Perhaps the most common problem in all modern photography is ‘too dark prints’. [Article courtesy of BenQ]

In fact, prints being too dark is a misstatement of the problem. Dark prints are a result of incorrectly set up/edited files, and those files are incorrectly set up because the tool you are using for setting up the files is not appropriate for print work.

The problem is in fact better stated as ‘why is your monitor too bright’ or ‘why does your monitor make you think your images are brighter than they really are’?

Modern monitors are almost all made the same way – as LED backed LCD panels. And LED lights are very powerful; for LEDs, pumping out light is easy. Out of the box, many monitors are set to 100% brightness, and the average monitor’s maximum brightness is currently around 300 cd/m2 or higher.

Even if you have adjusted the brightness down a fair bit, many monitors remain, in practice, set to levels of brightness that are far too high for print work. And worse, many general-purpose monitors – even on 0% brightness – simply can’t be brought down to levels appropriate for print work.

So the basic problem most people encounter is that their monitor is showing them an overly bright version of their image and leading them to incorrectly think their image is brighter than it actually is. Therefore when you go to print with a high quality print vendor who prints your files as supplied, you then experience the reality of ‘too dark prints’.

Long experience shows that an appropriate level of monitor brightness for print work is, for most people, between 80 and 120 cd/m2.

Solving the Problem

What is needed is a monitor, like the BenQ AQ Colour accurate monitors, that allow you to set and hit a very specific brightness target during calibration – and then for the monitor to hold itself consistently at the brightness level from session to session.  A short warm up time also helps you get productive straight away – typical monitors actually fluctuate in brightness for some time after being turned on, while monitors like the BenQ SW range take only a few minutes to settle and then hold to their calibrated brightness.

To properly achieve accurate prints – not just in brightness, but also in colour and tonality – you should explore monitor calibration. BenQ’s SW series monitors offer direction hardware calibration, so once you add a compatible calibrator you will have a system suitable for highly accurate print work. Even better, the system is easy to use and largely automatic.

Want To Learn More?

If you’d really like to understand digital colour from the ground up, then you should take advantage of Image Science (free!) guide to the Fundamentals Digital Imaging.  It’s a comprehensive guide to understanding everything you need to know to achieve really excellent results with digital imaging.

Article by Jeremy Daalder from Image Science.