Adobe Raw and Camera Profiles in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom
In photography and digital imaging, the term “profile” can mean many different things. There are color profiles, display profiles, lens profiles, printer profiles, working profiles, and so on. Within ACR and Lightroom, a camera profile is used to render a photograph, converting it from raw camera information into the colors and tones that we see.
In order to process raw photos, we build DCP camera profiles (DCP stands for DNG Camera Profiles) for nearly every camera make and model we support. The cameras that we don’t build profiles for but are still supported capture in DNG, which allows for the camera’s manufacturer to build their own DCP which is embedded within the DNG.
DCPs take into consideration the color primaries (based off of the color filter array that is positioned in front of the sensor), the specific sensitivity of the sensor used, and the sensor’s characteristics in different lighting conditions and at different ISO values.
To create a DCP profile, we capture a number of standardized test targets, including a variety of color checkers, under a variety of different lighting conditions and light sources. The goal of this process is to create a standardized, neutral profile of how a particular camera captures the world.
The X-Rite® ColorChecker® Digital SG is one of many targets used by the Adobe Camera Raw team when building DCP profiles and is an example of a tool that helps normalize the output of the wide array of cameras that are supported in ACR and Lightroom
Adobe Standard and Adobe Color
The improvements in Adobe Color helps make the red and orange leaves look both more natural as well as more pleasing.
With the DCP profiles, we are able to normalize the results from a wide array of cameras, resulting in a standardized look and representation of images captured by each camera. Adobe Standard adds some subtle tonal and color adjustments to represent the common expected look and feeling of a photograph. The goal of these subtle adjustments is to ensure a good starting point from which one can edit their photos.
The look of Adobe Standard was designed to be a great starting point for photos that enables photographers to get the most of out them while editing, however it was also created nearly ten years ago. Over that time, we’ve learned a lot about what photographers want and have gotten great feedback on how we can make an even better starting point. From all of this feedback, a new default was born: Adobe Color.
Adobe Color was designed to greatly improve the look and rendering of warm tones, improving the transitions between certain color ranges, and slightly increasing the starting contrast of photos. In order to ensure the viability of Adobe Color on the widest range of images, the impact on some images can be very subtle.
Adobe Color, like Adobe Standard, includes both hue and contrast protections on the hue and tonality range of skin tones. This ensures that images that include skin tones (images with people in them) do not create unnatural skin tones. That means that skin tones are protected against becoming too saturated (leading to ruddy skin tones and complexions) as well as too much contrast.
One major improvement to Adobe Color, as compared to Adobe Standard, is that the hue of reds has been adjusted slightly to result in more natural looking reds and warm tones. This ensures that photographers don’t need to adjust the hue of red tones (either through the HSL or the Camera Calibration tools) to get a natural looking image--Adobe Color looks more natural right out of the box.
Another major improvement to Adobe Color is the transition from near neutral warm tones to more saturated warm tones. We adjusted how those transitions happen to ensure that the transition, or gradient, is more linear and doesn’t result in transition errors. This means those transitions appear more natural and there are no visible shifts along a warm gradient range.
A third important improvement to Adobe Color is a slight boost to global contrast. We added this slight contrast bump based off of feedback we’ve received from photographers over the course of many years, with the goal again of images looking more natural, more photographic, and requiring fewer adjustments to get to a good starting point when compared to Adobe Standard.
As photography is quite a nuanced art form, and since there are so many photographers that rely on Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom, we not only retained access to Adobe Standard but we also introduced a number of additional Adobe Raw profiles providing choice and control over the initial rendering of images. The first two, Adobe Vivid and Adobe Neutral provide variations on Adobe Color to ensure that photographers can pick their personal preference or adapt the initial rendering to suit the subject.
Adobe Vivid and Adobe Neutral
Adobe Vivid increases the amount of contrast and saturation applied across the entire image, while still applying some skin tone color and tonality protections.
Both Adobe Vivid and Adobe Neutral start with Adobe Standard and add the improvements found in Adobe Color, and provide options that let photographers adapt the initial rendering to their personal taste and/or subject and create a personalized starting point by selecting a increased or decreased level of contrast and saturation in their photographs.
Adobe Neutral provides a starting point with a very low amount of contrast, useful for photos where photographers want the most control over their edits with the least amount of shifts from the neutral rendition created by their camera, or for photographs that have very difficult tonal and color ranges.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Adobe Vivid increases both the contrast and saturation to provide a more punchy starting point.
Adobe Portrait adds additional protections to skin tones, providing more control and precision. Photograph © Kelly Castro
Skin tones are one of the most critical tonal ranges to reproduce since humans are incredibly capable of perceiving even the most subtle shifts of tonality and hue in other humans. In order to provide the most control for photographers that capture images of people, such as portrait and fashion photographers, Adobe Portrait includes the most protections on the tonal and hue ranges related to the skin tones of all people. These protections ensure that there are no excessive hue, saturation, or contrast shifts applied to skin tones, providing the ultimate level of control over those ranges. The goal is to provide all of the control and decisions on skin tones to the photographer while ensuring that all other objects and tonal ranges are photographic.
Adobe Landscape removes skin-tone based color protections and increases the pop of skies and foliage tones.
Like Adobe Portrait, Adobe Landscape was created for photographers to apply based off of the subject matter of the photograph, in this case landscapes. As with all Adobe Raw profiles, Adobe Landscape starts with Adobe Standard and includes many of the improvements found in Adobe Color. In addition to those improvements, Adobe Landscape increases the saturation in foliage hues (greens) and sky hues (blues), removes the skin hue and tonality protections (ensuring that objects in a landscape that may happen to share similar hues and tonalities with skin tones actually get the contrast boost found throughout the rest of the hue and tonality ranges), and also slightly boosts the dynamic range of the image processing, enabling a wider range of tonality to be included in the image (increasing the amount of tonal compression applied by the raw processing engine) so that images with a very wide dynamic range can be rendered completely through the Highlight and Shadow sliders.
While many photographs are created in color, monochrome or black and white photographs hold a very special place in the hearts and minds of photographers, and we wanted to ensure we provided an optimized starting point that takes into consideration the unique nature of black and white images.
Adobe Monochrome includes an updated and optimized balance of spectral sensitivity (how different colors render as different tones) as well as increased contrast as compared to how Adobe Standard in black and white rendered photographs.
Going beyond the Adobe Raw Profiles
At Adobe, we believe that our charter is to enable creatives of all types to accomplish their vision, and as such, we always want to provide the utmost control. The Adobe Raw profiles are only one of a variety of ways that photographers can render their photographs. Below is a list of additional methods that can be used to render photographs.
- Camera Matching Profiles—We create Camera Matching profiles so that photographers can match the in-camera processing, enabling color and tonal matching of the photograph created in ACR and Lightroom with the image presented on the camera as well as in the JPEGs created in camera. Camera Matching profiles are available within the Profile browser and match the options found within the camera.
- Adobe Creative Profiles—We built over 40 Creative Profiles, which use Adobe Color or Adobe Monochrome as their base and then provide tonal and hue shifts providing different creative and subjective choices.
- 3rd Party Profiles—A number of companies provide profiles that can be purchased, downloaded, and then added into ACR and Lightroom. These profiles can range from custom-built DCP profiles (which are used instead of the Adobe-created DCP profiles) as well as Creative Profiles (which usually are based off of Adobe Standard or Adobe Color and provide their own creative shifts).
- Custom Profiles—Using either the Adobe DNG Profile Creator or products such as the X-Rite® ColorChecker® Passport, photographers can create their own DCP profiles to have complete control over the initial rendering of their photographs, including creating custom profiles designed to work with their unique combination of camera, lens, and lighting.
- Creating Your Own Profiles—Download the Profile SDK for detailed instructions on creating profiles, along with sample images and files assist with the process.
To learn more about DNGs and DCP profiles, please download and read the DNG specifications documentation.