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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
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.
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.
To do this, you’ll need to select Toggle Sampler Overlay in the bottom right.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
How to Extend the Life of a Digital Camera Using Adobe Camera Raw
How to Export Photos From Adobe Camera Raw to Photoshop Alternatives (Affinity Photo)
How to Sharpen Photos in Adobe Camera Raw
3 Contrast Change Techniques for Adobe Camera Raw to Create Subtler Tones in Photos
How to Merge and Edit High Dynamic Range Photos in Adobe Camera Raw
How to Create a Panoramic Photo in Adobe Camera Raw (Great for Landscapes)
About the Authors
Marie Gardiner wrote this. Jackson Couse edited and published the page.