Colour Profiles in Adobe Lightroom

So What Are Colour Profiles?

All those fabulous film simulations we love so much in out Fuji X Cameras are available in Adobe Lightroom when you shoot RAW.  Well almost.  The colour profiles that are applied to the RAW files in the camera are there but the really clever stuff like the ACROS grain simulation isn’t.  However, that isn’t to say these profiles are the poor mans film simulation, they are a really useful tool when processing RAW images and can reveal colours and details that would be almost impossible to find using the other tools in the Develop module.

Where are They?

Look down in the bottom right hand corner of your Develop module in Lightroom, yes all the way down the bottom.  You are looking for this:

Screen snip from Adobe Lightroom
Adobe Lightroom Profile Selector

The dropdown you want is right there underneath Process: BTW you always want to make sure that process is the current version especially if you are going back and looking at older RAW files, you could see some improvements to your image simply by using the latest greatest RAW engine, particularly with X Tran images.

I always used to think that the best bet was to leave it on the Adobe Standard, somehow that was cleaner, purer and the most neutral starting point for my post processing work.  Well it seems I was quite wrong, the Adobe Standard is Adobe’s idea of what the output from the RAW file should look like, yes it probably is pretty neutral but it is definitely not the de-facto right colour profile to use.

I always get my models to hold up an X-Rite Color Checker Passport whilst I am setting up the lights and getting the exposure correct, it is really useful for white balance and at a push mixing images from two different cameras together into a more seamless set.  So to illustrate the differences I’ve taken this test shot and produced a jpg of each of the different Fujifilm colour profiles as provided by Adobe in Lightroom.

I’ve included Velvia for completeness but it’s clearly not something really intended for portraits.

Thoughts and Observations

Adobe Standard is not bad, reasonably neutral but doesn’t do much for the skin tones, to my mind it is pretty uninspiring.  It’s worth bearing in mind that this is what all your RAW files will default to in Lightroom…

X-Rite Color Checker is a profile generated directly from the RAW file, it seeks out the Passport in the picture and generates the correct profile to render those colours exactly as they should be.  Technically this is the most ‘correct’ profile.  I love X-Rite products, the Passport has been invaluable to me and I use a Color Munki to profile my monitors, but in this case the skintones just look a little too magenta.

PROVIA/STANDARD looks pretty good to me, it’s very similar to the Pro Neg. Std but a little warmer and somehow more ‘filmic’ – if that’s even a word.  For portraits I would definitely choose this over either of the first two options.

Pro Neg. Std for my money this is what the Adobe Standard should be closest to, it’s neutral and unopinionated and offers the best blank canvas and I would suggest also the maximum detail.  For portraits though, it’s a touch uninspiring.

Pro Neg. Hi is basically the Pro Neg. Std with a touch more contrast, it gives it more punch but there is a slight loss of detail – check out the shadow area on her shoulders under her hair.

ASTIA/SOFT is one of my favourite colour profiles/film simulations for portraits, lovely skin tones, softer and more flattering than Provia or the Pro Negs but still offering up loads of detail.

CLASSIC CHROME has all the plus points of ASTIA/SOFT but Fuji have sprinkled magic Kodachrome fairy dust over to make it something really special, wedding photographers especially go nuts for this one.  I really like it, but it definitely gives your portraits a certain look (and it IS a great look) but you don’t always want a ‘look’.

Here are links to each of the full size jpegs:

Velvia

Provia

Pro Neg. Std

Pro Neg. Hi

X-Rite

Classic Chrome

Astia

Adobe Standard