Wet Proofing

Victor Cheong, Pet Teoh and a pressman, checking wet proofs at C.S. Graphics.


In preparing photos for printing the core imaging aims are the same: to produce sharp, clear images – with balanced tones, ‘contrast’ and ‘density’.

In improving images for printing the evidence is in the proofing, as seen here. A photograph reproduced with printer’s ink, however good the intervening processes and the final printing, can rarely precisely match the original. But that is always the aim. In leading technical image work – scanning, digital improvement and proofing – what is needed is the ability to make visually acute comparisons of each image and its most recent proof. Initial proofs are the quicker and cheaper digital proofs. Later proofs are the slower and costlier wet proofs, printed on offset printing presses, using the actual book paper and printers’ ink (hence the term ‘wet’ proofs).

Critiquing wet proofs is a photographer’s or a publisher’s final technical chance to adjust the image files. Once ‘on press’ and printing, only marginal improvements can be made. For a photographer this matters greatly. Book printing is the end of a long continuum: the initial feel for some potential photographic topic; doing research and ‘reccy’ photos to turn the idea into a planned book concept; and then the subsequent shooting, often over many months, with all kinds of weather. Replicating the unique light seen and photographed, and faithfully reproducing it on a book’s printed pages, is the challenge – and ultimate goal.