Adobe’s latest release of Lightroom has a major improvement – camera profiles. You may have heard of profiles for your monitor and printer, these are kinda the same except in reverse.
Let me try to explain some fairly technical details of how a digital camera works. The sensor that records your images views the world in Black & White, it can’t tell the difference between colors, only tones. It sees something as being either bright or dark. Film, by the way, does the same thing. In order to record color, special filters have to be put over the sensor. The color filters essentially block out other colors. If you hold up a red filter and look through it, what is happening is other colors are not allowed to pass through the filter so you see the red. In the digital camera world the sensor has a color filter array that lets certain color light hit each pixel of the sensor. That is the simplified version but what is important to understand is that there is no right or perfect way to filter the light and it is adjustable via software.
That is where Lightroom’s camera profiles come in. This only works for RAW files, it doesn’t affect TIFF or JPG files since profiles are done by the camera or another processor. Lightroom looks at what camera made the RAW image, takes into consideration how that camera does the filtering and then makes adjustments to the colors before your image is displayed in Lightroom. This was always happening but you didn’t have easy control over it. Now you do. Adobe has created six new basic profiles to enhance colors based on what they think the type of photo is.
- Adobe Color – improves the look and rendering of warm tones, improving the transitions between certain color ranges, and slightly increasing the your photo’s. Adobe Color is the new default and Adobe says it works well with any photo.
- Adobe Monochrome – has better tonal separation and contrast than photos that started in Adobe Standard and were converted into black and white.
- Adobe Portrait – is optimized for all skin tones, providing more control and better reproduction of skin tones. It has less contrast and saturation applied to skin tones.
- Adobe Landscape – has more vibrant skies and foliage tones, in other words they bumped the vibrancy in blues, greens and maybe yellows.
- Adobe Neutral – has a low amount of contrast and not much else has been boosted.
- Adobe Vivid – adds a lot of saturation and punch to your photo.
Whenever a RAW photo is imported into Lightroom a profile must be rendered, but remember you can always change it later. The default profile is now Adobe Color. It won’t affect photos already imported into Lightroom but will affect all future photos, if you use the default profile. You can go back to older photos and apply the new profile through the Develop module. The old Adobe Standard profile is still available and is still applied to your older photos.
All images need some amount of enhancement, that is a technical requirement, so don’t think of it as a dirty word. Adobe is quick to point out that these profiles are starting points, you’ll probably want to make additional enhancements to your photos depending on the way you like your images to look.
Adobe has gone farther than the basic profiles. They noticed the trend of photos having lots of saturated colors (way too much for my taste) and they have created a set of Modern profiles that really make colors pop. There is also a set called Vintage that makes your photos look like they were shot on different types of film.
Is all of this new? Couldn’t this be done with presets and just moving the sliders? The answer is kinda yes, you could do some of that. But presets move sliders in the Develop module, if you want your green grass to be super-duper saturated there is only so far you can move the slider. Now there is a profile that saturates green before you move a slider. So you can get greater enhancements than before. Since everything in Lightroom is non-destructive, meaning you can always make changes without doing anything to the original file, you can anytime change the profile. You can see what the other profiles do by moving your cursor over the thumbnails in the Develop module. If you have already toned a photo and apply a new profile, it will change the work you have already done, so there is no reason to change profiles if you like the way your existing image looks.
There are third party profiles already on the Adobe website and I’m sure there will more available soon.
You may have noticed that when you first look at RAW images in Lightroom they look great for a couple of seconds and then pop to a more muted and flat look. That is because your camera creates a jpg image when you take a picture, even if you are shooting in RAW. What you see on the back of your camera when chimping is that jpg, and many times what you see on the camera’s screen looks different than what you see in your computer. In your camera you have several different options to determine what picture style you want. The styles are called landscape, fine detail, neutral, portrait, etc. You can adjust those settings to increase the saturation, contrast, sharpness, etc. But they only do something to jpg files not RAW. The image on the back of your camera is that enhanced jpg and that is what initially pops into Lightroom. Now Adobe has made it easy to apply those settings through what they call Camera Matching. By using Camera Matching your RAW files can look like what you saw in the camera.
All of these new profiles are accessed in the Basic panel at the top right of the Develop module in Lightroom Classic CC and are available in all versions of CC. They have also moved the dehaze slider up to the Basic panel, which makes it more accessible.
Work with the new profiles and see what you can do with your photos. If you want to learn more, check out Adobe’s blog at https://theblog.adobe.com/april-lightroom-adobe-camera-raw-releases-new-profiles.
I’ll be covering camera profiles extensively in my upcoming Advanced Lightroom workshop. on June 24. You can attend the class in person or live online.