Lightroom Q&A: What’s the Best Way to Brighten Your Photos for Print?

I got an email from some one the other week asking if my Print Brightness presets still work for Lightroom 5. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re presets that I created back in 2010 that increase the Brightness slider for printing purposes, because prints often come out darker than what you see on screen. Anyway, the answer to the question is that they won’t really work like they used to because Lightroom 4 & 5 both use different sliders in the Develop module (my presets were created for Lightroom 3 back in 2010).

So the next question is, did I create new presets for Lightroom 5? Nope. See, Lightroom 5 (and version 4) has a slider in the Print module for just this purpose. The problem with using a Develop module slider is that once you brighten your photo, and print it, you’ll need to go back and un-brighten the photo for saving an image for the web or something like that. But by using the Print Brightness slider in the Print module, the brightening only gets added to the print. Any place else you use the photo, it’ll stay exactly as it was.

print-brightness

So if you’re doing any printing from Lightroom, make sure you try out the slider to increase the brightness a little if you find your prints are coming out too dark. Enjoy!

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the full-time Director of Education for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He's the Editor-in-Chief of Lightroom Magazine, the lead instructor on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom LIVE Seminar Tour and author of several best-selling Photoshop books. Matt also hosts the world's top Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com, where he's built up a massive library of Lightroom videos, presets and tips. In addition to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world, he's an instructor at Photoshop World and one of the full-time staff writers for Photoshop User Magazine.

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14 Comments

  1. Any reason why Photoshop CC doesn’t do it the same way?

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  2. If the photographer is using a color managed work flow, with a hardware calibrated monitor and the appropriate printer profiles for the ink and paper in use, why would a print brightness adjustment be needed? Without a calibrated monitor, adjusting the brightness for prints would be hit or miss.

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    • @ Jim K- I wish I knew the answer to that. I purchased a wide gamut 16×10 “pre-calibrated” Dell monitor. I’m not naive enough to think It would never need calibration but frankly the whole color workflow/ calibration thing is a bit of a confusing science. Not to mention the horror stories I’ve read about calibrating wide gamut monitors when reviewing colorimeters. All I know is, if I don’t brighten a photo 50 – 75% with the print mod brightness slider my photos print dark.

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    • Agree with Jim on this. By Matt’s same argument there should be a “brightness slider” in the Book module ;). This initially irked me since my books were coming back too “dark”, but I was convinced that a proper colour managed work flow would help. This didn’t completely eliminate the need to tweak images destined for output (in my case Books) so I now implement a further element within my work flow, which is to create virtual copies of the target images (and it is these virtual copies that are “brightened/developed” uniquely for the target destination). For print destinations I’ve found that proper colour management and soft-proofing are all I need (soft-proofing really does create a virtual copy for the print destination, when soft-proof changes are commited).

      BTW, here’s the Blurb brightness control suggestion from a while back:

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      • Blank link title in my last post (no comment preview ;)). Corrected here:

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        • Yeesh, still not working – Matt, I’ll assume you’ll fix up these link title attempts (or just remove them if you like). Sorry about that!

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  3. I would like to have this slider in the export module : I use this module to export my pictures into files and I send this files to dedicated web sites for printing posters or books.
    Perhaps in LR6 ?

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  4. I would like to have this slider in the export module : I use this module to export my pictures into files and I send this files to dedicated web sites for printing posters or books.
    Perhaps in LR6 ?
    Thanks for all your tips :)

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  5. Any guidance as to how much you typically use on both brightness and contrast sliders?

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  6. Matt – Can you make a recommendation on how much brightness and contrast you use in the Print Module in various situations?

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  7. Thank you very much for posting this, Matt! All this time I thought it was just me and a poorly calibrated monitor. I should have caught on that they have “print job” adjustment settings in the print module for a reason. It’ll also be a good reason to finally learn how to install presets.

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  8. Thanks for excellent advice on photo printing! I shall try this next time I print photos that need brightening up.

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  9. That’s all well and good for those that print at home, but some of us use labs, and for those people there is no quick fix. I can’t tell the number of times I was looking forward to my prints just to find them coming back dark and dull, which is not only sad, but also a complete waste of time and money. A slider on the export module as suggested earlier by someone would be a great idea. Until such time…..

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    • Hi Roland – there is a Print to JPEG feature in the Print module (top of the Print Job panel on the bottom right). It reads whatever the Brightness slider is and applies it to 1 or however many images you want. Sounds like it’ll do exactly what you’re asking for.

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