WHY YOUR PRINTS ARE DARK

Seattle, Washington

WHY ARE YOUR PRINTS DARKER ON PAPER THAN YOUR SCREEN

A few years back I purchased a printer so I can see my photos in print. It's easier for me to find editing issues when I print my work. I guess I'm old school that way. After getting the printer set up, I opened Lightroom, found an image to print, and wow, terrible. It was dark, not the color that matched my monitor, and who knows what else was wrong. Either way, it was not good.

western anemone glowing the sunlight at sunset in mount rainier national park.
Transform your home or office space with limited edition prints from Randy Bott. Glowing Anenome. Limited Edition Prints of 100 available.

The main reason your images print dark has to do with the brightness of the monitor you are editing on. Most people have it set too bright. This causes the editor to think the image is brighter than it really is. To be clear, the monitor is not the problem, but rather the perceived brightness of the image. The screen is backlit and emitting light while the printed image is in ambient light.

sunset with mount rainier and wildflowers of lupine and western anemone.
Adding fine art prints from Randy Bott Photography can transform your home or office into an art gallery. Mount Rainier Anenome. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

This is one advantage of having your own printer. You don't need a crazy expensive printer. I have the Canon Pixma Pro-10. It holds 10 ink cartridges and does a really nice job. Downside is that it can only print up to 13x19 inch prints. However, at least I can print my images and see how they look. Are they dark, are the colors wrong, etc. When I print an image, I boost the exposure at least 1/3 of a stop brighter, sometimes up to 1/2 stop brighter. Once I feel the image prints correctly, I will send it to the printer and have them make some test prints. The last thing you want is to pay for a large print and it doesn't look right.

Three trees standing watch in the redwoods national and state parks at Damnation Creek trail.
Transform your home into a fine art gallery with limited edition prints from Randy Bott. Three Trees. Limited Edition Prints of 100 available.

Besides having your own printer, a monitor calibration tool will help get your monitor to the correct brightness. I use the Datacolor Spyder 5 Pro and the first step is to measure the ambient light. Once it starts calibration, it will have you change the brightness of you monitor. While this may not be completely accurate, it will be much closer to what the brightness of your monitor should be.

So what are some ways you can make sure your prints aren't too dark?

  • Always make test prints before you pay good money for a large print.
  • Calibrate your monitor.
  • Turn the brightness of your monitor down.
  • Make test prints.
  • Make test prints.
  • Did I mention you should make test prints.

The important thing is that you are printing your work. What is the point in taking all the photos and never see them in print. You don't have to print large every time. I have a lot of images printed from my Canon PIxma Pro 10 hanging on my wall. They are only 13x19 inch prints but they look good and I'm printing my work. Most important, have fun with photography and printing.

the sun creating a starburst against a tree in the Palouse next to Steptoe butte.

Tree Starburst

Just as the sun rises in the Palouse and sends golden light across the landscape, the sun creates a starburst with the tree. The glow of the morning light washes across the fields of the Palouse in Eastern Washington. I packed up my gear to head to a different location before the sun came up but figured I should stay and see what the light does. One of the best decisions I have made or an image. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.