I will soon write about a small project I did that had me using the local adjustment features in Lightroom 2, which are quickly becoming something I use regularly.
Today I just wanted to note a slightly more obscure feature — made more obscure because it is not really shipping with Lightroom… Well, the mechanism is shipping but the data you load into it is in beta.
Lightroom is my fourth digital workflow engine. The first was a great little PC program from Digital Light & Color called Picture Window Pro. Then I moved back to the Macintosh and used Capture 1 Pro (v2 and v3). Then I jumped onto the Aperture bandwagon, until it started to flounder (although I get the impression Aperture V2 fixed most of the issues I had with it), and now Lightroom V1 and V2.
While I really enjoyed working with Aperture and Lightroom, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Capture One raw image processor. At the time (and perhaps now for all I know) it really did a spectacular job particularly in the area of color and contrast. It used “film response” profiles to easily establish neutral or higher contrast looks for photographs. Pick the high-contrast film curve, find the black point, tweak the saturation a bit and you were on your way.
Color is very personal, but for me C1PRO’s colors had a nice neutrality to them, yet an inherent vibrance that worked well. Maybe it’s just the color temperatures I prefer – who knows? Whatever it was, I found myself frustrated that no matter how much tweaking I did I couldn’t reproduce the “C1 look” with Aperture or Lightroom.
Along comes Lightroom V2 and a really smart and passionate MIT-based engineer and photographer, Eric Chan, is hired by Adobe to come up with camera profiles beyond what the default Adobe Camera Raw profiles that Lightroom and ACR use. You can download these profiles from http://labs.adobe.com and load them into Lightroom (and I presume Camera Raw).
Eric’s task was to make these additional profiles behave as close to the manufacturer profiles burned into the firmware (which really only manifest themselves in JPEG images or if you use the camera’s software to process the raw files – like Canon’s DPP program).
I never really had an interest in these profiles. Canon’s taste in color leans a bit heavy into magenta. Interestingly (to some) this even extends to video — my XH-A1′s default parameters have a magenta cast. And yes, I have a different profile loaded into my video camera now…
Anyway, back to Eric’s work. He created these profiles to match what Canon ships and, lo and behold, one of them seems to be a pretty good match to the C1PRO film response settings. This was just an emotional response when I first saw it (“hey, I’ve seen that color rendering before!”), and I ran C1PRO for the first time in 2 years to create a test image just to see if my memory was accurate. Remembering color is notoriously improbable, but I had a specific image that bothered me last year.
Last April I was in Colorado with Charles Glatzer at his Wild Mustangs workshop. He published a photo from that workshop which I also happened to have — in the sense that he was 4 feet to my left and our cameras were simultaneously bursting at the scene. So give or take a few milliseconds and a handful of degrees, we had the same source image. Chas uses C1 and, try as I might, I couldn’t get my color to match his. Close, but never on the mark. I knew it had to do with the profiles being applied and that would be a big wall to get over.
Below are three images: the first is Lightroom processing with the default ACR 4.4 profile. The second image is the exact same set of develop settings except that the beta Canon Neutral profile (beta) is used. The third image was generated by C1PRO with the high-contrast film response curve and a similar white balance, plus a few tweaks to approximate the saturation and contrast of the image. The result was pretty darn close (the Lightroom images are cropped, so the image looks a bit different). Close enough for me to consider thinking about using the neutral profile now and then (it still has that slight Canon magenta cast absent in the C1PRO image — but I might be able to compensate for that with the white balance control if it bothers me).
So whether you like the additional profiles or not, I really appreciate Adobe making it easy to add these new crayons to the box. And thanks to “madmanchan” Eric Chan for going through the meticulous process of reverse engineering these profiles as a starting point. Bravo!