Understanding the Camera Calibration Module in Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom relies on the Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) rendering engine to convert camera RAW images. The default color and contrast settings are something called “Adobe Standard” which look different than what you might see on your camera LCD when reviewing your images. However, Adobe offers alternate Camera Profiles which emulate the as-shot settings from many Nikon and Canon DSLRs. You’ll find these settings in the Camera Calibration panel in Lightroom and ACR.

In this example, I have placed an image of a Colorchecker card on the screen so you can see how the colors and contrast change between camera profiles. For this image, I get options based on the Nikon D800 that I used to capture the RAW file. Note that you can only make profile changes to RAW files. If you see “Embedded” under the profile option, it’s because you’re looking at a TIFF or JPEG image in Lightroom. Choose from any of the profile presets in the drop-down menu to change the baseline color and tone curve of your image, and you can fine-tune it with the sliders if you wish.

If you have a ColorChecker card, you can use the ColorChecker software from X-rite to create a custom profile for your camera. Each custom profile is specific to the camera you use to create the image. You can further tweak those profiles using Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor software (free download from www.adobe.com).

Once you have a profile that you like, you might wish to change your defaults to always use that profile going forward. If you do change your default settings, note that ANYTHING you modified in the Develop section gets applied, so keep your adjustments minimal (Calibration, sharpening, lens corrections) so that you don’t over-process your images. Defaults are only applied automatically when you import new images into Lightroom. Existing images will not be changed; you’ll have to adjust them manually or use the “Reset Settings” option in Lightroom to do so.

6 thoughts on “Understanding the Camera Calibration Module in Lightroom”

  1. So what is actually changing in the other menus when you change the camera calibration? If you change the camera calibration, will you get a different result when changing the same sliders under the basic or tone curve tabs?

  2. The other menus don’t change. The baseline conversion changes. All the other sliders then add/subtract from the baseline conversion.

  3. Why does one need color checker if one can get the profile for their camera from someone who has the same camera?
    Does the profile change based on light source?

  4. Well, the profiles are different if you use different color temperatures, and each camera may be slightly different. That being said, if you have a friend with a custom profile, you can certainly install it and try it out.

  5. Thank you for this excellent and informative presentation. I’ve been scratching my head all evening as to what was going wrong with my colours in LR5 viewing my RAW files, especially when compared with DPP.

    Thanks for taking the time to create and upload this!

    Cheers

    James

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