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…


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