What’s wrong with my print? Why is my print so dark?

What’s wrong with my print? Why is my print so dark?

Jessica Maleski

Feb. 20, 2019
Lessons Learned

Last week I choose a photo of my 12 year old playing his father’s guitar as my print for the week. My husband has been teaching him to play and letting him use his 80s Charvel and it was a portrait that I thought he would like to keep in his music room.
I followed all the steps: calibrated the monitor, edited non-destructively in Lightroom, choose a nice semi-gloss paper for deep contrast since I had chosen to develop the shot as a high-contrast black and white, soft-proofed for the paper and hit print. As the print came through the feeder though I was disappointed. All that work and expense and the print was too dark. Tommy’s face was somewhere in the zone 3-4 range — not exactly skin tone range — or not exactly the type of mood I was attempting to create, at any rate. What went wrong?

“When your print is too dark, your monitor is too bright.” according to Daniel Gregory.

The answer came out of the blue while I wasn’t even really looking for it. I had put the print aside and was going to spend the evening researching all the possible causes. But I was still at work. I was only half listening to the Creative Live show as I was finishing up grading papers and putting things away for the afternoon when the answer seemed to come out of the blue. Was it true? Was my monitor too bright?


Ah, yes it was! When I did the monitor calibration on my laptop, I skipped the brightness test. I couldn’t decipher the keyboard shortcut for raising and lowering the brightness level, my ADD kicked in and I got distracted and wandered on to the next step. Well, that came back to bite me. One wasted paper and a bit of wasted black ink (which was already running low) and now I’ve got to rip up that print (ouch!!) and make another.

Lesson learned: printing requires — no, demands — that you be methodical and precise. Not exactly my strong suite so I am being challenged to grow.

Next week: why is my print so blue? I thought I was printing a black and white…


Printing Photos at Home: Video Tutorials

Printing Photos at Home: Video Tutorials

Jessica Maleski

Feb. 20, 2019
Resource Guide
As I’ve been exploring the technical aspects of learning to make a good photographic print at home, I thought I’d share some of the amazing resources that have helped me. I will be sharing these resources on a regular basis here on Commit to Print.
Today, I ‘m focusing on video content. Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine – bigger than Bing and Yahoo combined? I know I tend to search there first when I’m looking for “how to” type info. I guess I’m not alone.

Here are four videos that I found inspirational and/or useful when I was first dipping my toes in the print world. Some of them give a great overview of the whole process and some are very inspirational – why you should even want to print in the first place.

Printing your Photos: Video Tutorials

My Printing Workflow from Start to Finish

Informative and interesting, British photographer Thomas Heaton covers all the basics in this 20 minute video. He walks through the steps, from selecting the image to print to packaging it up for mailing. A great place to start to see an overview of the entire process.

How and Why I Print My Photographs

British landscape photographer Simon Baxter offers a overview of his Photoshop-based print workflow. He also discusses how printing makes you a better photographer and shows off some of his incredible work.

DIY Fine Art Printing

In the B & H Event Space talk, Evan Parker, presenting on behalf of Moab papers, teaches about printing with archival inks on a variety of substrates and how it can be a creative extensions of your photographic work. He also gets into more creative techniques in the print workflow and how they can open your projects to new possibilities.

Advice on Printing Your Images

Another British photographer (they seem to have a corner on printing videos on YouTube), Sean Tucker, appeals to authority for advice on making the best prints of your work. In his interview with a professional printer at a London print lab, he touches on some of pre-print tips while explaining some of the print jargon in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

I could go on. There are so many tutorials and so many well made ones that are genuinely helpful and inspirational. Do you find yourself turning to YouTube for learning new skills? What channels do you find useful? Did I overlook a great printer that is sharing lots of stuff? Let me know in the comments below. While your commenting, why not go ahead and sign up for the commit2print reminder. Join me for a year of making prints.

Capturing Memories in Print

Capturing Memories in Print

Jessica Maleski

Feb. 14, 2019

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today let’s talk about honoring your loved ones with a beautiful print. If you are like me, you have hundreds of pictures of your children stored away on hard drives. I thought today would be a good day to find a special photograph to print.

Flipping through my Lightroom catalog, I was looking for a picture that would have a colorful and vibrant print. I needed a well exposed photo with an interesting deep color palette for the paper I planned on using, Canson Platine Fibre Rag. It’s a smooth glossy white paper that does not have any optical brighteners in it. What does that mean in English?

There is some controversy over whether optical brighteners actually cause the image to degrade over time or not but it does act to make the paper appear whiter to our eyes. Without the brighteners, the paper can appear more yellowish or cream colored.

For a portrait though, the warmer base of the paper is a nice thing. And so I thought it would be a good fit for the sleeping baby photo of Danny, my youngest. In the printed photo, he is about 4 months old. He’s now a big 7 year old.

Why I Choose to Print My Art Photography

Why I Choose to Print My Art Photography

Jessica Maleski

Date, 2019

A watershed moment.  As a community of photographers continually inspiring each other to perfect our craft, we have all had these moments at various times during our shared artistic journey.  A watershed moment is a significant turning point.  It is a life changing event in the artistic process that drives self discovery and takes your art to the next level.  It fundamentally changes the way you approach the camera and the overall artistic process.  Once you’ve experienced such a moment, it’s often hard (sometimes very hard) to look at your earlier photographs in quite the same way.  If you’ve been there you know exactly what I mean. 

My first watershed moment occurred when I first truly learned the ins-and-outs of how light is effectively captured by the camera lens.  This began my foray into controlled light photography.  Exploring the different elements and nuances of proper lighting has turned that initial foray into a 7 year long journey which has helped me grow tremendously as an artist.  That initial spark was just the inspiration I needed to push myself as a photographer and radically changed my way of approaching the camera and my art (for the better I think). 🙂

Print #3/52

So fast forwarding a few years, I found that I was simply at an impasse in my work.  I realized there was something missing from my artistic process but I couldn’t quite articulate what it was.  And then I stumbled across my second watershed moment.  I characterize it as a “stumble” because the answer had been staring me in the face for so many years but I never really saw it until now.  That’s how life goes sometimes, I guess.  Inspiration can come from so many unexpected places.  For me, it came in the form of a simple unassuming quote by Ansel Adams.

“The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance.” Ansel Adams

This quote had echoed in my mind for many years.  It wasn’t until recently that I finally understood the true essence of its meaning.  It seems like such a simple phrase but the words take on so many levels of meaning once you actually do it.  Print your photographs that is.  It seems so obvious in retrospect, but the only way to complete the artistic process that began with the click of the shutter is to push the print button. 

…the only way to complete the artistic process that began with the click of the shutter is to push the print button.

So why did it take so long for me to account for print as an integral part of the overall artistic process? It’s simple. As photographers, today we live predominantly in the digital realm. We capture images with our camera in the digital domain, store and process our photos on computers, and share our work with others via the internet. Digital is clean. Pristine. Efficient. But in reality, art is a reflection of what truly stirs the human soul. The height of our aspirations as well as the depths of our day-to-day struggles. Art in its true form is organic – flawed and imperfect. Like us. Printing your photographs brings your art to life.

The texture and weight of the print is art. The play of light which complements a black and white still is art. The subtly of colors is art. Your art now has an objective and independent existence. The photograph has been freed from the confines of the digital realm and has given its first performance in the real world. Display it in your home. Give it to your best friend as a special gift. Add additional artistic elements. Taking a little extra effort to print your best photos sets them apart from the hundreds of other shots that don’t quite make the cut. I am finding that it helps you to really focus as a photographer and artist.

I have printed just a handful of my art photos so far but I am really excited by the results and looking forward to the journey ahead. In lieu of another major photography project, I have decided to spend this year printing smaller works. My goal is to carefully and strategically learn from each print about any of the number of variables: ink, paper medium, color calibration, printer types, image size and quality. My hope is to form a community of photographers and artists who are also learning what it means to print our photos. I’ll be sharing my weekly print on Instagram using #commit2print. One print, once a week, for one year. If you are interested, join me! If you sign up below, I’ll just send a little reminder on Thursdays to make a print.