Prints too Dark but OK on Calibrated Monitor

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by george_prescott, Dec 10, 2010.

  1. Hey All-
    Need some help. I have a new computer and monitor, and I calibrate my monitor with an Eye-One (same as the old computer and monitor). I just had some prints done for the first time with this computer at MPIX, with the "do not correct" option selected. I've used MPIX before, always great results. However, these pictures look way too dark. Can you give me an opinion of how they look to you? Also, I don't see how this is an issue, but I've also upgraded to CS5, and also from 20D to 7D. Lot of variables all changed at once! For what its worth, I shoot raw, process in Photoshop. Started processing 16 bit and save to jpeg when done once I got a new computer with faster processing. Also, I've tried viewing my monitor from multiple angles. Pulled up old pictures I've printed before at MPIX and view on this monitor, they look good- you would think if it was a monitor issue they would appear too bright. Really points to the printing process, but I have a lot of faith in MPIX.
    As a point of reference, the stripe on his shirt is barely discernable on the print.
  2. LCD monitors will be like that. FWIW, the image is on the dim side on my monitors (Acers, calibrated with i1D2). I have to stand up out of chair and look down at the image on the monitor to get the brightness when I would place it. In Photoshop, adjusting the mid-tone input level to 1.5 looks about right to my eyes. That's a pretty extreme adjustment, more than is reasonable for head placement with respect to LCD monitors. Maybe take a few minutes and recalibrate the monitor, and double check the gamma and brightness settings in the software.
  3. I have my LCD calibrated to 140 cd/m2 (which is still too bright for accurate print comparison) and your pic looks too dark. 120 cd/m2 is recommended, I'd guess your at 160 or higher on brightness. The expensive monitors from NEC, et al, can go low, which is needed for editing.
  4. Lad,
    I 've always calibrated to 120 cd/m2, and redid last night without much of a difference, if any. Are the stripes on his shirt easy to tell apart on your monitor? They are hard to make out on the print.
  5. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    George, I am calibrated and my prints match my monitor. I can barely see the stripes on the shirt. Attached is an adjustment that I thought would be correct along with your original for comparison. Hope this helps.
  6. Recalibrated and lightened up the picture, how does this look?
  7. Had to resize-Recalibrated and lightened up the picture, how does this look?
  8. looks fine here...does it now print like this?
  9. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    Still looks slightly dark to me. Detail in the hair is blocked up and skin tone seems a bit dark. I would say you are half way there. I also don't think calibration is the problem, I think it has more to do with brightness and contrast settings on your monitor. Also, what looks good to us isn't the answer, but instead what you get with your print out.
  10. Last image looks very good on my monitor. The first was a bit dark. The color profile of the image is sRGB. If the printer can print correctly the sRGB color space you should have a very nice print. If not you may need to profile your printer and convert the sRGB profile of the image to the printer's profile.
    Ray's correction looks to me with washed out values and colors. It could be different taste or poor color management.
  11. So, when I look at all my images, I agree that the first looks a little dark, the last looks the best...but, my gut feel is that if I printed the last print, it may be acceptable, but still darker than than what I am seeing on the screen. Maybe even still no good. The prints are WAY darker than the small variations we are looking at here. I think Ross's observations are the same as my own.
    Ray, when I go thru the eye-one I am using the advanced calibration where I set brightness and contrast as part of the calibration routine. Is there something else I should be considering?
    Ross, a while back I got the MPIX printer profile and soft-proofed with it, but didn't see any major differences. I've never printed at home, always thru MPIX. Any other labs I should consider?
    Thanks to all for your support, I have been pulling my hair out over this!
  12. Ray is right about it being stil a bit blocked up, but, I tend to prefer that look to the "correct" look. The first example to me is too dark.
  13. Well I would maybe go a touch lighter but the blocked up hair on the right of the image more likley due to the lighting or lack of on the the right hand side.
  14. You have to soft proof with paper simulation checked.
  15. FWIW, I set my monitor to 120/cd and it solved the brightness discrepancies I had experienced in printing with MPIX.
    Re: MPIX: Word of caution: I strongly recommend leaving the box "do not correct" left alone. LET MPIX do its thing. I do all my own corrections and editing but based on the MPIX description of what corrections they make if I don't check the box, I was completely confused about checking it off or leaving it be. At the recent PDN Photoplus expo in NY, I was able to speak with MPIX reps about this. It was strongly suggested I leave that "do not correct" box alone and permit MPIX to make whatever slight adjustments were necessary. I was told that every photo is reviewed by a technician and any issues that are detected resulting from their printers' interpretations of the files will be fixed. Because a human reviews that photo, they can tell if you intended to have a strong blue cast to achieve some effect or meant for a shot to be very low contrast, etc. and they will not change that. Also, if you are not pleased with something they've done, you can call or write and they virtually always will re-do it for you.
    I just printed some very tricky enlargements with MPIX--shots with delicate white balance of very snowy Arctic scenes with polar bears, some with unusual sunset colors from Africa, others capturing out of the ordinary colors in Icelandic landscapes. I developed the shots in Nikon NX2 and PSE6 (mac) and then let MPIX do its thing. I did not check the "do not correct" box per the rep's recommendation. End result: I may have some way to go in terms of improving my photography, but the printing by MPIX was fantastic (some in my portfolio)--I got exactly what my screen showed from MPIX.
  16. I had the same problem, calibrating with an eye-1 and then sending to MPIX and being too dark.
    To get to root of the problem required 2 preliminary steps for me (will get to the problem a bit further down).
    1) i ordered a calibration kit from MPIX which consists of a .tif image on a disk and an 8 x10 glossy of the same pic.
    2) i got a canon pixma 9002 mark 2 printer and Cacnon Plaitnum Pro paper (which actually eliminated need for mpix)
    I then displayed the print on disk on a calibrated monitor and it was not even close to matching, however when i printed it as it on the canon printer, using paper profiles, and letting photoshop manage the profile, it came out perfect.
    (by the way having my own quality printer allows me to control the whole process much better you can get $400 if ordered along wiht a camera making the cost of the printer $50, or you can get them on ebay for about $200 new)
    I had calibrated a samsung 2450H 24 inch monitor - what i found out is that the cheaper monitors cannot really be callibrated correctly, despite what Eye-1 and others say in the hope of selling you there kits or the monitor manfacturers claim. The reason is because of the mechanisms used for backlighting and mapping. Any monitor under $400 to 500 will use the cheaper mechanism and the highlights simply do not map correctly. If you try to adjust for the highlights, then the shadows get way messed up. They can look reasonably good but do not map correctly for printing: bottom line it was impossible to calibrate that monitor correctly to map to a color gamut for printing - my prints looked about 1 stop too dark.

    I had an old dell 24inch ultra-sharp that used a more reasonable technology (not top of the line, but closer). I could get this monitor calibrated reasonably correct if i first set the brightness to 50% and the contrst to 50%, instead of using the100% instructions in eye-1. Actually if i used manual methods along with the mpix calibration print and canon prints i got it close.
    The old dell ultrahsarp is not perfect, but usable.
    From my research online, a good solution within the affordable range is the new dell U2410 24inch ultrasharp monitor which sells for about $500. Lots of reviews from photographers are very good, but also there are some reviews with problems with th emonitor, so do your research. They come factor pre-calibrated, but there are lots of things that can effect calibration, and some people do not realize this and complain rather than re-calibrate the monitor.
    There is also one from HP that is meant to be good at this price range. These monitors will do 100% of sRGB and 96% or more of the Adobe Rgb gamut and have internal 12 bit maps instead of 6 bit maps.
    They also use a different backlighting and display mechanisms. The dells are a bit warmer then the nec. Any monitor you get must use IPS. The necs will store the adjustments in the monitor itself.
    Next up is the dell 27Inch and a number of monitors from nec and others that will get you into the $1000 price range, and from there the sky is the limit (try $7000)

    For myself the old dell ultrasharp works for now, and in the future i will get the newer 24Inch U2410 model. Do not be concerned with gaming speed, and for a cheaper monitor, if it has the controls, set it for a slower response rate (not faster).
  17. If MPIX can't print a visible separation between 6,6,6 sRGB Black and 35,35,35 gray which are the readings I get of that image in Photoshop CS3, then you need to build or find a profile that compensates.
    Or edit to blindly guess at the compensation in the color space you send to MPIX. I'm assuming you're sending them sRGB images.
  18. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    Altering the display “calibration” by adjusting the display for this MPIX file now invalidates every other output other than this lab. IOW, the display calibration should be output agnostic in terms of a single provider. The calibration is specifically targeted to match the print (from any device), next to your display while soft proofing it with the printer profile in Photoshop. Does MPIX provide such a profile and actually use it for the printing? Probably not.
    The correct calibration targets (luminance, white point) is that which produces a visual match of print and display! See:
  19. So, after further consideration, I am starting to think that viewing angle is playing more of a role in this than I thought. I need to raise the monitor and angle it up so that I am looking at either 90 and centered, or even moving my head a little lower. Also, I'm re-evaluating what I consider proper exposure and to me, even without changing anything the originals are looking more and more dark, although still not as dark as the prints. I think my black levels in ACR were too high as well. I'll keep playing. Thanks to all of you who looked at my picture and provided feedback and corrections!
  20. I think Stuart's edits look good using my calibrated NEC p221 monitor. Definitely figure out what went wrong with your own display before trying to figure out the printing end of things.
  21. The problem here is calibrating a TR type monitor, just cannot get it perfect, and eye-1 calibration on these types of monitors is not accurate, at least for a samsung 2450H, and some hp laptop screens. This is not a fault of the calibration equipment rather a limitation of the monitor itself.
    One thing in common with the cheaper screens i was trying to calibrate is that they are LCD backlight, where as the Dell that i did get calibrated used the old flourescent backlighting. Another quality of TR type dipslays is that they do not have coherance from different angles, i.e., on my 24inch screen looking straight at it, there is a difference from the upper to the lower part of the screen, that is the gamma shifts as i shift my eye level. In contrast the dell ultrasharp looks the same from very different angles.

    Matching the mpix print against your onscreen display of the mpix tiff with an embeded profile And viewing in photoshiop) will give you a ballpark, i.e., if it is way off then that tells you something is wrong, i.e., if 200,200,200 looks like 240,240,240.

    take a look at
    Basically if you turn down the luminance too low, your shadows look nice, then you loose the proper mapping of the highlights, i.e., it is not a smooth gamma curve. Maybe you can see zone 1, zone 9, and different gradiants in between, but the difference between each gradiant will be wrong.
    But if you do not turn the luminance down super low, then your prints will look too dark when printed.
    I tried this for days on a couple different cheaper monitors, and if i got one part right, the other side of the curve was wrong.
    Either you have to take this into account visually when you edit your pictures, or else get an IPS type monitor.

    Please, if i am wrong, then someone out there tell me, and help all of us out with the cheaper monitors.
  22. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    Basically if you turn down the luminance too low, your shadows look nice, then you loose the proper mapping of the highlights, i.e., it is not a smooth gamma curve.​
    Don’t turn it down so low (many LCD’s cannot hit luminance below 120-130cd/m2 without introducing compensation in the LUTs which you don’t want), RAISE the print luminance to produce a visual match. All spelled out in the URL above.
  23. I will be traveling and cannot carry the heavier dell, but can fit the lighter samsung TR monitor in my suitcase so i am stuck with the monitor for a few months.

    Thanks Andrew, I read the link and will try again in a few days once settled again with the Samsung monitor, using about 140 for the luminance. Will report how it goes.

    I trust the canon ICC paper profile, the Mark2 printer, and the mpix reference print (at least for a starting point), as my local printed output from the supplied tiff file exactly matches the reference print mpix included; yet the mpix tiff image looked too dark when viewed on my (calibrated???) samsung monitor in even daylight lighting. The colors were supprisingly spot on, but the match of luminance for each zone was not, not even close.
    For reference i have the computer near to a northeast window, as well as other windows with good overhangs that provide an overall even illumination, so the color temperature is fairly constant during the day, not a viewing booth, but also not a mixture of different light sources. At night i would not even think about trying to calibrate because of the uneven and unkown color consistancy.
    I have read that it is better not to change the color temperature of a monitor from its native point (65) at least for cheaper monitors. Yet this does not match the daylight kelvin of the viewing area - is that a problem (the approx 5k to 6.5k mismatch)??? As mentioned above i did not view a color shift between the print and monitor, only a lack of luminance matching, but also my initial foray is hardly a comprehensive test.
    Now that i have some reasonably good glass, i am planning on saving over the next year for a high quality monitor and viewing scenario so that my editing will match the prints, along with some basic framing tools. Whats the point of having great pics if they cannot be properly shared with the world or express the initial vision contained in the print?
    Thanks out there for all who have the patience with us that are still learning, and perhaps use the wrong words or do not fully grasp all the concepts yet; your feedback is very helpful.
  24. digitaldog

    digitaldog Andrew Rodney

    Its true that with cheaper displays, Native is the way to go to avoid banding. But if Native WP produces a print to screen mismatch, its the lesser of two evils. I’d then pick a target WP that results in a match.

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