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12-12-2019, 10:59 AM   #1
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My printed calendar photos are often dark

I find that the prints in my online-purchased photo calendars are frequently too dark. Is this possibly related to the vendor (until recently Snapfish), or am I systematically underexposing during processing? (I shoot RAW)

12-12-2019, 11:16 AM   #2
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Maybe you could upload a raw image here, I'm sure there are members who could help you with that.
12-12-2019, 11:44 AM   #3
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Monitor

Do you set your monitor consistently and moderately while editing? I set my monitor at exactly .5 brightness throughout the editing process. (iMac 5K). I have never had a problem with overly dark or bright photos, and I've used four different printers for client/for sale prints.

In my experience, a lot of people like using a very bright phone or computer screen. If you're one of them, that could be the issue. Good luck!
12-12-2019, 11:45 AM   #4
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How are you checking photos before sending them to print? Try different displays, I usually test on my computer and then on the phone, and at different screen brightness settings and on a white background instead of the dark grey from my editor. There are more accurate ways to calibrate the monitor, and to include printer profiles for soft proofing. Another option is to get some small prints done on the same final paper, with different processing settings, and get a sense of how it renders. I've learned to make shadows brighter when sending prints to my usual lab, most paper tends to render dark tones darker than my cheap monitor.

12-12-2019, 12:21 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I suspect your screen brightness setting is causing you to adjust exposure incorrectly in post-processing. For general use - including photo editing - I have my screens profiled for 110cd/m2 luminance, which I find is bright enough. If you're printing regularly, though, you might want a profile at, say, 80 - 90cd/m2...
12-12-2019, 12:21 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lambic Quote
I find that the prints in my online-purchased photo calendars are frequently too dark. Is this possibly related to the vendor (until recently Snapfish), or am I systematically underexposing during processing?
It could be a little bit of both. There is a difference when a picture emits light itself (on the monitor) or when it just reflects light (print -> a good lighting is important for a print to look good too), given that discrepancy between monitor and print, every print, no matter how good, will look different from its digital file.

Now to your exposure problem: If your monitor setting is too bright all your prints will appear underexposed (also check your histogram -> I think it is usually best to use as much of the area between black and white as possible for printing)

But there are also differences between the vendors you use. I usually use the same vendor for consistency, because I already know how to treat my images to get good results from them.
12-12-2019, 12:37 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lambic Quote
I find that the prints in my online-purchased photo calendars are frequently too dark. Is this possibly related to the vendor (until recently Snapfish), or am I systematically underexposing during processing? (I shoot RAW)
This is the most commonly asked question when folk get images printed. You have had some good advice above about setting your monitor correctly. You can also use the soft-proofing software of some photo editors to simulate the print result, this involves your printer being able to supply a color profile file. This does also presuppose that you calibrate your screen correctly with a X-Rite or something similar. But even just turning down the brightness will help.

What I often do is to have a small print produced, which will confirm if my editing is correct before I order a larger print or a print run.

Last edited by pschlute; 12-12-2019 at 02:30 PM.
12-12-2019, 01:00 PM   #8
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I have used Snapfish a few times and that is normally the case. Now I make them brighter before sending them.

12-12-2019, 02:41 PM - 1 Like   #9
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Don't forget about your room's brightness. If your room is too bright or too dark then you will naturally, but unknowingly, adjust the image according to that ambient light level.

I think all monitor calibration tools include an ambient light measurement in them. If the system tells your room is too bright/dark and if you have a dimmer switch then you can easily adjust the room ambience level.

@othar's note on watching your histogram is good. Sometimes that all you have to work with, especially if processing while traveling.

Also, check if you can get the printing profile from your vendor. Ideally, they should all be calibrated to sRGB but calibrations drift or are mismanaged. A good deal on lower cost paper appears and they take it. All the calibration goes out the window.

Nothing beats a few test prints.



Even then, all printing process are a little different.
12-12-2019, 07:27 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam007 Quote
Do you set your monitor consistently and moderately while editing? I set my monitor at exactly .5 brightness throughout the editing process. (iMac 5K). I have never had a problem with overly dark or bright photos, and I've used four different printers for client/for sale prints.

In my experience, a lot of people like using a very bright phone or computer screen. If you're one of them, that could be the issue. Good luck!
This is likely either the whole issue, or part of if. Always lower your brightness. By default, most, if not all, monitors are set to 100% brightness. Lower it. The first day will be dim, but after that you will not notice.

Also, are you loading their printer profile? That might help if you save the image in their printer profile.
12-13-2019, 03:54 PM   #11
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Excellent thoughts, everyone. Thank you.

I'll certainly bring my monitor brightness down. I don't know if I'll have any way of gauging exactly what brightness it's at, but I can certainly lower it to about half. No time to do a test print, I'm afraid... not this time.
12-13-2019, 04:45 PM   #12
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Not only could it be your monitor, but paper does not produce its own illumination. You should be able to soft proof the image before printing to get a better idea of what it will look like. Calibrating your monitor and profiling the paper for the printer will go a long way to resolving the issue. Remember, when viewing a print, it will not any brighter than the blank paper under the light you are using. Or maybe you have paper with a brightness control

PS: the last sentence was a bad joke - nothing personal.
12-13-2019, 04:57 PM - 2 Likes   #13
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If you have prints in front of you that are too dark, a quick and dirty way to make an adjustment would be to take one of the images that was printed (the jpg) and open it up on the screen.

Then holding it side by side with the print, adjust the monitor brightness until the image on the screen roughly matches the print.

From that point on, you can edit and process raw files so they look right to you on the screen and presumably the brightness of the print will match. It's probably a bit better than just setting at 50% and going (not that 50% won't be right).
12-13-2019, 07:01 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by emalvick Quote
If you have prints in front of you that are too dark, a quick and dirty way to make an adjustment would be to take one of the images that was printed (the jpg) and open it up on the screen.

Then holding it side by side with the print, adjust the monitor brightness until the image on the screen roughly matches the print.

From that point on, you can edit and process raw files so they look right to you on the screen and presumably the brightness of the print will match. It's probably a bit better than just setting at 50% and going (not that 50% won't be right).
No no and no.

You do not compare reflective and projected properties side by side. As I said before - paper does not have a brightness knob. You need a calibrated monitor, controlled lighting and soft proof abilities. Relying on the Mark I eyeball will fail every time.
12-16-2019, 10:04 AM   #15
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The point was to get closer to satisfactory output with some consistency. I would think 'calibrating' your monitor's brightness to a print is a good start.
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