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Soft Proofing in Lightroom

How many times have you sent an image from Lightroom to either a printing company or to an online service like Facebook or Flickr and the colours came out all wrong? Now assuming that you have a calibrated monitor (if not, why not?) then the cause of the problem is probably a matter of colour space and Gamut.

Now this is not as scary as some people would have you believe..

original image in Lightroom

original image in Lightroom

There are many types of colour space ranging from the smallest (sRGB) to larger (Adobe RGB) and larger still (ProPhoto RGB), plus the CYMK and Lab spaces that do not concern us here.

In simple terms, each colour space defines how much red, green and blue can be shown in an image. In a smaller colour space such as sRGB it is not possible to show all of the colours that maybe present in one of the larger colour spaces.

Lightroom uses the largest of these colour spaces (ProPhoto RGB) to allow you the best possible editing experience. The downside of this is that JPG images used for most printing and online services are sRGB. This leaves us with a problem of trying to fit more colours into the sRGB ‘bucket’ than will fit.

The solution is soft proofing, which is new to Lightroom version 4 and beyond


In the Develop module, there is a bottom bar that displays the Soft Proofing tick box. (if this bar does not show, press T to bring up the toolbar) or go to the Settings menu and select Proof


Clicking the Soft Proofing box brings up the soft proofing dialog box in place of the normal histogram (top right). In this example I will be converting my ProPhoto RGB image into an sRGB image ready for uploading. If you wanted to proof an image for print, download their print profiles, install them and select from the profile dropdown list. The process is the same regardless.



Above, we can see the soft proofing box in detail. Similar to the highlight and shadow warnings (J) in the Develop module.. the proofing box has monitor (blue) and destination (red) warnings. The destination warning refers to either the display profile (ie sRGB) or the print profile (ie theprintspace C-type Fuji Gloss)


Ok, so having ticked these warning boxes, we can see above that the original image is out of gamut (gamut is just a way of saying the colours either fit in the colour space or they don’t)

In the image above we can see that the greens of the basil leaves and the red/brown of the tea pot show warnings. That means that if we did not correct for the sRGB colour space, those colours would be rendered differently than we would expect.

Lightroom allows you to make changes for a print or screen profile without affecting your original edit. It does this by creating a new virtual copy each time you amend the image for a different profile. You can either manually click the create profile copy or when you first change the image (with soft proof clicked) it will create a virtual copy with the filename + profile name (see below)


In the image above you, can see that we are working on a virtual copy called Dans House-076.dng .sRGB to denote that this proof is for the sRGB colour space. Now edit the image to bring the colours back within the sRGB colour space. I usually find the HSL sliders tab to be effective for this purpose or maybe the saturation & contrast sliders in the Basics tab.

In the example above I have brought down the saturation of the greens/yellows to fix the basil leaves and the red/orange to fix the teapot.

The finished profile is shown below with the original image. It may appear a little ‘dull’ compared to original but the image will be displayed or printed as you expect, saving you both time and money.



I hope you have found this both useful and simple, please be sure to comment, share and question below




About Scot Baston (31 Articles)
Scot Baston is a Commercial & Wedding Photographer that lives on the south coast of Devon, that inspires much of his work. Whether it the technical or emotive sides, Photography is a passion that continues to challenge and inspire.

4 Comments on Soft Proofing in Lightroom

  1. sathishisaac // 24/04/2013 at 12:41 pm //

    very helpful tips!

  2. Daniel thomassin // 24/04/2013 at 6:11 pm //

    Un grand merci pour tous vos conseils !!

  3. xrad53 // 27/04/2013 at 5:07 am //

    It’s uncommon to find a really new tip. Thanks!

  4. Very useful information. Thank you for sharing it here.

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