Your camera has several color profiles that you can enable to change the look of your photos. On most cameras, these have names like Standard, Portrait, and Landscape. The names are fairly self-explanatory and tell you what each profile is designed to be used for. This article will show you how to use those camera color profiles in Lightroom.
Why do cameras have color profiles?
Back before digital photography, when everybody used film, it was common practice to select a film that suited the subject being photographed. A landscape photographer might use Fujifilm Velvia, a slide film that produced high contrast, deeply saturated images perfect for landscape photography. A portrait photographer, on the other hand, might use a film like Kodak Portra to create portraits with softer, more subtle colors.
When digital cameras first became available, all photos looked the same when it came to color. You could adjust parameters like contrast and saturation if you knew where to find the menu option, but there was no easy or straightforward way of doing so.
Then manufacturers started adding color profiles to their cameras. I’m using the term color profile deliberately because every manufacturer has a different name for it. They are listed below:
- Canon: Picture Style
- Nikon: Picture Control
- Fujifilm: Film Simulation Mode
- Sony: Creative Style
- Pentax: Custom Image
- Olympus: Picture Mode
Fujifilm’s approach is interesting because they have named their profiles after genuine film types. As a result, Fuji color profiles are more nuanced and subtle than those made by the other manufacturers. This new approach to color profiles is one of the features that sets Fujifilm cameras apart from the competition.
How to use color profiles
You can enable color profiles both in-camera and in Lightroom. Check out; The dPS Ultimate Guide to Getting Started in Lightroom for Beginners for more help.
In-camera color profiles are really designed for JPEG users. If you use the JPEG format, it’s important to choose the most appropriate profile as you cannot change it afterward in Lightroom. If you use Raw then it doesn’t matter which color profile you select as you can change it late in Lightroom (or ACR).
Color profiles in Lightroom
If you go to the Camera Calibration panel in Lightroom and look at the Profile menu you will find a list of your camera’s available color profiles. The options you see depend on the camera used to take the photo. Black and white profiles are only available for newer cameras.
These are the options presented in Lightroom for photos taken with my Canon EOS camera. The profiles in the red square emulate the camera’s built-in Picture Styles. The other profiles are Adobe Standard (present for all camera types) and those that came with a set of VSCO presets I purchased.
Some people recommend a top-to-bottom workflow in Lightroom’s Develop module. That is, you start at the top in the Basic panel and work your way down to Camera Calibration.
The only problem is that Color Profile is one of the most important settings in Lightroom. I recommend that you go to the Camera Calibration panel before you do anything else and select the profile you want to use first.
To see why, select a portrait in Lightroom, go to the Camera Calibration panel and select the Portrait profile (Fujifilm users can use the Camera Pro Neg. Hi setting). Take a good look at the skin tones. Now change the profile to Landscape (or Velvia for Fujifilm). See the difference that makes to the skin tones? Which looks more natural? This is why it’s so important to set the profile first.
Monochrome color profiles
Most cameras have several black and white (or monochrome) color profiles. Again, these are designed for JPEG shooters and are not much practical use for Raw users. The best way to convert a photo to black and white in Lightroom is to go to the Basic Panel and set Treatment to Black & White.
My article, How to Convert Photos to Black & White in Lightroom explains how to convert your photos to black and white in Lightroom in more detail.
Color profiles and White Balance
Color profiles work together with the White Balance setting on your camera to control the colors in your photos. For example, if you are shooting portraits you could set the profile to Portrait and White Balance to Cloudy to give your portraits a pleasing warm color cast.
Just like color profile, if you use the Raw format you can set the White Balance in Lightroom. This lets you decide how cool or warm you want your photos to be at the development stage.
Color profiles and Lightroom Develop Presets
Most cameras have less than ten color profiles. This doesn’t seem like a lot, especially compared to the wide variety of film types available to photographers 20 years ago. But it’s possible to create your own customized color profiles using Lightroom. The way to do this is to create a Develop Preset.
Let’s say that you like your camera’s Portrait color profile, but would prefer the colors to be less saturated. In this case, you could develop a portrait in Lightroom, using negative Vibrance or Saturation settings to reduce the intensity of the colors. You could also adjust the saturation settings in the HSL / Color / B&W panel. Then, create a new Develop Preset that saves those settings, and call it something like Portrait Preset.
Now you can apply that preset to any photo you like by going to the Presets panel in the Develop module and clicking on it. For example, I developed the following portrait by making adjustments to the HSL / Color / B&W panel and Tone Curve panels.
Once you are competent at using Lightroom’s Tone Curve and HSL / Color / B&W panels to control color you can create some very beautiful presets that you can use on your photos. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the knowledge of other photographers and buy Develop Presets that somebody else has created.
You can probably appreciate that the usefulness of Color Profiles depends very much on your personal workflow. If you use the JPEG format then both color profile and White Balance settings determine the way the colors in your photos come out. So, it is really important to get both settings right when you take the photo.
But if you are like most photographers and you shoot Raw, you can leave that decision until the post-processing stage. You can even go further, using Lightroom’s color control tools to alter the colors in your photos.
If you have any questions about any of this, please let me know in the comments below.
Are you a fan of the natural/vintage look in portraits? Then check out my Vintage Portrait Presets for Lightroom. There are over 30 presets to help you create beautiful portraits in Lightroom.