Using Lightroom Profiles to find your editing style

Have you ever found yourself wanting to try new editing techniques? But then you open your editing software and realize you have no idea where to start?

I have good news! You don’t have to spend a ton of extra money on presets and actions. In 2018, Adobe made some major changes to their Camera Profiles (now simply called Profiles). This handy little feature is all you need to start experimenting with your editing.

If you have never heard of or used Profiles, you are not alone. It used to be buried in a hard-to-find menu where no one would ever find it! However, now this feature is right at the top in the Basic panel so that it’s easy to find and access.

Simply go to the “Profiles” menus at the top of the Basic panel. Then click on the “Browse” option. Here is where you will find a treasure trove of premade styles that you can easily apply to your images.

In this quick video I will walk you through accessing the Profiles menu:

Basic Profiles

There are Profiles made specifically for editing RAW files. These Profiles give you a good, neutral starting place to begin your edit.

For example, the Monochrome Profile is what Adobe feels is the best starting place for a black and white edit. It not only removes the color but aims to give you contrast with a nice range of tones from black to white.

Adobe Portrait focuses on rendering really nice skin tones. The default here feels just a touch to warm to me, so I simply cool it down in my editing workflow. However, I know plenty of photographers who prefer a warmer edit like this one. It’s all about personal style!

Adobe Vivid saturates the images without over-saturating the skin tones. This one is nice for landscapes that have people in them. It allows you to get beautiful color in the sky and in plant life without making the people in the frame look too neon and alien.

It is important to clarify that these aren’t mean to be your final edits. Rather, they are a good starting point to which you can add your own extra adjustments.

Before
After

Creative Profiles

Creative Profiles are designed to give you a more…you guessed it…creative look and feel in your images. These can be used on RAW, JPEG, or TIF files.

As they are meant to be more stylistic in nature, these are not meant to be neutral starting points. Rather, they are intended to be a “look” that you apply on top of your more basic adjustments.

My advice is to fix white balance, exposure, and anything else that you may see that needs tweaking first. Then play with the Creative Profiles to see if there is anything that you like.

My favorite feature here is the “Amount” slider. You can pull the slide up and down to add as much of or as little of the creative effect as you want! You are in total control.

Artistic

The Artistic Effect is edgier than your basic clean edit. It has stronger color shifts. But again, with the Amount slider, you can modify the intensity to your liking. Here I have illustrated the 10 available Artistic effects.

Black and White

The Black and White creative profiles will be more dramatic than the monochrome profile in the Basic panel. These will vary in contrast and dynamic range. Some will have a matte effect in the shadows while others will deepen the blacks. Some profiles will have bright highlights while others will have muted highlights.

The key when using these is to choose the one that works best with the individual image and with your personal style. Experiment with them all to find those that you like the most.

Modern

The Modern creative profiles are meant to mimic popular trends in editing styles. Whether it be a matte effect, desaturated color, or an extra pop in contrast, the modern effects are fun to play with!

I do caution, however, that trends are just that: trends. And as trends come and go, you don’t want to go too wild with these as they can leave your photos looking dated in the long run. So while I encourage you to have fun playing, be sure to use these with intention.

Vintage

The Vintage creative profiles replicate the look of film. While it doesn’t specify a specific film stock, it does give you different toning that makes certain films so desirable.

I love how these profiles add a throwback look to my photographs. I like to start with one of the vintage profiles and then layer on grain to enhance that retro feel.

What I love about Creative Profiles is that they are independent of any of the other sliders in the develop module. This allows you to choose a profile and then you are still able to apply a favorite preset on top of that.

In addition, you can modify any of the other panels and sliders in Lightroom on top of the profiles to get the look want. Once you find the style that works for you, you can then save the profile as part of a preset.

Step-by-step editing with Lightroom Profiles

This is a photo of my cat (who doesn’t love a cute cat picture?!). Here you can see the RAW, unedited file.

I am not loving the fluorescent green here. It distracts from that adorable kitty face! Thankfully, we can use the creative profiles to correct the color and give the overall photo more style and polish.

In the Basic Panel, open the menu next to Profile. Here you can browse the various profiles. Try as many as you like! When you hover over a profile, it will preview in the main window. It won’t change to that profile until you click it. You can quickly go through and see what profiles look good with your picture.

In this case, I am looking for something to desaturate the green. I also want to add more style to the photo by choosing a matte effect.

With these goals in mind, I decided to go with Modern 09. I like how it mutes the greens and dulls the blacks a bit. I played with the amount slider to help control just how much the profile affects the final image. I also added some grain to the edit to give it a little bit more of a film look. Finally I cropped it and brightened it up just a little bit using the tone curve.

Profiles give me the flexibility to streamline and customize my editing process.

Before and After

The difference in my final product is subtle but definitely more polished. The greens are less neon, the blacks have a beautiful matte effect, and by pulling up the shadows on kitty’s face I have ensured he is the focus point. The little bit of added grain gives the final edit that unique film look that I love so much.

Before
After

Try Profiles yourself!

If you are like me and don’t want to spend endless hours editing, Lightroom Profiles are a great way to get a polished image with style. With 80 new Creative Profiles in Lightroom, there is no shortage of fun to be had.

Even better, I have found this to be a huge time and money saver!

Explore the Profiles and find what like best. Editing is just another way we can add our unique stamp to our photography and this tool is a great way to find out what works for your style.

About the Author:

Andrea is a professional photographer in Atlanta, GA and teaches an online beginner photography class "Learn to Use Your Big Girl Camera." She's a reformed corporate girl and the mom of two beautiful nearly grown up daughters. She loves to share her passion for photography with anyone who will listen.

2 Comments

  1. Chris Dec 31 2018 at 12:32 am - Reply

    The great thing about profiles is that after you have played around with them you can save them as your own preset saving you a load of time in the future.

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