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Processing Camera Raw Files with DNG Profiles

Categorizing is somehow, a human nature. We tend to do it in almost every part of our lives. Developing and editing our photos, isn’t different. We categorize our workflow to “technical” or “creative”. If we use a “technical” workflow, we want to get the most of our photo – more details, wider dynamic range, more colors, higher contrast, you get the point…

When using a “creative” workflow, on the other hand, we tend to think differently. We might overlook technical details, we might want to concentrate on the “look” of the image rather then on details and so…

In this post, I would like to demonstrate how you can develop and process your Camera Raw files using a “creative” profile and at the same time, improving your image. Yes, it is possible when you have the right tools.

The essentials of Raw processing

When opening a Camera Raw file in Lightroom or in Photoshop, most people start working with the Basic tab sliders. That’s quite obvious because they are the first you see…

I would like to offer a new place to start with – the Camera Calibration tab. This it is the most important tab in the Adobe Camera Raw window and the Develop module in Lightroom. The Camera Profile you choose in this tab, creates the initial color palette and the basic dynamic range of your image. Every adjustment done from now on, uses these colors and details. No more ,no less.

There are 4 steps in Raw develop process:

1. The basic Raw file – No colors, no contrast, as a matter of fact, it looks quite like this:

2. Fundamental Processing – The developing software, such as Lightroom or Photoshop is rendering color, correcting White Balance and applying the basic filtering. The photo is colored but still, isn’t the expected image:

3. Applying DNG Profile – A DNG profile is applied to create the initial color and brightness of your images:

4. Personal Adjustments – Now, you apply your personal adjustments with ACR or Lightroom, on top of the DNG Profile from the previous step. You can use Lightroom presets, ACR presets or your own adjustments:

Is the default profile good enough?

Well, sometimes it is… In many cases people are pleased with the default profiles, just because they never saw any alternative.

This becomes critical when dealing with photos taken in difficult lighting conditions, such as live performances. In many places you are not allowed to use flash so you are stuck with the stage lighting, which isn’t always optimal. You might delete a good photo, just because you couldn’t get the most of it. Isn’t it a pity?

“Re-exposing” you Image…

This photo was taken during a dance show of a local youth dance group. This is how it looked when first opened in Lightroom:

Getting something out of this, means a lot of work. Many photographers I know, might give up on this one. I can’t because I like it and the dancer loves it. Look what happened to this image ,when using PSKiss Cool BrightUp profile (part of Skin & Scenery Color Profiles):

This profile was originally created for “creative” purpose. It was meant to give the image a “cool-desaturated-less-contrast look”, it wasn’t aimed to be a “photo-saver”. However, in images like this (and I have thousands of them), it practically saved the image; The skin tone isn’t so red any more, the dress regained it’s turquoise color and the lights are light-blue again…

Adding some Fill Light in the Basic tab, completed “re-exposing” this image:

The Final Touch

Being a perfectionist, I had to do some minor skin tone adjustments, add some Clarity, a touch of sharpness and a slight noise reduction (obvious when brightening an under exposed image), all took about 2 minutes to complete.

Choosing an alternative DNG profile, brought the image to a new place which in this case, saved it from deletion… The new color palette that the profile created is impossible to create in any other method. The dynamic range which actually exists in the file, couldn’t be extracted by the default profile, so brightening the shadows, resulted in a lot of noise. Again, using PSKiss Cool BrightUp profile took advantage of the sensor’s dynamic range and created significantly less noise.

So, “technical” and “creative” can live together on the same image…

Click on the image to enlarge:

That’s all for this time.

If you want to learn more about alternative camera profiles:

Visit our Cross Camera Color Profiles page

or

Visit our Skin & Scenery Color Profiles page.

 

 

 

Tal Ninio

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