Improving “Flat” Captures


Today’s Question: I’ve been disappointed that Adobe hasn’t been providing profiles for new Canon cameras in Lightroom Classic or Camera Raw. The generic Adobe profiles sometimes leave raw images looking quite flat. I’ve seen mention online of color checkers being used to create camera- and lens-specific profiles that can be used in Lightroom Classic and I wondered if you’ve tried that.

Tim’s Quick Answer: A reference card such as the ColorChecker Passport ( from X-Rite Photo can help achieve more accurate colors. However, in general I recommend using an updated preset for Lightroom Classic to improve the initial appearance of photos.

More Detail: In general, you will likely find that raw captures appear a bit flat with default adjustment settings in most software. This can be a little disappointing, since the image on your camera’s LCD display will often be more saturated with better contrast compared to what you’ll see on your computer.

However, this is primarily related to the interpretation of the raw capture. In the camera, for example, the raw capture is often interpreted to reflect better contrast and saturation.

Lightroom Classic employs profiles that define the initial interpretation of the raw capture data. You may find, for example, that there is a profile you are most happy with in terms of the initial appearance of your photos. However, you can also change the default adjustment settings to improve the initial appearance of your photos.

Those updated default settings can include changing the profile found at the top of the Basic section on the right panel in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic. However, I also find that a boost of Clarity as well as Vibrance can greatly improve the initial look of photos.

I recommend using a preset to apply updated adjustment settings to photos. Start with a sample image that you have not yet applied adjustments to. Then refine any of the settings you’d like on the right panel in the Develop module, representing adjustments you’d like to apply to other images. Then create a preset by clicking the plus (+) button to the right of the Presets heading on the left panel in the Develop module and choosing “Create Preset” from the popup menu.

In the dialog that appears, make sure the checkbox is turned on only for the specific adjustments you want to include as part of the preset. Type a meaningful name in the Preset Name field and click the Create button to create the preset.

You can then apply that preset to images in order to update the adjustment settings. Even better, you can apply the preset to all new photos as they are imported by selecting the preset by name from the Develop Settings popup in the Apply During Import section of the right panel in the Import dialog.