Adobe Lightroom has been my choice for photo management and editing for several years. But as good as it was, Lightroom is now better than ever.
The Develop Module was first redesigned for the 2018 release of both the Classic and Cloud versions. It has since been redesigned and continues to improve. This significantly changes the way we can approach photo editing in Lightroom.
The Lightroom Profile Function
The profile function has been significantly enhanced and relocated. The new profiles are so much better than what was previously available — the so-called legacy profiles. They are now located at the top of the Basic Panel as a primary editing function.
Additionally, a new Texture slider has been added. It subtly affects medium level texture and is much more precise than the Clarity slider.
RAW vs. JPG
Before we delve into profiles, we need to talk briefly about the capture mode we use for photographs. Many people like to shoot in JPG, a compressed format popular for displaying files online. However, the way the camera makes these photographic files smaller is by performing numerous edits to the photograph before it is stored.
While JPG photos often ‘look good’ straight out of the camera, future editing of those photos is severely limited. This is because the camera has discarded large amounts of information which was captured in the original photo during its editing process.
Conversely, a RAW photo contains vast amounts of information which can be manipulated in a program such as Lightroom. In general, a RAW photo looks ‘flat’ when it comes out of the camera. That is good, because it is an indicator that some processing is needed. But the processing decisions are made by the photographer, not the camera.
A Profile-based Lightroom Workflow
Under previous versions of Lightroom, the default profile was called ‘Adobe Standard.’ Pretty much everyone left that default in place and began their editing process by adjusting sliders for exposure, contrast, highlights and shadows, and color saturation.
With the new version of Lightroom, it is recommended that the editing process begin by adjusting the profiles. The default profile for RAW photos is now called ‘Adobe Color.’
Adobe Standard is still available as an option, but there are also profiles labeled ‘Adobe Portrait’, ‘Adobe Landscape’, ‘Adobe Vivid’, and ‘Adobe Monochrome.’ Additionally, each of these have sub-profiles which further refine the various ‘looks’ which are available.
The most important thing to remember is that, when applying any profile changes, there are no adjustments to the editing sliders at all. Thus, you can select an overall look for your photo and then adjust it using the sliders, as opposed to trying to achieve varying looks through adjustments alone.
What about JPG Profiles?
Profiles are still available if you import a photo into Lightroom in JPG format. However, the available color profiles are limited to ‘Color’ and ‘Monochrome.’ There are also a few sub-profiles available, but far fewer in number than are available to process RAW photos.
Additionally, the profiles may have less impact on the ‘look’ of the photo because of the preprocessing which is already been done in the camera.
What If My Photo Doesn’t Fit One of the Profile Descriptions?
The Lightroom profiles are somewhat designed for the type of photos that their label indicates. However, that does not mean that one cannot apply, for example, a landscape profile to a sports photo. Adobe encourages you to experiment with the profiles to find just what you’re looking for. The exception may be the Adobe Portrait profile which is designed to enhance skin tones. However, I have found cases where I’ve even used it for non-portrait pictures.
Always remember that editing in Lightroom is nondestructive. In other words, you can feel free to experiment because, unlike editing in Photoshop, it is easy to back up to a previous view of the photo.
What Comes Next?
In a future post, I’ll discuss the workflow that I have developed for the new version of Adobe Lightroom from start to finish.