RAW Interpretation


Today’s Question: As you know, Adobe Standard is the default camera calibration option applied to images in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. I read a recent article discussing high contrast images where the application of Adobe Standard could increase the risk of clipping because of its default contrast enhancement, necessitating the use of exposure, shadow, highlight controls to remedy.

I would much prefer to start with what may appear to be a flatter image and then make my own judgments and adjustments concerning contrast. Secondly, I certainly don’t want the calibration standard to increase the risk of default clipping in my RAW images. So my own conclusion is that Adobe Standard should be abandoned and the use of a “flat” or “neutral” camera calibration should be applied to all imported images.

What are your thoughts?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This isn’t an issue I would worry too much about. In some respects, you can think of this as a situation where regardless of which Profile option you choose for Camera Calibration, you’re going to need to fine-tune your overall adjustments for the image.

More Detail: Processing RAW captures in general involves interpreting the information gathered by the image sensor to create the initial file. This is why each software application for processing RAW captures will produce a slightly (or sometimes significantly) different interpretation of the image.

The Camera Calibration controls in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw are primarily aimed at compensating for the behavior of the camera. For example, you can essentially change the definition of the primary colors (generally Red, Green, and Blue) used to create the final image.

The Profile popup within the Camera Calibration adjustments can be thought of in some ways as an overall preset that determines the basic interpretation of the photo. There are certainly differences in overall tonality and contrast based on the preset you select, but the various adjustments can also be compensated for relatively easily.

If the profile you select (such as the default “Adobe Standard” option) results in too much contrast, you can compensate by reducing the value for Whites and increasing the value for Blacks. If the profile you’ve selected results in a flat appearance you could instead increase the value for Whites and decrease the value for Blacks.

But again, the adjustments based on the Profile setting will not be so extreme that you’re not able to compensate with other adjustments. If you find that you’re happier with the initial interpretation of your images based on a Profile option other than “Adobe Standard”, there is no reason not to switch to that Profile option, perhaps even changing the default settings in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw based on your preferred Profile.