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.
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.
- Contrast +10
- Shadows -10
- Black Clipping -30
- Clarity +10
Black and White Adjustments
- Convert to B+W
- B+W Mix set to “Auto” (after trying various filters for B+W & rejecting them)
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.
- Increased Exposure on subject face +2.25
- On the torch, decreased Exposure -1.34
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.
- 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)
- Luminance +50
- Detail +50 (default)
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”:
I learned Adobe Lightroom basics from Focus Photo School, formerly known as Lightroom Lab. You could, too.