Greybeard (Richard)

Adobe Lightroom 4 Tutorial: A Workflow Example

Adobe Lightroom is a pow­er­ful tool for man­ag­ing and pro­cess­ing dig­i­tal pho­tos. It can cat­a­logue and orga­nize your pho­tos, auto­mate online pub­lish­ing, batch process, man­age meta­data (EXIF and IPTC), and water­mark your images on export. It can also apply essen­tial basic image adjust­ments non-destruc­tively: all changes are writ­ten to a data­base, leav­ing your orig­i­nal image untouched, so you can always revert.

In the Develop panel, I gen­er­ally start with the top con­trols and work my way down, apply­ing as needed: crop and apply local adjust­ments, adjust color bal­ance, then over­all expo­sure and con­trast, then high­lights, shad­ows, and white and black clipping.

Here’s how I got from an image “as shot” to the final image, ready for export and pub­li­ca­tion. Your mileage may vary.

Crop the Image

I started by crop­ping the image. I based the crop area on the Rule of Thirds; [Sidenote: The rule of thirds is a guide­line which applies to com­pos­ing visual images. According to the rule, an image is imag­ined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced hor­i­zon­tal lines and two equally spaced ver­ti­cal lines. The impor­tant com­po­si­tional ele­ments are placed along these lines or at their inter­sec­tions. The Lightroom crop over­lay can show a grid to facil­i­tate crop­ping to the rule of thirds.] this is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it worked nicely for this image. Notice how crop­ping also removed the dis­tract­ing ele­ments on the right edge.

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 1: Crop
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 1: Crop

Exposure Adjustments

White bal­ance was set with a WhiBal card, so I moved on to adjust­ing con­trast, shad­ows and black clip­ping for the entire image. After that, I adjusted clar­ity, which exag­ger­ates or reduces local contrast.

  1. Contrast +10
  2. Shadows -10
  3. Black Clipping -30
  4. Clarity +10

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 2: Contrast
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 2: Contrast

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 3: Shadows
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 3: Shadows

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 4: Blacks
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 4: Blacks

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 5: Clarity
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 5: Clarity

Black and White Adjustments

  1. Convert to B+W
  2. B+W Mix set to “Auto” (after try­ing var­i­ous fil­ters for B+W & reject­ing them)

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 6: B+W Conversion

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 6: B+W Conversion
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 7: B+W Mix

Local Adjustments

Next, I employed the Adjustment Brush (Size = 6.2; Feather, Flow & Density = 100). In real­ity, I increased the expo­sure on the subject’s face before chang­ing the B+W Mix, as you can see in the screen cap­ture imme­di­ately preceding.

  1. Increased Exposure on sub­ject face +2.25
  2. On the torch, decreased Exposure -1.34

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 8: Adjustment Brush (Increase Exposure)
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 8: Adjustment Brush (Increase Exposure)

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 9: Adjustment Brush (Decrease Exposure)
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 9: Adjustment Brush (Decrease Exposure)

Noise Reduction

The images was shot in low light using a tri­pod & a long expo­sure. It’s pretty noisy. Converting to B+W got rid of a lot of the noise, but it could still use some improve­ment. The trick is to bal­ance between noise reduc­tion and loss of detail.

  1. Zoomed in to a lighter area so I could see the noise (in the screen cap I’m show­ing the torch, but I actu­ally was look­ing at the subject’s face when I made the adjust­ment, in order to get the afore­men­tioned bal­ance correct)
  2. Luminance +50
  3. Detail +50 (default)

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 10: Zoom in to See Noise
LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 10: Zoom in to See Noise

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 11: Noise Reduction (Luminance)

That’s it; other tools I fre­quently use are the Graduated Filter and the Lens Correction tools; the lat­ter is par­tic­u­larly handy for remov­ing the squir­rely chro­matic aber­ra­tion and magenta/​green fringes that plague Leica dig­i­tal cam­eras under cer­tain conditions.

Here’s the “before and after”:

Greybeard (Richard) — original from camera, Band Camp, 15th Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2012
Greybeard (Richard) — orig­i­nal from cam­era, Band Camp, 15th Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2012

Greybeard (Richard)
Greybeard (Richard), Band Camp, 15th Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2012

Further Reading

I learned Adobe Lightroom basics from Focus Photo School, for­merly known as Lightroom Lab. You could, too.

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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