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Adobe Photoshop CS5 : Miss the JPEG Look? Try Applying a Camera Profile

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7/2/2012 3:29:48 PM
If you’ve ever wondered why RAW images look good on your camera’s LCD, but look flat when you open them in Camera Raw, it’s because what you see on your LCD is a JPEG preview (even though you’re shooting in RAW), and your camera automatically adds color correction, sharpening, etc., to them. When you shoot in RAW, you’re telling the camera, “Turn all that color enhancement and sharpening off—just leave it untouched, and I’ll process it myself.” But, if you’d like that JPEG-processed look as a starting place for your RAW photo editing, camera profiles can get you close.

Step One.
Click on the Camera Calibration icon (the third icon from the right) near the top of the Panel area, and in the Camera Profile section, click-and-hold on the Name popup menu, and you’ll see a list of camera profiles available for your particular camera (it reads the embedded EXIF data, so it knows which brand of camera you use). For example, if you shoot Nikon, you’ll see a list of the in-camera picture styles you could have applied to your image if you had taken the shot in JPEG mode, as seen here (if you shoot in RAW, Camera Raw ignores those in-camera profiles, as explained above). If you shoot Canon, you’ll see a slightly different list, but it does the same type of thing.

Step Two.
The default profile will be Adobe Standard. Now, ask yourself this: “Does the word ‘Standard’ ever mean ‘Kick Butt?’” Not usually, which is why I suggest you try out the different profiles in this list and see which ones you like. At the very least, I would change it to Camera Standard, which I think usually gives you a better starting place (as seen here).

Step Three.
Depending on the individual photo you’re editing, Camera Standard might not be the right choice, but as the photographer, this is a call you have to make (in other words, it’s up to you to choose which one looks best to you). I usually wind up using either Camera Standard, Camera Landscape, or Camera Vivid for images taken with a Nikon camera, because I think Landscape and Vivid look the most like the JPEGs I see on the back of my camera. But again, if you’re not shooting Nikon, Landscape or Vivid won’t be one of the available choices (Nikons have eight picture styles and Canons have six). If you don’t shoot Canon or Nikon, then you’ll only have Adobe Standard, and possibly Camera Standard, to choose from, but you can create your own custom profiles using Adobe’s free DNG Profile Editor utility, available from Adobe at http://labs.adobe.com.

Step Four.
Here’s a before/after with only one thing done to this photo: I chose Camera Vivid (as shown in the pop-up menu in Step Three). Again, this is designed to replicate the color looks you could have chosen in the camera, so if you want to have Camera Raw give you a similar look as a starting point, give this a try. Also, since Camera Raw allows you to open more than one image at a time (in fact, you can open hundreds at a time), you could open a few hundred images, then click the Select All button that will appear at the top-left corner of the window, change the camera profile for the first-selected image, and then all the other images will have that same profile automatically applied. Now, you can just click the Done button.

Before: Using the default Adobe Standard profile

After: Using the Camera Vivid profile

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