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Thread: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

  1. #1

    A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Hi,

    I have been experimenting with soft proofing using the following applications: Lightroom, Corel Paint Shop Pro, and Gimp. Although I use the same image and ICM profile, the different applications give drastically different results when soft proofing. This makes me question the accuracy of soft proofing altogether. I do not own a printer, so I haven't had the chance to print the image and see which application provides the most accurate soft proof, but I was hoping others could chime in and share their own experiences with soft proofing and whether or not they find it reliable.

    All feedback is very much appreciated!

    Thank you,

    - Jacob

  2. #2
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Jacob - I can only write about my experience with soft proofing in Photoshop, as I have not used it in any of the other applications that you have listed. The underlying assumption is that you are using a colour managed workflow.

    This means, you need a fairly good colour monitor that has been calibrated and profiled, as well as having the proper printer / paper ICC colour profile, then what you see is a fair representation of what your printed output will look like.

    BUT.... There are some really major assumptions in play here.

    First of all, your screen is a RGB transmitted light source view, while a print is a CMYK reflected light source view. The two will never be exactly the same. Then of course there are the assumptions that have been built in to the soft proofing; the assumed viewing colour temperature will have to be the same as what you actually view the print under. If the soft-proof assumes a colour temperature of 5500K, and you are viewing the print in bright sunlight, under tungsten light or under cool white fluorescent lighting, it won't look the same.

    So at a high level, it does give you a better idea of what the print will look like versus what you see in your screen during PP work, but how close it will be to the final print depends on a lot of things aligning properly for you.
    Last edited by GrumpyDiver; 18th November 2012 at 01:41 AM.

  3. #3

    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Manfred,

    Thank you for your very insightful reply. I only have Photoshop Elements, which does not include options for soft proofing, which is why I was trying altenrnative software packages. I would think that the soft proofing in Photoshop Lightroom would be pretty similar, if not the same, as it is in Photoshop.

    The printer profiles that I was using did include paper and ink color profiles.

    I am using a laptop monitor, and I believe it is decently calibrated, at least as well as it can be without using a dedicated calibration device. But even so, I would think that if each application could provide accurate soft proofing, then the proof should look the same in all of the applications no matter how my monitor is calibrated.

    But maybe I am missing something .

    Thank you for replying.

    - Jacob

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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Hi Jacob,

    Generally speaking, - if you're "only" aiming for photo-realism then soft-proofing usually isn't particularly beneficial. As Manfred points out, monitors are transmittive devices - with red, green, and blue primaries - and about a 6 stop effective dynamic range whereas prints are reflective devices - with subtractive primaries - and typically a 4 stop dynamic range - with a different gamut - so trying to simulate one on the other is usually PSUH (Pushing Stuff Up Hill).

    Personally, I just use soft-proofing for gamut checks; if I have an image with strong colours that I want to push right to the limits of the printers gamut (eg a bright red that printers may struggle with) then soft-proofing shows me a gamut warning if I push things too far - and thus I can back it off a bit without wasting paper and ink. In terms of soft-proofing colour accuracy - usually it can't even do a satisfactory job of simulating the media - let along the printer gamut (which may well contain colours outside of the monitors gamut).

    In real-world terms I think you're better off just running a colour-managed workflow (colour passport for camera profiling, and the likes of a Spider kit for Monitor & printer profiling).

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Jacob - trying to do a soft proof with a screen that has not been calibrated or profiled is a little bit like driving down the road in a car where the speedometer does not work; you just don't know if what you are doing is correct. I agree with Colin, soft-proofing is meaningless unless you are running a colour-managed workflow.

    Laptops tend to have fairly mediocre colour rendition; the screens generally have limited adjustability and are built to conserve weight and battery life, not to give you accurate colour rendition.

    I use soft proofing along the same vein as Colin; I usually have two images open. One that has been soft proofed and the other that is the original that I have edited. I will look for out of gamut issues (I have a wide gamut screen, so in theory, I should be getting a better view of the image) and may try to see if I can tweak it a bit to look more like the base image.

    I will do test prints, especially if I am doing a large format print and will look at it under the lighting conditions I will be displaying the image under for some final tweaking (old habits die hard; I used to do this in the colour darkroom too).

  6. #6

    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Collin:

    Thank you for your reply. I guess I overestimated what soft-proofing could do. Rather than using it simply for gamut checks, I thought it was supposed to give an idea of EXACTLY what the image would like using specific printers, ink, paper, etc. But I now see that this probably isn't very realistic, given that monitors and printers are two very different media.

    What is colour passport?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    - Jacob

  7. #7

    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Manfred:

    Thank you for your help. I apologize if I misread your first post. I am fairly new to printing and color management in general.

    Your help is very much appreciated!

    - Jacob

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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Laptops tend to have fairly mediocre colour rendition; the screens generally have limited adjustability and are built to conserve weight and battery life, not to give you accurate colour rendition.
    Occasionally when I'm at my daughter's place I use her laptop to check into this and other forums. When I look at my images on a forum where they are hosted, I'm appalled at how bad and colourless they look on the laptop monitor.

    Glenn

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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Quote Originally Posted by warrenjwalker View Post

    What is colour passport?
    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ColorChecker+Passport

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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Quote Originally Posted by warrenjwalker View Post
    What is colour passport?
    This is a panel of known colours. Your take a photo of it under the light conditions you will use for your actual shooting. You can then build a colour profile for the camera and the light source. This can be applied to all your images so the colours are accurate.

    The passport is best used for controlled conditions such as studio lighting set-ups where colour accuracy is critical, e.g. Portraiture and product photography. For general photography situations then your creative input on the colours is far more important than the real colours. A colour managed workflow is still essential for ensuring that your colour edits are making changes to the image for artistic purposes rather than to compensate for the bad appearance on your monitor.

    Alex

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Quote Originally Posted by warrenjwalker View Post
    Manfred:

    Thank you for your help. I apologize if I misread your first post. I am fairly new to printing and color management in general.

    Your help is very much appreciated!



    - Jacob

    No problem - most of the photographers I know don't bother with soft proofing because of its limitations. They work with test prints and use those for managing colours; i.e. tweaking their image in Photoshop, based on the results of the test. I will do this when hitting the right colour is critical.

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    Re: A Question About the Accuracy of Soft Proofing

    Jacob,

    I only recently started softproofing with Lightroom. I have a calibrated monitor and the correct profiles for the papers I use. I find that it is usually not all that helpful with luster papers because the gamut of the papers is fairly wide, but I find it very helpful with matte papers, which generally have a much smaller gamut. I find that with some tweaking, I can get the print closer to what I intended. Lightroom will give you the original and soft proof next to each other, and when the two are different, the latter is much closer to what my printer gives me.

    Dan

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