Capture Settings

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Today’s Question: I’ve always assumed that shooting in RAW there was no camera sharpening being applied, but I wanted the JPEG thumbnail to reflect the RAW image as far as possible. Other camera settings (contrast, saturation, etc.) I do set to my taste. Are those capture parameters reflected in the RAW file in Lightroom or only in the resulting camera JPEG?

Tim’s Quick Answer: As a general rule, settings on your camera that cause your photos to be processed in some way (such as contrast, saturation, or sharpening) are not applied to RAW captures. However, those adjustments are applied to the JPEG preview that the camera embeds with the RAW capture. When you import the RAW capture into Adobe Lightroom or other third-party software, the in-camera adjustments will not be visible. That said, the adjustments may be available if you use the software from your camera manufacturer, with this option varying among different camera manufacturers.

More Detail: For most cameras, the only settings that affect a RAW capture are the lens aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO setting. Some cameras also include special options that will affect a RAW capture, such as in-camera noise reduction and special processing to preserve highlight detail, for example.

In other words, the majority of settings in the camera won’t actually affect the RAW capture. Keep in mind that when you capture a RAW photo, the camera will generate a JPEG preview based on the RAW capture, and embed that preview with the RAW capture file. This JPEG preview is what you see on the camera’s LCD display, for example. This can be a little confusing, because what you see on the LCD display is not entirely reflected in the RAW capture itself.

If you are using the software from your camera manufacturer, you will generally have access to most (or all) of the in-camera settings. However, if you are using third-party software such as Adobe Lightroom, those changes will not be visible to you.

Many photographers like to add certain adjustments (such as contrast and saturation) on the camera, so they can get a better sense of what the final result might look like when reviewing their images on the camera’s display. Just keep in mind that when using software such as Lightroom, those settings won’t actually apply to your RAW captures, so you may have a little extra work to do to achieve the intended result for each image.