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I'm editing my RAW images from my Canon 5D mk III in Lightroom, on the camera display they looked great:

Camera preview - without blown out highlights

But then once I open them in Lightroom the highlights appear blown out and awful, this image is unedited:

enter image description here

What causes this and is there a solution to this problem so they look more like the camera preview?

  • What camera options do you have set - in particular, ALO and HTP? – Philip Kendall Jun 21 '15 at 17:30
  • @PhilipKendall ALO - Standard, HTP - off. – Benjamin Lester Jun 21 '15 at 17:32
  • Relevant/duplicate? photo.stackexchange.com/q/10715/9161 – Saaru Lindestøkke Jun 21 '15 at 17:40
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    What setting in LR do you have for rendering out gamut colors? perceptual or relative? Perceptual is better at rendering images with lots of saturated, out-of-gamut colors. – Michael C Jun 21 '15 at 20:06
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    The camera is showing you a JPG preview rendered with one of they picture styles. Are you by any chance importing the RAW image into LR? The camera might have already applied a bit of processing to the image you see on its display. – Sam Figueroa Jun 22 '15 at 12:26
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Today, I found the answer to this.

In LR, go to Camera Calibration -> Profile and change from Adobe Standard to Camera Neutral or similar.

From this: Adobe standard profile

To this: Camera neutral profile

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Whoa, something is really going wrong with the color clipping in that Lightroom example! That shouldn't happen, because Lightroom uses a very wide gamut working space (ProPhotoRGB) and uses proper rendering intents to avoid negative effects of color clipping upon output.

This image is a good example of an image where color management makes a visible difference.

In a lot of photography, what happens when a highly saturated color clips makes little visible difference. However, in this photo large portions of the visible image show highly saturated color that is also high intensity, the very situation where color is going to clip and shift colors.

The highlights are blown out in both examples. The difference is in how the highly saturated colors are being handled.

In the in-camera example, highly saturated blue with a small amount of pink is clipping where it becomes brighter, and color shifting into deep magenta first, then into white as it becomes even brighter. This is what you'd expect from a reasonable narrow working color space with simple arithmetic. This color shift kind of gives a cool effect, because the deep magenta in the top of the photo looks cool. But it has a negative effect, which can be seen, for example, on the woman's face around her hairline where the color shift does unnatural things to her skin at the top of her forehead. This problem does not occur in the bottom (Lightroom) example, where her face does not suffer this problem.

In the Lightroom example, Lightroom's color management is guarding against color shift, so large areas which shifted to magenta in the previous example are not shifting color anymore, only becoming lighter towards white but retaining the same hue.

However, something is going wrong at a certain intensity of light, where suddenly it's become dark purple! This is a glitch somewhere, and it's not clear where.

It could be something in the way that you're boosting contrast or saturation. If you back off either of these is there a point where the dark purple band goes away?

What about white point, can you adjust the white point in lightroom? Is it highlight reconstruction gone wonky?

As a general troubleshooting step, can you progressively relax certain adjustments in Lightroom towards neutral until you reach a point where the dark purple band disappears? Including contrast/tone curves.

  • I should perhaps have added, the above image is without any lightroom adjustments. – Benjamin Lester Jun 22 '15 at 6:09
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    I don't usually use Lightroom so I don't know its terminology, but Lightroom will nevertheless be applying default adjustments which you may be able to scale back, such as contrast / tone curves. – thomasrutter Jun 22 '15 at 7:02
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Nothing is wrong your camera or Lightroom. As @Sam Figueroa mentioned in another comment, your camera is showing a JPG processed version of the RAW capture. During this processing, it automatically clips the highlights. Whereas LR on your computer is attempting to show the actual dynamic range of the RAW image but your computer. You can adjust LR's exposure sliders to fix the highlights to look like the JPG version. But that is your creative talent that has to come to play.

  • No amount of RAW editing gets rid of the harsh clipping area making it look as it does on the camera. I've used Lightroom pretty much daily for the last 4 years now - creative talent isn't what's awry here. – Benjamin Lester Jun 24 '15 at 10:28
  • It's okay, some take longer than 4 years to learn. – Emacs User Aug 23 '15 at 19:31

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