You know how you load your photos into Lightroom, and the first time you look at a photo it looks great for just a second, and then it becomes dull and less vibrant?

What you are seeing for that split second is a JPG.  The diference between Raw and JPG photos is that cameras add processing to JPGs that they don’t add to Raws.  In most cases, JPGs will have contrast, sharpening, saturation and noise reduction applied.  Now, you can tell your camera how much of these settings to apply before you take the photo, but after it’s taken, you can’t undo them.

Our cameras don’t do any of that to Raw photos, on the other hand.

When you look at a photo on your camera’s display screen, what you are seeing is a JPG (even if you shoot in Raw only).  This causes folks who are new to Raw to wonder why their photos look different in Lightroom than they do on the camera display.

The JPG is also embedded as a thumbnail in your Raw file, which explains why you see it for a moment while the full Raw loads.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Lightroom could automatically read the settings that the camera applied to the Raw to create it’s thumbnail image and apply them when we import the photos?  While still letting us adjust any settings where the JPG went wrong, of course.

Unfortunately, we can’t.

However, there is one small tweak we can make each time we begin an edit of a Raw photo that will get us a lot closer to the JPG appearance.  It’s called Camera Calibration.


You’ll find this panel at the bottom on the Develop module on the right side.  Now, if your photo is a JPG, you won’t have a pick list here – it will just say “Embedded,” because your camera embedded this option into the photo when it was taken, and you can’t undo it.

However, if you shoot Raw (which we do so that we maintain control over all processing, rather than letting the camera do it for us), you’ll have choices that look something the like the list in the screen shot above.

When I import a series of photos taken in the same shooting conditions, I go to the Develop module, highlight all the photos so that each change applies to each photo, and then I choose the selection from this list that looks best for this group of photos.

If you really want to get fancy, you can use the color sliders under the pick list to further refine the photos.

My favorite is often Camera Neutral, but that’s just my style.  I haven’t decided on a calibration setting that I want to apply to each and every photo that I import on my new camera yet.  But when I do, I will create a preset to apply to every photo on import and save that much more time.

If you shoot Raw and edit in LR, give this a shot.  See if it doesn’t save you time too!