As a user of Adobe Lightroom I sometimes find that the initial import of my Camera RAW files look nothing like the JPG preview shown on the camera. Most of the time this is OK as I will edit the image to suit what I want. However I find in certain situations, especially with some light painting images, that the processing of the RAW file Adobe Lightroom does not render the image as expected and I cannot process my way back to what was in the camera JPG. I find this is most often the case with light painting images where the light source is close to the camera or quite bright.
As you may know the preview you get from your camera is a processed file using the camera’s own presets and sits within the raw file. These previews are the image shown when you initially import into Lightroom (or it may also be the JPG sidecar file if you are shooting RAW+JPG as I often do). The previews often get me excited enough to call it a night for the shoot. When I get home and import the files to Lightroom I sometimes find no amount of editing gets me anywhere near the look of the JPG sidecar file.
I searched around for how to get the RAW to start to look somewhat like the in camera processed file and it turns out to be incredibly simple in Adobe Lightroom. All you have to do is go into the ‘Develop’ module, scroll all the way down to ‘Camera Calibration’ in the adjustment panel and select the appropriate profile. I will usually try ‘Camera Neutral’ or ‘Camera Faithful’ but I will also try the others if I am not satisfied with the result.
Here are some examples that compare the differences between the camera JPG file, the Adobe RAW processing and the Adobe Camera Calibration setting.
The first example was shot up close to the light painting source. In this case I would use the Camera Neutral calibration profile as a starting point before I do any editing to the image. The Adobe RAW processing leaves the light painting streaks flat where-as the camera JPG and Camera Faithful processing give it more of a neon effect. I would also make further editing changes in this case.
In the second example was further away from the light painting source. In this case I would work with the Adobe RAW processing as a starting point as the camera JPG and Camera Calibration profiles leave the light trails too washed out. In the case of this image I actually didn’t do any further processing before I shared it on Flickr (and it got ‘Explored’!).