Soft Proofing gives you some idea of what you need to tweak for a good print, but light from a screen is different from light reflected off ink and paper, so you’ve also got to calibrate your expectations. What soft proofing does do is still valuable – it gets you closer to the print you want with less wasted time and resources.
Soft proofing only makes sense if you already have the bare minimum of a colour managed workflow. That means you’ve recently calibrated your monitor with a hardware device such as a Spyder or ColorMunki, and you’ve installed the profile for the paper and printer you intend to use on your PC or Mac.
Assuming your system is colour-managed, prepare your picture as usual in Lightroom’s Develop workspace, and then press S. This switches Lightroom to its Soft Proofing mode.
The background goes white to give an idea of how the picture will look with a paper margin, and a Soft Proofing histogram appears at the top of the right-hand panel.
Select your paper from the Profile drop-down menu – Other accesses any other profiles installed on your system – and tick Simulate Paper and Ink.
The preview’s changes are less obvious with a profile for a high-gloss paper, but more obvious if you’re using fibre-based papers. You should expect the preview to show off-white base tones, too.
When you anticipate adjusting the image for printing, briefly drop out of Soft Proofing mode. Press S, switch on Before/After with Y, and click the ‘Copy the After’s settings to Before’ button.
Hit S again and the Soft Proofing mode’s Before side shows the picture’s most recent or ideal appearance. You’ll be making adjustments purely to make the print look its best, but it’s nice to have a benchmark.
As soon as you make an adjustment, Lightroom asks you if you want to create a virtual copy for soft proofing. Choose the Create Proof Copy default button.
You can now apply to this copy whatever adjustments are needed to make the best print on that paper, and you won’t be wrecking the master version of the picture.