Camera Neutral

Here’s a really quick little Lightroom tip..

If you expose to the right (ETTR), which means the maximum number of pixels pushed right up to the right side of the histogram as much as possible without clipping, you may often find that you are blowing (value of 245ish +) the red channel in the skin highlights.  One of the first things I do when I open an image up in PS is scroll over any very light looking skin areas and examine the info palette to make sure I’m not in the danger zone in the red channel.

It seems like almost all properly exposed images WERE in the red zone somewhere until I realized I needed to change the calibration settings all the way at the bottom of the develop panel from “Adobe Standard” to “Camera Neutral”.

Now, in all honesty this switch will at first glance, make your image look like crap! It will seem dull, lifeless and lacking in contrast, which it is, but that’s good because before this it had TOO much contrast and red in the skin. Much better to add back in contrast while preserving more neutral skintones!

Here is an example of an image set to Adobe Standard:

And now switched to Camera Neutral:

And here it is in camera neatural having adjusted the tone curve a bit to bring back some contrast (bring darks down, lights up a tad ) and also added a tiny bit of vibrance to keep skin from being too gray:

Now I would bring this into photoshop to polish (add some more contrast, maybe selectively level certain areas etc) but this is a much better starting point than the contrast and redness in the Adobe Standard version.


So you may have noticed by my lack of posting on the subject that I am in complete denial that a) my baby is turning two on Thursday!!! and b) We are throwing a large party Saturday and aside from having ordered the favors/decorations I am completely unprepared. Ahhhhhh!!

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Melanie says:

Hey Ariana!
Thanks for all your wonderful tutorials. they are so so helpful!!
I also have this problem, of photos getting too red in lightroom. I wanted to change the setting to camera neutral but I also have this “embedded” and nothing else – even though I did NOT open them in photoshop before… is it because they are jpg’s and not raw files maybe?
Hope you’re doing great with the babies and the new house!!
Lots of love from an Austrian girl ;)
– melanie :)

ariana says:

Kristen, yes once you edit in PS, you can’t make some adjustments. It saves a copy so that you can see the difference always between your RAW (LR) and your PSD in case you want to make changes to either one.. sometimes I look back and realized I liked the LR version better! Also, sometimes you need to make WB adjustments or other things so you always have both available.

Kristen says:

Never mind, got it! It’s because I was trying to work on a picture that I had done in LR, then moved to PS, and then saved in PS. By the way, how come it then saves an extra copy at the end of that series in LR?

Okay, so do you normally just keep it in Camera Neutral all the time? Or only change it when you see a ton of red?

And portraiture, got the 15 day trail, crud. I *need* it, it’s so fun and easy!

Kristen says:

Yeah, it’s weird, for some reason I have no drop down menu there. I see exactly in your picture where it’s supposed to be, but mine only has ’embedded’ and no other choices, no camera neutral, Adobe standard, none of those choices that I see you have. Would I have to change any settings first to get that? I have it on 2010 (current) like you have above it.

Kristen says:

Okay, I’m just trying this today, and can’t find where to switch to Camera Neutral. Are you right clicking somewhere?

ariana says:

Kristen, it’s under “calibration” which is the bottom panel on the right in the develop module!

Lisa says:

Fantastic tip! Can’t wait to try this tonight.

Happy Birthday to Jasper!

Kristen says:

Thanks Ariana! I’m going to have to try the r thing. Eek, I’ve never gone LR, to PS, back to LR though, how in the world?! I’m definitely going to have to check out that adobe video link you put in that post and do some catching up.

And are you talking exposing the image to the right after taking the shot during processing? I think out of habit while taking the shot I am exposing more left so I for sure don’t blow anything.

Add the fact that I’m now on a Mac, I’m all out of sorts today. Oh well, out of the comfort zone only means learning hopefully!

ariana says:

Hi Ava,
I’ve been eyeing that for a while.. not sure though that it will work any more accurately from session to session than going back and saying I shot this session cloudy outdoors and the correct WB was 5700 so I’ll set LR to 5700 KMIM??

I definitely get that it does more than just correct WB though, it also corrects other colors and lets you make a camera specific profile which sounds awesome. But I still think that you could have very different color temperatures from day to day that you would have to account for.. I could be wrong though, will be very interested to see how you like yours!

Ava says:

I just got my X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. I didn’t get a chance to start playing with it this week-end, but I think you should check it out.
It allows you to create camera-specific profiles for different environments. I’m by no means advocating stopping the use of gray cards during shoots, but I know (I’m guilty of this) not having a chance to break it out when you’re running after a kid during a shoot. These profiles (selected the exact same way as you specified for Camera Neutral) allow you to say “it was a overcast day and here’s my profile for that”. It’s neat, and I’m hoping it will rescue my butt on those few occasions I didn’t/forgot to gray card.

Anyway, just a product reco. I can let you know more on how I like it, once I start using it.

ariana says:

Oh Kristen, glad you posted.. I was thinking about what you wrote about LR on my last post, and wanted to tell you that cropping in LR is SOOOO much easier than in PS, because for one thing it’s non destructive.. all you do is press the letter r and you can choose different ratios or enter your own custom ratio. My workflow is to always edit the whole image, do any PS work if necessary and then LATER do my “cropping” in LR.. I say cropping in quotes because it can always be changed later if you find you need more room like for a canvas etc!

Kristen says:

Thank you so much for this! I constantly struggle with the red channel & skintones (and probably doesn’t help shooting Nikon). I can’t wait to try this! Just got my LR3 set up yesterday, love.

Jenna says:

Wow, I just tried this really quickly and what a difference! Who knew?! Thanks for the great tip, Ariana :)