CS6 Soft Proofing is a tool that Adobe has provided as a way to preview what our images will look like post-production.
As photographers we often send out our images to a print lab. Within each of these labs there are 2 factors that affect the final colourization of your images; the ink used and the papers.
It seems that the biggest hurtle photographers have is getting a print that matches the screen. The first step is to make sure your monitor is calibrated. A calibrated monitor ensures the lighting to viewing is correct. Calibration MUST be done with a calibration tool like Spyder4 Pro. This little device registers the colour wavelengths and creates a profile which your video card will read. Without this important first step all your editing will be done in vain. Many times after a calibration the photographer will be able to view the before and after. Monitors continue to shift over time so it’s important to do this step repeatedly no less than once a month.
OK so we’ve taken care of the calibration and everything looks great! You begin to work on your images and send them to print. They come back dull and you begin to review your edited image and notice that the vibrant tones are missing from the print. It is nothing you have done wrong. Printers and monitors do not work in the same spectral range. Monitors can show us the Adobe RGB, while printers can only go as far as SRGB. This difference is what makes the photo look dull. That and the fact that printing ink and paper combinations will produce various degrees of muting, this is why when you order prints on paper with a shiny surface such as Pearl or Metallic the colours pop. The inks are reflective instead of flat.
So how do you know how the print will look afterwards? This is where Soft Proofing helps. Soft Proofing options are located in both Photoshop and Lightroom. The ICC file which can be downloaded from the printing lab prepares your images to give a sample of what it will look like after printing. To install a ICC file download it from the website to your Desktop and then double click it. It installs instantly and will now be available in your editing software.
Let’s work through the steps on how to use a Soft Proofing in Photoshop CS6 using the WHCC profile for their Luster 18×12 or smaller.
I hope that this helps explain why your prints may be coming back from your lab with colour shifts. I always recommend that you order a set of print proofs BEFORE making adjustments. Sometimes the print / monitor as so closely matched that you will not to Soft Proof.