I'm struggling a bit with how to judge if a photo will be bright enough when printed, while I'm working on it on my monitor. "Bright enough" of course changes with the ambient or targeted lighting where it will be displayed, this, that and the other thing, yes, but I'd like to set that aside as much as possible here.
I do not print at home; I send my pictures to labs (e.g., Whitewall).
My monitor is calibrated and characterized. The candela is currently at 120 cd/m2. That's too bright... at least, well, let me explain.
Of course, one of the things I've tried is to lower my screen brightness quite low, 80 cd/m2, maybe even less. That helps, but comes at the price of reducing colors and contrast--at least my perception of them. Also, the 120 cd/m2 mark has the advantage of being bright enough for normal computer use with the window shade up.
Another thing I try to do is consider the histogram. If the image has a nice bell shaped histogram, I try to make sure that the majority of it is to the right. This tactic helps, but only if the image lends itself to it. When the photo's histogram is all over the place, I have a harder time using it for decision making.
I've also noticed recently that setting the image window (the window where the photo appears in Photoshop and co.) to a white background totally changes how you see the picture: doing so instantly makes me want to crank up the brightness and often the saturation too. However, I have not yet tried this tactic for printing, and fear over-correcting the other way.
My goal of course is to stop ordering a gazillion test pictures; I'd like to be able to know that the photo will give a good print right off the bat.
So, my first question would be, has anyone else found that using a white background in their photo editing software is a good way to judge the brightness of the print to come?
And more largely, those of you who manage to "get brightness right the first time", how do you do it? What's your trick?
Thanks in advance for your ideas and advice and I hope that others will find the info helpful as well.