Reasons for Soft Proofing


Today’s Question: You said that soft proofing is available “in part” to facilitate adjustments to correct for an inaccurate print. Isn’t this the only reason to use soft proofing? Or are there other reasons?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In addition to using soft proofing to assist you with adjustments for improving the accuracy of a print, you can also use soft proofing to troubleshoot those issues in the first place as well as to make a decision about which paper might be best for printing a particular photo.

More Detail: Soft proofing is a feature available in Lightroom Classic and Photoshop that simulates the appearance of a printed photo on your monitor display. With the soft proof feature, you select the color profile that represents the printer, ink, and paper combination you’ll be using to print a photo. You then configure the output conditions, such as the rendering intent to be used, and a preview is provide that simulates to the extent possible what the printed output will look like using your monitor for the preview.

Of course, even with the soft proof feature it is important to keep in mind that the experience of viewing an image on your monitor is very different from viewing a print that depends on reflected light. That said, the soft proof display is reasonably accurate and can be very helpful.

As noted in my prior answer, soft proofing is often used as a troubleshooting tool, where you apply adjustments to compensate for the shortcomings of the printed output. This can only do so much, since the limitations of a given printer, ink, and paper combination are very real and can’t be overcome with simple adjustments to the source image.

In addition to this common reason for using soft proofing, you might consider using this feature before you even attempt to print a photo as a way to choose which papers might be best suited for a particular image.

For example, photos with strong contrast and highly saturated colors tend to look best on a glossy or semi-gloss paper. An uncoated matte paper will tend to make such an image look very flat and unsaturated. Using the soft proof feature you can cycle through the color profiles for the various papers you’re considering using, to get a better sense of which might be the best fit.