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Soft Proofing in Lightroom 4 with the Original Next to the Proof

(Updated 1/30/12) Soft proofing is new in the Develop module of Lightroom 4 (the Beta at this point). It allows you to get a better idea of what your photo will look like in print when printing with profiles, and what it will look like when you export to sRGB or another color space. If your photo has richly saturated colors, for example, when you soft-proof you will see them become muted, since many printers and papers, as well as sRGB, can’t display them so saturated. When you print to paper, your photos will also lose contrast, as paper whites are never as bright as monitor whites. Soft proofing allows you to preview this, and then if necessary, make further adjustments to your photo to optimize it given the constraints of your chosen output method.

I will have much more to say for beginners on this topic, but for those already using soft proofing in the Lightroom 4 Beta, I wanted to show you two ways to display the original next to the proof as you work on the proof. (Thank you to Mike for the question that prompted my idea for this post.)

With Soft Proofing checked in the toolbar below your photo, as you make your first Develop adjustment, you will be asked to either make the original the proof, or to make a proof copy.

1. If you prefer to make your output / proof adjustments on the original, choose Make this a Proof.  Then to see both versions side by side, type Y to view Before and After side by side.  Next you will change the definition of “Before”: in the History panel, right-click on the History step that immediately proceeds your first proof adjustment (or the top step if you haven’t made any yet),and choose “Copy History Step Settings to Before”.


2. If you prefer to have a separate proof copy, you will choose Make a Proof Copy.  Normally you can’t view two different photos (or a photo and it’s virtual copy) side by side with Before/After, but for soft-proofing, the Lightroom team has brilliantly built this in. (I didn’t know this at first so I had posted a work-around, but I have updated this post with the direct way.) Simply make sure you have your proof copy selected in the filmstrip, go to Before/After (Y), and in the toolbar below the photos, choose “Master Photo” from the Before dropdown.


With either method, only the proof will change as you work.

Finally, no need to go to Photoshop for soft proofing!

2017-06-28T21:03:44+00:00 January 25th, 2012|11 Comments


  1. Catherine February 1, 2012 at 2:17 am - Reply

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks very much for the tips above. I have a question… Where do I put icc profiles I download to my mac (eg. Blurbs colour profiles) for them to appear in the Lightroom 4 drop down list?

    Many Thanks!

    • Laura Shoe February 1, 2012 at 8:54 am - Reply

      Catherine, Library>Color Sync>Profiles.

      • Rinzing May 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm - Reply

        Hi Laura,
        I put Blurb’s colour profile in the place indicated by you but it doesn’t appear in Lightroom’s list. Any tips?

        • Laura Shoe May 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm - Reply

          Hi Rinzing, Blurb’s profile is CMYK — and Lightroom only supports RGB profiles. (This is indeed unfortunate given that we can make Blurb books in Lightroom.)

  2. Athena February 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    Hi Laura,

    I’m very much new to LR and still experimenting with the LR4b version. Just a quick question, if I choose to make the original my proof, can I change the image back to its original state anytime?


    • Laura Shoe February 8, 2012 at 8:10 am - Reply

      Yes you can, Athena — you can always go back in time in the History panel.

  3. Enrico Quaglia August 18, 2012 at 4:59 am - Reply

    Hi. I was wondering if after having made a lot of “proofed” virtual copies of my master images, I can select just those to send to my printing facility for whom I used the ICC profile in the first place. Surely there must be a way for LR to select only virtual copies without having to select them one by one by hand…


  4. Alex November 14, 2012 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    Hi, Laura,
    I use Lightroom for image files cataloging and management only, doing all image processing in Photoshop. As a result, I am importing only .psd files into Lightroom (not jpeg, not RAW, not TIFF, etc.). In Photoshop my .psd files are finalized in ProPhoto color space, soft proofed with Epson 4880 Matte Exhibition Canvas color profile (created by myself using ColorMonki calibration device from XRite). I have problem: imported images look ugly in Library module of Lightroom (colors are out of sense). When I open images in Develop module and do Soft Proofing using the same Epson color profile that I created and used in Photoshop, everything comes back to normal. It is obvious to me that Lightroom does not have soft proofing feature in Library module (at least I did not find it), and therefore I cannot use Lightroom to show my images to clients (they will run away from me). What solution would you suggest? I am using Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4.2

    • Laura Shoe November 16, 2012 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hi Alex, you are correct that soft proofing is only in the Develop Module. I would turn SP on, collapse all your panels (shift tab), and turn Lights Out (L twice; L to turn the lights back on), and use the right arrow key to move through your photos. It will look just like a very clean slideshow. Your shortcut keys for rating images (0-5) will work here as well.

  5. Sarah June 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    I use L4 and I love color! I am always disappointed though when softproofing. It feels like it yells at me take down the saturation of my colors. I am new at this so I would live o figure out how to get great color and stay within Srgb.

    Thanks for your time!

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