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Tone Editing Controls in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

Article Description

Martin Evening provides a summary of what the Process 2012 sliders in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 do.
Auto Tone setting

Auto Tone setting

The Auto Tone (Image [Mac] or Image [PC]) can work well on a great many images as a quick-fix tone adjustment (see Figure 4.30). It automatically sets the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. Note that you can also use Image plus a double-click to apply an auto setting to these sliders independently. From there you can adjust any of the Basic panel sliders to manually fine-tune an auto adjustment. An auto tone adjustment can be undone by double-clicking the Tone button next to Auto, or you can use the Image [Mac] or Image [PC] shortcut to reset everything.

An Auto adjustment can sometimes make an instant improvement. Or it may not do much at all because the tone adjustments were close to being correct anyway (see sidebar). It is ridiculous to expect an automatic function such as this to perform flawlessly every time, but for the most part, I find Auto Tone works well the majority of the time, especially since the Auto Tone logic has been improved with each subsequent version of Lightroom. Even if Auto Tone does not produce perfect results, what it does produce can often be a useful starting point for applying further edits. Auto Tone can also be included as part of a Develop preset, allowing you to import images with Auto Tone applied right from the start.

  1. Here is a before image in which the Lightroom Basic adjustments have been set to the Lightroom defaults and the White Balance is using the As Shot White Balance setting (as recorded by the camera). I began by selecting the White Balance tool (Image) to click on a nonreflective neutral color. In this example I hovered the cursor over the clouds. Note that if the Auto Dismiss option is unchecked in the Toolbar, you can keep clicking to sample new white balance settings and press the Image key again to return the White Balance tool to the dock. The RGB percentage readouts where I had clicked with the White Balance tool now showed a more neutral balance.
  2. I dragged the Exposure slider to the right to lighten the image. When making this adjustment you simply adjust the Exposure until the image appears to have the right brightness. I didn’t need to worry too much about overdoing the Exposure as there was little risk of the highlight detail clipping.
  3. I then dragged the Contrast slider to the right to increase the tone contrast.
  4. Once the Exposure and Contrast had been set, I dragged the Highlights slider to the left in order to bring out more detail in the midtone to highlight regions of the photo.
  5. The Shadows slider allowed me to independently adjust the shadow to midtone regions. Here, I raised the Shadows in order to lighten the shadow tones.
  6. I now needed to fine-tune the highlight and shadow clipping points. To do this I adjusted the Whites and Blacks sliders as shown here. It is at this stage that it can be useful to hold down the Image key to see a threshold clipping preview for the whites and blacks. For example, it is usually best to allow the shadows to just start to clip. In this example you can see the threshold preview as I adjusted the Blacks slider.
  7. Here is the final version where you can see the result of the Whites and Blacks adjustment. Note I also added a small amount of Clarity.