D5100 profile and preset to optimize skin tones - files and instructions included
If you're frustrated with Lightroom + your D5100 hopefully this will help!
I bought my D5100 about a year ago.
I upgraded from a compact Canon point and shoot to a LX5 to get a bit more capability and with hopes of being able to take pictures of a new baby. I quickly realized learning about photography is the best thing you can do to take better photos and that there's a reason DSLRs and things like wide aperture lenses exist.
Shooting RAW with my LX5 I started learning about post processing. You can really get a lot out of those cameras if you shoot RAW. I started working with Lgithroom because it seemed like going with the majority would make it easier to learn since there are more resources.
After six months I was feeling pretty good about it, but the first time I imported a NEF and watched Lightroom strip the nice JPEG preview down to absolute garbage I was really disappointed. I got much less excited about my new D5100.
My LX5 files looked just like I want them with a few seconds of editing. Working with Nikon files was like reinventing the damn wheel even shot to shot. It was terrible and I tried everything else: CNX2, Capture One, DxO, Raw Therapee, Nik, Topaz, etc... They're all clunky compared to Lightroom and aren't good for organizing files. I think CNX2 is great, but I can't abide how slow it is or the fact that it doubles the size of the NEF file when you save and it replaces the camera-embedded JPEG with a new full size one.
After seeing page 90 of the "Lightroom effs my NEFs" thread pop up again I thought I'd share my process for D5100 file editing in Lightroom. Specifically, I've optimized this for photos of people because that's what I take. It will give you a good starting point for 95% of your shots.
Instructions for getting set up in Lightroom. I'm using LR 4.3 on a Windows 7 system:
1. Download and install this camera profile. It should go in this folder:
2. Download and install this Lightroom preset. In Lightroom go to the Develop module, right click in the presets menu, select import, and navigate to the file. The preset addresses skin tones largely through H/S/L settings. Check them out.
Using your new files:
Before you start calibrate your monitor. At the very least do something like this: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/monitor-calibration.htm - better is to actually buy some hardware to do it.
1. Open your D5100 NEF in Lightroom
2. Apply the "D5100 - skin tones" preset. This automatically selects the D5100 - skin tones camera profile you loaded. You can apply on import, but I like to see how every file changes.
3. Set the white balance. I always use the dropper to find a neutral point. http://help.adobe.com/en_US/lightroom/using/WS947672F1-AAB2-43de-9011-BDDECA05EC19.html
4. Test the Lightroom Auto Tone preset. Apply it and see what the program recommends. If you don't like it (probably not) hit Ctrl + z to undo it and then move the file in the general direction Lightroom was headed, but to a lesser extent.
5. You should be pretty happy with the result at this point with minimal effort. Go nuts with your creativity from here.
1. If you have large blocks of blue or it is important (more important than the skin tones), go down to camera calibration at the bottom of the develop settings and move the blue hue to +12. This is an accommodation I made in the profile to optimize it for other colors. You might have a slightly toothpasty sky or something like that.
2. The preset applies Lightroom's "sharpen for faces." It is a little heavy in some instances, but it starts pretty heavily masked so it works out for me.
3. If you are taking photos of people at a reasonably high aperture / blurred background you may find that DECREASING the global clarity makes them appear sharper. This is because it has more of an effect on the background than the subject. It's almost like an auto-mask-blur. It works like magic when you have a sleep-deprived parent who could use a softer glow on their face and a kid with no lines and even complexion so they have nothing to de-clarify. They wind up looking extra sharp without sharpening.
4. Lens profiles are applied in the preset. I don't know what happens if you're using a lens LR does not recognize. I assume it just doesn't do anything.
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