Using Lightroom’s new Reference View and Datacolor tools to get better color

Getting color right across multiple images is hard. Our visual memories are typically not very accurate, so flipping back and forth between images doesn’t work very well. Fortunately, Adobe has added a new feature to Lightroom CC that helps us. Called Reference View, it lets you put two images on the screen at once. One is a Reference image, from which you can grab settings and colors, while the other is the active image on which you’re working. You can use the image comparison for anything you want, of course, but it is particularly helpful in getting consistent color. That process is even easier if you combine it with some of the tools available in Spyder5CAPTURE PRO.


Using Lightroom CC’s new Reference View

Reference View is available in the Develop Module of Lightroom CC. You can turn it on either by using the cleverly-labelled “R | A” icon, or with the shortcut key – Shift-R. If you don’t see the toolbar below the selected image, you can turn it on by using the “T” key. Initially the two images are displayed side-by-side, but if you click the icon again it switches to over and under. It will turn off by itself when you leave the Develop module (unless you lock the Reference image), or you can click the single-image (Loupe View) icon to the left of the R | A icon.


Image 1

The Reference View icon appears in the toolbar below your preview image


The Active image is the one you’d expect – the one you’ve selected to work on. To get an image into the Reference pane, you can right-click on one in the Filmstrip and choose “Set as Reference Photo” or simply drag one into the Reference pane.


Image 2

The Reference and Active photo can be different versions of the same image,
or different images you want to compare and possibly match.


Using the Reference View starts by using Spyder5 profiling software

The primary value of the new Reference View is letting you compare a “finished” image — that already has your desired white balance and color rendering — with the one you are working on. Once you have the images set up in Reference View you can adjust the Active image as needed to have a similar look to your already processed image. That only works well if you know what you’re looking at – which means you need a calibrated monitor with an ICC profile loaded into your system. That’s exactly what Spyder5 is for. All three versions (EXPRESS, PRO, and ELITE) let you get the best and most accurate color from your system. The most-powerful of them, Spyder5ELITE is part of Datacolor’s exciting new Spyder5CAPTURE PRO bundle.
Lightroom’s Reference View does have one neat trick that helps you analyze images with more than just your eyes. If your images are the same size, and of the same scene, you can look at the color difference in individual pixels using the Histogram. It will display both the Reference and Active image color values underneath its graph. That functionality can be really-helpful in using the Reference View to get better color.

Setting White Balance using SpyderCUBE and Lightroom’s Reference View

SpyderCUBE is great for helping you determine the white point, black point, and white balance of your images, but of course it needs to be in one of your images to do its job. However, you probably don’t want it in all your images, so the trick is to get the readings you need from an image with the SpyderCUBE and then apply them to other images of the same scene taken in the same lighting conditions. Reference View makes this easier by allowing you to make adjustments to an image that includes the SpyderCUBE, then make that image your Reference image and duplicate the desired settings into your other images.


Image 3

Here I’ve used the SpyderCUBE to let me set the white balance, white point, and black point
of the reference image, so that I can now duplicate those settings on the image on the right


Getting accurate color using SpyderCHECKR and Lightroom’s Reference View

Similar to the way you use a SpyderCUBE, a SpyderCHECKR can be included in some of your test images to help you with post processing your other images. By having it in a test image, you can use the color tools of your choice in Lightroom until you see its carefully-printed color patches appearing accurately. Then, you can make your processed image into your Reference image, and adjust your other images until they match. We’ve focused on Lightroom CC here, but you can do the same thing in Photoshop simply by opening both images at the same time, and placing them side by side.

Image 4

Here I have a high ISO version of a desired image. I can use Lightroom or Photoshop
to correct color patches until they look like the more accurate low ISO version


Using Settings Copy and Paste to improve your productivity

You can accelerate the process of relying on the settings in your Reference image by copying and pasting them to your Active image. Unfortunately, Adobe doesn’t currently offer any way to do that simply and directly from the Reference View. But, if you still have your Reference image on your filmstrip, you can do it by right-clicking on it and choosing “Develop Settings->Copy Settings…” to select some or all of its settings, and then you can Paste that onto your Active image.

Putting it all together with Spyder5CAPTURE PRO

Fortunately, there is an easy way to pull together all the elements of this solution. Spyder5CAPTURE PRO includes not only Spyder5ELITE monitor calibration hardware and software, as well as a SpyderCHECKR and SpyderCUBE, but also a 90-day trial of Adobe Creative Cloud – which of course includes both Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC.
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About David Cardinal:

David Cardinal is a veteran travel and nature photographer who specializes in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as North American mammals and birds. Co-author of The D1 Generation, David has had his articles and images appear in publications including Outdoor Photographer, Studio Photography & Design, Photoshop User, PC Magazine and Dr. Dobbs Journal.
David’s clients include non-profit and socially responsible institutions such as the BBC, California State Parks Foundation, the City of Palo Alto, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, Bay Trails, Point Reyes Bird Observatory, US Fish & Wildlife Service, NANPA, Bay Nature and Western Birding and National Geographic Kids magazines. Visit