I am trying to get a grasp of the world of color management, and the more I read the more I get that this is no picnic indeed.
I believe I understand that the purpose of calibrating and profiling your monitor (in a certain ambient light) is to achieve as a true display of the photos as possible, compared to a certain "standard".
From the lab that I will use to print the photos you can download printer profiles (.icc files). I was under the impression that the goal of a printer would be to produce images as close to the "standard" as possible. Then why would you need the profiles of the printer's calibration information?
Or do the .icc files used for softproofing only contain the "distorsion" that appears when the printer has already been calibrated? That is, there is a certain degree of color shift, dynamic range change etc that you can't really calibrate away due to the properties of the paper, ink and so on, and this is what's contained in the downloadable .icc files?
I will try to explain what I'm asking in more detail. Please refer to @jrista's answers and the following comments.
What I believe has been described in the answers is the following:
- A printer does not produce a perfect replica of the photo due to imperfections and limitations in the ink, paper etc.
- Therefore, a profiling is performed, where a profile chart is printed and a calibration tool (spectrometer, colorimeter) is used to analyze the printer's properties. This generates an ICC file for the printer, which is a model for this transformation.
- This ICC file is then used during soft proofing to mimic the behavior of the printer on the screen, which enables the application of manual adjustments in order to get the perfect print!
But, my confusion arises from the fact that I assumed that this ICC profile is used by the print shop to compensate for the printer's errors before printing, by applying the "inverse" ICC in software. This work flow has at least been described in internet guides on how to profile your own printer at home.
And, if this "compensation" is performed at the print shop, the same ICC would be useless as the soft proofing ICC, wouldn't it, since its "inverse" will be used at the print shop?
This leads to the last paragraph in my originial question: In that case, does the downloadable ICC contain only the printer's transformations profiled after the original profile has been applied?
I hope the question is clearer. I very much appreciate your input!