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I recently had an online lab print some of my photos and they all came out far darker than I was seeing them on my monitor.

They also sent me a calibration print which I could compare to the same print on their website. I turned down the brightness on my monitor until the print matched the online version, adjusted all my images and then had them reprinted and they were fine.

My question is, would a monitor calibration tool such as Spyder 3 Express perform this process automatically? or does it just alter the colour settings? The colours in the original prints were fine it was just that they were darker than I expected.

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3 Answers

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I have a Spyder 3 Pro, and it does not directly adjust the monitor brightness. Near the beginning of the calibration process, you'll set your monitor brightness to a certain value, and from there forward the device will calibrate with respect to white point, black point, and color values but it doesn't generally affect the brightness of the monitor itself.

That will calibrate your monitor to a known set of colors; as Rowland noted in his previous answer, getting things to sync with the color profile of the printer is often done with an ICC profile from the vendor for the particular piece of hardware they use for printing.

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This will depend on your monitor. Some color-calibration systems let you choose an initial brightness but it turns out that most monitors cannot maintain their full color-gamut at any level of brightness. So, you may end up with a choice between accuracy and desired brightness.

On my NEC LCD3090WQXi, the brightness interface actually lets you know when you are skewing your colors. The display also monitors itself and adjusts the backlight and internal tables to keep the colors accurate as long as possible.

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Screen calibration is a process of getting the colours on the screen to match what was supposed to be displayed.

As soon as you want to print, you need to understand the differences in colour gamut wit the profile of the lab (etc) uses; most allow you to download a colour profile (ICC file) or give you information on the equipment they use, so you can get the profile yourself. Once you have their profile, you can install it, and "soft proof" which emulates what it will look like when displayed (or printed) using that device.

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