If you print your photos from Lightroom, you may notice that with different papers, the color and tonal output varies, even if printing on the same printer.

This is because all different printer/paper/ink combinations result in varying range of colors and tones that can be accurately reproduced.

In other words, if you print the same photo from Lightroom (or any other program, for that matter) on glossy photo paper, cotton rag art paper and canvas, each print will look different.

So what’s a photographer to do?

The answer is simple, but the implementation is not: you need to make adjustments to the photo for each substrate prior to printing.

In Photoshop, this is made easier by a feature called soft-proofing, which allows you to see an on-screen simulation of how the print will look when printed on a particular paper. You can then make adjustments, based on the soft-proof, to comepnsate for the differences in color gamuts available for different papers.

The current version of Lightroom does not offer soft-proofing. Many photographers who print their own work are anxiously awaiting the day when true soft-proofing comes to Lightroom, but there’s been no official “promise” from Adobe about if or when this will actually happen.

In the meantime, here are a couple of tips for making printing from Lightroom easier, regardless of the printer or papers you use.

  1. Use Virtual Copies to apply adjustments for different output.
  2. Use Quick Develop in Library to apply relative adjustments to the VCs, thereby keeping all your original Develop settings in place underneath. This is like using Photoshop layer groups  for adjustments when soft-proofing. (If you use Develop adjustments, they are absolute and will override the previous settings.)
  3. Name your VCs for the printer/paper combination and the kinds of adjustments you’ve applied.

Depending on how far off your first test prints come out, you may need to make significant adjustments, usually to tone (try Brightness first) and Saturation (also try Vibrance; hold the Option or Alt key to show the Vibrance adjustment in Quick Develop). Click the arrows to apply small or large changes to the values.

After applying relative adjustments to VCs for a particular paper, produce reduced size test prints (or strips made by cropping) until you like what you see.

Unfortunately you can’t currently save Quick Develop presets. But after a few successful prints using these methods, you’ll quickly know what needs to be done to print a certain image on a specific paper.

Finishing on that note, if you use a paper with a wide gamut, you will need to do much less (or no) adjustment. By way of comparision, accurately printing a photo on Epson Premium Luster often requires significant adjustments to compensate for the blue cast and low dmax of the paper. Conversley, for many images, Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk has such a wide gamut and high dmax that, often, no adjustments are necessary to produce an acceptably-accurate print straight from Lightroom.

Stay tuned for a future article about choosing the optimal settings in Lightroom’s Color Management Panel.

I cover a lot of this in my new Lightroom book, published by Wiley.

Your comments and questions are always welcome!

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