Can you import RAW files with camera settings applied?

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Nov 12, 2010
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I can see the advantage of working on an uncompressed RAW file in terms of it having much more information contained in the Raw version than the jpeg but what is the point of making settings in camera ie metering changes, exposure compensation, WB presets, WB shift and using the histogram etc if Lightroom just strips all these on import?

I have been brought up in the old fashioned way to use my camera settings and I want these to be reflected in the images I import!

Also it completely does away with all the advantages of having a top of the range camera (not that basics like exp comp/metering etc are confined to TOP models) if everything set in it is ignored in a RAW file.

Professional photographers usually recommend RAW files so does this mean that they dont make any changes in camera?

Is the way I can import the RAW version with my carefully thought out camera settings already applied to it or do I have to make do with the jpegs and the disadvantage of them being compressed?

Any discussion on this would be appreciated
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Hi welcome to Lightroom forums!

On some issues you seem to be somewhat confused.
All metering changes and exposure compensation are actually incorporated into the RAW file in terms of actual changes to either ISO, aperture, or shutter speed.
As for white balance it is recorded and can be applied to the RAW file in Lightroom, or any other RAW converter for that matter where the 'as shot' option can be exercised.

The histogram viewed in camera is one based on the JPEG representation.
If a RAW file is downloaded into Lightroom I would want to use a histogram based on the RAW data - and that is exactly what Lightroom gives you.

Tony Jay
Hello Tony

Thank you for your reply

So it seems that all camera settings in terms of EXPOSURE - ie aperture, shutter speed, ISO, Exposure Comp, Metering, are embedded in the RAW file but any settings to do with COLOUR - ie WB, Camera Styles, (canon) arent - is that correct?

The histogram I pay attention to is the exposure (B/W) histogram - so that will apply to jpeg and RAW?

I am still confused as to why the RAW images seem to be darker and less contrasty when the jpeg info is stripped from them in LR (I think I am right in thinking that the jpeg version displays for a few seconds on opening the image but then it reverts to the RAW version when it has rendered)

I would be still interested to know if there is an option of importing images into LR with camera settings applied but still in the RAW uncompressed state? - or how this can be applied as a preset?

Thanks again - I look forward to people's advice
Your camera is a tiny computer that runs one tiny program. You always shoot RAW. If you set the camera menu settings to JPEG. The camera throws away the RAW data and writes a JPEG to the card. The tiny program in the camera post processes the RAW just as does LR, PS or DPP. It uses the instructions that you set in the menu for WB, sharpness, camera styles, etc. to create a JPEG from the RAW.
If you instruct your camera to produce a RAW file, It still produces a JPEG that you see on the back screen and a thumbnail of that JPEG gets embedded in the header of the RAW file.

Now what you get from the camera determines what you can do later. RAW images are 12-14 bits of color per channel. JPEGs are 8 bit. More bits equal richer tonal variations in color. If you only save the 8 bit JPEG and throw away the RAW, you lose all of that extra color richness that the camera sensor recorded. Furthermore, JPEG files are compressed using a lossy compression algorithm. That means that some color and detail that was present when the image was compressed is lost forever when the image is uncompressed by the viewing or editing program. RAW files are compressed using a lossless compression algorithm or not compressed at all. That means that every bit of data recorded by the sensor is preserved and available for any post-processing program.
White balance and sharpening settings in the camera are recorded but not applied to the RAW data until it is processed. This means that you can change these settings later and not pay a penalty for guessing wrong before you pressed the shutter.

So advantages that RAW files have over JPEGs are:
  • More richer color (12-14 bit vs. 8)
  • Lossless data transfer.
  • Processing instructions used by the camera are NOT baked into the image file that the camera produces.
  • No colorspace is applied to the data until it is converted from RAW to RGB by the post processing program. sRGB is the smallest color envelope, AdobeRGB is larger but ProPhotoRGB colorspace is larger still, colors outside of the colorspace envelop are tossed away. Cameras only save JPEGs as sRGB or AdobeRGB. LR uses ProPhotoRGB throughout post processing.

If you shoot RAW you can ignore the WB setting in the camera and set it to AWB. Then you can shoot in any lighting condition - sunny, cloudy, indoors w/flash, fluorescent, etc.

RAW files imported into LR apply the WB setting in the camera and this appears as "As Shot" in the WB dropdown list. LR mimics the Color styles for Canon and other Mfgs. These appear in the camera Calibration panel as choices in the Develop Module. If you shoot JPEG you are limited to the setting chosen in the camera and no amount of additional post processing can do much to change that or the WB.
In answer to your ongoing question - no one cannot import RAW files with camera settings applied (referring to picture styles etc).

To give bit more background: any JPEG rendering by your camera is the result of an aesthetic decision made by that manufacturers engineers. They are deciding what makes for a good image. As Cletus has explained this process is just an automated, in camera, RAW conversion.

Philosophically you need to make a decision: can you do a RAW conversion better than the camera (read Canonikon engineers)?
Can you honestly say that those engineers understand your sense of aesthetics and style?

In addition, when it comes to the decision to shoot RAW or JPEG, I expose very differently depending on whether the result will be a RAW file or a JPEG.
JPEGs need to be be exposed so that they look perfect coming out of the camera.
Exposing for RAW is completely different since, when appropriate, I use a technique called 'expose to the right' abbreviated as ETTR where one increases exposure as far as the sensor can handle. Before manipulation in a RAW converter the image looks terrible since it appears hopelessly overexposed but once the exposure is normalised in Lightroom the result is very good since noise is usually practically eliminated from the shadows.
You can research the ETTR concept in more detail for yourself.
The bottom line is that, of me anyway, exposing for RAW and exposing for an in camera JPEG are very different.

In view of what has been written comparing RAW and JPEG it may seem that JPEG's have no utility, however this is not true. Most press photographers, and others who require a very rapid turnaround time shoot JPEGs. Interestingly enough my information is that photographers who work for National Geographic magazine have to shoot JPEG's. The reason is, I'm my opinion anyway, a misplaced desire to eliminate any accusations of 'Photoshopping'.

If you are going to shoot RAW then I do have some suggestions for you.
Set your camera up using a picture style like 'faithful' or 'neutral' where there all the settings are at zero. It is true that none of this will translate directly to the RAW file data but what you want is for the JPEG to as closely as possible mimic what the RAW file looks like. Even more importantly you want the histogram to as closely as possible represent what the RAW histogram actually looks like. This is very helpful when trying to decide how far to push the exposure when using ETTR techniques.
In addition, I personally, would not use auto white balance. This is because nearly all the shooting I do is outdoors and the way the camera perceives white balance changes dramatically merely by pointing the camera in different directions on a sunny day. In this situation all I want is a consistent starting point so if I do want to subsequently change the white balance in post-processing it is easy to do as a synchronised edit.
Also, if one is doing multi-shot panoramas, particularly at dusk or dawn, then having each image shot with the same white balance is tremendously helpful in automating the post-processing.

If you need more help with the fundamentals of camera settings and concepts then we can help but I would also encourage you to do your own research. One of the best resources that I know is the Luminous Landscape website that has hundreds, perhaps thousands of excellent tutorials dealing with these topics including a series called the "Understanding Series" that deals with all the concepts mentioned here in detail.

Tony Jay
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