed that system by now offering LCD displays that are extremely different and much, much brighter. So the challenge everyone now has is doubly complex through no fault of anyone.

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:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


As I have written before, my holy grail is an affordable LCD display that supports digital photographic editing and printing. I just recently discovered one that has some essential attributes, and even bought one, and LGE L227WGT. A reader just commented he purchased a display he is pleased with that was quite affordable, an AOC Verfino 22 inch with LED backlight ( But even the added new feature of LED backlight, which has distinct advantages, still leaves the basic problems that can cause “prints too dark”, as well as the added expense costing as much or more than the LCD, a colorimeter and software to calibrate and profile the display.

There has to be a better solution. In part the deficit is a failure to communicate both between computer and display, but as much between display designers and producers, and computer designers and makers while ignoring what is going on in the digital photography community. If it were just the serious photographer enthusiasts and professionals, which is a small niche market, not getting any consideration might be justified, but these days I think there must be few computer users who don’t have some kind of digital camera.

So what’s this crazy coot talking about now, you are thinking! Well lets just go back to the days of CRT’s when prints weren’t too dark. Everyone who calibrated and profiled a CRT, set the gain (contrast) to maximum and if the white luminance measurement happened to be 88.0 or 92.0 CD/m2 that was not a difference of much concern. But then along came LCD’s and the manufacturers could push as much light through the screen as they wanted, which was a great advantage to users in brightly lit office environments. So that’s what they did, the brighter the better, more sells better than less.

Unfortunately if the backlight is bright and not adjustable independently, the only way to get the white luminance down to a match with paper white is to use the screen’s adjustment capability. But sadly a very bright backlight with a maximum white luminance of 300.0 CD/m2, if adjusted to 90.0 CD/m2 using the screen adjustment capability uses up much of the screens potential range and often screen color and image reproduction performance suffers. With the newest LCD displays that have white LED backlight, these problems in some cases seems to be even more serious.

Bigger is not better, SUV’s get lousy gas mileage, are hard to park if you can find a parking space big enough. Brighter screens are only better for some in bright offices. Plus brighter uses more energy so is anti-environmental and contributes to our energy dependence on foreign oil and the use of dirty coal. Why do I say that? Simply to convey that you don’t have to have more brightness to sell LCD displays. More megapixels helps make better photographs of course so helps sell cameras, but more display brightness has done just the opposite for photo printing. This understanding needs to be conveyed to and realized by those who make LCD displays.

Considering the fact, unlike CRT’s, LCD display screens material that reproduces the image, is the most costly part of an LCD display, and is quite separate and independent from the backlight . It should be both relatively easy and relatively cheap to offer displays with a less bright backlight, just call them environmental friendly photo displays, instead of some meaningless model number. Then those of us writing about digital photography aware of the problem too bright displays have caused can identify the models with lower level backlight and we will do the selling for you.

But Mr. LCD display manufacturer, how about also being supportive of digital photography users by including specifically named and identified display settings that reflect the needs of users, a setting that conforms to sRGB and one that conforms to Adobe RGB automatically setting the display gamma to 2.2 and the color temperature to 6500K. In addition, I would think the display setting could also include discrete settings for specific white luminance levels, like 120.0 CD/m2 and 90.0 CD/m2, then at least a user doing Photoshop can obtain a reasonably compatible adjusted screen environment without having to invest in a high-end color calibration and profiling software/hardwre package. That would leave more of their budget that could go towards a choice of a larger screen size!

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: