Lightroom 3 lesson – automating lens corrections on import

I take photos in RAW format almost all the time, which allows lens correction profiles to be applied in Lightroom 3. (If you apply it to a JPG, the profiles are very limited and apparently Nikon JPGs have CA corrected already).

Once I have imported a batch of RAW photos from my camera, I would filter view by the 18-105mm lens and apply my lens correction preset with the corresponding slider values, then do the same for the each lens that I used. This got tiring as I wanted this to happen automatically every time I import photos, so I figured something out.

[STEP 1] Under Library view, filter by a certain lens.

[STEP 2] Choose a file RAW that you have imported and not edited. Or make a virtual copy of an edited photo (right click, create virtual copy) and then under the Develop Tap, click Reset to put all the settings back on the photo back their defaults, typically with Lens Correction off.

[STEP 3] Go to Develop tab \ Correction \ Profile. Put a tick in the box for Lens Correction. Leave the Setup with the default slider values.

[STEP 4] Hold down Alt on the keyboard – the Reset button in the bottom right becomes Set Default. Click on it.

Click Update to Current Settings.

What we are doing now, is using the current settings for Lens Correction – On and Default – as the new settings for any new photos that are imported or have their settings reset (default will automatically recognise the lens from the metadata). We are also setting the defaults for other develop settings like White Balance (As Shot is fine), Exposure (zero), Clarity, Sharpening, etc. Under Camera Calibration, I set Camera Standard as a default since it usually yields better colours than Adobe Standard.

(Note: In Lightroom 3, Set Default is specific to a camera, so I had to do this process twice for Lens Corrections on both cameras, once on a photo taken by my D7000 and again for a photo from my D90. This gives the potential of setting something like my D7000 photos have a strong contrast curve and D90 photos to have stronger sharpening, but I choose to keep them the same overall.)

[STEP 5] Set the sliders under the lens profile. For my 18-105mm, I set it to (70, 100, 60), which becomes a Custom setup. Then click Save New Lens Profile Defaults from the dropdown menu.

[STEP 6] Reset an edited photo or import a new photo from your camera. Notice that Lens Correction is now On, the correct lens has been chosen and the Setup is Default, but includes the custom set of 3 numbers for that lens have been chosen by you for that lens.

[STEP 7] If you have another lens, repeat the process in Step 5. I changed the Library filter view to find a photo taken with my Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8, then set the numbers to (71, 100, 0) and saved it as the new default for that lens. I repeated for my other two lenses.

  • You can’t cheat by staying on one photo and changing the Lens Profile to a different lens. For a photo taken with the 18-105mm, if I set the lens profile to 24-70mm f/2.8 under corrections, then specified the numbers and saved as a default, then the default for all photos taken with my 18-105mm would now be corrected based on the 24-70mm f/2.8 profile, which doesn’t make sense as each lens has different directions and strengths of the problems, depending on their build quality. Also, the 24-70mm would not know how to correct problems at focal lengths below 24mm or above 70mm.
  • It seems I only had to save a new default of sliders for the 24-70mm f/2.8 on one photo from the D7000 camera and then it also applies to the D90 photos taken with the same lens.

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Typical settings I use:

  • Distortion: Choosing 100% is useful for correcting barrel distortion at 18mm, when you have straight lines in architecture, but in general Io keep it at 70% for the 18-105mm to avoid overly stretching objects and faces which are near the edge of the photo. Note that for photos at 105mm, the distortion is in the opposite direction (pincushion distortion) – manual distortion correction would be cumbersome for each focal length but the profile corrects appropriately. I set the distortion corrcetion to 90% for my 70-300m as it is hardly noticeable when turning it on and off, so I don’t worry about unnatural stretching.
    • For panoramas, I find distortion control at zero is better.
    • For perspective control tall buildings etc. set the profile control first and then correct perspective (Vertical, Horizontal) under Manual.
  • C. Abberation: I haved checked at 1:1 view and foundthat the lens profiles are very good at correcting CA when set to 100%. Each lens has different colours, directions and strengths of the abberations and also at each focal length, so a profile takes pain out of doing this manually.

    CA uncorrected in photo taken at 18mm. Zoomed to 2:1 on screen.

    CA corrected by setting profile slider to 100.

  • Vignetting: I often enjoy the natural vignetting effect (darkening around corners, sometimes I apply it myself in Effects. But with my 18-105mm I tend to take a lot of photosof landscapes or people where I want the lighting to be even rather than artistic, so I turn vignetting correction to 70%. Vignetting is particularly an issue for the 18-105mm at 18mm and at 105mm (you can even see it in the viewfinder at 105mm). Lens tests for it show that the problem is reduced by stopping down to around f/8. For some of my lenses, I leave vignette correction off at zero, as a matter of build quality and my taste for suitability at those apertures and focal lengths.

You can view a list of my lenses and other equipment here.

A lesson I wrote on lesser known tips and shortcuts in Lightroom 3 – here.

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