When you use your digital camera’s raw file format while shooting, you get all the information from the cameras sensors, and therefore the most leeway when it comes to editing the image. The first step of converting this raw data is critical, and Adobe just added lots more options in its Lightroom and Camera Raw software.
Called Profiles, the new feature takes the original camera data and creates different output images with different characteristics—more vivid color, for example—based on that.
Normally, when you edit a photo, you’re editing after the original translation from raw to a displayable image format. Applying effects during the conversion is Adobe’s innovation in this latest update of its photography software. Profiles actually already existed in Lightroom and Camera Raw, but they were way down in the Camera Calibration section and only offered a few basic choices, most of which were based on your camera manufacturer’s software. Now they’re at the top of the Develop mode’s adjustment panel, and reflect more Adobe color technology than that of the camera maker.
Adobe is also making the technology behind creating Profiles available to third-party filter developers like Contrastly, DVLOP, Nik, ReallyNiceImages, and VSCO. LUT (look-up table) support is also being introduced; it’s a standard tool in video postproduction color grading that takes an input value and outputs a color value to achieve different moods.
PCMag tested the new version of Lightroom CC, listed as 1.3. In previous versions of ACR and Lightroom, Profiles were “a vastly underutilized feature. You really want to pick the Profile as a starting point…because it affects all the other adjustments,” said Photoshop creator Thomas Knoll.
He went on to say that the feature was so buried that the company didn’t even include it in the first version of Lightroom CC, the connected, rethought-out version of Lightroom. (The familiar version is now available as Lightroom Classic.)
The new Profiles come in two main groups raw and creative. Choices in the first group are Adobe Raw and Camera Matching, while Creative options include Legacy, Artistic, B&W, Modern, and Vintage. The raw Profiles only work with raw images, while the last four are special effects that also work with JPG images.
Included in the Adobe Raw group are Adobe Color, Monochrome, Landscape, Neutral, Portrait, Standard, and Vivid. I expect Adobe Color to be the most popular, and it’s the new default for newly imported photos. It gets a bit more contrast, warmth, and vividness out of the photo than Adobe Standard, which is the same as the previous version of Lightroom.
The Camera Matching Profiles simply mimic the camera manufacturer’s image rendering. They’re desinged to match what you see on your camera LCD or the JPG the camera produces.
The Monochrome Profile, because it starts from the raw camera image, is a better option than starting with a color Profile and then converting to black-and-white. Portrait is designed to reproduce all skin tones accurately, while Landscape adds more vibrancy since there’s no face tones to worry about distorting. Neutral has the least contrast, useful for difficult lighting situations, and Vivid punches up saturation and contrast.
The Creative Profiles will conjure the notion of Instagram filters for many. Disappointingly, they have names like Artistic 01, Modern 04, and so on. I’d prefer names that give a clue about what the effect does rather than numbers. Every Instagram user knows what the Hefe filter looks like. Despite that quibble, the Creative Profiles really do add interest and feels, usually without being too obvious. In some cases they’re a one-step improvement. It’s also impressive how different the 17 B&W choices are.
You can designate Profiles of your choosing as Favorites, which makes them show up on top. The Browser is one of the best parts of the new toolset, since it shows you thumbnails with the effects applied, and as you hover over any of these, the effect is applied to the entire image in the main window.
One problem with using the Profiles is that they work behind the scenes: You can’t see what they’re doing, the way you can with Presets. The latter are just settings adjustments that clearly show up in the control sliders for brightness, contrast, saturation, and so on. The effect profiles (but not the raw profiles) do offer a slider for their strength, however, and of course you can tweak an image with the standard adjustment tools after you’ve chosen a profile.
Profiles on Mobile
The new Profiles also come to the smartphone and tablet versions of Lightroom, which I tested on my iPhone X. The app can save photos in raw format (using Adobe’s Digital Negative, or .DNG format) from the phone camera, and when you opt for that mode, the photos don’t even show up in the iOS Photos app.
In the Lightroom app, you get the same Profile preview thumbnails to see their effect before you apply it. And as is the new Adobe strategy for Lightroom, photos sync with the desktop applications, including Lightroom Classic (if you’ve enabled syncing). So you can continue editing the image with the desktop software’s richer set of tools.
In addition to the new Profiles, Adobe has updated Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic in a few more minor ways. Classic’s Dehaze tool is now more accessible, its Tone Curve panel is larger for more precise manipulation, and face detection is more accurate. Lightroom CC gets support for NAS drives and the ability to filter the gallery view by sync status. Sadly, it still doesn’t have a Print feature, something Thomas Knoll said was nevertheless high on the list for future updates.