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Camera Profiles: What I had found to be best for Nikon RAWs

TrevTrev Moderator
edited September 2014 in post-processing
NOTE: This will only work on NEF (Nikon) RAW files, options not the same for Canon files.

I was always bugged by the fact that you did not get the same richness of colour when viewing the LCD or an extracted jpeg from the RAW and I played with the WB to try to bring it back up.

This never seemed to solve the problem, and since using Saturation/Vibrancy seemed to screw up skin tones I changed tack.

What to use: CAMERA VIVID:  This will give those rich colours almost perfectly as you see in jpeg extraction or LCD viewing.

From the get-go, it gives a nicer rich black tonal range, great skin colour and you are then ready to edit.

Some samples attached, kindly provided RAW file of Neil’s, but I have also found that you need to adjust a couple of other things for that nice starting point.

The samples were all done with the Basic settings:

WB: As Shot.
Exposure: As Shot
Black Point: Zero
Brightness/Contrast in the Basic Tab left to default 50/25 (what is available under 2010 Process)
Sharpening: Zero (I prefer to fully edit my images in Photoshop)
Tonal Curve TAB under 'Point': You need to change from 'Medium Contrast' to Linear and you will see more detail in the Shadows.

The samples show the Camera Profiles used and when compared to the extracted Jpeg from the RAW you will see a vast difference, with Camera Vivid being the almost perfect rendition as the extracted jpeg.

Extracted Jpeg: Colour Rich, Vibrant and exactly as you see on LCD obviously.

Adobe Standard Profile: Terrible.

Camera Standard Profile: Much better, but still lacking that richness of the extracted jpeg.

Camera Vivid Profile: It’s so close to the extracted jpeg it’s not funny, but if you left the ‘Medium Contrast’ on it would be too dark in the Blacks, so that’s why I turned it off for all samples.

Finally, I edited the Camera Vivid Profile file, and it need only jussst a tad of more contrast and sharpening applied.

The images you see here look sharp by default because when I resized them for web viewing, it auto applied sharpening to get a better viewing result.

So, anyone using Nikon/NEF Raws, try it.



Nikon Profile:


Canon Profiles:







As you can see, the Camera Vivid Profile greatly enhances the image from the start.



  • Wow, interesting, thanks Trev. I will give it a try.
  • Hello was just wondering why you used the 2010 process version and not the the current 2013 version. The sample looks great by the way.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited October 2014

    The new Process 2012 (current) version has inbuilt 'recovery' or other means to recover clipping of highlights so you do not get a 'true' reading of what is clipped or not, and I like to know precisely what clipping has occurred as I will merely then under-expose until I get the highlights back then open up the shadows via Photoshop and final edits in Photoshop.

    If you check out the images below of some boat tests I had done for this article for - CAPTURE ONE PRO - on recovering highlights, you will see the 2012 Process shows very very little clipping, so in 'theory' you should be able to think that this image is correct, but you only need to just look at it to know it's completely rubbish, as the readings in the whites show 253/253/253, which is almost pure white.

    Personally I want to know the true highlight clipping of the highlights  as this sample shows they are 253/253/253 but in the tiny 'clipped only' portion showing are 254/254/254, therefore clipping only shows above 253's and "anything" below 254 is now supposed to be correct and that's almost pure white (255/255/255) which is ridiculous.

    Good whites are anywhere from 230's-ish to low 240's, depends on texture/structure of those whites.

    Samples of what I mean.

    'Correct' Exposure: (disregard any lacking of colour as my Capture Program is not colour calibrated and therefore looks lacking) - This shows only a really small amount of clipping which could be brought back more if needed. No edits, As Shot.


    2012 PROCESS: This now shows 2012 Process, and therefore supposed to be 'correct' looking but it's totally rubbish, as the values in the whites are 253/253/253 and the small amount of 'clipping' showing has white values of 255/254/254 which means that according to Adobe's 2012 Process Algorithms are supposed to be now 'correct'.

    That means any White Values below 254/254/254 should be correct, but as you know would be totally rubbish. Good whites are around the 235/235/235 to the low 240's range depending on the white's texture/structure.


    2010 PROCESS: This is now a true reflection of highlight clipping.


    So you can see why I 'personally' use 2010 Process, as that will not only show the true Highlight Clipping, but then gives me a 'reference' point so to speak on how much I can really bring back an image in exposure to get great looking highlights, especially in wedding dresses.

    I nearly always deliberately will over-expose slightly if any relevant shadows in image then under-expose in my RAW convertor as I know I can then recover 'clean' Shadows in Photoshop.

    Obviously this is my own personal preference.

  • Well, that is astonishing. I now have to look at things differently when editing, both in Camera Raw and Lightroom. Thank you for the detailed explanation. 
  • TrevTrev Moderator


    Don't get me wrong, this is my own personal way of working.

    If using your camera to expose pretty much correctly, and you are getting good results from the get-go with 2012, then that's fine.

    But during wedding pressure because I use my camera in manual mode 99.999% of the time you can sometimes over-expose pretty easily but knowing I can recover, I do need to know the true Highlight Clipping values.

  • Trev, I tried switching a few pix to camera vivid in RAW and they became super saturated and contrasty. Not like yr examples where the difference is subtle yet dramatic enough to say 'wow, cool.' I tweaked the sliders and they look ok but I don't seem to be getting same results as you. Then again my pix aren't exactly as great as Neil's in the first place. I'll play around with it.
  • Trev, I understand but your results just made me consider trying things your way as a way of improving my abilities.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Skip, you did read the part where I changed from Medium Contrast to Linear Contrast in the Tone Curve under the 'Point' section as that will put in a lot of contrast.

    However, contrast can look different on different images, so the scene may have been very contrasty to begin with, if so, make sure to change from Medium Contrast to Linear and then you can add your own contrast via the sliders in the 'Parametric' TAB in the Tone Curve Palette either in ACR or Lightroom, whatever you are using.

    Once you add 'normal' contrast in ACR/LR in the 'Point' Tone Curve section, you will get 'Saturation' occurring since by it's nature that's what happens, I apply contrast a bit different so it does not affect colours.

    I have attached my own samples where exposure was virtually spot on, but I would still bring it down a tad personally to get bit more 'meat' to play with in the highlights when I edit it.

    Here is where to change to that Linear Contrast in ACR or Lightroom





    Samples: Extracted Jpeg; Adobe Standard; Camera Standard; Camera Vivid (all with Linear Contrast) then the last one is Camera Vivid with Medium Contrast applied.






    As you can see the Camera Vivid here gave the best results.

  • Thanks Trev, Yes, I did see the linear step as well and did play around with it but I'm not sure I saw any difference. I must have been doing it wrong because I just went back now and switched a photo to vivid and then to linear and the linear change reduced the strong contrast effect of going to vivid selection. Thank you. Your examples are great although I like the last one, with medium contrast. Both of course are better than the camera or Adobe standard settings. 

    In the photo I used just now to try this, the background was dark -- taken tonight with high school senior and it was about to rain. But you could still see trees in the distance. After switching to vivid the background went nearly black and the trees were gone. So that wasn't good. But linear setting brought back the trees and I see where you can fuss around with the graph and tweak it all. 
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited October 2014

    Yep, applying contrast in that Point Curve changes the structure of the image.

    If you edit fully in ACR/LR you can of course apply a + in the Fill Light.

    By default when editing and upon Import I have a preset with the following:

    Camera Vivid
    2010 Process
    Exposure -0.20
    Fill Light +20
    Sharpening Zero
    Linear Contrast
    Lens Correction TAB in the Profile I check the 'Enable Lens Profile Corrections' and  in both the Color section I also check the 'Remove Chromatic Aberration' boxes.

    Of course that is only the basic import, I may need to change exposure, WB, etc a bit before exporting out to PSD's for full/final edits in Photoshop.

    I will let you into a little secret.

    How to set up your Levels so if you apply contrast via levels it will NOT screw up the colours and also importantly, clip Shadows/Highlights.

    Open any image, then just open the Levels Dialogue Box, NOT an adjustment layer, the actual box via Ctrl (or Cmd)/L

    Once the box is opened you need to change some things and save as Default so when applying contrast via Levels you do not Clip any Shadows and only tiny specular highlights but most importantly you do not end up screwing the colours via this method is how I control contrast.

    Ctrl/L to open Levels.

    In the Dialogue Box, click on 'Options'

    This sample shows:

    In the Options Panel, by Default it will show 'Enhance Per Channel Contrast' which is stupid because you are then enhancing ALL the channels which means you are then enhancing the entire RGB spectrum and that is you are enhancing ALL the colours. Bad.

    Not only that, you can also see that the Clipping you are allowing in the Black and Highlights is way too high, you are making the Shadows much darker then they should be and clipping a hell of a lot of Highlights, bad, especially in wedding dresses.

    Look at the actual Levels, see the tiny 'spikes' on my image (same one as last post) you can see the shadows being clipped and the highlights being clipped by the tiny spikes on left hand side and right hand side.


    Now, to the fix:

    You want to change Levels as in the Luminosity range, not across the RGB Spectrum so the first thing is to choose 'Enhance Monochromatic Contrast' which is purely in the Luminosity (Black/White) and not any colours.

    Then in the Shadows change the clipping point from 0.10 to 0.0

    In the Highlights, you can afford to allow a tiny bit of clipping because generally there may be 'specular' highlights as in light reflecting sequins, jewellery, sun on water, etc. but certainly NOT the 0.10, change to 0.01. Yep, just that much.

    Now important, Check the 'Save As Defaults' box, then click OK.

    You are now done.

    Here you can now see that my image shows no clipping in those tiny spikes on left or right in the actual Levels Box.


    Once those new Defaults have been saved, you can now of course adjust the Levels confidently knowing you won't screw up the colours, of course there would be extremes you could go to and that would not be in the best interests.

    I should point out that in my editing part of my action I have an 'Auto' Levels apply at the very first, it will then give me a head start on rest of editing for contrast, and it's not often I will then do a manual Levels adjustment.

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    That file I did above here is the final edit, tad warmer, as I prepared it for a large canvas which the couple bought.

    Then some 'highlighting' and 'burning' to give it that punch in the grasses.

  • Trev, I always open levels box with Control + L. Wow, and here I didn't know it was a secret! Ha ha. (I take to layers like a fish takes to the desert.) But I've never hit the options box. I will check that out. Looks really complicated though. This is quite a bit beyond my PS tech know-how. Thanks. Nice photo BTW! And nice enhancing.  
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    I did not mean Ctrl/L was a 'secret'. Hah! I think you are teasing.

    But yeah, that options and changing the default settings helps tremendously since as I said I have an 'Auto' Levels applied in an action on every image and if I did not have those settings changed and there was no definitive Shadows/Highlights and it applied that contrast then it would become too contrasty with the original defaults as well as screwing up the colours if 'Enhance Per Channel Contrast' was left on instead of Monochromatic.
  • No, I wasn't teasing. I thought 'Well, maybe everyone else edits in an adjustment layer.' I don't catch on quick -- in case you haven't noticed. 

    Thanks Trev!
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    okie, and I do use Adjustment Layers, just that it was easier to see the actual full Levels Palette so you can see and do changes a bit easier, as sometimes unless you have the adjustment layers properties expanded it is pretty small.

  • Trev, very nice topic. Will try this by myself too. 
    Must say, that I also find profiles in LR very dull and always had to tweak for better result. 

    Just a question: isn't possible to make a special profile, that would automaticly include all of your steps, for LR or for PS? Or you do this with created action?

  • TrevTrev Moderator


    Everything above I have set as defaults, when I import my files into the RAW convertor (LR or Capture, depends on the image, if I have a really difficult couple I use Capture One).

    Upon import I have the Camera Profile set, I have an initial -.20 Exposure, no contrast, no sharpening (save those for Photoshop) then when I adjust the WB and general exposure and export out to PSDs I use an action and part of that is the Levels as the action I have uses an 'Auto' levels for the very first step and by using the Monochromatic instead of 'Per Channel' give the initial first boost without any colour cast.

    But yes, I do a lot of my work in Photoshop simply because I can utilise things like Apply Image, Calculations, Masks, etc. which are not available in LR.

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    Have you had any results using the above yet, you were wanting to check it out so wondered how you got along with that profile so far.

  • Hey. Does the camera make any difference? A friend of mine has a d7000 like me. Her skin tones pick up orange tint. Mine don't. I use a Camera Standard profile I created using a color card, and it works great now. So, could this help in this situation, too?
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    That would be hard to determine Szmatefy, since if her camera has the orange tint from the get go she would need to consider making adjustment in the actual camera, or make sure she has the latest Firmware Update for that model. I think there were some issues with certain bodies and that tint.

    However, compensating with WB should correct, it's just that that Camera Profile I use in my RAW converter gives me the best results as almost perfect (providing the WB is correct first up) as I see on the LCD viewing the embedded jpeg in the RAW.

    She has nothing to lose, give it a go, other than that if the camera has issues like that it's maybe time to get it checked at a Nikon Service Centre.

  • Trev, local service stated that the camera is ok. Unfortunately she doesn't want to use Raw shooting, and no one could convince her. The thing is, the image looks correct on the back of her camera. It gets the tint on computer screens. I told her it might be colour profile issue, or miscalibrated monitor.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited December 2014
    Oh, I see, well obviously if shooting in Jpeg she will be limited in to how much she can edit, but maybe if she goes into the camera itself and add more tint in the colour section that may solve it, but then if it looks right on back of LCD and it goes to the tint when viewing on computer, I most definitely would be looking at getting the monitor calibrated first, but that's another story, as you can only go so far on a consumer monitor and not a dedicated colour calibrated one like an NEC/Eizo, etc which can be expensive.

    Another thing is that the Camera Profile options are embedded when editing in jpeg, you cannot change it, only the White Balance which is also limited and the Camera Process (2010 or 2012) but not the Camera Profile like I have described above in this thread.

  • The advice above is very valuable in my PS workflow.  Luminance-based adjustment in Levels/Curves is more linear, and one can always adjust saturation after the fact.  

    The suggestions by Trev regarding presets are quite new to me and I'd like very much to use them, but am finding some inconsistencies when opening various NEFs -- some will come up with the presets and others, without- is it possible that there is a buffer in PS that remembers how the NEF was previously adjusted (perhaps stashed in the buffer when hitting the Open button)?    I'm opening these NEFs not from the camera, from files on disk, so camera settings shouldn't come into play.
    Thanks in advance...
    --  Rob 
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    Which RAW converter are you using, ACR (Photoshop) or LR, the best way is to create a preset in LR, and then import them making sure under the import options you select your preset, that way the images across the board will have it all done for you.

    Now, if using ACR, and even though you may 'Save As Default' it will *not* auto apply on import, you need to select all the images once imported and then choose the preset you may have created, but the best part also using ACR is that if all images are selected and you apply that preset, it will then be embedded in all of the RAWs, unlike LR if you apply a preset to one image, then select all and try to do an universal change by clicking on the preset, it will 'only' apply to the main image selected initially, even though the rest have been selected, but you can then 'Sync' across the board if you missed the preset on your initial import anyway.

    I have attached my LR preset I am using, but you can change it, and do a right click on the Preset, choose 'update with current settings' and that will then be the new preset to your liking. eg: I have a very very soft sharpening applied since I do 99% of my editing in Photoshop.

    Regarding opening of NEFs, if you have adjusted, especially in ACR, then obviously it remembers all previous adjustments in the XMP file.


  • Trevor... I am always surprised at how much I learn when browsing Tangets! A couple of questions. I am a Nikon D600 shooter and process in LR5. 1. Do you always import using Camera Vivid? 2. Do you ever use Portrait or Camera Standard? 3. When shooting weddings do you use Camera Vivid?

    I have always wondered why my images looked so flat in LR when they didn't on the back of the camera. Even after moving my contact, vibrancy, and saturation slides in LR, it still did not look great. Do you happen to know whether Neil imports in Camera Vivid for his wedding projects? Thanks in advance for the help.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited December 2014
    David, welcome to the forum.

    I cannot vouch for Neil's method of importing/editing, he'll have to comment on that.

    This is my own personal preset of doing things.

    The reason you are looking at a vibrant image on the back of the LCD is that it's the embedded jpeg file in the RAW for purposes of viewing, as you cannot view a RAW file per se.

    I always now import my images into LR with a preset I created, and it's currently as follows.

    Basic TAB:
    WB: As Shot (obviously a lot of time I don't need to change that and it would be impossible to have a set Temp/Tint preset
    Exposure: -0.40 e/v as I deliberately have a tendency to shoot slightly over-exposed.
    Fill Light: +10
    Blacks: 0
    Brightness: +50 | Contrast: +25 (these are default settings using Camera Profile 2010 - the reasons for which I use are at top of this page)

    Tone Curve: Linear (I add my own contrast in Photoshop with an action as it won't alter colours the way I do it - not with 'S' Curves)

    Detail: Very small +20 Sharpening on 0.5 Radius (I apply sharpening in PS)

    Lens Corrections: Under Profile I enable Lens Correction | Under Color I enable Remove Chromatic Aberration

    Camera Calibration: I use 2010 Process (reasons as stated at start of post) and Camera Vivid in the Profile

    I have attached my LR Preset, slightly changed from previous above. Obviously just Import it into your preferred folder in LR, then you can right click and change name, then go through, set up some settings you may use all the time, test on a few images, then once again you could right click and 'Update with Current Settings' so when you import the RAWs you just choose that preset in the Menu Dropdown on right.

    NOTE: Changing settings on your camera will only affect the jpeg you view and if you shoot in jpeg then obviously that also, so apart from WB/Exposure/Camera Profile, your RAW will only take on those attributes.

  • Excellent Trev! Every time I think I have a reasonable understanding of in this case Light Room, I get an unexpected education! You all make photography an endless learning process which keeps me engaged and moving forward in my passion. Have a very Happy New Year!!!
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited January 2015
    I still mostly use ACR (hosted in Bridge) for my RAW workflow. Same engine as LR, but I have more of a hands-on feel for where my files are when using Bridge. 

    When I generate the preview of my RAW files, they are according to my own Default, which bumps up the Contrast a bit, and nudges the Clarity a tiny bit, and pushes Vibrancy a bit. Etc. All to give me a default file that looks good and has some punch.

    In other words, you don't have to accept the LR defaults - create your own so that in general your files already look how you want them to, even before further touching them. 
  • Davidkotke, the RAW tends to look flat when pulled into LR (or opened in ACR) with the sliders on their default compared with what you saw on the camera LCD because the embedded JPG you are seeing on the camera is created using the picture control you have set in your D600. Note the picture control selected in camera will have no effect on your RAW in LR (or ACR) but it will impact what you see on the LCD. Some of the picture controls (particularly Vivid) are fairly punchy compared with default settings in LR.

    I use an import preset in LR that I apply when I pull my photos into LR to get me to a preferred starting point. It does things similar to what Neil just said above (bump saturation / contrast / clarity / vibrance a little, turn on lens distortion corrections, etc.). Unlike Trev, I prefer the current Process 2012 and I use Adobe Standard for the profile rather than Camera Vivid. Occasionally, as part of editing I may switch it from Standard to Vivid, but it depends on what I'm trying to achieve.
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