Untwisting your Lightroom RAW profiles

I loves me some Adobe Lightroom. When you take 200,000+ shots a year, you go for the program with the best ability to take on a massive workflow, and for me, Lightroom is it. But it has a giant problem. In order to get the best color from each camera, Adobe cobbled together color profiles matching what you would get out of the manufacturer’s own profiles, and the color was great. Finally, my reds were red again! But it came at the expense of a few oddities. Highlight clipping became the ugliest rendition I’ve ever seen, and if you wanted to fix that with your handy dandy “highlight recovery” slider? All of your colors would change, and people would go from skin tone to Muppet-land.

Apparently, Adobe has done this on purpose, because it’s easy to fix. Thomas Lester showed me that Adobe was deliberately “twisting” hues as you moved exposure sliders, and that there was a way to untwist them. That way, however, involved a lot of UNIX commands. Now I’m a geek, but I’m what you’d call a middle-range geek. I know some UNIX commands, but it’s not what I consider a good way to spend an evening. So I asked, pretty please, if he could compile “Untwisted” profiles for the D3 and D700 cameras I use.

And what did he do? He compiled them for every camera out there! So if you use Lightroom, and especially if you’re puzzled by color shifts when you use the highlight recovery slider, check out his blog for more information and to download the profiles!

No remember not to throw away your old profiles — Adobe probably has reasons to do the things you do, and you may not be used to the new colors. What I’ve done is start out with everything on the untwisted profiles but keep a normal camera profile option as a quick pre-set, so just one click means I can have both options.

Love in the Time of Composites

Ryan Brenizer Photography

I suppose my style is to hold as light a touch as possible on post-processing … but if I do, do it like I mean it, which is to set up shots with the post-processing already in mind. The “Brenizer Method,” of course, relies on Photoshop. I actually am coming up with ideas now to use specific compositions and techniques to breathe some new life into a Photoshop technique that photographers tend to revile, but more on that later. In this case, I shot this as a composite of four frames, using just one little speedlight to light the couple.

I like to travel light, especially on engagement shoots. In New York, there are plenty of places where if you set up a light stand and a tripod, you will be swarmed by police, park officials, and in one case a National Guardsman with a machine gun. Yikes. But I love the light-canceling effects of big lights. The way to get there with a small light is to get in really close. The way to do that with freedom while not getting in the frame? Composite.

Of course, composites require tripods, and you remembered what I said about the guys with machine guns, right? In this case, I stood the camera on my rolling camera bag and propped up the lens with a lens hood. Wedding photographers are McGuyver at heart.

FYI: Not HDR. All of the frames were at the same exposure settings.

Battle of the Sexes

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Sometimes, I try to turn challenges into opportunities. One of the toughest times to shoot is peak mid-day. This is counter-intuitive to the layman: “Photographs need light! Let’s shoot when there’s as much as possible!” but the sun is a very harsh, extremely strong light source, and there are few less attractive places to put a hard light than directly over someone’s head. (Coming directly from below is worse, but for obvious reasons that doesn’t happen very much with the sun).

So we try to work against it or overpower it. But there’s the second problem — overpowering the sun is about as hard as it sounds. Wee little flashes only do well if they’re close, which limits the sorts of compositions you can do. That’s why I’ve taken to doing multi-frame composites recently, so I can get the flash close to my subject in a big frame and then quickly digitally erase it later.

But there are other ways — who says the light source can’t be in the frame? Who says you can’t have some fun with it? The rooftop garden at the Met is absolutely one of the brightest places I’ve been in New York, other than the waterfront. I used every trick to get “normal” frames well-exposed, and then dipped into the abnormal.