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July 27th, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Shoot  |  2 Comments

If you’re like me, you shoot your photos in raw format… so there’s also a pretty good chance you use Adobe Lightroom for processing your images. You might even have started using Lightroom because of its reputation for making processing workflow faster. In that vein, this week I’d like to talk about a Lightroom feature that I use every day on every image I shoot. A feature so efficient I’d nearly forgotten I was using it! A feature unexcitingly called Camera Defaults.

You’ve probably noticed that when you open an image in Lightroom’s Develop module, many of the settings are already chosen for you. These are Lightroom’s default settings.

By default the settings for Exposure, Recovery, Fill Light, etc. are all set to zero. I guess that makes sense as each photo probably needs a slightly different adjustment to Exposure, Fill Light, etc., depending on the conditions it was shot under and how well it was exposed. But what about settings like Blacks, Brightness and Contrast? They already have values other than zero set. To me the numbers used for some these settings are somewhat arbitrary. Personally, I think a Blacks setting of 5 is too high for the majority of photos I take. At 5 the blacks in my photos get blocked up and muddy. Usually a setting of 2 or 3 is much nicer to my eye. But 5 is Lightroom’s default.

Does that mean I’ll have to move the Black slider down a couple of notches on every photo I process? Of course not! This is Lightroom! I can do these easily and so can you by customizing Lightroom’s Camera Defaults.

To customize your Camera Defaults, select any photo in Lightroom’s Develop module, and then in the Settings menu choose Reset All Settings.

This will remove any changes that you’ve made to the photo, and all the settings back to default. (When you’re done setting your defaults, you can restore all the edits you may have previously made to the photo using Lightroom’s History panel.)

Next, change any settings for which you’d like a different default, for example changing the setting for Blacks from 5 to 3. Only change settings that you want applied to every image you open, so even if the photo is a stop too dark don’t adjust the exposure at this point as you don’t want every photo you open to be brightened by one stop.

Then in the Develop menu, choose Set Default Settings.

The Set Default Develop Settings dialog will appear.

Click Update to Current Settings and you are done! (Note that you can also restore the original Adobe defaults in this dialog as well.)

Another potential benefit to using custom Camera Defaults is that can add consistency to your style. Imagine that the signature look for your images is punchy, with lots of contrast, bright colors, etc.  You find yourself adding vibrance, clarity, contrast, etc. to all of your images. Maybe you even add a vignette to the majority of your images. You can automate much of your signature style simply by creating a custom Camera Default that contains all of those elements:

Now every time you open a photo, it’s already a lot closer to being finished and you’ll have fewer adjustments to make to it look perfect.

There are a couple of other things to know about Lightroom’s Camera Defaults. First, since Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom share the same image processing technology, Camera Defaults customizations made in Lightroom also apply when working with Camera Raw in Photoshop and Bridge as well.

Also, normally customizations made to Camera Defaults apply to every raw file from the same model of camera. If you make a camera default using a raw file from a Nikon D700, those defaults will be applied to every file you open from any D700. If you have another model camera like a Canon 5D Mark II, you need to repeat the process using a file from that camera. This allows you to have a different set of defaults for every kind of camera you own.

If you’d like you can even create more specific customized defaults. Open Lightroom’s Preferences and click on the Presets tab and you’ll see a couple settings that affect how your camera defaults work.

Let’s say that you have three Canon 5D’s and you’ve made a color profile for each of them. You can check off Make defaults specific to camera serial number and create custom defaults that automatically load each camera’s specific profile in Lightroom’s Calibration panel.

You can also make defaults specific to your camera’s ISO setting, which as you can imaging might be useful if you were adding noise reduction to your custom defaults. I leave these two settings unchecked because creating a lot of different defaults is more complex than I need for my workflow.

As I mentioned earlier, customized camera defaults are a feature that I don’t really think about too much, even though I’m using them on ever image I shoot. Who knows how much time I’ve saved over the past few years thanks to it? I encourage you to think about settings you use on nearly every image, and whether customizing your default settings in Lightroom can save you time too.


About Earl Christie

Earl Christie has written 40 post in this blog.

Earl is a Boston wedding photographer who finds love and magic and wonder in everything he shoots.



  1. jen says:

    August 23rd, 2011 at 11:41 am (#)

    thank you earl. while i know i knew about that at some point it is nice to have a reminder about it! sometimes we get to busy to remember to do the little things that help a lot. (:

  2. Earl Christie says:

    August 23rd, 2011 at 12:14 pm (#)

    There are a lot of little things to keep track of in Lightroom and Photoshop. That’s what keeps Scott Kelby in business! :)

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