I've noticed that most (if not all) presets seem to look better if I first correct the exposure on the CR2 file (I work with Canon).

If I first adjust shadows, whites contrast and etc, and them when the picture is looking really bland/neutral I export the CR2 as a TIFF and apply the preset, the result looks very much like the advertised by the creators, instead of when I just apply the preset on the CR2 file and try to adjust lighting, contrast and etc within the CR2 file.

Is this something normal? Why is there this difference between applying a preset on a CR2 file vs a TIFF file?

  • I'd swing a guess that Lightroom isn't interpreting the RAW correctly. Trying to reverse-engineer Canon's RAW algorithms is not easy. I see similar with Nikon & Photoshop, but I don't use Canon or Lightroom, so I don't feel comfortable posting this as an answer. i think photo.stackexchange.com/questions/96952/… may be relevant, but isn't in itself an answer.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 23 '19 at 17:44

A lot has to do with how the "presets" are written and at what stage in the imaging processing pipeline they act upon the image. There can be a wide variation from one "preset" to the next. "Presets" are merely someone else's list of settings applied in a certain order determined by them when they recorded the preset.

"Presets" usually assume that the camera was set to expose for a "correct" average brightness and properly record the correct CT/WB for the lighting illuminating the scene. Most raw convertors by default set the initial exposure/brightness and CT/WB based on the CT/WB correction settings active in camera at the time the image was captured. Most other in camera settings are not necessarily duplicated by a third party raw conversion applications, but exposure and basic CT/WB usually are.

The presets then usually adjust things like exposure, contrast and/or response curves, color biases, etc. If they include an instruction to use "Auto WB" or to use a specific amount of exposure/brightness compensation, then any adjustments you have already made to the raw file are erased and overwritten by the preset. The color and contrast effects of the preset are mixed with whatever color cast and exposure biases the image already had when initially rendered by Lightroom before you made your adjustments.

If you first adjust things manually and then export as TIFF, those changes are "baked in" to the image and the preset acts upon the result of those adjustments, rather than erasing them and starting over. Again, depending on how the preset is written, some of the steps may not be applied to a TIFF in the same way they are applied to a raw file, because the TIFF doesn't have all of the information contained in the raw file.

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