Typical Lightroom processing steps.

Typical lightroom processing steps - darkening the sky

In this post I’m going to outline the steps I’ve gone through to take an image from the initial RAW capture to the final image using Lightroom. This is as much an aide memoir to my future self as a guide to others, and in no way is this the only sequence that could be used.

The image above is one that I took with my Ricoh GXR fitted with the S10 lens unit. The image is not a particularly good one but it seemed a reasonable choice to describe the steps I normally take.

First I need to say that this image was recorded in RAW as all my images are. The initial image above shows a picture which is over exposed and not level and doesn’t really have any part of the image which draws the eye or provides interest. In fact, because the picture is over exposed, the geese on the water beyond the post are almost indistinguishable.

The first step I took was to get the white balance set. In this case it was really just a case of selecting the daylight white balance preset in Lightroom, but in more difficult cases I sometimes use the picker to find an area of the picture which is white and correct for that point.

The next step was to get the exposure right. This involved reducing the over exposure by about 1 1/2 stops, dropping the highlights to get some detail back into the sky, and then increasing the shadow fill light a bit to get some detail into the dark areas of the trees.

I next adjusted the clarity and vibrance to push a bit more detail into the picture and boost the colours a bit. I try not to be too excessive here, because I have a tendency to over do this stage so I go to where I think it’s ok and then back off a step.

The next step I took was to crop the picture and straighten the horizon (it’s particularly galling that I had to do this since the GXR has a level indicator, as does my main camera the K5!) During this process I placed the post in the water at about the rule of thirds line in the final cropped image. Although this is not a be-all-and-end-all rule, I find it pretty effective and use it more often than not.

Sharpening was the next step I applied. By holding down the ALT key on the mac as I adjust the Radius, Detail and Masking controls it’s quite easy to set the level you want as the display turns to a monochrome image which the adjustment being made is highlighted. Once these three are set, the level of sharpening can then be set – which I did on the three people in the boat, zooming the display it as I adjusted.

I made one final tweak of the image, reducing the brightness of the sky using the HSL picker to select the point in the sky I wanted and dragging the luminance down.

As I said at the start, this is by no means the only way or necessarily the correct way to process images, but it has most of the steps I currently practice and will make useful reading for myself in a few months / years time


41 thoughts on “Typical Lightroom processing steps.

  1. Have you ever tried Photo Ninja? Not as complete as Lightroom, but there’s one feature I do wish LR had. It has a selective colour tool (as does LR) whjere you can saturate (etc) certain colours. The differenec eis that you can also affect neighbouring hues on a progressive sliding scale so that the end result is not too isolated or garish.

      • Yes, there is a fairly generous trial period where all functions are accessible except for saving files. It’s CPU intensive, but the way it renders RAW files before any processing is quite impressive. Better RAW file demosaicing algo than LR according to the reviews I’ve come across. Limited in other areas though.

      • Ha, yeah I read that article. Very interesting actually. Pity the rest of the roll was all bunched up though. Sounds like it would be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the regular chemicals?

      • I think it’s certainly cheaper and yes I guess it must be cleaner too because I could just pour it down the sink when I’d done. For me the big advantage would be to make up some developer from the materials and use it when required. I bought a bottle of commercial developer but it had gone off after I only developed a couple of films because I don’t do that much film photography.

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