When preparing your photo for printing it’s very important to have control of your colors. By that I mean you have to make precautions so that the colors you see on the screen represents as closely as possible the colors that will be printed on the paper.
There’s at least one thing you should do if you’re editing photos. No matter if you intend to print the photos or not. That is to calibrate your screen. That’s the only way of knowing the colors you see on the screen are correct. I use an X-Rite Colormunki Display.
If you’re letting a lab do the printing for you they should have ICC profiles for the different types of paper they are printing on. If they don’t have ICC profiles, change your lab. Install the ICC profiles in your computer for the different papers you’re interested in. Your image software will pick them up and you can then use them for soft-proofing your photos and if needed you can convert your photos to the ICC profile before sending it to the lab.
Soft-proofing is a way to simulate how the photo will look when printed on a specific paper at the lab. In Capture One Pro you can soft-proof how the photo would look from e.g. the QPix lab (Sweden) when printed on Fujucolor Crystal Archive Paper Supreme HD via the View menu (see the image to the right). The default behaviour from Capture One Pro is to always soft-proof the photo with the ICC profile in the selected recipe. In Capture One Pro a recipe is a description or definition of how the RAW file shall be processed (such as file format and of course ICC Profile).
Now not all labs want you to embed their ICC profiles in your photo. They might just provide the ICC profiles for you to be able to do soft-proofing. This is the case with the Crimson lab (Sweden) for example. In this case you should embed your working profile in your photo. This way you will keep all the colors in your photo and the lab will do the conversion to their ICC profile.
Keep in mind when preparing your photo for printing that when it’s printed on paper it will probably look a bit darker than what it did on your screen. You see the screen is backlit, a paper isn’t. 🙂 Push the exposure up a notch to compensate for this.
So you followed all the rules, did all the steps and still the printed photo didn’t look as it did on your screen? Well it happens. It will probably happen each time you try a new lab. Remember that the soft-proof is only a simulation of how the photo will look printed on paper. Use it only as a guideline not as a fact. When you’re going to try a new lab, ask them if you can do a test print first. The good labs let you do this. Otherwise you can just pay for a single print to see how it looks.