Adobe Lightroom 4 Tutorial: A Workflow Example

Adobe Lightroom 4 Tutorial: A Workflow Example

JPEG from Camera RAW (DNG): after processing in Adobe Lightroom 4

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; 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 8: B+W Mix

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 8: 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 7: Adjustment Brush (Increase Exposure)

LR4 Adjustments Tutorial, Step 7: 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)

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 abberation and magenta/green fringes that plague Leica digital cameras under certain conditions.

Here’s the “before and after”:

JPEG from Camera RAW (DNG): before processing in Adobe Lightroom 4

JPEG from Camera RAW (DNG): before processing in Adobe Lightroom 4

JPEG from Camera RAW (DNG): after processing in Adobe Lightroom 4

JPEG from Camera RAW (DNG): after processing in Adobe Lightroom 4

Further Reading

I learned Adobe Lightroom basics from Lightroom Lab. You could, too.

About the Featured Photograph(s)

Note

M-mount lenses do not provide aperture information to the camera body, either electronically or mechanically. Therefore, f-stop settings are approximate, and are probably wildly inaccurate. For what it’s worth, I usually shoot with my lenses wide open.

  • Greybeard (Richard), Band Camp, 15th Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2012
  • M9 Digital Camera
  • ISO:1600
  • 90mm
  • 1/1s
  • ƒ/4
  • 35° 25.75′ 0″ N 96° 17.383333′ 0″ W

Author:

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