In this month's (December) issue of Shutterbug I have an article on page 68 initiated by a number of e-mail questions to Digital Help asking about various aspects of one problem: getting prints that match the image on your computer screen. Soon after the issue hit the newsstands I was informed that "prints too dark" was a big issue on the Adobe web site with over a hundred posts, and there were pages of references to it on Google. Some, and not just a few were a little angry that their printer manufacturer's support was helpless, and as far as I read there were few in the Adobe Forum who had any clues.
The last two days have been a bleary-eyed ordeal reading as many forum posts as I could on “prints too dark” from a Google search on that phrase, which obtains almost 2 million results. What I was looking for was as complete a picture as possible why people trying to make photo prints were getting unacceptably dark print output. I didn’t get very far into the almost 2 million results before my eyes gave out reading the forum posts, but I did find that a lot of users have discovered the cause of dark prints is an LCD display that is too bright. But confusion reigns when it comes to how to fix the problem, very often involving color management and the idea of using Photoshop’s “soft proofing”. Some forum gurus have been recommending adjusting the display brightness to match the print output, and actually that practical philosophy was used before there was such a thing as Color Management, but it largely precludes color matching using CM and a calibrated and profiled display, if in reality an LCD display can be reduced in brightness to actually match the range of print densities or the CRT monitors of the past. Some users found that instead of having their photo editing application control color, select having the printer driver control color, which with some printer drivers does provide an output print density adjustment and yields satisfactory print brightness results, but the downside is that some printer drivers will automatically adjust print density and others don’t, as well as color matching with what you see on-screen is not usually supported.
One of the primary functional advantages of Color Management for most individual computer users who are digital photographers is to facilitate making prints that match what they see on-screen in their computer’s display. In terms of color consistency, a Color Managed print workflow does achieve that goal, although too much complication and confusion can ensue in the implementation of a color managed print workflow, in my humble opinion.
I don’t know about you, but I often relied on sunglasses, “shades” when I was driving west in the afternoon. They helped a lot to see the road clearly reducing the extraneous direct light from the sun obscuring my view. The same idea applies to your LCD display. If you keep it shaded from extraneous light in the room where your computer is set-up you will see the image on screen more clearly and free from different and conflicting strays of light. Even in my north-facing room that’s dedicated as my lab, even with special Fobsun LED lamps for my environment lighting, and with a hood protecting the screen, my new Dell Ultrasharp U2410 has a cleaner, brighter screen image now that it has shades.
Color is a part of our environment and a part of our awareness of it from early on. We take it for granted and usually learn to identify colors by name before kindergarten. Our first foray into mixing paints teaches us that mixing red and blue produces purple and mixing yellow and blue, green. And if we have the benefit of science teaching and physics that color is a property of light and behaves in certain ways. Otherwise color is taken for granted, even for photographers whose awareness can be expanded to understand that the primary components of color in light are red, green and blue, and the colors of inks and dyes are their complements, cyan, yellow and magenta.
I posted a Blog on December 16, 2010 titled What Is Display Calibration & Profiling? There were a number of comments posted and several were questions. So I asked our blog expert if there was any practical way for me to obtain copies of the comments and the address of the comment source. The answer was no.
I would guess the casual consumer when confronted with images displayed on computer screens probably assumes there is some color standard involved that regulates what red, blue or yellow should look like that governs the manufacture of these displays. But that is an incorrect assumption as all color reproduction devices are what the industry calls “device independent”. In other words it is a “free market” and a maker of display screens, as well as printers and scanners, in fact any device that reproduces color information, is not held to any standard in terms of the observed color reproduced as the result to the specific RGB computer data sent to or received from the device.
“I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.” - Stephen Hawking (1942 - )
No this is not an article about politics, the Progressives against the party of NO!, both confronted by those apparently drinking something stronger than “tea” that want to blow up, destroy, or whatever to everything governmental. The computer world is beginning to also be a tangle of conflicting paths going in different directions with a mystery goal no one is talking about.
There was a time in my life when Will Rogers often stated, “I know only what I read in the newspapers.” had a resonance with people. No one has taken his place in American culture and spoken for what can be learned from TV, or what they read on-line. Maybe it is just changing too fast to make any sense. It sure is when it comes to managing color on a computer system. When that began to become popular, to buy a sensor and software to measure and color manage the differences between a computer monitor and a color printer, it worked for a few of us pretty well. I had been reading, studying and experimenting with color management for years hoping it would finally be realized for most of us with computers and then Adobe released Photoshop 5.0/5.5 and it was then a real possibility for everyone.