TWiP Family 025: Martin Bailey on Making Great Prints

Martin Bailey


Many of the guests on TWiP Family encourage parents to print their family photos. It’s the right thing to do. But have you ever been disappointed with how your image looked when it was printed? I have.

For this episode of TWiP Family, I talked to Martin Bailey about how to get better prints from our digital images. Martin is an expert on printing. He wrote the (very beautiful and thorough) ebook, Making the Print. He is an X-rite Coloratti and the man behind the long running podcast, The Martin Bailey Photography Podcast.

If your prints are too dark, turn down your monitor’s brightness. You can set your default brightness and the computer will adjust the brightness depending on the light in the room. Even more important, realize that your camera will create images that are dark to begin with. If your monitor brightness is high, you won’t realize your photos are dark. Use your histogram to make sure your images are well exposed. Martin talks about why he exposes to the right. (If you want to know more about exposing to the right – check out Martin’s post about ETTR.)

Next we talk about calibration. When I first heard about calibrating my computer monitor, my eyes glazed over. It sounded complicated to me. But, after getting one hundred dollars of prints that were a strange orange color, I bought a calibration tool. It’s not complicated to use. My kids love watching all the different colors flash up on the screen. Martin also suggests sending off a few test prints before placing a big order – good advice that would have saved me some money. I use the Color Munki Display. If you print at home, Martin suggests the Color Munki Photo.

This week, I ordered prints. After applying what I’d learned from this interview with Martin Bailey, I got back beautiful prints. Let me know how your next round of prints turn out. You are printing your photos, right? Your mom needs some. Facebook posts and emailed pictures are not enough.

Martin’s Simple Tip for Parents

Be prepared. Don’t wait until something happens to turn on your camera. Be ready for the shot before your kid does something adorable.

Connect with Martin Bailey: Website, Twitter, Facebook

Connect with me: Website, Facebook, Instagram

Join the TWiP Family Facebook group – share photos, ask questions and connect with other TWiP Family listeners.

Today’s show was created to answer a listener question. If you have a topic you’d like to hear more about on this family photography podcast, a favorite photographer you’d love to hear from, or a question about your family photography, email me at

Next week on TWiP Family, I share my conversation with Davina Fear. Davina photographs families and talks about familyness – that’s family + happiness.

  • But is ETTR still necessary? That made sense maybe for film or the very early days of digital, where shadows were hard to recover. Now, digital sensors have incredible dynamic range, and you can recover shadows and underexposed images without much noise. If you expose to the right with digital, it is much harder to recover highlights.

  • mmmarc, in the film days, the opposite was true. It was better to under expose images for better color. This is a digital technique. For sure though, as the sensors improve, this is not as ‘necessary’ as it used to be, but, not using the ETTR technique will cause your shadows to become muddier than necessary, even with low ISO settings, and as you increase your ISO, ETTR makes a world of difference.

    Note too that if you are having to ‘recover hightlights’ you have gone too far. With ETTR you stop as the highlights reach the right shoulder of the histogram, so there are no blown highlights to ‘recover’.

    Wether or not you use this technique is totally for you to decide. If you don’t mind having muddy shadows that get even worse as you brighten images for print, because they are too dark otherwise, then you don’t have to change a thing. It’s definitely more work to use ETTR techniques, but in my opinion, the results are worth it.

  • mmmarc, let me weigh in, if I may. It has all to do with logarithms. The dynamic range that the sensor has is not distributed equally over the very dark and very light portions of the image. Most of the information is in the brighter areas. That’s just the way it is, because the camera is/has to be set to be light sensitive. Cameras are also set to 18% grey, which is a very light grey, and which is why we use grey cards; not just to calibrate white balance, but also to measure exposure. So, if you think about it in the Ansel Adams Zone System; 30% of all the dynamic range lies in zone 9 (bright). You got 70% left for zones 1-8. Now, 30% of THOSE 70% are distributed to zone 7; this goes on up to zone 1… So you have less and less information the more into the darks you go.

    Does that make sense?

    The reason you get so much information out of the darks is because of the better and better ISO performance of modern cameras; also it is quite tricky to get the exposure just right for a specific scene. It is really easy to overexpose and “burn out” all the lights…

    I also tend to underexpose my RAWs, dunno why – I think it comes from the analog times, as Mr. Bailey was saying. When I shoot color-JPG I tend to overexpose +0,3 or +0,5.

    Again, ETTR does make sense, but if you can get away with underexposing (noise-wise) and you like the look of underexposed images, then go for it!

  • Thanks for the tips about monitor settings! Would you reccomend apps that change the color hue as well? I am not talking about the printing process, but when you are editing your images. Thanks.

  • Nice explanation above Florian.

    For the display color hue, do you mean calibration? If so, I wouldn’t bother using just an app, as the results are not measured accurately, and displays are so good these days that any modifications done by eye alone probably aren’t worth doing, IMO. I would recommend using some of the hardware I mentioned to actually measure and change the display profile for you accurately.

  • Sorry, wasn’t really clear about what I meant…I am/have been using f.lux a lot. I used to write a lot, and I noticed that f.lux really made a difference for me, especially when working late at home with artificial light. I have been thinking about using it again, because nowadays, I only get to edit my stuff at night, after work, and it takes some time to adjust my eyes to the monitors hue (not brightness, my iMac takes care of that – thx for the hint w/ the luminance-control, btw)… Anyway, would you say adjusting f.lux to the Kelvins of the lights in my room is good enough for editing; or is the “real” calibration that much more precise?

  • Aah, I see what you mean. Something like f.lux is great for, like you say, text based work. Email, writing, etc. But for photography, I think it’s more important to see your colors accurately via calibration. We get used to the color of the light emitted from the screen, and adjust to it without issues, so for photography, f.lux is not recommended. If you find that you can’t sleep through looking at blue light right up until bedtime though, it’s certainly something to think about. Just don’t use it when you are editing photographs. 🙂

  • THX, that makes sense. And thanks for taking the extra time and “lingering” in the forum section 😉

  • >