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Thread: Soft Proofing for printing

  1. #1
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Soft Proofing for printing

    I've been involved in an excellent discussion here about printing. But rather than take that thread off on a tangent, I'll start this thread.

    I understand what soft-proofing is. What I am wondering about, however, is where it ranks in the great scheme of things in relation to printing.

    Is it an absolute 'must do'? Is it sacrilege to try and print without soft proofing?

    Everything I've looked at talks about soft-proofing using Photoshop or Lightroom. Now, as some folks on here know, I don't use either. So, if I'm going to get involved in the printing nonsense (!), and I need to be doing soft proofing, I need to find out how to do it with what I've got (or what I need to do it). And that, my friends, is the nub of the question.

    Your guidance is sought!

    ps - I envisage that I will only ever be printing B & W images. Don't know if that is relevant to the question.

    pps - I feel like a beginner all over again.

    EDIT - I've just been reading this thread and got good information from that. But please do add anything you think might be relevant.
    Last edited by Donald; 19th March 2013 at 10:42 PM.

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Donald,

    I think the fact that you are printing B&W is relevant, because one reason to soft proof is to see the effects of the different color gamuts of different papers. So, softproofing should matter less with B&W. I have much less experience with B&W, but from that limited experience, I think softproofing will still be useful because some papers have much less contrast than others. My guess is that if you stick with luster papers, it probably does not matter much. If I can get some time on LR tonight, I will test it with a B&W image and several papers.

    Dan

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    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    still a bit of a novice printer myself, but the other day i soft proofed in LR only to be shown that the way id configured the image it wouldnt fit on the paper that id selected! so even if its just for that reason its worth doing.

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    Marie Hass's Avatar
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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Never knew such a thing existed. I think I crawled out from under a rock. Thank's for starting this thread, Donald. I will be interested to know more.

    Marie

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    For those of you who use Nikon Capture NX2, it has soft-proofing capability. I don't know about Nikon View NX2.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Soft proofing is a useful function so long as the user understands that it is nothing more than an emulation of what the print will look like. Anyone who thinks that what they see on the screen is what they are going to get off the printer is unfortunately sadly mistaken.

    The basic concept of soft proofing has to be understood in context of the differences between an image viewed on a screen and a printed image.

    Screen - Transmitted, RGB, additive colour

    Printer - Reflected, CMYK, Subtractive colour.

    In addition to this basic mismatch in how the colour is displayed we also have to understand that a high quality printer is at best going to be able to reproduce around 1 million different distinct colours, while even a fairly basic screen is going to (through various technical means) going to be capable of displaying somewhere around 16 million distinct shades; higher quality IPS screens can handle 16 million colours natively. This assumes that the printer and screen manufacturers are being totally upfront as to how well their technologies work; what worries me is that this information is only available in sales literature, rather than in technical papers, so I suspect a bit of optimism in the way that the data has been interpreted. Our eyes, by the way, can only see around 10 million distinct colours.

    The last piece of the puzzle involves how reflective light affects a printed image. Think white balance; as this have exactly the same issue when viewing a print under differing lighting conditions. If you are viewing the print under tungsten light, for example, the image will have an overall warm cast to it, if you are viewing it under cool white fluorescent lighting, the image will seem to be deficient in reds, etc., etc.

    So, soft proofing will provide some direction as to the appearance of the printed image, but it will by no means provide a definitive view.

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Donald,

    I had a soft proof copy of the image below for Moab Lasal Exhibition Luster, and I just created another for Red River Polar Plus Matte. These are two of my standard papers. They are quite different, so I was interested in seeing what information the soft proofs gave me about them.

    There were two obvious differences. One is that the whites are different. Both are high-OBA, very white papers, but they render whites differently. The Moab soft proof has very white whites and very black blacks. It reminds me somewhat of the Agfa Brovira paper I usually used when I printed my own B&W in a darkroom, back in the old days. The Red river is a bit warmer. The second difference is that (as one would expect), the matte paper has much less contrast. So, if you wanted to maintain the degree of contrast in the image below, you would have to tweak the matte image more. (LR makes this very easy, as it allows you to place the original and the proof side by side as you work on the proof.) However, my guess is that with a little experience with each paper, you would get a feel for how much to tweak images for each.

    In the case of color prints, I find soft proofing only moderately useful with a really white luster paper, like Moab, but I find that it is very helpful when I use a matte paper with a smaller gamut.

    Dan

    Soft Proofing for printing

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    Marie Hass's Avatar
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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Thank you Manfred and Dan. Certainly I have been frustrated in that what I saw on the screen and what I uploaded to forums was the same, but what I uploaded to the printer was not what I got back. In particular, my colour images.

    Marie

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Soft proofing is a useful function so long as the user understands that it is nothing more than an emulation of what the print will look like. Anyone who thinks that what they see on the screen is what they are going to get off the printer is unfortunately sadly mistaken.

    The basic concept of soft proofing has to be understood in context of the differences between an image viewed on a screen and a printed image.

    Screen - Transmitted, RGB, additive colour

    Printer - Reflected, CMYK, Subtractive colour.

    In addition to this basic mismatch in how the colour is displayed we also have to understand that a high quality printer is at best going to be able to reproduce around 1 million different distinct colours, while even a fairly basic screen is going to (through various technical means) going to be capable of displaying somewhere around 16 million distinct shades; higher quality IPS screens can handle 16 million colours natively. This assumes that the printer and screen manufacturers are being totally upfront as to how well their technologies work; what worries me is that this information is only available in sales literature, rather than in technical papers, so I suspect a bit of optimism in the way that the data has been interpreted. Our eyes, by the way, can only see around 10 million distinct colours.

    The last piece of the puzzle involves how reflective light affects a printed image. Think white balance; as this have exactly the same issue when viewing a print under differing lighting conditions. If you are viewing the print under tungsten light, for example, the image will have an overall warm cast to it, if you are viewing it under cool white fluorescent lighting, the image will seem to be deficient in reds, etc., etc.

    So, soft proofing will provide some direction as to the appearance of the printed image, but it will by no means provide a definitive view.
    +1 to that. Keeping in mind too that it's not just RGB -v- CMYK - in practice there is also a difference in dynamic range between the two technologies.

    Personally, I find it's limitations too severe for it to be of any practical use in terms of how it's going to look in a real print - but - having just said that, I do find the gamut check function useful if I have an image with very strong colours.

    Put it this way Donald -- if you're about to print an image containing strong colours like flowers or fire engines then - yes - a quick gamut check may well save you some ink, but if the image is typical of what you post here then no - I don't think you'll find any advantage in using it. Best think you can do towards a good print is work from calibrated & profiles screen and a profiled printer. And be aware that you'll probably need to make your images a bit more contrasty to stop them looking too flat in a print.

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Best think you can do towards a good print is work from calibrated & profiles screen and a profiled printer.
    I would just like to point out that if you're not using all of that, my understanding (though only from a theoretical view, not a view based on practice) is that soft proofing will be of no help. To clarify that, if you're outsourcing your printing, soft proofing an image will be of no value unless you have a print and an electronic file provided by the printing company and only then if the print appears reasonably similar to your monitor's display of that file. Even if you have all of that, you would have to make sure the prints that you order are made using the same paper as the print that the printing company provided to you.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Back in the old colour darkroom days, doing a small test print (using a representative part of the image) was always the way I nailed my colour correction and exposure (really the only two variables one could control). Frankly, it is still a valid technique to use to debug your printing process.

    That being said, once you understand your equipment, it is certainly a step that can be eliminated, but if you are trying to figure things out, you might want to give it a try.

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    I would just like to point out that if you're not using all of that, my understanding (though only from a theoretical view, not a view based on practice) is that soft proofing will be of no help. To clarify that, if you're outsourcing your printing, soft proofing an image will be of no value unless you have a print and an electronic file provided by the printing company and only then if the print appears reasonably similar to your monitor's display of that file. Even if you have all of that, you would have to make sure the prints that you order are made using the same paper as the print that the printing company provided to you.
    Well ...

    - If you're not working from a calibrated and profiled screen then you're running a lottery without knowing it. Do you feel lucky today?

    - If you're not creating your own printer profiles and not doing your own printing then you'll need a profile for that device / paper from your printers, but even then - IMO - it's pretty much a waste of time as levels should fit within the histogram if adjusted properly on a profiled monitor -- so results should be predictable from a levels perspective from that alone. Gamut is the other issue - and if the printer has a different gamut to your monitor (almost guaranteed) and you're pushing that gamut hard - then again, soft proofing won't be able to simulate the extended gamut colours properly because the monitor just physically can't reproduce them. It can however give you a gamut warning (highlight out of gamut colours in gray).

    ** although having said that, most printers don't understand colour management and all they can handle is sRGB (or worse, they ASSUME sRGB). The "A" answer is to just do your own printing -- it's a steep curve to start with, but you'll never look back.

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Thanks for starting this one off Donald. We seem to be in remarkable synch regarding our questions on printing.

    Some fascinating comments so far. I use LR and PS so was intending to print from LR and use it's soft proofing. From this thread I can see that it is certainly not a magic bullet and has to be used as only a part of the tool set and with care.

    So much to learn in printing.

    Hec

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Thanks folks. This discussion and the one started by Hec in the thread referred to in my first post above, have been both very helpful and fired my enthusiasm to get into printing my own.

    I notced another post in a thread I found after searching, laid out the economics of the case for and against doing your own printing. I suspect, given the volume that I would envisage doing, that it would be more economical for me to carry on getting them printed ... but that's no fun, is it!? Now all I've got to do is work on my dearlly beloved. But I am seeing a possible opportunity here.

    Some of you have seen my posts about the dog I am now caring for. The trainer I go to with the dog has spoken to me about a young person being keen to train a dog in agility work. There are lots of people, I'm sure who would like pictures of their dogs jumping over things and doing all that sort of agility stuff, wouldn't they. The only problem is - Do I now need 7D body to cope with all that action stuff!!??

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    DONALD!! SHAME ON YOU! why are you even asking the question? OF COURSE YOU NEED THAT 7D you not only need it your life would be hollow without it.....

    I havnt seen the thread on printing costs Donald but i did read one here http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...ers/3880.shtml this site also reviews the printers that you are considering, i think. The costs seem comparable to having a print done "professionally" but then again on the whole, ive been quite disappointed by the pros! and now that im using non OEM inks the costs are actually cheaper than those of the one pro lab that i did get consistently good results from.

    But on top of that, this for me is a hobby i never expect to earn a living from it and hobbies cost money but provide entertainment and challenges to my spare time and compared to some of my friends that spend 90 to go to a football match then i think doing my own printing is very cheap indeed.
    Last edited by Mark von Kanel; 20th March 2013 at 04:59 PM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    What an excellent, clear and unassailable argument for both a 7D body and for doing my own printing. Can I put you in direct contact with the dearly beloved so that you can negotiate on my behalf?!

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    What an excellent, clear and unassailable argument for both a 7D body and for doing my own printing. Can I put you in direct contact with the dearly beloved so that you can negotiate on my behalf?!
    Ahh - the fine art of negotiation!!!!

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Just remember that the flip side to the printer economics "test" is that invariably you'll eventually end up doing printing for others, which can offset the investment.

    It certainly adds a whole new skill set. You'll also quickly realise how much the average off-the-street photo printer DOESN'T know (most couldn't even trouble-shoot an image saved in the wrong colourspace).

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Ill be up your way in May Donald can you possibly wait that long? Maybe you would be better to go along the route of "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission"?

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    Re: Soft Proofing for printing

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark von Kanel View Post
    Maybe you would be better to go along the route of "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission"?
    or "buy first, justify later" -- works for me everytime!

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