It’s probably time to jump in on some of the suggestions you’ve been posting in the Skribit box. This one is an easy one to explain, but I’m not sure how satisfied people will be with the answer.
When you first view a Raw file in Lightroom, you are looking a camera rendered preview of the file, embedded in the file. This embedded Jpeg is what you see on the camera LCD as you shoot. Because it’s a rendered Jpeg, it has all the camera settings like saturation, contrast, picture style/mode, etc applied to it.
The Raw file itself however has no inherent settings and is actually a pretty dull and lifeless looking file. So when you import a Raw, the preview goes from this rendered Jpeg to a preview based on whatever Develop settings you’ve chosen in the Import Dialog. Quite a lot of people choose the default rendering, which adds a small bit of brightness and contrast, but little else. This has the apparent effect of going from a pretty file to a dull file as the preview is created. Lightroom isn’t actually throwing away settings, but it’s hard to shake that feeling.
Fortunately there is a way around this. First and foremost, Lightroom 2.2 added the new Camera Profiles to the installer, meaning you can choose a setting to emulate your camera picture style/mode. Go to Develop and then click on the last panel on the right. This is the Camera Calibration panel. The first section is the Profile section.
From here look through the options, like Camera Landscape or Camera Vivid and find one that suits your photo style. Next add contrast and saturation using Basic or Tone Curve. Finally, hold down the Alt Key (Option key on Mac). The Reset Button on the bottom right of the right panel will change to Set Default… Click this button and then in the following dialog choose ‘Update to Current Settings’. As you can see in the dialog this creates a settings for the camera that the shot was captured with. Repeat to get your preferred default for all your cameras.
If you feel the settings aren’t working out, you can use the other option in the menu to restore the Adobe default settings, then start from scratch.
Once you’ve customised the settings in this way, they will be applied on Import for that camera, until you change or reset them.