Today’s Question: What is soft proofing?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Soft proofing involves changing the appearance of an image on your monitor display to simulate what that image will look like when printed using a specific printer, ink, and paper combination.
More Detail: As most photographers have probably realized by now, sometimes it can be difficult to anticipate exactly what a given image will look like when printed using a particular paper type with a specific printer and ink setup. Soft proofing enables you to simulate on your monitor display what that print will look like.
Obviously in a perfect world soft proofing would be completely unnecessary, as the print would be a perfect match of the image as you’ve optimized it based on your monitor’s display. Of course, in the real world there is a somewhat significant difference between what an image looks like with the emitted light of a monitor display compared to the reflected light from a print. And that doesn’t even take into account the tremendous difference the paper type can make, such as the difference between a glossy versus matte print.
Various software tools (such as Photoshop and Lightroom) enable you to employ soft proofing to simulate the printed output on your monitor display. You simply specific the profile for the printer, ink, and paper combination you intend to use for printing the image, and the presentation of the on-screen image is altered to simulate what the print will look like.
To be sure, soft proofing isn’t perfect, because you are still using a monitor display to present what a print is expected to look like. But soft proofing can be helpful for troubleshooting problems with a print, getting a sense of what a print will look like, and choosing which paper might provide the best results for printing a given image.