Pro Print Precision!

In my continuing series of posts for everyone – today, a post for pros, or amateurs who take printing seriously. Which you should: a photo is not a photo until you have printed it. And hung it on your wall, preferably.

My advice today is this: print straight from Adobe Lightroom. This has many benefits over “just make a file and print that”:

  1. No intermediate file; no need to go down to the restrictive AdobeRGB or even more restrictive sRGB colour space file formats.
  2. No intermediate file also saves time, confusion, and disk space.
  3. Lightroom contains a very good print engine, with great print setting options.
  4. Set it up once, and it’s good forever.
  5. And most significantly in recent versions of Lightroom: soft proofing.

Everyone who has printed seriously knows that each paper type is good for certain prints only. After you figure that out, you will use one type of paper for prints with a lot of black. Another type for very colourful prints. Another type for prints with a lot of shiny areas. Or a lot of reds. And so on.

Lightroom to the rescue. This is not a full Lightroom course (for that, come to me privately and I will teach you). This note is for those of you who already know Lightroom and computers well.

And for those people, in a nutshell, here’s what you do:


Select your photo, and go to the PRINT module. There, over time you will create a print preset of your own or each combination of printer and paper type (and other preferences, such as layout, margins, etc). Update that whenever you make a change to your preset. That way you invent the wheel once.

In that profile, make sure under COLOR MANAGEMENT, you do NOT select “managed by printer”, but instead you select the printer paper profile for the printer/paper combination you are using (profiles which you have installed separately; from the printer or paper manufacturer).

In my case, today, for a print that was Canon Pro Luster paper on my Canon 9500 Mark II pigment printer, so I selected that profile:

Before you actually issue the print command, the computer’s PRINTER dialog will pop up. In that, be sure to select the same paper (under “Quality and Media”):

OK, that is easy once you set it up, and prints will be reliable and predictable. And right.


But here’s the fun part. In new Lightroom versions, there is an option called “soft proofing”. And that rocks.

Look under your image. And activate the “soft proofing” option.

You will be prompted to crate a soft proofing virtual copy; go ahead.

And now you can see where the print does, or does not, reproduce well for your selected paper and printer type (or for your selected colour space, if creating a file)!

See the top right, and select the correct profile for what you are printing to. In my case here, Pro Luster paper on the Canon 9500 MkII:

Now, provided I have clicked the little paper mark top right of the graph ON, I see where this photo will not reproduce well on the paper selected.

For instance, take the print I was just creating. A lake Ontario sunset:

Now, if instead of the printer profile I select “AdobeRGB”, I see the following in my soft proofing view:

Ouch! All those pure red areas are where the colour is outside of what the selected profile can handle. I.e. they will not look good. So I do not even attempt to print this print the way it is via an AdobeRGB file (yes, now you see how bad AdobeRGB is compared to using a good printer’s entire gamut).

if I select my paper type instead, I see:

There is still a little pure red stuff going on at the top, but much, much less. (If your print is red itself, like mine here, simply turn the “problem view” on and off repeatedly to see where the problems are.)

So now I can tweak my image in the DEVELOP module until this last bit of warning goes away. I can use HSL to reduce saturation or hue or luminance of the colour in question, or I can change overall saturation, or I can decrease exposure: I have all the options open. And my print will be good. And I do not have to make four test prints to finally find the paper that works well!

The Soft Proofing function is amazing. One more reason to live in Adobe Lightroom, if you are not yet!



Want to learn? I have scheduled a special all-evening Flash course in Oakville, Ontario on 3 Oct; as well as a five-evening basic photography course, starting Oct 2, aimed at novice to intermediate users who want to learn to use their DSLR properly once and for all.

These courses are very special in that they are like private coaching: I will only take up to 6 students for each course. The Flash course includes the Pro Flash Manual, and the five-evening course includes course materials and homework. Both are now available for signing up on – see the flash course details on this page.


5 thoughts on “Pro Print Precision!

  1. Hi Michael,
    Excellent roadmap of how to print from Lightroom!
    I, too, print to a canon printer (Pro-100) from a MacBook Pro, but find I have to prevent double proofing, where the printer and Lightroom compete for colour management causing colour-tingeing (in particular, producing unacceptable reds in skin tones).
    Although I select the printer paper profile as opposed to “managed by printer”, I find I also need to reset the printer driver to “colorsync” as opposed to “color matching” or double proofing can result.
    Have you encountered (and hopefully mastered) this problem with Canon printers? I am told it is not a problem with Epsons.

  2. I can’t wait until we ditch all the restrictive old 8-bit colour spaces. They made sense in the earlier days when computing power was limited and monitors sucked. But they’re just a hassle on modern equipment. sRGB is a historical artifact from an age when we made colour displays out of raster scanned vacuum tubes; AdobeRGB and ProPhotoRGB are (IMHO) half-hearted attempts to sort-of correct its limitations without actually fixing any of the systems that were built around it.

    I doubt it’ll ever happen, but I would really like to see everyone standardize on CIE 1931xyz. That’s the definitive complete-gamut colour space, covering everything humans can see (and, by extension, everything that can conceivably be printed or displayed by any device intended for human viewers). A 16-bit short int mapping of CIE 1931xyz (48 bits/pixel) ought to be computationally light on any remotely modern equipment and, with a simple lookup table, can have a unique mapping to the working colour space of any arbitary camera, display or printer. Sure, it’s nonlinear, but we already have layers upon layers of nonlinear mappings to let us work in colour spaces that are only linear once they’re on the VGA (*shudder*) cable.

    Just a thought, in which I’ve probably missed something….

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