The Colour Management Problem
As photographers we face a tricky problem. The photo we see on our screen when editing probably doesn’t look the same on someone else’s display. And if we try to print our photo it almost certainly won’t look like what we see on screen. To overcome these problems, we need to use colour management which sounds more complex than it is.
When using colour management, you must remember you can only control your equipment. It’s therefore essential to ensure your monitor is correctly calibrated first. By this I mean is if you display a red square on your screen, it looks red and very importantly is the correct shade of red. This is what screen calibration does and it’s something you must do.
Once you’re confident your computer is displaying the colours in your photos correctly, it’s time to think about other output devices. If you print your photo, you need to understand how the printer and paper you use affect the photo. If you want to share your photo online you also need to consider how it might display on other people’s screens. Capture One soft proofing can help us with both problems.
What is Soft Proofing?
When we talk about soft proofing in photography we tend to be referring to a process used in printing. A soft proof is a simulation of how an image looks when it’s printed, taking into account the printer and paper used. This allows us to judge how the image would appear. If we see problems, for example with the contrast, we can apply adjustments to fix this before printing. This can help us match the print to what we see on our computer screen.
Soft Proofing for the Internet
But, soft proofing isn’t just about how a print might look. We can also use it to simulate how other people’s computers might display an image.
If we’re posting an image online, it could appear on many different screens, each with different capabilities. As photographers, it’s likely we’re using a high-quality monitor capable of displaying a wider range of colours than your typical internet device. When a colour is beyond the capability of a device it’s said to be “Out of Gamut” for that device. To be able to display the image the device “makes a guess” at the best colour to use. If we’re editing our photos using a high-quality device, we could unwittingly include lots of colours that are out of gamut for many devices.
The answer to this problem is to use soft proofing but this time with a set of colours that simulates the “standard” for the internet. This standard is known as a Colour Space or Colour Profile and the best one for the internet is something called sRGB.
Using Capture One Soft Proofing
One of the nice features of Capture One Pro is that the display is always showing a soft proof. It does this using the something called a Process Recipe which is another great feature. In Capture One you can create a Process Recipe for processing your RAW files into images. The Recipe lets you define lots of things such as the file type, where it’s saved, what its name is and importantly, what Colour Space to use.
When you select a Recipe in the Process Recipes panel you see the details of that Recipe in the other panels. This is where you define the Recipe including the ICC Profile or Colour Space.