A Computer Darkroom Tutorial

One of the most useful yet least understood features of Adobe Camera Raw is the ability to define your own camera default develop settings. Sadly, a similar feature was not included with Adobe Lightroom 1.0. However, when Adobe released Lightroom 1.1 and Camera Raw 4.1 they included a significantly enhanced version. The following tutorial is intended to help you better understand how this new feature can improve your Lightroom workflow.


Whilst I briefly mentioned the new "Set Develop Settings" command in my review of Lightroom 1.1 I didn't think it was necessary to go into detail. Little did I realise that some two months after 1.1 was launched that many Lightroom users would still persist in creating and applying Preset develop settings customised for their particular camera etc. Don't get me wrong, presets still have their uses, but having to filter images according to Model, Serial Number or ISO in order that the appropriate develop preset can be applied is both time consuming and in many instances unnecessary. My guess is that users either don't realise that Lightroom is already capable of automating much of this work or don't understand how/when to use this feature.

Note a more recent version of this tutorial is available for Lightroom 2 and 3

So what is the "Set Develop Settings" command and when should we use it?

As noted above both Lightroom and Camera Raw now include support for the saving and application of user defined develop settings on a camera model, serial number and/or ISO rating basis. These settings will be applied automatically during import or after a reset if the image is already with the catalog. By adopting this approach Adobe provided a means by which much of the decision making and preset application of custom default develop settings can be left to Lightroom or Camera Raw. For example, on import Lightroom now has the ability to apply a specific set of develop settings to images that may have been shot at different  ISO ratings. Better still is the fact that the defaults saved in Lightroom will automatically be used by Camera Raw 4.x or higher and vice versa.

Using "Set Develop Settings" in Lightroom

Whether you want to configure Lightroom to use your custom develop settings based solely on the camera model or be more specific and apply them to individual cameras based on the serial number or an image by image basis dependent on ISO, Lightroom now has the tools to make it happen automatically.

The means to ensure that it works the way "you" want is found in Lightroom Preferences (figure 1 below). Note the two checkboxes within the blue boundary line. Whilst the default is to apply develop settings to all images on a specific camera basis, they are applied irrespective of the actual ISO rating. For many photographers this might be satisfactory, but for others (e.g. those who shoot mixed images from low to high ISO values) it still leaves a lot of work for them to do after import, hence the second checkbox. Since I tend not to shoot many images with ISO values greater than 200 I prefer to leave the ISO related preference Off. Nevertheless, it's an important preference settings, so I'll show an example of how it can be used later in this tutorial.


Figure 1 - Lightroom Preferences

22 August 2007

Tip 1: Adobe Camera Raw preferences also includes the two checkboxes mentioned above - click here for screenshot to access these preferences use the Cmd/Ctrl+K keyboard shortcut from within Camera Raw

Camera Specific Settings

Camera calibration is a good example of where camera or serial number specific develop settings would be used. However, at time of writing Lightroom doesn't support any of the available scripts that make this task easy (see Tip 3 below for update on camera calibration profiles). So, in the absence of such scripts it's really down to loading in a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker and manually tweaking the Camera Calibration panel adjustments sliders. Alternatively, you could of course search the web for a preset based on the same camera model as yours then fine tune the settings to taste, but this approach probably won't be much better than "eyeballing" your own from the outset. Fortunately, Lightroom uses the Camera Raw engine to render raw images, so any calibration values you may already have can be used with Lightroom. Figure 2 below shows the camera calibration settings I use for my Canon EOS 5D; I've also included the values I use for Sharpening.


Figure 2 - click image for larger view

As mentioned above there are no documented procedures, at least none that I'm aware of, for determining camera calibration settings when using Lightroom. Therefore, I use an Adobe Photoshop script written by Thomas Fors, which runs with Camera Raw and Photoshop. The process of calculating the values takes around 30 minutes on a fast computer, although some folk get very close by eye in a much shorter period of time. Once calculated the results need to be manually inserted into Lightroom's camera calibration Hue and Saturation fields. The following is a listing of the necessary steps:

  1. Open Lightroom Preferences  (see figure 1 above) and set the checkmark associated with "Make defaults specific to camera serial number" to On and  "Make defaults specific to camera ISO" is Off

  2. Open an image shot with the camera model and serial number (important) you want to apply the calibration settings to (any image from this specific camera will suffice, but you must have an image open before the values can be inserted into the adjustment fields)

  3. Adjust the camera calibration fields to the calculated values

  4. Choose "Set Default Settings" from Photo menu in Develop module, the dialog in figure 3 will appear

  5. Press the "Update to Current Settings" button


Figure 3 - Custom settings for a specific camera

Tip 2: holding down the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (Windows) changes the Develop module Reset button to Set Default..., whilst holding down the Shift key changes it to Reset (Adobe). Remember to use the standard Reset button after using either so that the new settings can be applied. Also, note that because the develop settings are defined as "defaults" no badge will appear in bottom right corner of thumbnail images.

2 August 2008

Tip 3: To coincide with the release of Lightroom 2.0, Adobe have also made available beta versions of new Camera Profiles for use with Camera Raw 4.5 and Lightroom 2.0. The profiles labelled Adobe Standard are intended as alternatives to the default ACR camera profile, and each camera model will have an additional set of profiles that are intended to emulate the camera vendor styles or looks. For example, Canon users will be able to choose profiles that emulate Pictures Styles such as: Standard, Landscape, Neutral, Portrait and Faithful. When installed, the new profiles are will appear in Lightroom's Camera Calibration panel (figure 4 below). It's also possible to make one of the new profiles your camera default. More details on the new profiles and DNG Profile Editor can be found in my Lightroom 2.0 feature review.


Figure 4 - Lightroom 2.0 Camera Calibration Panel

Tip 4: Adobe Camera Raw uses the command Save New Camera Raw Settings - click here for screenshot also remember to use either the Done button before exiting Camera Raw

Non Camera Specific Settings

Occasionally, you may wish to apply develop settings to all images from a particular camera model irrespective of the serial number. Such settings might include: Blacks, Clarity, Vibrance, Tone Curve, etc

 The steps in the process of customising these default develop settings are fairly straight forward -

  1. Open Lightroom Preferences  (see figure 1 above) and set the checkmark associated with both  "Make defaults specific to camera serial number" and "Make defaults specific to camera ISO setting" to Off

  2. Open an image shot with the camera model you're defining default settings for

  3. Adjust any develop  values you want to apply to all images from this camera model

  4. Choose "Set Default Settings" from Photo menu in Develop module, the dialog in figure 5 will appear

  5. Press the "Update to Current Settings" button


Figure 5 - Custom settings for any copy of a specific camera model





Note: the settings shown above are examples only

So, with both preference checkboxes shown in figure 1 above set to Off  it's possible to apply these defaults to all images from a particular camera model (e.g. any Canon EOS 5D). This use of the "Set Default Settings" command can be  used to define the "look" that you prefer as the starting point for all images from this camera model.

Default Noise Settings

Digital cameras will have different noise characteristics as the ISO rating is increased. So, it goes without saying that you will probably also want to define alternative values for individual ISO rating. As with the other settings described above, noise settings can be different for each copy of a specific camera model.

Again, the remaining steps in the process of customising the camera default for different ISO ratings are fairly simple-

  1. Open Lightroom Preferences  (see figure 1 above) and set the checkmark associated with "Make defaults specific to camera ISO" setting to On

  2. Open an image shot at the ISO rating to be defined in the camera default (example in figure 6 below is ISO 400)

  3. Adjust the Luminance Noise and/or Colour Noise values (plus any others you prefer to move away from the Adobe defaults) to preferred value

  4. Choose "Set Default Settings" from Photo menu in Develop module

  5.  Press the "Update to Current Settings" button


Figure 6 - Custom settings for specific camera and ISO rating


Figure 7 - Preferred "Detail" settings for ISO 400

Steps 2 through 5 in above procedure should be repeated for each ISO rating that you want to use your defaults rather than those defined by the Adobe default settings. Once your ISO specific settings have been entered Lightroom will check the EXIF data associated with each image to see whether it meets the criteria defined for ISO rating. If both match Lightroom will automatically apply the appropriate default settings to the image.

Once set as the default all images subsequently  imported into Lightroom that match the criteria defined in the custom settings (e.g. camera model, serial number and ISO rating will automatically be rendered using your custom develop settings. Also, and as previously explained, the new default settings will be only applied to images already in your catalog after they have been reset, so don't forget this step.

To restore the Lightroom defaults you simply choose an appropriate image (i.e. one from the relevant camera model, ISO rating, etc), choose "Set Default Settings" from Photo menu, then press the "Restore Adobe Default Settings" button. Finally, don't forget to reset the images and rebuild the previews.

Additional resources:

Remember Rule 5 - Enjoy!

Adobe Community Professional

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