Lightroom 3 Tip
Level: intermediate – advanced
If you are frustrated that your photos on your camera’s LCD do not match your RAW files in Adobe Lightroom, there is a way to calibrate both your Camera’s LCD screen and Lightroom, to get a much better match.
If you are already shooting RAW format, you probably already know that the image you see on your camera’s LCD is only a low res JPEG preview of the RAW file. Your camera apply’s several settings that either you selected, or it uses the defaults. These settings are “baked” into the JPEG’s.
When you open the RAW files in LR3 or in Camera RAW, you’ll see a big difference in the colors, compared to your JPEG previews on camera.
The RAW files look washed out, and less sharp in comparison to the JPEG’s on Camera. If you shot JPEG’s at the same time you shot RAW, you’ll notice they are darker, and richer in color than the RAW counterparts.
So, you end up developing the RAW files, adjusting sliders like Exposure, Contrast, Sharpness, etc…, to try to improve them and make them more like the JPEG’s. It takes a lot of time to do this repeatedly.
There’s a better way, and it helps to understand what your camera is doing when it “bakes” settings into the JPEG’s.
The secret sauce
On the Canon system, and this should work similar to Nikon and other brands that utilize the RAW format, there is a feature know as “Picture Styles”. That’s the secret sauce!
What your camera is doing is applying this sauce called Picture Style, to the JPEG preview. Or, if you are shooting JPEG’s, it will have already baked the sauce in. What you see on the LCD is the processed, low res JPEG preview, with the sauce!
Picture Styles are settings in the camera, that you can apply, and fine tune, to improve the type of pictures you are shooting. For example, if you are shooting landscapes, there’s a picture style called… you guesed it… “Landscape”!
The Landscape Style increases sharpness, while the Portrait style decrease it, to soften skin tones. Each of the available styles contain adjustable options for Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation and Tone. There are sliders for each, allowing you to fine tune, and customize each one. In fact, Canon provides the Picture Style Editor software for your computer, so you can create your own custom styles.
Then why should you bother shooting Raw?
Raw is the best method for several reasons. Most important, Raw files contain much more image data than JPEGs. You can gain up to a stop-and-a-half of exposure control, and you can recover some lost highlights. In JPEG’s, that extra data is already gone. The extra data can save a shot that you might have normally tossed. In JPEG, there’s much less latitude to improve or bring back lost detail in your pictures.
So, how do I easily improve my pictures, and make them look as good or better than the JPEG previews?
With an easy setup in LR3. You can create a preset using your favorite Picture Style, and have lightroom apply it to every picture automatically, upon import.
Your Raw pictures will now match their JPEG previews on your camera’s LCD. You’ll be amazed at how much better your pictures will look.
Here are the steps:
1) Before you import new Raw files, do this to an existing RAW file, to setup the preset. In the Develop module, the right window pane has develop settings. Scroll down until you see the Camera Calibration section. Click the flipper so it toggles the section open. You will see a menu labeled “Profile:” and to the right of that is the default “Adobe Standard” choice. Click on it to see all the available picture styles, from the pop-up menu! I recommend using the “Standard” picture style, since this is the default and the one you most likely use the most. You can always change it later, but this is a fine to start with.
Here’s screen shots of the Camera Calibration menu from the Develop pane on the right side:
(click to see larger)
2) Now you are ready to make a preset for this choice. While still in the Develop module, go to the left most navigation/preset pane. Scroll down to User Presets, and toggle open the flipper. To add a new preset, click on the “+” sign and the “add New Preset” dialog box will pop up. Uncheck all except leave a check mark next to the “Calibration” choice. Name your new preset something like this: “Camera Standard”. Obviously, if you chose a different picture style, name it accordingly.
Here’s the screen:
Here’s the default picture style, as seen on your camera’s LCD that you’ll be using for most of your images:
3) Now that the preset has been made, you can import your RAW files and have LR3 automatically apply the preset to all the files! Super simple! Here’s how to apply the preset on import: Click on the “Library” module at the top of the screen. You need to be in the Library to import photos. On the far left pane at the bottom, you’ll see the “Import” button. Click, then navigate your drive in the left window pane to find the folder of Raw files, and select it. You’ll see a new window pop-up in the center of your screen with thumbnails of the RAW files. Now for the important part! At the bottom of the screen youll see a narrow, black tab with this: “Import Preset:”. At the far right side is a pop-up menu of all the presets. Locate the one you just defined for your picture style. Remember, it’s the one I suggested you labeled “Camera Standard”. Now you can click on the “Import” button at the far lower right corner.
All of the images imported into your Library, will now have the new Camera Standard calibration applied to them. You can still change your mind to suit the needs for individual photos, but now all your pictures will more closely match your camera’s LCD.
As a last step, there’s one more thing I discovered that will help. Change the brightness of the camera’s LCD to Manual Adjust, and with the camera near your monitor, visually match the brightness of your LCD to your monitor. It helps to have the same image displayed on each devise. Don’t use the “Auto” brightness control on the camera’s LCD, or this will throw off the match. Auto will dim or brighten as the ambient light changes. Use a Hoodman loop to view the LCD. I also recommend you keep your monitor calibrated. I use the Color Munki, and am very happy with it.
Congratulations, you’ve just dramatically improved the consistency of color and processing of Raw images in Lightroom 3!