Using Camera Profile Presets in Lightroom 2

Matt Kloskowski recently posted two good videos over at about how to use the new Camera Raw Profiles that Adobe has created to work with Lightroom 2. They're worth watching.

When Adobe first put out these profiles, I installed them but didn't really have much of a clue about what they did. Now, after watching Matt's first video on the subject I've made my own presets for them and find that I use them all the time.

Basically, the profiles are designed to emulate what you might see if you opened up your RAW or DNG files in Nikon or Canon's raw processing programs like Capture NX. What threw me at first was that they have names that don't really tell me anything about them. They're called things like "D2X Mode 1 Beta 1" and since I've never owned a D2X I figured they just weren't for me.

But it turns out this is just the crazy way that Adobe named them, probably because they're named that way in Capture NX. Here, in a nutshell, is how to take advantage of these puppies..

First, download and install them. That's quick and easy, and is explained handily at

Next, pick a photo that you've shot with a Nikon if you're using the Nikon profiles or something that you've shot with a Canon if you're using the Canon profiles, and then jump in to the DEVELOP module. It's not necessary to make any toning adjustments, though it also won't hurt you if you do.

On the right-hand panel, scroll all the way down to "Camera Calibration" (or just hit CMD-7 if you're on a Mac) and then click on the "Profile" drop-down menu. There, if you've installed things correctly, you'll see the options for the different profiles.

Select one with your mouse and see what it does to your photo. In some cases it may show you a dramatically different image. BUT, you won't see any change in the various Hue and Saturation sliders in the Calibration panel.

Now, if you had to scroll down to that panel and test out each one of those pull-down menu options every time you worked with a photo, that would get mighty old in a hurry. So here's the secret: make presets of each one of them.

Select one of the profiles, and for the moment don't worry about whether it makes your picture look good or bad. Then create a new preset by clicking on the little "+" sign (or by using the keyboard shortcut "CMD-SHIFT-N.") When the "New Develop Preset" window appears, the fastest way to create is to uncheck all the options, and then just click on the "Calibration" button. Then give it a name that makes sense to you. Something like, "Camera D2X Mode 1 Beta 1." Do this for each profile option. Trust me, it's worth it.

The beauty of this is that you can then use your Navigator panel and the Preset panel to get a quick preview of what the camera profile will do to your image without having to actually apply it to the image. When you hover your mouse over any preset, the navigator window shows you what your photo will look like IF you decide to then click to apply the preset. That little gem is one of the beee-yootiful things about Lightroom that I love. And though I never used the navigator window when I first started using the program, once I learned that I started using it all the time. Saves me loads of trial and error. And I find that the profiles often give me a better baseline image to start with once I do get in to serious toning, which improves the quality of the images I give to clients.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad Adobe is offering something like this, but I wish they would just create an option that would enable you to view the embedded full-size jpeg preview that comes within every NEF file. iView, Photo Mechanic and Aperture all offer this feature and it's extremely useful. It's like they are missing the whole point of people wanting "camera profiles." They must realize by now that many people do not use Lightroom for RAW processing, but just for cataloging images, and then rendering the RAW files with their program of choice (Capture NX in my case).

Thomas said...

That's interesting.. I'm curious why you wouldn't use Lightroom for handling your RAW files, when it now (with LR2) has pretty much the same functionality as Capture NX, but is easier to use. (And I must throw in the qualifier that I haven't used Capture NX very much, mostly because I found it cumbersome.)

If you are using just jpegs out of your camera, then Lightroom is reading whatever camera settings you've applied before the images were imported, in which case the profile information is already being read and rendered by Lightroom.

For me, it's great to have a catalog of my work, but once I've found a photo I want to work with for whatever reason why would I then want to have to launch another application to do something with the picture? And would you not want the revised photo to be part of your catalog, so that you have a record of it as well? Just seems redundant to me.

It's somewhat of a mystery to me why anybody is still shooting jpegs when they have the RAW option. You get much more latitude shooting RAW (sometimes two or more stops of salvageable highlight detail, per DP Review and other sources, compared to JPEGs) and you leave open the option of doing anything you want down the road with the images. Granted, you can do a "save as" with your jpegs and keep intact the original file, but you're always working with just slightly less information each time you do so.

The thing that really surprised me was that Lightroom and Bridge were actually FASTER using RAW files than they were using JPEGs, I think because the programs are not having to "translate" the compressed data in to a full-sized image each time they display and manage a file.

It sounds, from your post, like you're saving your RAW files somewhere anyway in order to work with them when you need. That's good. But having the profiles, to my mind, is just one way of using the information in those files when you go to tone and handle them. You might think of it like pre-packaged food rather than raw ingredients. If you buy a steak that's already marinated in the package (akin to a jpeg with an embedded camera profile) then you don't have many options for other ways to season and cook it. But if you just buy a fresh cut of meat, you have a hundred options ahead of you for how you end up turning it in to a tasty meal.

So aside from the storage issue with shooting RAW, which can be mitigated quite effectively by converting those files to DNGs, I'd urge you to start working more with RAW files. I want to get as much information out of my camera as possible every time I press the shutter, and not lose 20% or so before I even pull the compact flash card out of the back.

Lastly, I think it's maybe a bit off the mark to say that Adobe is missing the point of people wanting to use camera profiles. After all, they're giving you camera profiles. So maybe they weren't getting the point in Lightroom 1, but now they've got it, and they even give you a tool to build your own custom profiles. So I think they get it very much, and will be improving things each time they put out a new version.

There is also a JPEG extractor program out there (it's called something like "instant jpeg from raw") that you might want to use if you're really eager to extract those from your RAW files.