When Lightroom first displays a raw image it displays the embedded JPEG preview first while it is generating its own preview of the raw image data. That JPEG preview will reflect all of the settings that were done in the camera. That could include a different profile, sharpness, saturation, etc. You probably know that Lightroom cannot read those settings. So the image will change once the Lightroom preview has been generated. If you don't like Camera Neutral as your default setting then change it to what ever you want to be your default in an image that hasn't been otherwise changed in Lightroom. Also, apply any other settings that you want to be your defaults. Then you can save new camera defaults. That's my preferred way of handling things. Another alternative is to create presets that can be applied either during import or a time afterwards.
Thank you Jim. I appreciate your help. I have seen the different profiles that can be applied and the Camera Neutral makes a huge difference in the .nef image (bringing it back to more of a flat image, which is what I wanted).
I have the same issue in Adobe Bridge, and I can select the Camera Neutral from there as well and it makes about the same difference as in Lr.
I've pulled up some older images that I shot with my D200 (I can't tell you what picture profile I shot with). It confirms what I remember from working with .nef files before I got my D600 and started using the CC versions of Lr & Br which is: The .nef files are, well... 'raw', while the .jpgs look 'refined'.
In my case (now) its the complete opposite. My jpegs look 'raw' and my .nef's are punchy, contrasty, bright....
I can't help but wonder why my .nefs are so changed when they're supposed to be raw files. Even when I apply the profile in Lr, or in ACR of "camera neutral" it still does not get me back to what (I believe) the raw image should look like. Why would a .nef look better than the .jpg when I haven't yet applied ANY setting to it. And, if it's the profile in ACR or Lr that is causing this to happen, then why doesn't the .nef image look at least as flat as the .jpg when I change it to 'camera neutral'?
You said that Lr generates its own preview of the raw image data. I guess I don't understand why, then, when I change the image in Lr to Camera Neutral, how come I still have a .nef that is considerably brighter, more contrasty than the original .jpg?
A raw image in Camera Raw is not showing you "raw" image data. It is showing you the image with the default Camera Raw settings applied to that image. I can't comment on why your raw files look better than JPEG's. I don't know what you have set for your default settings. Perhaps you have boosted the contrast and have applied that to your default settings.