Are Your Prints Too Dark?; The Cause, And The Cure Page 2

The easy-to-use software, via a USB connection to the ColorEdge display, supports adjusting the display’s 12-bit hardware performance to meet specific targets for professional use in either publishing or photography with appropriate aim points of gamma and color temperature, and a white luminance of 80.0 CD/m2 for each. In addition, the ColorNavigator supports custom configurations, including a means to simulate white paper, and compensate for environmental ambient light, as well as additional refinements to obtain the best possible image reproduction.

ColorEyes Display Pro is a display adjustment, calibration, and profiling application that may be purchased by itself (software only) if you have a supporting colorimeter like a Spyder or i1Display, or with a colorimeter package. It is easy to use with a logical, progressive guided tour. And most importantly, it provides the means to set your display brightness at a level (white luminance of 90.0 CD.m2, for instance) either automatically if your display has DDC support, or manually without DDC, and obtain a calibration and profile generation providing a high level of photographic image reproduction quality.

The EIZO CG222W LCD display provides brightness and color compensation with their Digital Uniformity Equalizer (DUE) for a Delta-E difference of less than three across the display screen. In addition, 16-bit grayscale internal processing is provided, as well as a hood for viewing. This latest EIZO model provides a wide color gamut of 92 percent of Adobe RGB, closely matching color captured in Adobe RGB mode. To assure critical color-stable brightness, a drift sensor and correction capability unique to EIZO is also part of the capabilities. This new 22” CG222W model provides 1680x1050 native resolution, 800:1 maximum contrast ratio, 200 CD/m2 maximum brightness, 178? viewing angle, as well as dual DVI-I input interface connectors. The retail price of the CG222W display listed on their website is $1499.

Using Adobe’s Lightroom 2.3 I revisited the original Canon raw files from my test report on the Canon EOS 5D using the LaCie 320 display adjusted and profiled with ColorEyes Display Pro. These images were challenging to say the least, as this shiny metallic building bends all the rules. I was able to improve on my initial color correction, adjustment, and editing of these raw files in this new test, and the finished result produced a print that was an excellent match to the screen image in every respect.

A Solution For Too-Bright LCD Displays—ColorEyes Display Pro
After doing the side-by-side tests with my Sony CRT and an LCD, and confirming the results that the CRT did not cause prints too dark, and after an extensive test using the new EIZO ColorEdge CG222W LCD display and obtaining prints that were of ideal density matched to the screen image, I was thoroughly convinced of the solution to this problem: The solution to the prints too dark problem is a display that matches the print output gamut in brightness. But how does one get an LCD display’s white luminance down to 90.0 CD/m2 with good image reproduction quality? I’d tried that before and had been disappointed.

Integrated Color
(www.integrated-color.com) had sent me a demo of their ColorEyes Display Pro software sometime ago, but at the time I did not see any advantage in their calibration and profiling application. However, because of an exchange with a user with an iMac who was having a serious “prints too dark” problem with screen brightness being so high that the Apple iMac brightness adjustment would not lower sufficiently, I took notice of a news release from Integrated Color announcing a new Version 1.42 for the Apple Mac. This new version included support for the Apple Cinema Displays, including iMacs, that allowed adjustment, calibration, and profiling at a lowered white luminance. So I got in touch with Integrated Color and downloaded their latest version to try it with my LCD displays.

With my favorite software, SilverFast DCPro Studio, I reopened a set of Canon EOS 5D files, this time using the LG L2000C LCD display I have recommended as a “best buy.” Set at 90.0 CD/m2 and calibrated and profiled with ColorEyes Display Pro, I found the screen reproduction was even better than I had previously obtained with this display.

ColorEyes Display Pro offers four distinct methods of functioning, including DDC (Direct Digital Control), LCD Brightness/Gain (contrast), Brightness only, and Apple Monitor, as well as selections for CRT monitors. If an LCD display is connected via DVI and has DDC support (including current Apple Macs with Cinema Displays), the adjustment of the display internally is effected by the ColorEyes software, including white and black luminance settings, gamma, and color temperature (white point), and, if the display has its own LUTs, adjustment of color by ColorEyes Display Pro. Then, once these adjustments are made, the display is calibrated and a profile created. With LCD displays that do not have DDC support, the manual display adjustment controls must be used to set brightness and contrast to set the white and black luminance levels, and then the calibration and profiling process is completed. The procedures are well explained by a “guided” on-screen mode, and the adjustment, calibration, and profiling is an easy process to complete, with a profile resulting, as well as boot-up calibration and a read-out of the results.

I have three LCD displays—a LaCie 320, an LG L2000C, and a Samsung SyncMaster 204B—covering the higher-end, mid-level, and consumer price ranges. The LaCie 320 has DDC support so I was able to use that mode with ColorEyes Display Pro, but the LG and Samsung have only manual brightness and contrast adjustments, so I had to reach the 90.0 CD/m2 white luminance level aim point by altering the brightness and contrast settings of the displays using the buttons for adjustment with the displays’ on-screen dialogs.

To be sure that the experience I had using SilverFast with the LG L2000C at 90.0 CD/m2 was not an exception to the rule, I opened Aperture and reprocessed some of the car show images I had used to test the latest version of Apple’s Aperture. With several of the Canon EOS 5D raw files I cleared the previous adjustments and started from scratch to do a fresh color correction and adjustment of the images. This double-check on myself more than confirmed that by adjusting the L2000C display brightness from 120.0 CD/m2 to 90.0 CD/m2, and then calibrating and profiling with ColorEyes Display Pro, I actually produced a better perceptual environment for image editing. I was able to obtain even better looking corrections and adjustments to the images, but also files exported that printed at an ideal density matching what was on screen.

With the LaCie 320 in DDC mode, the ColorEyes Display Pro achieved a white luminance just under 90.0 CD/m2 after it had been chosen as the aim point for brightness. Adjusting LCD displays manually by setting the brightness and contrast is a bit of a trial-and-error process, usually reducing both levels significantly but not by the same amounts. The contrast (gain) essentially provides most of the reduction in brightness—white luminance—but reducing contrast too much to achieve a 90.0 CD/m2 also can result in a muddy-looking image reproduction, so contrast must be balanced with a lower brightness. In short, contrast should not be lowered too much. However, if the brightness setting is too low, shadow values in photo images may be too dark to see detail. In other words, contrast and brightness both have to be lowered but neither by too much or poor image reproduction qualities result. It is not difficult to get there with a little patience.

With all three of my LCD displays now adjusted to gamma 2.2 and 6500K with a brightness white luminance of 90.0 CD/m2, down from 120.0 CD/m2, I set about doing tests using each of the three displays with Photoshop, Aperture, SilverFast HDR, and Lightroom. I color corrected and adjusted raw, high-bit scan files, processed raw format D-SLR image files, and inputted from my two scanners with color corrected, adjusted image files ready for printing. These files were printed with an Epson R2400 or an Epson R800 using various paper stocks. The resulting prints were all a close match in density appearance to their counterpart on screen, with but one exception out of over 30 prints, a shadowy representation of a house that has never been easy to get correct either on screen or in a print—but I had to give it a try.

Delicate, pastel colors and a high key setting are not easy to capture in a Kodachrome slide, and also a challenge to scan and print digitally. But with a too-bright LCD display under control I got a scan file adjusted to print all of the subtleties in this image accurately.

The Bottom Line—How You Can Avoid “Prints Too Dark”
Ideally, if you can afford a professional-quality LCD display like the EIZO ColorEdge CG222W with its ColorNavigator software application to do adjustment, calibration, and profiling, I can definitely assure you that using the standard setup aim points for photography that the EIZO supports will yield excellent prints that are as close a match between screen image and print as anyone could imagine or expect. In my experience with LCD displays it does not get any better, at least for ordinary photographers like myself.

Personally, I would like every serious digital photographer to have access to an LCD display like the EIZO ColorEdge CG222W. But such an idealistic dream is unlikely, and it is unlikely such a display will be affordable to but a few as long as the price is almost $1500. So if you, like me, have to make do with a less costly solution, my tests indicate that even a very modestly priced 20” LCD display, like the Samsung SyncMaster 204B or the LG L2000C, can be adjusted to a 90.0 CD/m2 white luminance level and calibrated and profiled to provide an effective screen image quality that supports very good image editing and adjustment performance with applications like Photoshop.

Unfortunately my trials are limited to very few models and makes of displays, so I cannot say if others will adjust to a 90.0 CD/m2 level and function as well. I doubt that older, analog LCD displays will, but many models from the last 2-3 years may. So my suggestion is to download a free demo copy of ColorEyes Display Pro if you already have either an X-Rite i1Display or ColorVision/Datacolor Spyder colorimeter; install the software and give it a try. The URL is www.integrated-color.com.

Correction: In the article I mentioned that DDC support is included with Apple monitors. According to Integrated Color Corp., makers of ColorEyes Display Pro, "This leads the customer to select DDC LCD in ColorEyes for their Apple monitor which will then fail. The error will say DDC communication failed, will switch to LCD brightness only. If they select the Apple monitor choice instead, all is good." My apologies for any confusion or inconvenience this has caused.

David Brooks can be reached via e-mail at: goofotografx@gmail.com.

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