Home Process Lightroom in Practice – Basic Adjustments

Lightroom in Practice – Basic Adjustments


We have already explained how the different basic adjustments work, now we are going to show you how to apply all these adjustments in real life to an actual image.

Don't forget that all the different settings will apply differently for your own images.  That's why it is important that you are not following blindly, but instead are practicing on an image of your own and adjusting all the settings, until you get what you like as a final result.  Applying the same values as the ones we appy for our image most likely won't work.

For this example we picked a regular photo of Mike Dunworth longboarding down the hill.  Looking at the original image, we can tell that it looks a little warm, the clouds are somewhat overexposed and Mikey could be brightened a little.  A polarized filter was placed on the lens so we were able to get the slower shutter speed and have improved overall contrast.  If the shot was taken without a polarizer it would look a little washed out (just like every other RAW file that comes out of the camera).  You can easily fix the washed out look by adding some contrast.  And finally we see that the shot could be straightend. 

The first thing we are going to do is make sure the horizon line is somewhat straight.  Click on the Crop Tool Icon or hit "R" on your keyboard.  Now you are able to grab the corner and rotate the image until it is straight.

Next adjustment is the White Balance, it is always a good idea to have correct WB before you start playing with other settings.  Use the white balance selector tool to sample a mid gray area.  In this case the pavement should be close enough.  This actually made the whole image blue, so we manually grabbed the Temp slider and moved it to the right.  This will introduce warmth to the image, and make it look better.  Again it is important to use your own judgment instead of following blindly.

Now that we have the image straight and have fixed the White Balance, we need to make sure that the exposure is good, look at the image and the Histogram.  Move the Exposure Slider to the left and then to the right and make sure that the image looks the way you want it..not too bright, not too dark.  In this case the exposure is pretty good, so we are not going to mess with the exposure slider.

The next slider is the Recovery slider which is the one that is going to help us get more detail in the sky and also darken the road just a bit.  Using the recovery slider often requires for you to compensate with some contrast because it make the image look flat.

The recovery slider not only darkened the road and the sky, but it also darkened our talent.  Use the Fill Light Slider to brighten some of the darker areas of the image.  Don't over-use this slider because the image starts to look like a poorly rendered HDR photo.

Now it is time to add some Contrast.  We have to compensate for the Recovery and Fill light sliders.  If you add too much contrast the sky is going to lose detail and the dark parts of the image will get too dark.  Another thing to keep in mind when using the contrast slider is that it adds saturation to the image.  So don't overuse it, move it back and forward until you find a good spot and then back it off just a little.

You photo should be looking pretty good already.  Now we are going to add a little bit of Clarity, look around you image and spot big areas with high contrast, like the clouds.  Increase the Clarity until you start to see a halo around them and then back the slider off.  This way you can easily find the sweet spot.

Next two sliders are Vibrance and Saturation.  I will leave them to you, since color is a matter of taste, but recommend vibrance over saturation for most images.

Depending on the ISO setting of you camera, you may have to apply some Noise Reduction and now would be the time.  Use the Luminance and Color sliders to get rid of the two different kinds of noise.  Noise Reduction in LR3 works extremely well, but still make sure you don't overuse it because you are going to lose detail.  Think of noise reduction as the opposite of sharpening.

And now that we have done all the other adjustments and are ready to export the image, there is only one more thing we need to do.  Sharpening, we would recommend using a low radius (not more than 1) and high Amount.  This should give your image a really nice sharp look.

In the "Basic Adjustments in Lightroom" article we covered what every slider does.  Use the article as a reference when adjusting your image.  This way you are going to know what every slider actually does.  Experimentation would be the best way to figure out what you like and what you don't.

Underneath you can see the difference between the original image and the one we have adjusted in Lightroom.


Related articles:

White Balance Explained


Basic Adjustments in Lightroom

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At only 25 years old, Connor has been published in many major international publications and is a signed Getty photographer. His writing and photos have been published in Photoshop User and Light It Magazines, amongst many others. He believes that if you work at what you love, you'll be able to make a great living. Connor currently resides in Edwards, CO with his wife, Kelly, and dog Tucker. You can view his portfolio at www.cnwphoto.com


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