Photo Tip: Camera Calibration – by Sabrina Henry

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Recently I decided to give the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan a try since I hadn’t upgraded to Lightroom 5 yet. The jury is still out on whether the monthly subscription plan is right for me but I am enjoying the latest version of Lightroom (LR). Since I had to reset my preferences with the new download, I had a chance to go back to Gavin Gough’s photographer’s workflow bible and revisit key workflow elements like camera calibration.

“Selecting a profile is an important first step when we begin to process images and…without it we are destined to be processing our precious photographs with little more than guesswork”. ~ Gavin Gough

When you photograph in RAW format, the image you see on the back of your camera is a JPG preview that has been processed by your camera based on the picture style you selected. The file you download to process is the original RAW file and it does not contain any information that was applied to the JPG preview. If you look at the Camera Calibration in the Develop Module, you will see the profile of this RAW file is the default Adobe Standard. Your image will look something like this, very flat.

tomatoes in Camera RAW

To achieve “the look” of the JPG preview, LR has additional profiles you can apply that simulate the picture styles of your camera. It is pretty smart and will make specific profiles available depending on the camera you used. For example, if your images have a .NEF extension (even if the file has been converted to DNG format), LR knows that is a Nikon RAW file and it makes a set of profiles available that map to the Nikon picture styles. Not all camera brands are represented in LR but they are slowly adding profiles. I have been using my Olympus OM-D EM-5 almost exclusively for my farm project but the Olympus profiles have only recently been added to LR 5.3 Camera Calibration. Here is what the RAW file looks like when I apply the Camera Natural profile.

Tomatoes with Camera Natural

You can stop here with your processing if you are happy with what you see but I usually go further. Your first option is to make adjustments within Camera Calibration but most people will prefer to make adjustments within the Basic or Tone Curve or Color panels instead. In the final image below, I have made adjustments outside of Camera Calibration to achieve the feeling of freshly harvested tomatoes from the farm.

Tomatoes Final Processing

To learn more about processing your images including creating your own custom camera calibration profiles, pick up The Photographer’s Workflow today and just a reminder that Gavin Gough’s Photographer’s Post-Production is currently available for $39 using the discount code “ppp439“.