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How to Turn Profiles Into a Custom Preset Using Adobe Camera Raw and a Colour Card

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Read Time: 8 min

In this tutorial you'll learn how to use a colour card to recreate the look of an in-camera profile in Adobe Camera Raw, which you can then use as a custom preset.

Before You Start

Part 1: Turning on Profiles in Camera

If you’d like to know more about this step, you should read part 1 of the tutorial, How to Use Camera Presets for Instant Picture Styles and Custom Colour.

Here's a quick refresh of the basics. You’ll find profile options in your camera’s shooting menu.

Turning on a Profile in cameraTurning on a Profile in cameraTurning on a Profile in camera
Turning on a Profile in camera

In my Nikon D800, for example, it’s in Shooting Menu and then Set Picture Control.

Part 1 also goes into how to find your camera’s option to shoot RAW plus JPEG, which you’ll need to be able to do too.

Set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEGSet your camera to shoot RAW + JPEGSet your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG
Set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG

At this stage, you’ll have chosen an in-camera profile and set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG, and you’re ready for part 2!

Part 2: How to Turn Profiles Into a Custom Preset Using Adobe Camera Raw and a Colour Card

In this part of the tutorial, we’ll replicate the in-camera profile in Adobe Camera Raw before exporting it as a preset. The idea here is that you have a profile or preset that you can quickly use and then fine-tune, and it matches the one in camera.

Photographing Your Colour Card

I’m using the SpyderCHECKR 24, but you can make your own and it’ll work just as well. As we looked at the Monochrome camera profile in the last part of the tutorial, that’s the look we’ll be running through recreating here.

With the camera set to the monochrome or black and white profile and also to take RAW + JPEG, take a properly exposed (using manual settings, if you can) photograph of the colour card. This will give you a JPEG version that has the monochrome profile plus a RAW version that’ll be in colour.

the colour card with the black, grey(s) and white side facing methe colour card with the black, grey(s) and white side facing methe colour card with the black, grey(s) and white side facing me
The colour card with the black, grey(s) and white side facing me

This is the side of the colour card with the black, grey(s), and white on it. Behind the colour card is the scene I’ll be working on. Here it is with the profile applied as a JPEG right out of the camera:

The photo I'll be working onThe photo I'll be working onThe photo I'll be working on
The photo I'll be working on / Marie Gardiner

I took this photograph just after the colour card one, so the lighting hasn’t changed at all. I have the RAW version too, which will have the same exposure settings but of course won’t have the monochrome profile attached.

Open Your Colour Card (JPEG) Image in Photoshop (or another photo editing suite)

Use the colour dropper tool to note your black, mid-grey and white valuesUse the colour dropper tool to note your black, mid-grey and white valuesUse the colour dropper tool to note your black, mid-grey and white values
Use the colour dropper tool to note your black, mid-grey, and white values

Open your colour card image and use the Colour Dropper tool to grab the values for the black, (mid) grey, and white. Here I’ve got 39 for black, 103 for grey, and 206 for white. Make a note of your values and close your JPEG.

Open Your RAW Photo

Now open the RAW version of your colour card image in Adobe Camera Raw.

the colour RAW image of the colour card the colour RAW image of the colour card the colour RAW image of the colour card
The colour RAW image of the colour card

You can flip this to B&W in the top right. Now the idea is to try to match the tonal values to those you made a note of.

flip the image to black and whiteflip the image to black and whiteflip the image to black and white
Flip the image to black and white and use the sampler to get your tonal values

To do this, you’ll need to select Toggle Sampler Overlay in the bottom right. 

sample the same values you did with the JPEGsample the same values you did with the JPEGsample the same values you did with the JPEG
Sample the same values you did with the JPEG

Once you’ve done that, sample the same places you did on your JPEG, and you’ll see the values appear above.

Now we can start to nudge the sliders of options available to us to get those values as close as possible to the ones you noted down. Start in Basic with things like the highlights and shadows.

adjust your slides to get the values as close as possible to the ones you noted down from the JPEGadjust your slides to get the values as close as possible to the ones you noted down from the JPEGadjust your slides to get the values as close as possible to the ones you noted down from the JPEG
Adjust your sliders to get the values as close as possible to the ones you noted down from the JPEG

In Colour Grading, you obviously can’t use the colour wheels as you’ll get a tint over your image, but you can use the Luminance sliders on each wheel, plus the universal Blending and Balance ones, to adjust values.

It’s all a bit of a nudging numbers game, but you’ll get there or close enough.

Create Your Preset

one the numbers match (or are close) it's time to make a presetone the numbers match (or are close) it's time to make a presetone the numbers match (or are close) it's time to make a preset
Once the numbers match (or are close), it's time to make a preset

You can see at the top that I’ve managed to match the numbers (more or less, forgive me the missing 1 in the middle grey) to the JPEG values, so I can now export these settings as a preset.

info
You can create a profile rather than a preset, if you prefer. Just Alt-Click 'Create Preset' instead, and you'll get the Profile Menu. You can then later access this in Profiles rather than Presets.
exporting as a presetexporting as a presetexporting as a preset
Exporting as a preset

In the Preset menu, click Create Preset and give it a name. I've called mine "COLOUR CARD" to make it easy to spot in the list.

Apply Your Preset

Open a New Image

Now you can open a new image to apply your preset. I’ll use the photograph taken just after the colour card one and then show you the JPEG version with the Monochrome preset applied for comparison. This is the image straight from the camera.

Find and Select Your Preset

Navigate to Presets and under User Presets, choose the one you just created.

Comparison: Raw With Preset vs. JPEG With Monochrome

RAW With Preset Vs JPEG With MonochromeRAW With Preset Vs JPEG With MonochromeRAW With Preset Vs JPEG With Monochrome
Raw With Preset (left) vs. JPEG With Monochrome (right)

It’s not bad and would in fact be better still if not for me slightly overexposing, which shows up more in the JPEG, where the RAW is more forgiving. There's obviously a little more contrast in the JPEG too as it's partly 'processed' compared to a RAW, but there’s still a little tweaking that can be done here to get it closer, so adjust your Basic sliders and keep referring back to your JPEG as a guide.

Summary

colour RAW imagecolour RAW imagecolour RAW image
Colour RAW image

To come full circle, I thought we'd go back to the image of the boats I used in the first part of the tutorial. Here's the colour version, above.

JPEG version with the Monochrome profile applied (left) and the RAW image with the newly created preset applied (right),JPEG version with the Monochrome profile applied (left) and the RAW image with the newly created preset applied (right),JPEG version with the Monochrome profile applied (left) and the RAW image with the newly created preset applied (right),
JPEG version with the Monochrome profile applied (left) and the RAW image with the newly created preset applied (right)

This is the JPEG version with the Monochrome profile applied (left) and the RAW image with the newly created preset applied (right), with no extra tweaking. You can see the join line if you look for it, but at first glance that's really close. It's probably as close as you'll get to perfect for a preset. Every image is different, so there'll always be a little nudging around the edges.

As we talked about in Part 1 of this tutorial, in-camera profiles are a great way to see how an image might work when processed a particular way, or a time-saving way to do some processing in camera if you need to send off your images to someone quickly. Shooting in RAW plus JPEG gives you the best of both worlds—you can have that timely processing, with the option to do more with the RAW later if you want to. By creating a preset, you can quickly and easily recreate that JPEG profile look in a couple of clicks.

More Adobe Camera Raw Tutorials

About the Authors

Marie Gardiner wrote this. Jackson Couse edited and published the page.

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