Lightroom offers powerful tools for adjusting your images to your own liking. This lesson provides a detailed description of the tools in the Develop module and how to use them.
Histogram and clipping lndicators
Remove dust spots
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In this lesson, I will look at the tools to optimize your images in Lightroom. This workflow will outline some typical corrections to images that photographers need to make.
The develop tool in Lightroom is a really powerful image editor. It is a flexible, non-destructive tool that will never alter your original image. No matter what you do to a picture in Lightroom, you can always reset the develop controls and go back to your original starting point. This makes it a great place to play with your photos to make them look their best.
It works better in raw
One of Lightroom's best time-saving features is the ability to copy and paste the develop settings from one image to another. This allows you to optimize one photo from a shoot or a sequence, and then transfer those adustments quickly and easily from that image to others that need the same treatment. The movie in Figure 2 show how this works.
Most of the develop work is covered in the develop module, but there are some controls right in the Library module. The Quick Develop tool is built for making adjustments to lots of images rapidly. It can provide a great way to correct exposure for a large shoot quickly, as shown in Figure 3. This is particularly well-suited to method 1 listed above. Here are some Quick Develop tips:
- In order to work in Quick Develop, you need to be in the Grid mode in Library. If you are in any other mode, you will only apply your changes to the Most Selected image, rather than to all selected images
- You might want to first try auto tone to have Lightroom make general exposure corrections as best it can guess. If you find that Auto generally works for you, feel free to use it. If you prefer a different kind of look for your images, it might not be useful for you
- You can Shift-select to work on several consecutive images at one time
- You can Command-click (Mac) or Control-click (PC) to select multiple non-consecutive images
- You can use the Sync Settings command to copy settings from one image and paste to others
Histogram and clipping lndicators
One of the most useful tools in the Develop module is the Histogram and Clipping tool. This graph shows you the distribution of colours and tones in your images. Basically, it counts up how many pixels there are of any particular brightness, and plots them on a graph.
More useful than the Histogram, however, are the clipping indicators. These tell you if your shadows are blocking up and losing all detail, and if your highlights are blowing out. This is good information to have when you work on your photos, becuse it's generally good practice to avoid either of these situations.
Sometimes you might want all the shadows to block up - for a high contrast black and white portrait, for instance. But even in these situations, it is helpful to have the indicators to know what's happening in the image. The movie in Figure 4 shows how this tool works.
The Basic panel controls the general colour balance and toning of the image. Typically, this is the first place to go when adjusting an image. The movie in Figure 5 outlines how to work through these controls.
Remove dust spots
If you have ever had a dust spot on your camera sensor, then you have probably faced the need to 'fix' a lot of photos. The Spot Removal tool can help you apply a correction to many images at once. You can also use this to fix blemishes and other small imperfections in your images. The movie in Figure 6 shows how to use this.
The adjustment brush lets you 'paint in' some local corrections to your images. This is a non-destructive way to burn and dodge your photos, as well as creating some softening effects, as shown in Figure 7. The Adjustment brush uses mouse strokes to build a mask, and then allows you to customize the adjustment for the masked areas. Here are some tips:
- The size of the brush stays constant, even as you zoom in and out of the photo. Zoom in to make more detailed corrections, and zooom out to work on large areas
- Feather controls the hardness of the brush edge
- Flow affects how quickly the mask is built. A high flow makes a big change quickly. A low flow builds up changes gradually
- Auto Mask restricts the mask to the colour that is in the centre of the brush when you start painting
- Start with a high flow rate. Lots of little brush strokes slow down your computer much more than a smaller number of strokes
- Start with your effect too heavy, and back off the sliders once you have drawn the mask
- Hold down the Option key on Mac to change your brush into an eraser for the mask
- Make a new 'pin' if you want to make a second kind (or more) of adjustment to the image
The graduated filter tool allows the user to apply some color and tonal corrections to the top, bottom or side of a photo, and to fadeout the change over a sharp or gradual distance. This is particularly helpful to make sky more dramatic, since there is often a big difference between the brightness of the sky and of the ground. The movie in Figure 8 shows how to use the different settings.
The Crop tool lets you cut out unwanted parts of an image to strengthen composition. Like all the tools in Lightroom, it works non-destructively, so you can undo the crop at any point in the future. The movie in Figure 9 shows how this works.
The tone curve controls the brightness and contrast of an image. It is not generally used as much as some of the other panels, but it does offer some unique controls. Figure 10 shows how this works.
The Hue, Saturation and Lightness panel is one of the most powerful tools in Lightroom, and can save a tremendous amount of time for certain adjustments, when compared to Photoshop. This panel lets you control individual colors within an image without having to make masks. The movie in Figure 11 outlines some of the common ways to use HSL.
- In the HSL panel, Hue adjusts the colour of a particular color family. So you can adjust the Blue to be more green, or more red, without affecting other colours.
- The Saturation controls how intense any of the 8 colours are. You can reduce saturation in the red, for instance, to reduce ruddiness in some skin tones.
- Luminance controls how bright a particular color is. You can make blue darker, increasing the drama of a sky that has some clouds.
- The Black and White controls adjust the brightness of particular colours as part of a conversion to Black and White.
- The Targeted Adjustment tool can help you figure out which colours you need to adjust to affect a particular area in an image.
The splittToning controls let you apply a tint to either the highlights of an image, the shadows, or both. Many people use this primarily for Black and White images, but some will also use it on colour photos as well. The movie in Figure 12 outlines how these controls work.
This panel controls sharpness and noise reduction. In order to see these corrections, you need to view the image at 100%, as shown in Figure 13.
Lightroom 3 introduced some great tools to fix lens issues. You can correct for distortion in your lens, as well as chromatic aberration. You can even make corrections for perspective, which is quite useful for architectural images. The Movie in Figure 14 shows how to use this.
The camera calibration panel lets you control the most basic characteristics of your raw file conversion. In many cases, this is a panel that people will not open or pay attention to. Once you get used to working the other controls in Lightroom, you might want to take a look at these. And if you are having problems getting good color, particularly in skin tones, these controls can help.
If you have a major-manufacturer camera, then you will generally find that there are several different 'profiles' to choose from. These can duplicate the look that your camera provides by setting to 'portrait landscape', etc. Figure 16 shows how to use this tool.
You can also create custom profiles for your camera that can compensate for the colour cast of your particular camera.
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