December 21, 2015

Why Do My Raw Files Change Color from Camera to Computer?

If you are photographing with raw files in your digital camera, you may have noticed that the colors in your pictures change when you load them into Lightroom, Photoshop or Elements.


This happens because the Picture Style (or Picture Control) setting in your camera is different than the  default color style that Adobe uses in Camera Raw and Lightroom. Raw files do not have a fixed color style. The picture you see on the back of your camera is a JPEG thumbnail version of your raw image. This JPEG preview shows the colors with the Picture Style (Canon) or Picture Control (Nikon) you have set in the camera. Usually this is your camera's "Standard" color rendition, unless you have changed it.

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You have a couple choices if your raw files change color when you load them into an Adobe product:
  • You can accept the color version that Adobe provides for you. 
  • After downloading/importing your pictures, you can manually choose a color style (called a Camera Profile) that matches what is set in your camera.
  • You can create a new default color style that matches your specific camera model and Adobe applies that when you download your photos.
Check the Camera Setting
If you want to change the color style from the one Adobe provides, start by checking which Picture Style or Control you have set in the camera (e.g. Standard). Different camera manufacturers call this setting by different names. Refer to your camera's manual for the correct menu.

Adobe Standard Camera Profile Applied

Camera Standard Camera Profile Applied

Create a New Camera Style Default in Lightroom
If you are using Lightroom to view your files, you can change the camera profile manually. Or you can save a new camera profile default that is applied when you import the raw files from a specific camera model.

Select a raw file in the Library module and press D to move to the Develop module. Be sure you have not made any changes to the image so far. In the right panel, open the Camera Calibration section. Be sure the Process Version is current for your copy of Lightroom. Then from the list below Camera Profile, select the style that matches what you have set in your camera. This should modify the colors back to what you saw on the camera's LCD screen.

Choosing the Camera Profile in Lightroom CC 2015

To save this style as the default color version for all your raw files from this camera, from the Develop menu select "Set Default Settings". In the window that appears, click "Update to Current Settings". You have now made this Camera Profile the default color style for all future images that you import.

Creating a new default setting for this camera

Create a New Camera Style Default in Photoshop
If you are using Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw to view your files, you can also change the camera profile manually. Or you can save a new camera profile default that is applied when you view the raw file in Bridge.

Select a raw file in Bridge and from the File menu choose "Open in Camera Raw". Be sure you have not made any changes to the image so far. Click on the Camera Calibration tab (camera icon). Be sure the Process Version is current for your copy of Photoshop. Then from the list below Camera Profile, select the style that matches what you have set in your camera. The colors in your image should change to match more closely what you saw on the LCD screen.

Choosing the Camera Profile in Adobe Camera Raw 9
Part of Photoshop CC 2015

To save this style as the default color version for all your raw files from this camera, click on the small menu icon to the right of the tabs. From the list select "Save New Camera Raw Defaults". You have now made this Camera Profile the default color style for all future images that you view in Bridge.

Saving a new Camera Raw Default in Adobe Camera Raw

Create a New Camera Style Default for Elements
You can also manually change the Camera Style in Camera Raw in Elements as well as save a new default camera profile. The steps are the same as for Photoshop and Camera Raw. The Elements version of Camera Raw just has fewer tabs than the Photoshop version.

Creating a new default camera profile will only affect new images that you download to your computer. To change pictures that you already have on your hard drive, you will need to select them and manually change the Camera Profile. Note that this will also zero out any previous adjustments you have made to the image.

NOTE: You do not need the newest version of Lightroom or Camera Raw to make use of Camera Profiles. These became available in Lightroom 2.2 and Camera Raw 5.2.