Adobe’s Slam Dunk – The DNG Profile Editor

DNG Profile Editor

While waiting for the digital delivery of Lightroom 2 earlier this week I was poking around Adobe’s site and stumbled across an application that excites me more than LR 2 – and let me tell you I am really excited about LR 2.  It is a little application called the DNG Profile Editor and it addresses one of the biggest complaints that everybody has with digital RAW files – the unprocessed RAW files lack of richness.  With the introduction of the DNG Profile Editor, our lives are about to change for the better.

For the savvy reader out there you have probably been using the Adobe Camera Raw calibrator found on the Chromoholics website here to tweak your baseline colors to a truer tonality. Thanks to this website the camera calibration tab did more than languish in obscurity in Lightroom 1 and CS3 and became a very powerful and useful tool in my toolbox. With Adobe’s introduction of the DNG Profile editor, the camera calibration tab has been taken to a new level, and the calibration process takes about 30 minutes less than using the Chromoholics method.

Adobe RAW Camera Calibration Tab
Adobe RAW Camera Calibration Tab

You can download the brilliant DNG Profile Editor application here and Adobe has posted a tutorial on how to use it here.  (Note: you must have an Adobe account to download the application.  Accounts are free and quick to set up).  The basic concept is to begin with a photograph of a set of known color values, in this case a photo of an X-Rite (formerly Gretag MacBeth) color checker chart.  The colors on the chart are known values that the application then uses in its calculations to establish a baseline calibration of your RAW file.

 

 

 

 

 

X-Rite Color Checker in the DNG Profiler
X-Rite Color Checker in the DNG Profiler

 

1. Here is a screen shot of the first step of the process.  The application is measuring the color patches from my X-Rite color checker chart against known numerical values for the colors.

 

 

Fine Tuning Colors
Fine Tuning Individual Colors

 

2. Once the baseline color values are established you can then tweak each individual colors hue, saturation and lightness in a very intuitive interface.

 

 

 

Create a Custom Curve
Create a Custom Curve

 

3. After tweaking your colors you can fine tune the curve of the image to achieve the exact baseline contrast you desire.

 

 

 

Global Color Fine Tune
Global Color Fine Tune

 

5. As an additional step, if you find it necessary, you can further fine tune the RGB color channels along with the overall white point of the file.

 

 

 

Once all these steps have been performed, you can tell LR2 to load the new camera profile as the baseline look for your files.  While this my not seem very exciting at face value, the power and flexibility in creating these profiles means that one could very easily create a set of film looks specifically for your camera and forget the hassle of using presets built for a different systems.  For anyone that shoots the Nikon D3 please feel free to download a Kodak E100 VS type look that I designed here called Nikon D3 CS Boost.  If your on a Mac, install the file in the following place: Home Folder/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CameraRaw/CameraProfiles

File path on Mac for RAW camera profiles.
File path on Mac for RAW camera profiles.

I apologize to those on PC as I can’t give you the exact path to install the file, however it will be similar to the path above.

Once you have loaded the profile and restarted LR, scroll down to the Camera Calibration tab, and in the upper right hand corner of the tab there is a drop down menu where you can choose the profile as seen here:

Adobe RAW Camera Calibration Tab
Adobe RAW Camera Calibration Tab

 

Note: The profile will only load if you have a D3.  It will not even show up in the list if you are looking at a file from another camera.

 

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of purchasing a color checker chart and manually making these profiles, you can download some canned profiles from Adobe here.  I will also be teaching workshops where we do a hands on demo of manually creating the profiles.

Check back to The Nomadic Photographer regularly for updated profiles to download!