Hey everyone! I'm out in Las Vegas teaching at Photoshop World this week, but I wanted to kick the week off with a topic (and some presets) that I get asked about often.
The Old Printing Problem
Every time I get in front of a crowd and teach Lightroom I get a lot of questions about one topic… Printing. But the questions have changed over the years. The printing questions used to revolve around the color being off in the print compared to the screen. While I still get those sometimes, I think the industry as a whole has become more educated about using printer profiles and monitor calibration. I also think the software/hardware manufactures have improved things to make printing easier as well. So the color issues have subsided for the most part (in my experience from the people I talk to at least).
The New Problem
What I hear more and more though, are questions about why our prints come out darker than we expected. Whether you're printing the photo to an inkjet or sending them to a lab, they just seem darker than what you see on screen. The primary reason for this is the screen we look at our photos on. Nearly everybody has these beautiful backlit LCD screens. There's simply no way that this bright back lit screen can represent what my photo is going to look like when it's printed. It's got light behind it for Pete's sake! It's not a soft proof thing either. Soft proofing in Photoshop doesn't help this. In order for you to really preview what your print would look like, you'd have to set the brightness of your screen down considerably. I don't know about you, but I like my bright screen. It's nice to look at and I'm not willing to sacrifice what I look at all day long for this. If I were printing more during the day, then maybe it would be worth it, but (for me at least) it's not.
A Solution In Lightroom
So here's what I do. If my print comes out too dark, I go to the Develop module and increase the Brightness setting by about 10-15. Exposure tends to blow out the highlights pretty quickly, so I don't use it as a fix for dark prints. Brightness does a good job of just brightening the entire photo but still keeping the overall color, shadows and highlights intact. Then I print the photo again. If it's still too dark, I increase the Brightness setting more (maybe 20-25).
You Don't Have To Do This All the Time
While this trick works great, I typically don't have to create test prints every time. Use it on a few test prints and you'll hone in on what setting works best for your monitor/printing combination and style. You can create a preset for it (or just download the ones below) and you'll have a quick way to simply increase your photos brightness before you print (knowing it'll come out the right way since you've already tested this out).
Disclaimer: Remember, this is what I do and what works for me. I've calibrated my screen, my printer, soft-proofed and performed several exorcisms on my computer and this seems to be the best way for me to get what I see on screen to match what I get from the printer. If your results vary, let us know what works for you. Thanks