Adobe’s Julianne Kost and Photoshop Cafe’s Colin Smith demonstrate Adobe Lightroom Classic’s new Range Masking. (Remember, what works in Lightroom also works in Camera Raw.) Range Masking, by luminosity or color, is a significant step forward in selective or regional image adjustment during Raw processing.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


Do you wish you could improve the quality of the images your lenses deliver after exposure? You can, using software. Adobe’s Lens Corrections feature uses a digital image file’s EXIF metadata about camera and lens to automate cures for standard lens distortions, including geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting.

Using Adobe’s Lens Profile Corrections

You can access Adobe’s Lens Corrections in three locations; Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Lightroom, or Photoshop’s Lens Correction filter. It’s far less destructive to make these types of adjustments to Raw files during rather than after conversion. It’s also more flexible as it can be removed or adjusted any time in Lightroom or in Photoshop if you acquire files as a smart objects. However, if you want to apply Lens Corrections within Photoshop, you can use the Lens Correction filter; you can even do this non-destructively by applying it as a smart filter.

In Lightroom and Camera Raw, in the Lens Corrections panel you’ll find two tabs under Lens Corrections; Profile and Manual. Start with Profile and then move to Manual.



Under Profile, you can check Remove Chromatic Aberration to eliminate color fringing on contours; if your lens produces them, and most lenses do to one degree or another, you’ll see them most easily in areas of high contrast and in the corners. Sometimes this feature removes chromatic aberration completely and sometimes only partially. When you need to go further, a not uncommon occurrence when dealing with specular highlights, click on Manual and look under Defringe to access the sampler and modifying sliders Purple Hue and Green Hue.



Also under Profile, you can check Enable Profile Corrections to remove Distortion and Vignetting; both sliders are set to 100 by default, but you can modify these Amounts as you deem necessary. Distortion does an excellent job removing curvature of introduced by wide angle lens distortion often objectionable on horizons but alternately unnoticeable in macro shots. Under Manual, you’ll also find controls for Distortion and Vignetting that do not use metadata and are capable of more aggressive adjustment. While Distortion offers only control to slide between barrel and pincushion distortion, Lens Vignetting offers two sliders, Amount or the intensity of the adjustment, and Midpoint a control designed to affect the way the effect fades off. The anti-vignetting effect is often too strong, making the corners of the image appear too light, and requires some reduction of the default setting; set it to zero if you like the vignetting a lens produces.

Once you’ve verified that a lens profile works well, you can apply the lens profile corrections to all images shot with that camera / lens combination, simply by selecting the files you’d like to apply them to and syncing them. (Select the files in Camera Raw or Lightroom and click Sync, then choose only the settings you’d like to sync.) You can even apply Lens Corrections as part of a Preset that can be applied to any number of selected files with a single click, but be mindful that if you use this Preset during import in Lightroom this may slow the process of building previews somewhat.

Adobe Lens Profile Creator

Adobe provides support for a growing list of camera manufacturers, camera models, and lenses. If you purchase a recently released lens made by a major manufacturer that isn’t yet supported, it’s quite likely that Adobe will soon have a profile for it. You can access new lens profiles in updates of Camera Raw and Lightroom.

If Adobe doesn’t supply a lens profile for your particular lens you have three choices: adjust an existing profile; use a profile created by another user; or make your own custom lens profile.

First, you can visually adjust the parameters of an existing lens profile and save the new settings under a new name for future use. There’s plenty of room for user error with this method but it’s more efficient than creating manual corrections from scratch. Expect to check the results frequently when you apply these settings to different types of images.

Second, you may be able to access a lens profile created by another user with Adobe’s Lens Profile Downloader – http://supportdownloads.adobe.com/detail.jsp?ftpID=5491. Of course, these lens profiles will only be as good as the creators were diligent about creating them.

Third, you can create your own custom lens profile with the free Adobe Lens Profile Creator utility – http://supportdownloads.adobe.com/detail.jsp?ftpID=5489. Adobe Lens Profile Creator is a utility designed for photographers who want to create custom lens profiles for their own lenses. The process of creating a custom lens profile for your lens involves capturing a series of images of a printed checkerboard pattern with your specific camera and lens, converting that set of raw images into Digital Negative (DNG) file format (using the Camera Raw plug-in, Lightroom, or the free Adobe DNG Converter), and importing the raw DNG images (or JPEG/TIFF images when creating lens profiles for a non-raw workflow) into the Adobe Lens Profile Creator to generate a custom lens profile. If you create new lens profiles, you can share them with the rest of the user community on the Adobe Lens Profile Creator forums, publishing them directly from inside the Lens Profile Creator. These profiles will then be available via new versions of the Adobe Lens Profile Downloader. This is an extended and complex process few photographers will want to go through, but for those using unsupported cameras and lenses worth the time and effort in the long run.

This is a detailed discussion of what for most users amounts to checking two check boxes and possibly adjusting two sliders. Using Lens Corrections is fast and easy. In little or no time you’ll get substantially better results. If you’re serious about the quality of your photographs, you’ll seriously consider implementing Adobe’s Lens Profile Corrections.

Read more on Raw processing here.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.


Your digital camera can produce two types of files – Raw and JPEG.

One can be seen instantly, because it is already processed – JPEG. The other, needs to be processed to be seen – Raw.

Few people have actually seen what an unprocessed Raw file looks like. To be seen properly Raw files need to be rendered or changed. What you see on your camera’s LCD is a JPEG produced on the fly by your camera. What you see in programs like Adobe Lightroom or Bridge are previews made with their default renderings.

Raw files are curious things. They contain color, but not a color image – yet.

Most digital cameras arrange their photosites in a Bayer pattern array; half are filtered red or blue or chrominance-sensitive (hue and saturation) elements and the other half are filtered green or luminance-sensitive (light and dark). To create a full color image, Bayer pattern images need to be demosaiced (estimating the relative color values as RGB pixels).


Bayer pattern

Unlike your eye, which adapts to changing levels of light, digital cameras simply count the number of photons falling on a photosite in a linear manner. (A typical 12 bit camera is capable of recording 212 or 4096 levels of gray between black and white, which are distributed unequally across its dynamic range, currently +/-13EV.) As a result, half of the data in Raw files are contained in the brightest stop. (This is the reason it’s recommended that you expose to the right – ETTR – to get more data and reduce the likelihood of noise during capture and posterization during processing.) Consequently, Raw files need to be tone mapped into a gamma encoded color space (such as ProPhoto) by a Raw processor to render an image with a normal appearance.

7 top step linear

Gradient – linear

Gamma Encoded Gradient 

Gradient – gamma encoded


Raw files contain all the color saturation a camera can capture, but you’ll only preserve that saturation when you convert a Raw file if you convert it into a wide-gamut editing space. Of the four standard color spaces Raw files are typically converted into – sRGB, Colormatch, Adobe RGB 1998, and ProPhoto RGB – only ProPhoto can contain the full gamut of a digital camera.


Gamut comparisons – camera in white inside ProPhoto RGB

In addition Raw files have three types of metadata (data about data) to be aware of; EXIF, IPTC, and XMP. The first type of metadata, EXIF contains information embedded at the time of capture such as date, camera, camera settings, private maker notes and sometimes including GPS coordinates. The second type of metadata, IPTC contains information added after capture such as photographer, copyright, keywords, caption and other descriptive information. The third type of metadata, XMP contains information added after capture about a file’s processing history stored in sidecar files that hopefully travel with the Raw file (DNG Raw files can save XMP metadata in their own wrappers and so don’t require an additional sidecar file.). It’s the XMP metadata that tells a Raw processor how to interpret or cook the data in the Raw file.


EXIF screenshot


IPTC screenshot


XMP screenshot

Now that you understand these fundamental aspects of Raw files, what actions do you take?

1   Shoot in Raw. Expose to the right (ETTR).

2   Edit Raw files in a wide-gamut color space like ProPhoto.

3   Save your edits as XMP metadata – and don’t lose your sidecar files or save Raw files in Adobe’s DNG format.

4   And, of course, use a good camera, lens, and appropriate exposure technique (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO).

Read more on Raw processing here.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.


You can significantly improve the clarity and saturation of the color you digital camera creates by creating a custom profile for it. The defaults manufacturer’s provide and most people use are fine, but a custom profile built for your camera is better.

X-Rites’ Color Checker Passport can be used to quickly deliver more accurate color in a variety of ways.

Set White Balance, White Point, and Black Point

The X-Rite Color Checker Passport is the industry standard target that can be used in several ways to render color in your digital images more accurately – setting white balance, creative enhancement, and visual confirmation.

It’s easy to use. Shoot the Color Checker once at the beginning of each shooting session and you can use that exposure as a target for all exposures made under the same light. The exposure of the target doesn’t have to be perfect. Just, roughly fill the frame with the target; it doesn’t even have to be focussed. To use the exposure of the target, use your choice of Raw conversion software to open it along with other exposures you’d like to apply the same measurements to; click on the appropriate color patches (black for black point, white for white point, gray for gray point); and sync all of the files. It’s that simple.

Create A Camera Profile

The X-Rite Color Checker Passport can also be used to make custom profiles for your individual camera. You can create a camera profile with the same exposure of the target that you use to set white balance. While camera profiles are generated with the same target, the resulting exposures are not used to set white balance, instead they are used to deliver significantly improved color rendition and saturation, providing the best starting point for any color adjustment strategy you choose. Camera profiles are created with the X-Rite software supplied with the Color Checker Passport, stored, and later applied with your choice of Raw conversion software, typically Adobe Camera Raw or Adobe Lightroom.

For optimum results, exposures used to generate camera profiles need to be made under the light (color temperature and spectral distribution) that subsequent exposures are made in. Using two exposures of the target made under different light temperatures, you can create a dual illuminant camera profile that can be used for all exposures made under a wide range of color temperatures. Single illuminant profiles are recommended for exposures made under very warm or very cool light temperatures – below 3600K (golden hours) and above 6800K (twilight).


How do you make a camera profile? First convert one or more exposures of the Color Checker Passport from the manufacturer’s proprietary Raw format to Adobe’s open standard Raw format – DNG. (Use either the free Adobe DNG Converter, Adobe Bridge, or Adobe Lightroom.) Open X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport software. Click DNG or Dual Illuminant DNG. Drag one or two DNG files into the open window. Once the software has identified the specific color patches it needs to build the profile, click Create Profile. The profile will automatically be stored for you in Camera Profiles and will be available for your use the next time you convert a Raw file in either Adobe Camera Raw or Adobe Lightroom. You’ll find it under the Camera Calibration tab/panel under Camera Profile. Save New Camera Raw Defaults and your new camera profile will be automatically loaded when you open Raw files and previews in Adobe Bridge will be rendered with it.


You can see the significant increase in saturation and color clarity custom profiles make by toggling between the default Adobe Standard and the custom profile built for your camera in the Camera Calibration panel.

Using a Color Checker Passport target or a camera profile generated with it doesn’t mean that you are locked into the results they generate, they simply give you the best starting point possible for adjusting your images.

Read more on color management here.

Read more on Raw processing here.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.


If you want to create digital photographs with the highest quality, set your camera to create Raw files.

What are the upsides to shooting in Raw? Raw files contain the widest color gamut (saturation), highest bit depth (gradation), have flexible white balance (color temperature), offer the greatest opportunities for rendering highlight and shadow detail, are free of compression artifacts, and can be reprocessed indefinitely (even with tomorrow’s software) with no loss in quality. There are some downsides to shooting in Raw. Raw files are larger and require post-processing before presentation. They take up more room and they take longer to use. But the higher quality they offer are worth the effort.

What’s your other option? Shoot in JPEG. All of the benefits listed above are what JPEGs don’t offer. So why would you ever shoot in JPEG? JPEG is an incredibly useful file format. It’s fast. It requires no post-processing, though you can post-process it, just not as much or as well as Raw. It’s light and lean. Its smaller size makes JPEG an excellent format for sharing files, whether by email or posting to the world-wide-web. A well-processed JPEG can look so good, many print on demand services use it as their preferred file format.

You don’t have to choose between Raw and JPEG. Every exposure a digital camera makes generates two files – Raw (all the information it captured) and JPEG (a quickly cooked version) – but they don’t always save it. How you set your camera determines what’s saved. Set your camera to save the Raw files; you can always make a JPEG by processing the Raw, in fact the best JPEGs are created this way; but you can’t make a Raw file from a JPEG. And, if you want a quicker JPEG too, you can set your camera to save Raw and JPEG.

Read more about Raw here.

Learn more in my Digital Photography Workshops.


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