Create Beautiful Portraits with CameraBag 2 Software

Create Beautiful Portraits with CameraBag 2 Software


CameraBag for portraits

Do you use Lightroom for processing portraits but get frustrated by its limitations?

One way around this is to use a plug-in or buy some Develop Presets. But these can be expensive, so you may be interested in a cheaper alternative.

One of my favourites is Nerve Center’s CameraBag 2. It’s a bargain at just $20, and while it’s not as convenient to use as a plug-in that you can access directly from Lightroom, it is easy to incorporate into your workflow. Let me give you a couple of examples. Here’s the first; I selected it because there’s a dramatic difference between the photo created in Lightroom and the one created in CameraBag.

CameraBag for portraits

CameraBag for portraits

Here’s another one. The changes are more subtle, to show you can use the software with a light touch.

CameraBag for portraits

CameraBag for portraits

Lightroom workflow

Now you’ve got a taste for what CameraBag can do, I’d like to show you how to incorporate it into your Lightroom workflow.

As CameraBag is not a Lightroom plug-in, you need to export your photos as either JPEG or TIFF files (I recommend 16-bit TIFF) before you can open them in CameraBag. Start by creating a folder on your hard drive to store the photos. I call mine Photos (plug-ins temporary).

In Lightroom, select the photo/photos you want to edit in CameraBag. Go to File > Export. These are the settings you need to adjust in the Export window.

Export Location: Select the folder you just created. This is where Lightroom will save the files.

CameraBag for portraits

File Settings: Set Image Format to TIFF, Color Space to sRGB and Bit Depth to 16 Bits/Component.

You don’t need to touch any of the other settings in the Export window.

CameraBag for portraits

You can speed up the process by creating a User Preset. Click the Add button and give the new preset a name. All you have to do in future is click on the preset to apply the same settings. Easy!

CameraBag for portraits

Processing portraits in CameraBag

Start by opening the portrait you want to edit in CameraBag. You will see something like this:

CameraBag for portraits

The layout is minimal. Use the four buttons* in the top-right corner to access the program’s editing options.

CameraBag for portraits

* Alternatively, you can access the controls by clicking on the tabs on the very right of the screen. The functions are the same, just laid out differently.

My Styles and Cameras

Click either of these buttons to instantly choose from over 150 filters. Naturally, not all of them will suit your portrait. But look closely and you will definitely find something you will want to work with.

CameraBag for portraits

My Style filters. This is where you’ll find the majority of the filters.

CameraBag for portraits

Camera filters. There are some additional choices here.

On the surface, CameraBag may look as if it’s just another program designed to give your photos an Instagram type look. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that it is a high quality photo editor. There are two important things to note here. The first is that CameraBag uses a 32-bit processing engine, preserving your portrait’s fine graduations of tone and colour.

The second is that all editing is non-destructive. You can adjust or undo any edits you make. For this example I’ve chosen the Film NC-1A filter. It’s a subtle preset that adds a slight matte effect and a blue cast to the shadows.

CameraBag for portraits

Now look at the tiles that have appeared below the photo.

CameraBag for portraits

Some of these represent the edits that have been made by the filter to your portrait. The others are additional, allowing you to alter the effect of the filter. For example, when I click on the Toning tile, a slider appears that lets me adjust the strength of the effect.

CameraBag for portraits

When I click on the Saturation tile, the slider is set to 50, indicating that no change to colour saturation has been made. But the option is there to increase or decrease it.

CameraBag for portraits


This is where you’ll find CameraBag’s photo editing tools. It’s a comprehensive selection. Among other things you can adjust colour, contrast and tonal values, add grain or a vignette, tweak the RGB or colour curves, crop, and adjust the colour temperature. I won’t bore you with detailed explanations, because you will be able to figure it out easily enough for yourself if you download the trial.

However, there’s one tool I’d like to draw your attention to (I used it in both opening images at the beginning of the article), and that’s Lightleak. There are two sliders: Remix, which changes the appearance of the light leak effect, and Amount, which adjusts the strength.

CameraBag for portraits


Finally, we come to the borders. You can choose one of CameraBag’s borders, or create your own in another program (such as Photoshop) and use that. While I used borders in the opening images to highlight one of the differences between CameraBag and Lightroom, they are something that I tend to avoid as I see them as bit of a gimmick. But they are there if you want to use them.

You should also note that if you use one of CameraBag’s built-in borders, it reduces the size of your image to 2000 pixels along the longest edge.

CameraBag for portraits

By the way, you can create your own filters using the current settings you have picked for the photo you are editing. Just go to File > Add Filter to My Styles to do so. CameraBag prompts you to enter a name and it is stored under My Styles.

You can download more filters, created by other CameraBag users, from the CameraBag website. You can also submit your own for others to share. Here’s the final version of my portrait (without the light leaks effect).

CameraBag for portraits

What CameraBag lacks

Is there anything that CameraBag doesn’t have? There are two features that I would really like to see included in future versions. The first is some kind of masking feature so you can control which part of the image is affected by an edit. The second is some portrait retouching tools. Having said that, if you use CameraBag at the end of your workflow, to edit portraits that you have already processed in Lightroom or Photoshop, then these features won’t be missed much.

Here’s a summary of CameraBag’s good and bad points.


  • Quick and easy to use.
  • Lots of interesting built-in presets.
  • Complements Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • Good control over colour, contrast and tonal values like highlights and shadows.
  • 32-bits per component colour depth.
  • Non-destructive editing.
  • Raw file support.
  • Inexpensive!


  • Reduces image size to 2000 pixels along the longest edge if you apply a built-in border.
  • Only works with one colour space (whatever your monitor is set to).
  • Can’t be added as a plug-in to Lightroom, Aperture or Photoshop.
  • No local adjustments or portrait retouching tools.
  • No batch processing tool.

Give it a try

As with any software or plug-ins, the best way to see if CameraBag is for you is to download the trial version and have a play. Follow the link to download the software or learn more about it. You’ll find lots of information about CameraBag on the website, including how-to videos here.

Your turn

Have you used CameraBag or an inexpensive/free image editor such as Pixelmator, Picasa or GIMP? I’d like to hear about your experiences. What inexpensive software would you recommend for our readers?

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My new ebook Mastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos takes you through ten beautiful examples of photography and shows you how I processed them step-by-step in Lightroom. It explores some of my favourite Develop Presets and plug-ins as well as the techniques I use in Lightroom itself. Click the link to learn more.

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Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, photographer, traveler and workshop leader. He's an experienced teacher who enjoys helping people learn about photography and Lightroom. Join his free Introducing Lightroom course or download his free Composition PhotoTips Cards!

  • Benny

    I mainly see a difference in that camera bag can bug funky frames on a image. Lightroom not. The two develop settings do not convince me. I can easily develop like that in LR. But the frames looks cool.

  • bobhayes

    Here’s an idea: learn the software you have.

    If you have Lightroom, and most of us photographers do, then you could literally spend the next six months watching free tutorials on YouTube and learning the software you already own. The problem with third party apps and plug ins is that you get lazy and don’t learn. And all your photos look the same because you are limited to the plugins you have. If you take the time and start taking command of the software, and start making presets of your own, a whole new world opens up. Ansel Adams (and all the other greats) spoke of previsualization – the ability to see in your mind’s eye the end result of the entire process – starting with the photographer, and ending with the prInt.

    NOT learning the software is like not learning to shoot in manual – if you don’t know what your camera can do, how can you previsualize the outcome?

    Sure, plugins are great for beginners, showing them what can be done. But not showing them HOW it is done does them a disservice. Learn the software like you learn your camera. It is the modern day equivalent of the darkroom. Then learn how to do your own printing on a decent printer. Only then will you be in control of your output, only then will you truly be master of your fate.

  • Joel

    Camera Bag was the first editor I bought. One of the best features about it is the ability to create custom color filters and save them. I live in the desert, and the sun is brutal. With the help of a couple of custom filters, I can get the look I want without agonizing over a bunch of sliders forever.

  • MrJc

    so basically it’s a instagram plugin for lightroom? Yeah no thanks

  • W

    I looked at the first two pics. They both looked significantly worse (subjective) after.

  • Ali

    Since Pixelmator was mentioned, I’d love to see an article about luminosity masking in Pixelmator (if possible) and the pros/cons against Photoshop, as I understand Pixelmator is a great alternative to Ps. I also have Acorn, but I believe Pixelmator is more advanced? Anyway. I’ve been wanting to try luminosity masking but don’t have Ps, so…any takers for an article? 🙂

  • Gosseyn

    Next time !!! Lightroom VS Instagram !!!
    seriously -_- !!! this is for casual beta consumer… not even for an amateur photographer :/

  • DarkFoxFire

    Looks gimmicky, there are tons of apps for PC, i-whatever, android that do this.

  • Pixelmator is only for Mac

  • Joel

    If you take the time to actually look at the program, you will find that it is much more than an Instagram app. As far as the color filters I mentioned earlier, you can pick any color from the entire spectrum, determine its opacity, then layer as many colors together as you need to make custom filters, then save them. You can’t do anything remotely like that in Lightroom.
    Of course Lightroom is a more powerful editor, but there are some things it still cannot do.

  • Hal Miller

    Great article. One nice tool to send tons of pictures to someone is called Binfer. More

  • Raghu

    This was informative. I have send tons of pictures with Binfer several times. It’s a nifty little tool. The site is

  • Pretty useless software, I can do the same (and better) with Lightroom except the borders, which looks terrible anyway… Thanks but no thanks…

  • Hi Ali, I haven’t tried luminosity masking in Pixelmator and I have no idea whether it even supports that feature, but I did write a couple of articles about it on my blog (see link below). In brief, it is a good program but in no way is it a serious competitor for Photoshop (nor should you expect it to be, considering the huge price difference). There’s a trial available on the Pixelmator website if you want to try it for yourself:

  • Thanks for your comments everybody. I’m a little surprised by the negativity – just for the record CameraBag does a lot of things you can’t do in Lightroom. You may be able to do them in Photoshop but it would take you a lot longer to get there. And it’s definitely a lot more advanced than Instagram. I guess you’re either interested in these type of possibilities or you’re not. Which is fair enough, we all have different tastes.

  • AJ

    That first model looks kind of like Mac from Always Sunny.

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