5 Must Know Lightroom Processing Tips

How to make basic post-processing in Lightroom

Adobe’s Lightroom is a very versatile photo editing application, one that has a number of features to make both global and local adjustments to your images.

Post-processing, as you would have surely realized by now, is a major aspect of your photography workflow. In spite of the fact that a lot of photographers hate having to sit in front of their computer and edit their work (myself included) it has now become a necessity and no longer is an afterthought. Pushing the boundary, constantly, is a remarkable set of tools that Photoshop and Lightroom have to offer.

Photographers have now within their reach the ability to transform their images completely. Even if it is just to make subtle adjustments to the exposure, contrast and white balance. I wouldn’t get in to the debate whether this is a good thing or not, but the fact is, it is undeniable and at times necessary.

So, without further ado, here is a simple workflow that I often do in order to tweak my images. You don’t have to follow this in ditto. Much like everything else in photography no two post-processing workflow are the same.

No two photographers think the same way, something that overtly dominates a composition and the final process flow that creates an image from its RAW form.

So take these as a general guideline for basic post processing with Lightroom and feel free to tweak it as per your own tastes and preferences.

5 Simple Lightroom Tips

1. Camera Calibration

Okay, the first task is to open the image in Lightroom. That’s the easy bit. Once the image opens in Lightroom, the first step that I do is scroll down all the way to Camera Calibration and select the right Profile, which in this case is set to Adobe Standard by default. I usually change it to Camera Standard. There is no absolute rule as to which one you should choose. Each photographer has his preference and you are free to exercise yours. I just happen to like Camera Standard.

New Zealand. mazzaliarmadi.it landscape by Mazzali
New Zealand. mazzaliarmadi.it landscape by Mazzali

2. Lens Corrections

You should always do lens corrections, no matter what. Inherent imperfections, such a barrel and pincushion distortions as well as chromatic aberrations are taken care of in this step. Chromatic aberrations, sometimes are unavoidable, especially when you are shooting high contrast scenes. This is taken care of in Lens Corrections.

3. White Balance

Select the White Balance selector tool and pick a neutral color such as 18% grey in the image. The image should be color balanced now. If it isn’t, feel free to tweak the temperature and tint sliders to give it the look that you want. If you have shot a reference image for white balance correction, during the photo session, getting the right white balance in post-processing will be a breeze.

Rheingau Landscape by Romtomtom
Rheingau Landscape by Romtomtom

4. Exposure sliders

Next up are the Exposure Sliders. Exposure increases the light in the image. This is something necessary if your exposure was off and the subject wasn’t illuminated properly. One thing to note is, when you increase exposure, you are likely to also increase digital noise.

Contrasts create a more dynamic image by creating a larger set of tones that transforms the overall image punchier. You will also notice that the histogram will now be touching both sides indicating that there is bigger tonal range between pure black and pure white.

A small tip to work with the Highlights and the Shadows sliders: Press the alt key and then drag the highlights slider. When you start to see whites stop at that point. Beyond that point you will start to clip the highlights. Same thing with the Shadows slider. Press down the alt key and then drag the slider.

When you start seeing a hint of color, drag it a bit further before stopping. I would normally leave a bit of shadow in my compositions, especially if I am shooting portraits or also when shooting landscapes. This adds a bit of punchiness to the images. This, however, depends on personal preferences and yours is likely to be different than mine.

Whites and Blacks sliders should also be tweaked as per requirements.

5. Sharpening

Lightroom does give you several options to sharpen your image. But rather than jumping head first into the Detail sliders you need to tweak a few things under exposure before making the transition. Sharpening denotes increasing the textures in the image.

But that can be detrimental when you are shooting portraits. Portrait images require that the subject’s face and exposed skin should be devoid of textures as much as possible. Black and white portraits, on the other hand, works really nice when there is a bit of texture in the image.

Mountain winter snowy landscape by Pawel Pacholec
Mountain winter snowy landscape by Pawel Pacholec

Always ensure that a fine balance between sharpening and skin smoothening should be achieved. The best way to sharpen your images is to hold down the alt key and drag the amount slider to see how much noise you are getting while the image is getting sharpened.

Also, hold down the masking slider and slide it all the way to the right. as you slide it right you will notice that initially the entire image is being sharpened, and then only the region around the eyes, the nose etc. are being sharpened. This is what you would ideally want.

The above are only a few global adjustments that you can do in Lightroom, before opening the image in Photoshop to complete the editing process. In addition to them, there are a number local adjustments as well. I will try to address them in a later article.


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