How to utilize the Calibration Panel

How to utilize the Calibration Panel

This post was updated on September 26th, 2020

Learning Adobe ® Lightroom

Last month we explored how to add Grain to a photograph with the help of the Effects Panel. Today, we are investigating how to use Adobe ® Lightroom’s Calibration Panel to our advantage.

The Calibration Panel

Adobe ® Lightroom’s Calibration Panel, previously known as the Camera Calibration Panel, consists of three sections. The Process Version section, the Shadow Toning section, and the Primary Color section.

Adobe ® Lightroom's Calibration Panel
Adobe ® Lightroom’s Calibration Panel

The following paragraphs examine each of these sections in detail.

The Process Version Section

In this section, you decide in which version of Adobe ® Lightroom you want to process your photograph.

The Process Version Section (in the red frame)
The Process Version Section (in the red frame)

Generally, you will always select the newest available version, so that you can utilize all the features Lightroom has to offer. However, there are scenarios when you might choose to process an image with an older version. For example, when you exchange photos with someone who only has an older version available.

When you click on the arrowheads to the right of the Version, you get a list of all available Process Versions to choose from, as shown in the figure below.

Process Version Selection as of mid-2020 in Lightroom's Calibration Panel
Process Version Selection as of mid-2020

What changes in Lightroom when you change the process version?

Notice how, when you set the selection to an older version, the sliders in, for example, the Basic Panel change.

I have turned all but the Basic and the Calibration Panel off for the next screenshots to show you precisely what I mean.

Process Version 5 selected in the Calibration Panel and the according Basic Panel
Process Version 5 and the associated Basic Panel
The Basic Panel when Process Version 1 is selected in the Calibration Panel
The Basic Panel when Process Version 1 is selected

As you can see by comparing the two figures above, in Version 1, the placement of the Contrast Slider is different. Also, you will notice that some Sliders are either new (Texture) or completely missing (Fill Light and Recovery).

The Fill Light slider of earlier versions, is capable of some extreme Shadow recovery; however, it came with the price of introducing Halos. You might find yourself in a situation where it could be useful for you. Well, it is not entirely gone; you only have to dial back the Process Version to reach it.

Does changing your Process Version affect your photograph?

If you change the Process Version for a photograph, it has not only an effect on the sliders that Lightroom presents you. It also modifies your photo’s appearance if you had already edited it in a different process version.

I processed the following photo first in Version 5.

Image processed with Process Version 5 of Adobe ® Lightroom
Image processed with Process Version 5 of Adobe ® Lightroom

If I now change the Process Version to Version 1 in the Calibration Panel, the result looks as in the following figure.

Process Version changed to Version 1 in the Calibration Panel
Process Version changed to Version 1 in the Calibration Panel

I have not made any other slider adjustments here, but you can see a difference between these two images. It is, of course, possible that I could have reached the same outcome with some more adjustments. However, that was not the point of this little exercise.

How to revoke your Process Version change?

Now, if you have changed the process version to a lower version and you want to revoke that change, it is not enough to update the process version again. In this case, you need to open the History Panel on the left side of the Develop Module and choose the step that lies below the Process change to the older version. Or click on the Previous Button in the lower right side of the Develop Modul, below the Calibrations Panel. – Both are marked with a red rectangle in the following figure.

Revoking a Process Version downgrade
Revoking a Process Version downgrade

Otherwise, you have only the tools of the newer version available, but not their previous settings.

What if Adobe adds a new Process Version?

It does not happen often, but occasionally Adobe introduces changes to Lightroom, that require them to add a new Process Version. Today you can find five different versions, where Version 1 dates back to the first edition of Adobe ® Lightroom from 2003.

If you now install a newer version of Adobe ® Lightroom over an existing one, you will have to update your photos manually to the new process version.

The good news is: you don’t have to do it one photo at a time. So let’s have a look at how to do that quick and easy.

Updating the Process Version in the Develop Module

Of course, you can edit the Process Version in the Calibration Panel for every single image, as shown above. But you can also use the menu of the Develop Module to do so.

  1. Select all the photos in the film strip for which you want to update the process version.
  2. Select Settings -> Update to current Process Version
Updating to the Current Process Version from the menu of the Develop Module
Updating to the Current Process Version

This updates all currently marked photos to the newest available Process Version of Adobe ® Lightroom. However, if you chose Settings -> Process Version -> <Any version from that list>, as shown in the next figure, only the one active photo is updated, not all that are selected.

Updating/Downgrading the Process Version from the menu of the Develop Module
Updating/Downgrading the Process Version from the menu of the Develop Module
Alternative ways to downgrade the Process Version in the Develop Module

There are two more ways to downgrade the Process Version in the Develop Module. For both, you need to change one photo to the desired Process Version first.

Downgrading by Sync

Select your downgraded photo in the filmstrip and then select the additional images that you also want to downgrade as well. Now click on the Sync button.

Now the Synchronize Settings Window opens. In this window, you can choose which changes to transfer from one photo to the next. However,  to apply modifications to the Process Version, you cannot select any Local Adjustments to also be applied.

Synchronize Settings Window without Local Adjustments checked
Synchronize Settings Window without Local Adjustments checked
Synchronize Settings Window with Local Adjustments checked
Synchronize Settings Window with Local Adjustments checked – notice how the Process Version is greyed out here

Once you have selected all adjustments that you want to transfer to the new photographs, click the Synchronize Button in the lower right of the Synchronize Window.

Downgrading by Copying Settings

Mark the photo for which you already have applied an older Process Version. Now choose Settings -> Copy Settings from the menu in the Develop Module, or press <CTRL><Shift><C> (<CMD><Shift><C> on a Mac) to open the Copy Settings Window.

Copy Settings Window in Adobe ® Lightroom
Copy Settings Window in Adobe ® Lightroom

In the Copy Settings Window cross off all settings that you want to copy over to your next photo. However, bear in mind, that marking any of the Local Adjustments will disable the Process Version from being copied.

Copy Settings for Local Adjustments
Copy Settings for Local Adjustments

Click Copy, when you have made your selection. Next, select the photo(s) to which you want to transfer these settings. Choose Settings -> Paste Settings from the menu in the Develop Module or press <CTRL><Shift><V> (<CMD><Shift><V> on a Mac) to transfer the adjustments to the marked photos.

Updating the Process Version in the Library Module

You can update the Process Version to the Current Version in the Library Module by following these steps:

  1. Select the photos that you want to update
  2. From the menu, chose Photo -> Develop Settings -> Update to Current Process Version.
Updating to the Current Process Version in the Library Module
Updating to the Current Process Version in the Library Module

Notice, however, that you cannot select an older Process Version in the Library Module.

The Shadow section

The Shadows section consists of one slider only, which changes the Tint either toward green – removing magenta – or toward magenta – removing green.

The Shadow Tint Section in the Calibration Panel
The Shadow Tint Section in the Calibration Panel

You may notice straight away that you have a slider of the same name in the Basic panel in the White Balance section. So is this a duplicate?

No, this is not some sort of slider that Adobe forgot to remove with one of the previous software updates. It as a similar effect to the Tint slider of the White Balance section, however, there is an essential difference between the two.

The Tint slider of the White Balance section removes a green/magenta color cast from your entire photograph. The Tint slider of the Shadows section, however, only removes a green/magenta color cast in the shadows of an image.

Comparison of the Tint sliders

For this comparison, we use the photo from the previous section again, even though it does not have a color cast. I pretend to remove a green color cast by adding a +73 tint of magenta to the image.

Original with no Tint adjustments
Original with no Tint adjustments
Photo with White Balance Tint set to +73
Photo with White Balance Tint set to +73
Image with Shadow Tint adjustment to +73 set in the Calibration Panel
Image with Shadow Tint adjustment to +73

When you compare the results, you notice changing the Tint of the White Balance, among others, changes the color of the building in the center. However, when we adjust the Tint of the Shadows to the same degree, the building’s color stays the same as before.

When is this partial color cast removal helpful?

Imagine you were to shoot the portrait of a friend in a forest. The forest will most likely cast a green color cast on everything, including your main subject. If you now used the White Balance, you would change the green tone from your entire forest and that person toward a white color. That is, however, most likely not what you want. It is much more likely that you would like your friend to look a little less greenish. Unless, of course, you want to showcase him as an alien. This situation is one that the Tint slider in the Shadows section of the Calibration Panel addresses.

Remember that you have to add magenta to remove a green color cast and vice versa.

Primary Colors section

Do you remember the analog color films/photographs? Depending on the brand and type of film that you use, everyone has its specific color representation. For example, Fuji film is known for a greenish color cast, while some Kodak films have a yellowish cast.

These types of different color representations have not vanished with the introduction of digital photography. While one vendor might decide that his primary blue has an RGB color code of 69,42,255, another vendor might specify his primary blue as 26,53,255.

As you can see in the next figure, these two shades of blue aren’t even far apart. Yet, what if you are using two different cameras to capture the same scene? Would you want to have one photograph in one shade of primary blue and the other in another?

Shades of blue (RGB 69,42,255 left, RGB 26,53,255 right)
Shades of blue (RGB 69,42,255 left, RGB 26,53,255 right)

Probably not. So this is the section to adjust just that. However, these two sliders per color might remind you of another panel with similar sliders. Yes, it is the HSL panel that I have in mind.

The difference between the HSL Panel and the Calibration Panel

Remember that all colors are created by mixing different amounts of the primary Red, Green, and Blue colors. It affects only the specific color you are adjusting when you change the Hue or Saturation in the HSL Panel. If you move the red slider in the Hue Panel, you will only modify those colors that appear red in your photograph, but not all colors that include red in their color mixture.

If you, however, change the Hue or Saturation of your Primary Red in the Calibration Panel, you will affect all colors that use this red in their creation – which means that you alter all colors, except those for which the R(ed) value is 0.

Compare the following two representations of the photograph. In the first one, I altered the red hue and saturation in the HSL panel. In the second, I modified the primary red hue and saturation in the Calibration Panel. Can you see the difference?

HSL Red changed to a Hue of -100 and a Saturation of +100
HSL Red changed to a Hue of -100 and a Saturation of +100
Primary Red changed to a Hue of -100 and a Saturation of +100 in the Calibration Panel
Primary Red changed to a Hue of -100 and a Saturation of +100

My changes to the HSL red barely noticeable in the photograph. You can see the edge of the tall building having a slightly darker shade of pink than the remaining structure. Additionally, one of the construction container sets also has a pinkish color case to it.

Now have a look at the results from modifying the Primary Red in the Calibration Panel. The entire sky has a different shade of blue, and previously white streetlights now have a pink ring around them.

This difference between the two images only happens due to where Adobe ® Lightroom applies the modification to the primary colors. It has nothing to do with how much hue/saturation I add or remove from a specific primary color. Of course, the results would be more subtle if my changes weren’t so extreme. However, for the sake of this article, it was more important to ensure that the modifications are striking than a good looking photograph. When you apply much more subtle adjustments, you can create appealing results. So give it a try with one of your photos.


All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

I am in no way affiliated with any of the products used in this post-processing process. I do not receive any kind of compensation for this article, it was neither offered or asked for.

THIS BLOG ARTICLE “How to utilize the Calibration Panel” IS NOT AUTHORIZED, ENDORSED OR SPONSORED BY ADOBE SYSTEMS INCORPORATED, PUBLISHER OF ADOBE ® LIGHTROOM

All photos taken by Wiebke Schröder/Lille Ulven Photography.

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