Why do my photos go dull when I import them into Lightroom?

Uncategorized

When you first import images into Lightroom, the preview you see is the camera created JPG. This is a preview of the RAW file, with all the in camera settings applied. The look depends on how you’ve set your saturation, contrast, etc on the camera.
Lightroom the reads the RAW file and applies the default (or a chosen) Develop Preset. Of course, because it doesn’t know what the in camera settings are, it can’t apply them. The only RAW processor that will do this is the Camera Manufacturers software. The solution is to create a set of Develop Presets that match the look of the camera JPG. Probably the quickest way is to do a series of shots using RAW+JPG. Make sure the ‘Treat Jpeg files next to raw files as separate photos’ preference is checked in Preference>Import. Import the files.
Develop the RAW to look similar to the JPG. Use Compare mode in Library until you are happy with the look you are getting. The key things to watch for are contrast and saturation (although I prefer to use vibrance). The option to apply capture sharpening is up to you. Save the result as a Develop Preset.
Obvious cameras have different modes/picture styles, so you’ll need to repeat the process for these settings if you use them.
When you Import, simply choose the setting you want from the Develop Preset drop down menu in the Import Dialog.

14 thoughts on “Why do my photos go dull when I import them into Lightroom?

  1. Sean,
    One last thing. What if i like the way it looked in the camera display and i didnt do anything in lIghtroom except Import them, then go ahead and Export them as jpegs? Would they keep the settings and look from the ‘in camera’ view? Or woul they keep the dull looking Lightroom view after I export them to jpeg.

    Thanks again for your help!
    Drew

  2. Hi Max.
    Just for the record the typo comment was for clarification, nothing else.
    Actually, I’d love a starting point that reflected camera settings. And of course it’s only possible using the proprietary information that the camera makers keep to themselves.
    Like you say, DPP does great conversions, but as you mention, it’s a dog to work with. I do like the combined levels/cuvres histogram window too. But the UI is general sucks.

    I don’t think Canon are going to share the ‘secret sauce’, nor are Nikon likely too either. I can also say that loads of Lightroom users would love to have this, I’d be a fool if I thought differently.

    Here’s a thought: Do you think it’s possible using the Fors script and the LR colour tools to emulate these Picture Styles/Modes to create Import Presets?
    I think you can. I also think that someone who put time into could sell these presets to users. They would also be compatible with Camera RAW too, so the market is not just for Lightroom users.

  3. Sean,

    I guess I have a problem with RAW convertors, it is not just my problem, it is our problem. But most photographers don’t realize this.

    I am not saying that it is wrong for “Canon and Nikon as pleasing as many photographers as possible (thanks for the typo)” on the contrary! That’s the point. Look, I come from the Camera maker side, from the viewing point of Nikon, Canon, Leica etc… And if you’ll have the slightest idea what an hard job it is to tune a huge color table, you’d realize that it is really stupid to through that away.

    And that exactly what we do when we import our raw image into Lightroom. All that hard work, R&D; and money that the camera maker has invested in order to come up with a set of colors that you may like, is lost. And on top of that, you have paid for all that when you bought the camera. Hey, sometimes you bought the camera also because you liked the colors!

    If you think that as a photographer you could top the colors of the camera, not by getting a more pleasing result, but by tuning carefully each and every color table entry, you’d be wrong. It is not your job, you’ll need to be an engineer just to do the technical side.

    So, yes, the point of RAW convertors is to let you control the conversion. Yes. But, the starting point has to be that starting point you have paid for, or at least a good alternative. From that point you should be able to adjust the conversion with the excellent tools we already have. You may choose landscape as your starting point, or you may choose faithful and work you way from there. But you need to be able to choose.

    If we’ll totally ignore UI for a second, DPP and picture style editor is a good example of how it should be. With DPP you get Canon made colors that you have paid for as a starting point, and a really nice tool with good color pick resolution to adjust colors to your taste. I want THAT in Lightroom! That is the way it should work.

    Today, what you are getting with lightroom is a 1000$ price drop on your Mark III camera and an headache just by trying the mathematically impassable job of matching Lightroom to Camera JPEG.

    And don’t get me started on Noise reducing, where I get really excited 🙂

  4. Max, I understand where you’re coming from. For me the start point is not an issue, unless of course it’s dreadful! It’s being able to get where I want to, and quickly.

    One thing that I notice about your article Max, is your discussion of what you like, and the subjectivity of your preferences. For example with the skin tone images. You also refer to Canon and Nikon as pleasing as many photographers as passable (I’m assuming you mean possible). What’s wrong with that exactly? Personally I prefer the colours from the the D200, the M8 strikes me as being a little too warm. That said, I do think the M8 skin tones are better, although a little green. Still better than the D200 though.

    What exactly are you arguing for in RAW convertors?
    Are we talking about the difference between using ICC camera profiles ala C1 vs Camera RAW profiles?

    Or the ability to Pantone match colours?

  5. Look, don’t get this the wrong way. You are a photographer, and as a photographer you do not necessarily know how to do color. That’s the job for Adobe, Nikon, Canon, Pentax… etc… Lightroom gives you excellent control over colors, it’s just that the basic starting point of color is wrong.

    I think you’ll find this interesting:
    http://kammagamma.com/articles/m8-colors.php

    Allow me to quote my self from the last bit:

    “Most photographers think that with RAW, colors can be manipulated to fit whatever the photographer wants or needs. While this is true in some extent, there are a few problems. Firstly, at present there is no true flexible tool that allows the user the manipulate colors to a very fine resolution. Capture One goes as close as possible, and I suggest trying their color editing tool. However, their tool is quite hard to work with.. Photographers never used to tune colors in the past. That was the job of the chemists. Today, the color tuning work has been transferred to the engineers, who have the tools and knowledge to truly implement what a photographer requires. This brings us to the second problem: what exactly does a photographer wish the colors to be? Does a photographer know what he or she wants? Photographers were never required to design colors, and only a very few could design a good color scheme for a camera. A painter? maybe. Photographer? Just a few of them.

    So the task of colors lies on the camera makers and RAW software makers, which should bring to the photographers a basic color scheme that they can then adjust, using the available tools on the market (Photoshop for JPEG – RAW software for RAW).”

  6. Hi boone,
    From a personal point of view (not that it’s any other other way here!), I love the all in one-ness of Lightroom. OF course I still need to go to Photoshop for skin retouching, dodging and burning (Although I do prefer the Paint with Light methods) and lens corrections (yes, I know DxO does this). I can get any look I like from Develop that doesn’t require stuff like texture overlays.
    Tools like Fill Light, Vibrance and Clarity really do make the difference to me. And of course the fact that it encompasses the whole workflow. Is it perfect? Hell, no, but it is very usable.

    As to colour, have you tried using a Camera Calibration setting? Martin Evening details it well over on Lightroom News.com

    There has always been a little complaint about how Adobe handles red in Canon cameras, and this can help a lot. FWIW, they have gotten better, but having the custom calibration helps. In fact if you shot a colour checker card as part of your wedding workflow, in each new lighting situation, you’d have colour nailed each time using that method. Of course, you never have enough time with weddings!

  7. i’m starting to agree more and more with max. the colors that my 5d gives me are incredible. i can bring them back pretty well in lightroom, though it’s just not the same.

    though, i can’t really bear to use any other software now! lightroom is my favorite as far as workflow goes. it really does make the images look good, i’m just still having a hard time getting the color perfect unfortunately…

  8. Sorry, Max, but I have to say that you can get close. As you are no doubt aware the Develop module is identical to Camera RAW. Are you saying that ACR is also unable to do this?

    FWIW your link is broken. You left out the http:// bit.

  9. You’ll never ever get the colors to be the same or even close. because:

    1. you can’t, lightroom uses simple color mathematics which are very limited. Cameras use large color tables.
    2. You can’t has a human match large quantitys of colors together. It will take use weeks to get a good match, if you had the tools (which you don’t).

    If you like the colors of the camera, use dxo, C1 or the manufacturers software. Lightroom can’t do this yet.

  10. Yes, yes and yes. The NEF contains an embedded preview. Lightroom doesn’t write to NEF files, because they are a proprietary format. It will write an XMP sidecar if you hit Ctrl-S with the file selected (Cmd-S on Mac). This still doesn’t add a new preview file.
    If you want a RAW format that contains the newest preview, consider switching to DNG.

  11. OK SO LR geenrate a preview based on the raw file plus the corrections I did to this photo ? And the preview is always updated with the modifications ? Is the preview actually a sort of jpeg ?
    Is the raw (NEF) a none viewable format ?

  12. You see the Lightroom generated preview, once it’s been created. Currently if the Preview is not created, you’ll see a semi transparent sign saying “Working…”. This means that Lightroom is creating a new preview. “Loading…” means that it’s making a disk access to get an existing preview.

    What’s the preview for? Everything. All the things you do are done with the Preview. The Grid, Loupe, Compare and Survey mode are all based on this Preview. When you go to Develop, the work is done a fresh version of the RAW, so you see accurate versions of the change. Sometimes this means that the Library view can get out of sync with Develop. Jumping to a 1:1 view will force a refresh of the Preview.

    In theory, using the 1:1 preview will give resolution at all sizes, at the expense of disk space. I find that for most things, using the standard preview at screen width is adequate. Others recommends that you use 1.5X screen width for your preview size. I’m not convinced that the disk overhead is worth it. If you need more than this, a jump to 1:1 will solve this (either by using Z, Spacebar or clicking the preview).

    Finally, when you delete a file, LIghtroom leaves the previews alone for a short while before deleting them, to allow for an undo.
    Hope this helps.

  13. I am lost and confused. Once, the photos are imported, do you actually see the raw pic or a preview ? What is the use of the preview in Lightroom (the folder is growing and growing…) and in the preferences we have to set the size and the quality of the preview. So if we look at the preview we should set the max size and quality ?
    As I said I am kind of confused with this.
    By the way thanks for your web site!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *