What is soft proofing and why should I do it? Those are easy questions that have the same short explanation - color space.
Your beautiful computer display has a wonderfully wide gamut (color space) and, as in the nature of computers, it is backlit. Your printer, on the other hand? Not so much. Even the most recent models offered by Canon and Epson simply cannot match what you see on your screen. Why is that? you ask. Read on...
The printer's color gamut is not as wide as the calibrated display onscreen. A print, rather than being backlit, relies on light reflected from the ink that is on the paper.
Soft proofing an image will help you see, on your computer display, what your print will look like before you make your print. Soft proofing emulates the look of paper and ink by replicating the gamut of your printer when used with a specific paper profile. In effect, it "dumbs down" the color space of the display so that it more closely resembles what the print will look like. The result will offer clues as to what edits might be needed to achieve your printed visualization before committing ink to paper. You will also be able to assess whether any portion of the image is beyond the gamut of your printer and selected paper before deciding on a perceptual or relative conversion mode.
This is the original image of the Lynvig lighthouse just before sunrise (when the frugal Danes promptly turn the light off). It has been cropped for 4x9 card stock, but is otherwise straight out of the camera. It would not have made a very interesting print.
Converting the image on your display into a virtual print can be an unsettling experience as you watch the contrast and backlighting (which were all there to begin with) become almost unnoticeable. Where did all that pop go? Exactly. Paper & Ink is not the same as what you see on your vivid backlit display. Now the real editing work begins. Lightroom's Soft Proofing feature is part of the Develop function and is easy to incorporate into your workflow. As with most post processing, it has more to do with look and feel and far less to do with a standard formula. In fact, I am pretty sure that people who tell you that they always do this or always do that are probably not the ones you want to model your workflow after.
This is a photograph of the Lyngvig lighthouse panoramic greeting card, after editing and soft proofing of the original image. Note that nothing was subtracted or added. Soft proofing simply helped to show what was there.
Interested on learning more about this process? Click here.
See ya next week,