When I set out to capture a scene that is presented before me, I want to capture it as if you were standing right next me. The camera is a great tool, but in order to accurately capture the dynamic range and the true colors of the scene, we as photographers often have to help our
camera out. This could be in post or the use of filters and other tools while in the field.
Today I am going to talk about camera color profiles and how to set one up in Lightroom 4. Camera color profiles are different than white balance. Custom camera color profiles will help get the most accurate color when processing your raw image. To find the camera profile section in Lightroom 4, head over to the develop module and scroll down to the "camera calibration" section. There you will find the a heading labeled, "Process". As of this writing it should be the 2012 process. Then right below that you will see the heading "Profile". Most likely this will be on Adobe Standard. Click the drop down menu to see several other options. You should see profiles for landscape, portrait, etc... Below that you will have 4 sliders. One for shadows, red, green, and blue. By checking out the different profiles and messing with the sliders, you will notice the range of colors you have at your fingertips. This just makes finding accurate color more difficult. To acquire accurate colors in your images, a custom profile is necessary.
Each camera and each camera lens will render colors differently. This is based on the sensor, the elements and coatings in the lens, and other technical things I don't understand. It's best to profile each lens and camera combination. I profile each lens with my camera in two lighting conditions. One for daylight and one for shade. If you are a studio or event photographer, you may want several combinations for the different light sources you may encounter.
To make a profile is simple. I use the ColorChecker Passport. You simply set it up in the lighting conditions you want to profile, and take a picture of it. Once you install the software plugin for lightroom, you simply go to export, name your profile, and viola you're done. Lightroom will then have to be restarted to apply the profiles. Then head down to the camera calibration section and select your camera profile. The differences will sometimes be subtle, but you will notice a difference.
The sample images below look very similar but I want you to focus on the blues in both images. Both images are the exact same, with the exact same exposure, and color balance. The only difference is that one has a custom profile and the other has the default adobe setting. With the color profile applied, you will see a richer deep blue. Most of the colors seem a bit deeper. It may be hard to see but trust me it makes a difference. To learn more about custom profiles and how they can work for you, Check out this post and webinar done by Joe Brady.
To capture accurate colors, a custom camera color profile is a must. From here you can edit your images with confidence that your colors are true to the scene.