The Editing Process using Global Adjustments
The previous 2 tutorials (Intro to Lightroom & Importing your images, Ranking and Selecting your Images) have been focused on importing images into Lightroom, as well as how to rank and fine tune the selection of images that will be edited using the develop module.
Editing in Lightroom
Lightroom was designed for RAW image processing, but can also be used on other formats (i.e. JPG, PNG, TIFF, Photoshop PSD etc.). RAW files are special as they are just a collection of data or numbers and not yet finalised into an image. To make an image out of a RAW file, a RAW image processor (Lightroom) is used. RAW files don’t have any effects (including colour, sharpness etc.), therefore tend to look flat or lack impact out of the camera. The development sliders in Lightroom are designed to add lift, excitement and drama to the image.
Video to show how you can use Global Adjustments
Lightroom supports non destructive editing. This means that any adjustments that you make to the picture using Lightroom, will not be permanent and can be removed/reset at any time. You can remove previous adjustments sequentially by using the CMD(Mac)/CTRL(Pc) +Z key and undo adjustments one at a time. You can also go back to the original state any point in time by clicking on the adjustments in the history panel.
All adjustments can be reset by pressing the key combination SHIFT+CMD(Mac)/ CTRL(PC)+R (or menu option Settings / Reset all settings).
Lightroom does not enforce a particular sequence of steps in the editing process; adjustments can be made at any point in time. i.e. A crop can be applied, then the exposure adjusted, then the crop can be adjusted without affecting the exposure. This extremely effective and flexible workflow will allow experimentation on your pictures, ensuring that the original file is not damaged and your best work can be published.
Simple editing can be achieved within the Library module in Lightroom. However, more powerful editing is achieved in the development module.
There are two types of development/editing processes, the first is enhancing the whole image using global adjustments, the second is by using selective enhancements and applying local adjustments.
This tutorial will look at editing the pictures using global adjustments.
Global adjustments are applied to the whole image, and the starting point to these enhancements is in the BASIC tab.
Histogram and clipping points
Lightroom automatically calculates the histogram for you. The histogram will show how the pixels are arranged in the image. It is designed to show the shadows, highlights and mid-tones, and will provide a guide to the image pixels when editing.
The left hand side of the histogram shows the shadow area of the picture, the middle area shows where the mid tones are and too the right the highlights are represented.
In photography we are always after the perfect exposure, this is typically where all tones in the scene come in from both sides and create a hill type structure. You can see in the picture below there is an example of a good exposure. The shadow area (left) is snug to the edge and is not clipping in the scene, the highlights on the right are snug and are also not clipping; the mid-tones of the picture are nicely distributed.
Before you work on your pictures, it is always good to look at the histogram and determine any issues, i.e. highlights and shadows may be clipping, or the image appearance is a little flat.
To check the highlight and shadow clipping, turn on the highlight clipping indicators (pressing the J key will turn on both indicators). The Clipping indicators are the two arrows on the histogram (see shown above) and are currently turned off; they will have white boxes around them when they are turned on.
The clipping indicators show where in the picture and pixel data is potentially being lost and is just pure white (in the highlights) or pure black (in the shadows). You can also turn on/off the clipping indicators individually by clicking on them. Within the picture, highlights that are clipping are represented as red and shadows are represented as blue.
The histogram is vital to making sure that we have an amazing image to publish.
The way in which Lightroom has been designed and the layout of the tabs are logical to the photographic workflow. However, sometimes if you have more than one tab open, then the slider bar down the right hand side becomes long and cumbersome and can slow down the development/editing process. There is a special feature that allows us to have only one panel open at a time, this is called “Solo” mode. Solo mode is available by right clicking on any tab name and choosing “Solo Mode” from the fly out menu.
Lightroom process version
There are many tabs in Lightroom and they are all designed for a particular part of the editing process. The processing mathematics within Lightroom are controlled by the Lightroom process version. To check the process version is set to 2012, open the tool bar menu and choose Settings / Process, this tutorial assumes that you are using 2012. If the 2012 process version is available and is not selected then please select it, if it is not available then you are probably not using Lightroom 4 or 5.
The basic tab in Lightroom contains very powerful adjustment sliders for enhancing the original image, elements such as exposure, highlights, shadows can be modified here.
The treatment option enables your photo to be converted into color or black and white. You can try both, by just by clicking on either option. Any adjustments can be removed, by using Undo or by resetting the picture back to the original import by pressing the SHIFT+CMD(CTRL on PC) and R (or Settings / Reset all settings).
Colour & White Balance
Most cameras today have an automatic white balance and it is extremely accurate and shouldn’t need to be changed. However, a more accurate method is to use a grey card or white balance card when taking your pictures (A grey card can be used to correctly the white balance, but is not covered in this tutorial).
The WB option in Lightroom will show the white balance that was used when the picture was taken. The image’s white balance below is “As Shot”, which means that it was created in the camera. There are other values in the drop down box that represents specific lighting conditions. You can manually alter the white balance and tint in Lightroom by changing the temp and tint values, using the slider controls (this can be a challenging process, so using the presets may be a safer option).
You can also use the white balance eyedropper tool to create a custom white balance. When using this tool to set the white balance, a patch of 18% grey is desirable (a grey card is designed for 18% grey). An alternative approach to setting the white balance is to move the eyedropper loupe around the picture and look at the base of the loupe (shown below). When the three figures read roughly the same value, then click on that point to set the white balance.
This slider will adjust the overall exposure of the image and will be measured in stops. +/-.3 is equal to a third of a stop and +/- 1 is a full stop (- is under, + is over the original exposure. Stops are a photographic measurement and is also referred to as f-stop). Moving this slider to the right will increase the overall exposure of the scene (as if more light is being applied to the image), moving left will reduce the exposure.
Contrast adds interest to the picture by increasing or decreasing the difference between light and dark parts of the scene.
Highlights and Shadow recovery
In Lightroom 4 the shadow and highlight recovery sliders were new additions and have been designed to work independently of each other. They are used to extract as much information as possible from highlight/shadow areas and potentially recover any lost information from the areas that are shown as clipping.
White and Black points.
Setting the black and white point will create a good foundation for the image. When the whites slider is moved to the right or the blacks sliders is moved to the left, any clipping parts of the scene will be displayed (clipping means that there is a possible loss of data and highlights are displayed as pure white and shadows as pure black). If the clipping indicators are turned on, you will see red patches (highlights) or blue patches (shadows) appear in the picture. If the clipping indicators are not turned on, press the ALT key at the same time as moving the sliders, the areas of clipping (using same colours as described above) will show on a black background. You may decide that the image needs a little bit of clipping to give it drama (as part of my workflow, I tend to place a small amount of clipping in the shadows to provide impact).
A combination of setting the white and black clipping points as well as adjusting the exposure slider will give the image a good starting point for further enhancement.
A positive amount of clarity is used to add mid-tone contrast to the image; a small amount can add dimension and impact. A negative amount of clarity can be used to smooth and soften the image.
Vibrance is designed to increase saturation but is careful about what it affects. Vibrance is kind to skin tones and won’t affect them as much as saturation will.
This slider increases global saturation and will brighten and deepen colours within the picture.
Before and after
Showing the before and after adjustments can be useful to see the difference between the start and current image.
The Details slider is used for adding sharpness to the picture.
The sliders in this panel do the following:-
Amount – This is the amount of sharpening that will be applied to the image. A zero value will turn off sharpening. A lower amount can also result in a cleaner image
Radius – Controls the size of the edges that are affected by the amount slider. A smaller number here will reduce the number of pixels that the amount slider is working on (i.e subtle sharpening), a higher value means that more pixels will be included and the edges of sharpening (ALT can be pressed to see what areas of the picture will be affected)
Details – This controls the amount of fine details that will be included in the sharpening process. Fine details can include pores of skin etc. and in this case you would want to use a smaller value. For larger areas with less fine detail, a larger details value may be required (ALT can be pressed to see what areas of the picture will be affected).
Masking – this controls how many pixels at the edges receive sharpening, a zero value means everything receives the same amount of sharpening, a larger value moves towards just the edges and creates mask over the image to restrict the sharpness (ALT is used to display the mask), white areas are affected, black are not.
Sharpness is always a subjective issue and requires careful consideration for every image. An amount of trial and error will be required to find the combination that suits each picture.
We work directly with a selection of lens manufacturers to make sure that any natural vignetting and distortion of the lens is corrected. If the lens has been calibrated, then Lightroom should pick up it up from the meta-data that is brought in from the import process. If no lens profile is found, then it is likely that the lens is not supported by the version of Lightroom that is being used.
Lens profiles are typically added in a full release (i.e 5.0) or a .dot (i.e 5.2) of the application.
The Effects panel is used add a vignette to the picture. Adding a vignette is a classic darkroom technique to keep the viewers eyes within the picture.
Grain is used to add a film grain effect to the image. This can be used to make the image look grittier or provide a grungy look.
Black and White mode
Black and white mode will convert the image to gray scale.
I hope this tutorial has given you a good insight into the power of using global adjustments within Lightroom development module, and that you are now able to start to create images that look amazing.
Final colour version of the picture used in this tutorial.
An alternative final black and white version
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