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Creating Presets That Automatically Adapt to Your Image’s ISO

If you’re just changing the white balance or the Highlights amount, the ISO you shot the image with doesn’t matter all that much in the editing process. But, when it comes to things like applying noise reduction (for times when you shot at a high ISO), it does matter. Luckily, you can create presets that can, for example, apply more noise reduction (or less sharpening, etc.) to higher ISO shots automatically. These ISO adaptive presets look at the ISO metadata embedded into the image, so it can apply the right amounts for you. It’s pretty slick, and easy to set up.

Step One:

This whole idea is based on using at least two (or more) source images to set this up. This would be one photo taken at your camera’s cleanest native ISO (for my particular camera, that would have me using one photo taken at ISO 100), and another taken at what would be the top ISO you’d normally use (here, I’m going to use 1,000 ISO, as this preset would be for football shoots during daylight). So, you need two shots like that: one at the low end of your ISO range and one at the high end. You can use more photos if you’d like—I don’t, I just go with two—but if you shoot from 100 ISO to 25,600 or higher, then you should use more images in between. Select the low-ISO image and go ahead and create the look you want, including any noise reduction and sharpening. Here, I added Contrast, increased the Whites and Blacks, and added some Texture and Clarity for a high-contrast look, then I went to the Detail panel and increased the Sharpening Amount to 90 and the Radius to 1.2.

Step Two:

Now, select the image with the higher ISO, and then click the Previous button (at the bottom of the right side panels) to apply the settings we just tweaked on the previous image to this higher-ISO image. On this high-ISO image, go to the Detail panel and in the Noise Reduction section, increase the Luminance and/or Color amounts (see page 258) until the image looks good to you. You can also set what you feel is the appropriate amount of sharpening for this high-ISO image, as well. Basically, get this image looking how you’d like it.

Step Three:

Now, down in the Filmstrip, Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) to select both images (the low- and high-ISO images), then go to the Presets panel, click the little + (plus sign) button in the right side of the panel’s header, and from the pop- up menu, choose Create Preset. When the New Develop Preset dialog appears, give your preset a name (you might want to include “ISO” in the name, so you know it’s an adaptive ISO preset). If all the checkboxes are turned on, click the Check None button at the bottom left to turn them all off, and then just turn on those for the things you want to include in your preset (don’t forget to turn on Sharpening and Noise Reduction). At the bottom of this dialog, in the ISO Settings section, you’ll see the Create ISO Adaptive Preset checkbox. Turn that on. Note: If that checkbox is grayed out, you either (a) don’t have at least two images selected, or (b) the two images you have selected don’t have different ISOs.

Step Four:

Click the Create button to create your preset, and you can now use it like any other preset. But, when you apply this preset to other images, it will check the ISO the image was taken at and adjust the Noise Reduction and Sharpening amounts appropriately based on the image’s ISO. Here, I selected a different image and applied my ISO adaptive preset, and you can see it increased the amount of Luminance and Color Noise Reduction since my ISO was higher than 100, but not as much as in Step Two, to match the lower ISO (320) of this image. Pretty slick stuff, right?

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