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How to Replicate Your Custom Camera Profile Look in Lightroom Classic as a Preset

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If you find yourself making the same adjustments over and over in Lightroom, creating a Custom Profile using a colour calibration card can be a huge time saver. These tools can also help you learn how your camera works.

With this workflow, there is a calibrated relationship between what you see on the back of your camera and what you see on your computer screen, using a preset. Making a profile is also a great way to have a colour calibrated imaging workflow; you make a custom profile for your camera and apply that profile upon import to Lightroom. The advantage of this preset-based method is that it doesn't require precise calibration or special hardware and software, and it works with any camera that makes RAW photos, including most newer smartphones.

What You'll Learn

In this tutorial we're going to do three things:

  1. Create a custom look preset using the style settings on your camera
  2. Set the camera to save RAW and JPG files for each photo 
  3. Using Lightroom and a colour calibration card, recreate the in-camera look and save it as a preset

What You'll Need

You'll need Lightroom Classic. For Adobe Camera Raw, follow Marie's ACR version of this workflow.

Ideally, you'll use a colour calibration card for precision. Any make or kind is fine.

If you don't have one, you can also do this using photographers' 18% grey, black, and white cards only  — these three basic cards are a useful and inexpensive time-saver for all kinds of photographers.

You'll also need a camera that can record RAW and JPG images. 

Create a Custom Calibration Image

1. Set a Custom Picture Style on Your Camera

In most cameras, the Picture Style menu will be near the front of your Menu settings. For a Nikon-based example of this workflow, follow Marie's version of this workflow. Fuji, Pentax, Olympus, and smartphone cameras all have their version of picture control settings. I use a Canon 5DmkIII. 

Select Picture Style to get into the sub-menu. Then select a 'User Default' profile and dial in settings that make sense for your typical adjustments.

In my editing, I find myself often reducing contrast, and saturation — so I've dialled in the settings to do these adjustments. Don't be afraid to change the colour tone, or apply a black-and-white conversion, because you'll have the original RAW data to revert to if needed.

This varies by camera. Here's what my adjustment looks like:

2. Set Your Camera to Record RAW and JPG

With the RAW+JPG setting on you get all of the original data for each image — perfect for processing with Lightroom later — and you get a compressed file made using the camera's built-in processing, perfect for easy sharing and quick reviewing.

Recording RAW and JPG will also allow us to see the results of our custom profile immediately on the computer, without needing to use a processor like Lightroom or Camera Raw to interpret the image first. You don't need to save the largest size JPG for this, Medium size is fine.

I've selected a full size RAW image with a Medium size JPG

3. Make a Calibration Image

Take your colour calibration card to the environment where you photograph, adjust your white balance for the scene, and make a well-exposed image. I've used studio lighting. If you often photograph outside you could use clear midday sun, too.

Here I've opened the RAW and JPG images in Lightroom Classic. Notice the differences?  The RAW file (on the left) is even in tone and contrast. In the JPG file (on the right) the image is noticeably more subdued. If I were using the defaults, we'd expect the two images to like nearly identical but, as I designed, the JPG image has my personalized style preset applied: it's less contrasty and the colours aren't nearly as saturated. 

RAW (left) -- JPG (right)

4. Replicate Your Custom Profile Look in Lightroom Classic

Now we need to do the best we can to match the RAW image to the JPG file. Of course this will vary depending on the custom profile you've created.

Rough Match

Remembering what you changed on the camera, follow the same thought process behind your custom camera profile and make corresponding adjustments to the RAW in Lightroom so that it approximately matches the JPG.

Here are the settings that brought the two images pretty darn close to my eyes. On top is the JPG with the camera profile we made. On the bottom is the now-edited RAW file, with our Lightroom settings on the right. 

JPG (top) -- RAW (bottom)

To replicate the style I applied on the camera, I made negative adjustments to Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity and Saturation.

Precise Match

To fine-tune your match, select the Color Picker and hover over each swatch. Write down the RGB values, and then adjust the image so that the RGB percentage readouts at the bottom of the tool come relatively close to matching, JPG to RAW.

Create a Custom Lightroom Preset

The last step is to save these adjustments as a preset and, optionally, apply that preset on import. This will allow you to recreate this specific look with the click of a button, adding your custom look across all of your photos quickly and easily.

The real advantage of this approach is your RAW files are now pre-adjusted to the same look as the look you applied in camera, meaning what you see when you open your RAW file is more related to what you see on your camera's preview and image review screens. Because your setting is a preset, it also keeps open the possibility to use ready-made use LUTs and profiles in your workflow, too.

I hope this has opened up your eyes to the power of custom camera profiles. Getting to know how these can benefit you could be that last bit of fine tuning you've been missing in your workflow. If you're frequently making the same adjustments in Lightroom, why not dial in the right starting place for you?

Next Steps

You can take this preset further: add grain, 

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