What are camera profiles?
When shooting in JPEG mode, the camera applies color, contrast, and sharpening to your image files. Switching to shooting in raw, your camera captures all of the raw data at the point of capture, but builds a small JPEG preview as well. This JPEG preview—with all of the color, contrast, and sharpening—is what you see in the LCD on the back of the camera.
When you import this image into Lightroom, Lightroom initially shows you that JPEG preview as a thumbnail. Behind the scenes, it starts to render the raw data into pixels you can view and work with onscreen (a process known as demosaicing). To do this, Lightroom looks at the image’s metadata—white balance and everything buried in your camera’s color menu—and interprets it as best it can.
Because Lightroom can’t interpret some proprietary camera settings, the preview almost never looks like the JPEG that you saw on the back of your camera. This is why your thumbnails shift in color shortly after (or during) the import process.
This shift frustrated many photographers before Lightroom’s developers added camera profiles (presets that attempt to mimic the settings included in a camera’s JPEGs). While not 100 percent accurate, they let you get closer to what you saw on the back of your camera. They used to be located in the Camera Calibration panel.
As more photographers started using them, some created profiles for artistic effects. Adobe realized that users wanted to add profiles first—for both color fidelity and artistic expression—and moved them to the top of the Basic panel.
The new profiles in Lightroom
The April 2018 release of Lightroom Classic CC greatly expanded how photographers use camera profiles in their workflow by creating three categories to explore:
Adobe Raw profiles: These profiles are not camera-dependent and aim to give users of any camera a more unified look and feel for their images.
Camera Matching profiles: These profiles mimic the profiles built in to your camera, and vary by camera manufacturer.
Creative profiles: These profiles are built for artistic expression and leverage Lightroom’s ability to include 3D LUTs for even more coloring effects.
Now that we know what these tools can do, let’s spend some time exploring how to use them to make our work really stand out: Select the first image in the Develop Module Practice collection (when sorted by File Name in the Grid view’s Sort menu), and press the D key to make sure you are in the Develop module. To make it easier for you to see the changes we are making, close the left-side panels and the Filmstrip by clicking the gray triangles in the middle of each side.
At the top of the Basic panel (directly below Treatment) is the Profile area. On the left is the Profile pop-up menu, a quick way to access some of the Adobe Raw profiles that mimic your camera settings (these appear only when working on a raw file). You also can add your favorite profiles from the Profile Browser to this menu for easier access.
On the right is the Profile Browser icon (it looks like four squares), where you can access a variety of profiles, including the Adobe Raw Profiles. Josh Haftel, principal product manager for Adobe, wrote a blog post explaining the new color profiles:
While I believe that Adobe has done a great job with the Adobe Raw profiles, many photographers will want to go directly to the Camera Matching profiles, the profiles that are specific to your camera make and are based on the ones you can choose on your camera. To do this, click the Profile Browser icon.
Using the Profile Browser
The new Profile Browser gives you access to all the profiles Adobe created. We already discussed the Adobe Raw profiles at the top of the Profile Browser. The Camera Matching profiles include any profiles that are specific to your camera make, so the number of profiles available will vary by camera type.
At the bottom of the Profile Browser are the creative profiles, separated by category: Artistic, B&W, Modern, and Vintage. If you expand any of them, you’ll see a series of thumbnails showing what each profile will look like on your photo.
I encourage you to experiment with all of the profiles. While the Camera Matching profiles might offer you a one-click solution to get closer to what you saw on the back of your camera, the creative profiles might spark a new interpretation of your image. My other favorite part? The creative profiles have an Amount slider, allowing you to dial in the effect to your liking. Once you choose a profile and an Amount setting, click the Close button at the upper right of the browser to return to the Basic panel.
The profiles that have been created also include black-and-white presets that can really enhance and serve as a great starting point for creating compelling black-and-white images. We’ll talk about how to create your own black-and-white images later on in the lesson.
For the purposes of this image, select the Vintage06 preset and click the Close button.
The end result is a grungier look with more compressed midtones.