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Using Camera Colour Profiles with Lightroom and Camera RAW

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Panasonic GM1 shot processed using custom camera profile - the colours are more realistic and vivid
Panasonic GM1 shot processed using custom camera profile – the colours are more realistic and vivid

Readers of this blog and my website will know that I am a fan of the Xrite Color Checker tool. This can be used to create colour profiles for your digital camera and they can make a big improvement to the colours in your images. My own experience has been that without exception they are an improvement on those Adobe ships with its software.

Whilst the camera profiles are great, installing and using them can seem a bit daunting at first. Here then is my guide to downloading and using Camera Colour Profiles with Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW.

What are Camera Colour Profiles

These are information files that allow Lightroom and Camera RAW to translate a camera’s RAW file data into colours correctly. Without these profile you might find that lovely shade of Red coming out as Purple in your images.

Where Can I Find Colour Profiles

The easiest way (although some people might argue) is to buy the Xrite Colour Passport Checker. Unfortunately that cost money and not everyone wants to take the risk that it will improve the conversion of their RAW files. If you belong to a camera club or photographic society, it might make a sensible group purchase.

An alternative approach is to search on the Internet to see if you can find someone who is selling or giving away (who would be that daft) a profile for your camera. To be honest, this is a bit of a long shot and very few people seem to publish these profiles.

The final alternative is to download the free profiles I created (did I say who would be that daft) from my Lenscraft website . Currently available profiles are Panasonic LX5, Sony RX100, Sony RX10, Panasonic GX1, Olympus EM5 and Panasonic GM1. As and when I change my cameras I will be adding to the available profiles.

How do I install the profiles

Each software application that can use colour profiles is likely to have its own locations from which to access these and probably also use different approaches to installing the profiles. Whilst you can install the files by simply copying them to the correct folder, finding the folder can sometimes be a little tricky. You will need to find the “Adobe\Camera RAW” folder which is where these profiles should be saved, to make them available in Lightroom and Camera RAW.

On my Windows 8 PC the folder location is

C:\Users\rnwhalley\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\CameraRaw\CameraProfiles

Something similar will no doubt exist on the Mac.

Xrite also produce a rather neat solution which is the “DNG Profile Manager”. The tool is available for download at Xrite website

http://xritephoto.com/ph_product_overview.aspx?ID=1257&Action=Support&SoftwareID=1345

Once the tool is installed, run it and select “File | Open DNG Profile Folder”. This will open the location where the colour profiles are to be copied to. When you have copied the colour profiles to this folder they are installed and will be available in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW.

How can I use these profiles

In Lightroom you need to open the Develop Module so that you can change the development settings for your images. In the Develop module you will find the different development options down the right side of the screen. At the bottom of these is the “Camera Calibration” tab.

ScreenHunter_1206 Aug. 03 20.36

Notice near to the top of this section is a drop down list called “Profile”. By default this is set to “Adobe Standard” but click on it and you will reveal other profiles for your camera. The profiles are sensitive to the RAW file format so only those compatible with the RAW file will be displayed.

In the following shot you can see the “Olympus E-M5″ bespoke profile I created being selected.

ScreenHunter_1207 Aug. 03 20.39

In Adobe Camera RAW the Camera Calibration tab is also on the right side of the screen. It can be selected by clicking on the icon of the camera as shown below. There is then a drop down list of the installed “Camera Profiles”.

ScreenHunter_1208 Aug. 03 20.40

But I can’t see a Colour Profile

If everything has gone well you should be able to use the newly installed profiles but there may be occasions when you can’t see your profile. Here are a few of the possible problems:

  • The RAW file you are processing came from a different camera to the profile. For example if you are processing a RAW file from a Canon 5D MKII, you wouldn’t see a profile for the Olympus EM5 in the drop down list. You only see those profiles that are compatible with the type of RAW file you are processing.
  • You installed your camera profiles correctly but it may be that you did this when Camera RAW or Lightroom were open. Until you restart the software the new profiles won’t be visible/available.
  • You may not be processing a RAW file but a TIFF or JPG image file. Under these circumstances you won’t see the camera profile in the Calibration tab. Instead you will probably see the word “Embedded” as shown below.

ScreenHunter_1209 Aug. 03 20.48

I hope this helps all the Lightroom and Camera RAW users out there.

 

Free GM1 Camera Profile for Lightroom

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Panasonic GM1 shot processed using custom camera profile - the colours are more realistic and vivid
Panasonic GM1 shot processed using custom camera profile – the colours are more realistic and vivid

I have some good news for all you Lightroom users who own a Panasonic GM1. You can now download for free my custom camera profile at my Lenscraft website. This profile works with Lightroom and can be used instead of the “Adobe Standard” profile.

Once installed you can select the profile in the Develop Module under the Calibration section.

Lightroom Camera Profile found under the Calibration section of the Develop Module
Lightroom Camera Profile found under the Calibration section of the Develop Module

 

In order to access the profile you will need to be working on a RAW file shot with a Panasonic GM1. If you are editing a TIFF or JPEG file you will see “Embedded Profile” in the Calibration section. If you are editing a RAW file and can’t see the profile you have either:

  1. Installed it to the incorrect location
  2. You need to restart Lightroom (following the installation)
  3. You are working on a RAW file that isn’t from a GM1

Have fun.

Sony RX10 Colour Profile for Lightroom

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Image captured on the Sony RX10 and converted in Lightroom using the new Colour Profile I created.
Image captured on the Sony RX10 and converted in Lightroom using the new Colour Profile I created.

I have finally managed to find a little time to produce and upload a new Colour Profile for the Sony RX10. The profile can be used with Lightroom and gives a nice improvement over the standard Adobe profiles that come with Lightroom. The improvement isn’t quite as marked as some of the other cameras I have profiled but it’s still better. Blues have more punch and the reds are more natural.

You can find the free download on my Lenscraft website.

I hope you like it.

Big Print from a Little Camera

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Print mounted in my front room
Print hung in my front room. I won’t tell you about the fun I had trying to hang this. The house is 200 years old and the walls are somewhat uneven and the plaster prone to crumbling when drilled.

Here’s something that I have wanted to do for a long time, produce a large print from a Micro 43 camera. When I say large, this one is 62″ x 25″. As you can see from the picture here, the print is just a few inches short of the length of the Sofa (which is a 3 seater).

The image was shot in Death Valley and is actually 4 images stitched (with a 50% overlap). The images were shot using a Panasonic GX1 which was tripod mounted and the stitching was done in Hugin. In case you are not aware of Hugin, it’s a freeware stitching application (that’s the simplest way to describe it) which I absolutely love. Here is the resulting image which I have previously shared on this blog.

One of the images I found time to prepare for my recent presentation. 4 images shot on a GX1 and stitched in Hugin.
One of the images I found time to prepare for my recent presentation. 4 images shot on a GX1 and stitched in Hugin.

And in case you are interested, here is a section from the bottom right which is shown at 100%. This section has been taken after the image was resized to create the print above. This is approximately a 200% increase in the print size and was achieved using Akvis Magnifier.

Image section at 100% magnification following a 200% size increase in Akvis Magnifier.
Image section at 100% magnification following a 200% size increase in Akvis Magnifier.

I had the image produced by White Wall and I am very impressed with the quality and service. It’s actually a Lambda print on Fuji Crystal Archive DPII. The print has then been bonded onto Aluminium Matt Acrylic glass and the whole thing has been framed. I have to say, I am impressed and can certainly recommend White Wall from my experience.

There are however a few things to watch out for when producing a print of this size as its quite an investment:

  1. Ensure that you download the colour profile for the paper/print process you are going to use. You should then soft proof your image and check for out of gamut colours. When I did this I found that some of my orange highlights were out of gamut and if I hadn’t corrected this the image would have appeared flat.
  2. Sharpen your image at the final size before you upload it. The White Wall ordering workflow allows you to upload your JPG or TIFF image. It’s then possible to select a larger image and have the system scale this for you. I preferred to scale my image first so that I could sharpen this for the final output.
  3. If you follow my approach and scale your image before upload, I suggest printing a number of sections from the finished image (at 100% resolution). This enables you to judge the quality of the finished image before committing to the transaction.
  4. Now that I have the print I have checked the sample print I made and can directly compare the sharpness and detail. The White Wall print is very good and compares favourably with the image sections I printed on an Epson 3880. The Epson is however slightly sharper. If I were repeating the exercise I would add a little more sharpening. At the time I used Nik Sharpener Pro which allows you to set variables such as viewing distance and resolution. I used a viewing distance of up to 2 feet and a resolution of 2880 x 1440. Looking at the results I should probably have set the viewing distance to “6 to 10 feet” or perhaps even used the Continuous Tone option at 300dpi. It might even be an idea to contact White Wall and ask for a little more information on the Lambda printer as well as recommended Output Sharpening levels.

The only regret that I have is that I picked the Matt Acrylic Glass. One of the things that prompted me to do this was a visit to the gallery of Rodney Lough Jnr. when I was in San Francisco. The images in the gallery appeared to use a similar process (although it was suggested they did this in house and it was unique – I doubt that).

My reason for choosing matt acrylic was to avoid reflections but it doesn’t really. I really wish I had gone for the gloss and tried to counter the reflection with some good lighting – something I still need to invest in for this print.

I suspect I will try another print but this time on gloss and not quite so large.

Free Soft Proofing Article

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The vivid colours of Artists Palette in Death Valley in the late evening sun. If you want to reproduce colours like these in print you will need to do some soft profile to ensure the image looks right. If you don't, it's going to be very hit and miss.
The vivid colours of Artists Palette in Death Valley in the late evening sun. If you want to reproduce colours like these in print you will need to do some soft profile to ensure the image looks right. If you don’t, it’s going to be very hit and miss.

I have just finished and uploaded an article on how to use the Soft Proofing features in Lightroom 4. You can download the article for free from my Lenscraft website by following this link to the Members Area. You will need to log in as a member to gain access but membership is free and you gain access to a lot of other articles and free information. Alternatively you could just wait until the article is publish on ePHOTOzine in the next few weeks.

Enjoy

Printing, Always an Interesting Exercise

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Not taken with Lightweight gear but this is the colour image I was using to test my prints. It's quite challenging to print and shows up poor colours quite well.
Not taken with Lightweight gear but this is the colour image I was using to test my prints. It’s quite challenging to print and shows up poor colours quite well.

As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, I recently sold my printer, a Canon Pixma 9500MKII. The main driver for this was that I wanted to make larger prints, typically A2 or 17” wide panoramic. I also wanted larger ink cartridges because I do quite a lot of printing and I thought this might help reduce the overall cost. Well, my new printer arrived at the weekend, an Epson Pro3880 which is A2 and will print 17” panoramic up to 37” or wider if you use a third party RIP rather than the Epson print driver. Sounds great and it is, but there have been a few surprises.

First was a nice surprise in how small the printer was. It’s not much wider than the Canon (but it’s a little taller) and fits neatly at the side of my desk. I am also surprised about how little ink has been used in the 30 plus test prints I have made; this barely registers on the ink monitor. I had read reviews and comments by others about just how much ink is in these high capacity ink cartridges but I hadn’t really appreciated it until now. I’m sure however I will be crying when it comes to the cost of replacing just a single cartridge.

Now for a surprise I wasn’t prepared for; the Canon Pixma 9500MKII made nicer black and white prints (I didn’t check colour but suspect it was more vibrant). Before the Canon was sold, I made quite a few test prints on different papers (using high quality fine art and fibre based papers) in an attempt to pick a paper to standardise on. After this I started to use a Permajet paper called Fine Art Pearl 290. It wasn’t quite as good as Ilford Gold Fibre but the differences were so minor that most people wouldn’t spot them but it was excellent for both mono and colour work. As I still had a number of test packs available as well as paper I had purchased I decided to repeat the exercise and the results were very surprising:

As already mentioned, none of the papers could compete with the prints made on the Canon. This was despite producing custom profiles. Held side by side with the Canon the Epson prints looked a little flat where the Canon produced prints with a greater feel of depth.

All the papers tested with the Epson produced broadly similar results when printing in black and white. The main difference was the base colour of the paper. Some were warm tone whilst others were neutral and others still were bright white. The Ilford Gold was however better than the rest and was only marginally beaten by the Ilford Gold Mono.

Printing in colour revealed quite a variation between papers. The Ilford Gold again produced the best results with the other papers looking rather lifeless and flat. Only the Gold had a real depth to it.

This exercise was also repeated by another friend who has the same printer and his results are very similar. In a “blind” review of each other’s results (so we couldn’t be swayed by knowing the paper manufacturer), we came up with identical conclusions. We had to conclude that with the Epson the Ilford Gold was the best paper. This is a real shame because it’s a very expensive paper and the cost will tend to curtail the amount of printing I do.

The story doesn’t end there however because I decided to try out some Fotospeed PF Gloss 270. This is a standard gloss photographic inkjet paper that is around quarter of the price of the Ilford Gold and I didn’t expect it to be very good. Whilst I am not a fan of the Gloss surface I had to admit the results were almost as good as the Ilford Gold for Mono and marginally better for colour prints. This is quite a shock but makes printing much more affordable. I am now keen to try out the Satin or Lustre finishes to see if they are preferable to the gloss surface. If they are I think I will be buying this for my regular printing and saving the Fine Art Papers (Ilford Gold) for any print sales.

The downside to using standard photo papers for printing. They don’t feel as nice as the fine art papers to touch – not an issue when they are framed. They also don’t have quite as nice a surface finish – again this is hard to see if the work is framed and is probably my personal preference.

I hope this helps anyone out there struggling with cost and the difficult decision of which paper to print with.

Free GX1 and LX5 RAW Camera Profiles

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Great End in the Lake District in the first snows of Winter. Captured on my GX1 in RAW and converted using a custom Camera Calibration.

Since discussing my experiences with the X-Rite Color Passport and using this to generate Camera RAW profiles, I have received a number of requests to share my profiles. Being a good natured sort of chap I have decided to load these onto my Lenscraft website where anyone wanting to can download them for free. The only limitation is that you will need to sign up for free membership of my site to access the download page. Membership also gives you access to free materials as well as the profiles so I’m sure you will agree this is a pretty good deal.

The profiles once installed correctly should appear in the Adobe RAW converters in Photoshop and Lightroom when you load a RAW file for one of these cameras. I find them an improvement on the profiles shipped by Adobe but then they were generated for my cameras so this might not be the case for you.

Anyway, give them a try, they may work for you.

Lightroom Lens Correction for Micro 4/3

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The Lens Correction module in Lightroom can automatically correct common distortion problems. These are typically evident in wide angle architecture shots such as this one of New York Grand Central Terminal shot with a Panasonic Lumix LX5.

This is just going to be a short blog today but I’m sure it’s going to answer a question quite a few Lightroom users have. If you shoot in RAW format then you will be using a RAW converter to convert your images to a picture format such as TIFF or JPG. This is one of the common uses for Lightroom which has the excellent “Develop” module (see my Lenscraft website for free membership and tutorials). One of the features of this module is that you can load in lens calibrations for your camera which will apply an adjustment to correct any lens distortion.

It is possible to create your own lens profiles using a lens calibration chart and some free software that can be downloaded from the Adobe website but this is quite tricky and time consuming. Adobe has therefore taken the approach of shipping Lightroom with some standard Camera and Lens profiles that can be selected. These generally correct the major distortions such as Barrelling and Pin cushioning. There are then further manual adjustments you can make to tweak your image. If however you are a Panasonic or Olympus Micro 4/3 user you might have wondered why these cameras are missing from the lens calibration menu.

The answer is simple, Adobe has built the profile correction into the software and it is automatically applied without needing to select the camera and lens. When I first read this I was a little sceptical but I managed to hunt down the confirmation on the Adobe web site with the answer coming from one of their senior engineers.

So all you Micro 4/3 Lightroom users out there, if you are still not happy all the lens distortion has been removed, turn to the manual adjustment sliders. If of course you have a compatible lens calibration chart, the software from Adobe and a lot of time and patience you could always create your own.

Color Passport Update

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Image

In past blogs I have discussed how useful I find the Color Passport from Xrite. Initially I used this to set my white balance in the GX1 so that the AWB setting I tend to use almost 100% of the time is more accurate. Previously this was setting the colour temperature to 4,700K and the tint adjustment in Lightroom to 0. Having created a custom white balance the colour temperature has increased to 5,400K and the tint to +8. These are significant corrections and ones that I probably wouldn’t have landed on myself.

The other thing I have used the Color Passport for is to create a custom calibration profile for the GX1. Again this is having a dramatic effect as the contrast increases, pinks have become more vibrant, orange less saturated and blues and greens look more natural. I now use this profile as the starting point for all my conversions for the GX1.

The other night I was adjusting images before sending them to my stock library. My workflow for this uses a separate package for keywording and Lightroom for the RAW file conversion. What I happened to notice when doing this was that the thumbnails in the keywording application appeared more natural than the image in Lightroom, despite having used my custom camera calibration. After a little adjustment to the calibration slider I found setting the Green Hue to -33 and the Green saturation to -11 gave me much more natural Landscape greens.

Now I don’t know if this setting will work for all images so I decided to apply it to other shots in the batch. I created a custom Lightroom Preset and applied it to a few others. Yes they improved but there was also an interesting side effect with some. Applying the preset seemed to change the histogram substantially. Histograms that lacked contrast and that were gathered in the mid tones now extended across a greater tonal range and in some instances filled the histogram. Looking more closely at these images I found the details appeared crisper (which might be expected from improved contrast) but the luminance noise appeared reduced even though I hadn’t applied any noise reduction. Whilst you might struggle to see what I am talking about at this reduced resolution, here is a comparison from the above image (click the image to enlarge).

Image

I will keep a close eye on this in the future, but it seems to have given a promising improvement to quality, which is all important with stock images.

Color Checker Passport

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Image

A little while back I mentioned that I was unhappy with some of the colours being produced by my GX1 and also LX5. The greens seemed a little too green and the image overall had a slightly blue cast to it. This inspired me to purchase a Color Checker Passport from X-rite as it could be used to produce a custom calibration for your camera which can then be used in the develop module of Lightroom. Well I have now purchased and used the passport and can report on its performance.

My first reaction when opening the packaging is that you don’t get a lot for your money. The passport itself is small and made from plastic. There is a CD containing the software which you load to your computer but there were no instructions other than a link to the X-rite site. In the end I watched a very good video of how to use the passport and software to generate a profile and all was clear.

The passport is basically a colour checking chart and grey card contained in a plastic cover. It’s small, light and fits neatly in your pocket. The first thing I used was the grey card in order to create a custom white balance for my GX1 (I won’t describe how to do this here as each camera is different). This was very simple and once the white balance setting was registered made an instant improvement to the images, removing the blue colour cast preventing the greens from looking quite so sickly.

Next I took two reference pictures of the colour chart in the passport. One was in direct sunlight and the other in shade, both taken around midday under a sunny sky. Back at home I converted the RAW files for the two images into DNG format using Lightroom and then loaded these to the passport software. A click of a button and 20 seconds later and my profile was ready.

Restarting Lightroom and switching to the Develop module I could see my new conversion profile which when selected had an immediate impact on the image. I noticed that the image contrast improved and some colours (red in particular) became much more vibrant and realistic. Colours also looked completely natural.

I wondered if this result had been a fluke so repeated the process with my LX5. The results were even better and the images now look very lifelike. The image here is of the edelweiss flower (I hope I spelled that correctly) which is actually quite rare and grows at altitude in the Alps. I found this particular flower at around 2,600m under a bright blue sky and took the picture on my LX5. The colours having used the “passport color checker” appear completely natural and subtle.

This tool is quickly becoming an indispensible accessory in my camera bag. I just need to remember to use it.