This is what’s most likely going on in your scenario. Your monitor is too bright. There. It’s that simple. Basically, because your monitor isn’t calibrated correctly (too bright), dark images are appearing to be correct when they really aren’t. In reality, they’re too dark and that’s what your printer is showing when those images are printed. The print out is the actual brightness level of the photograph, not what the monitor is showing you. This is oftentimes a confusing concept to grasp for many people and this is why, when someone asks, “Hey, why are my photos looking so dark on my screen?,” people go ahead and brighten the screen. That’s just making the problem worse and when someone does that, their prints are likely to always look dark.
The answer to this problem is monitor calibration. Basically, when you calibrate the brightness of your monitor, you’re closely aligning what you’ll see on your screen to what you’ll see in your print. This is what the pros do.
I know of two very good calibration systems that you may want to look into that will calibrate your monitor to your printer. The first is X-Rite i1 and the second is Spyder 5 Pro Elite. Both of these systems will require that you install software on your computer and then hold a “puck” up against the monitor as the puck reads the colors that flash on the monitor. Once the reading is finished, you’ll be able to set up a profile on your computer for your monitor that you can use when you want to edit and print images.
Monitor color calibration is sort of an involved process, so I would advise that you look at different calibration systems to find the one you think might work for you. Once you adjust the brightness of your monitor, you’ll want to also calibrate the colors. You’ll calibrate the colors after to set the brightness because it’s the brightness that affects the colors. Once you properly set your monitor, I think you’ll see a huge difference and much more accurate results when it comes to your printing.
As far as calibration frequency goes, you’ll want to calibrate your monitors about once per month, or after any time someone makes an adjustment to your monitor. The output of monitors changes as time passes, so that’s the reason you need to repeat the process periodically. As far as laptops with auto-brightness go, you’ll need to turn that feature off before you calibrate and while you edit photos. You don’t need the brightness going up and down automatically during times like these.
Please let me know if this helps and also let me know what your results are after you calibrate your monitor color and brightness.