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Develop module image editing

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC Book, author Martin Evening discusses smarter image processing with Lightroom, including how to use the Develop module interface, the Basic panel, the Tone Curve panel, and more.

The Basic panel

When working with the Basic panel tools, remember that you can click the inside panel edge and drag to adjust the width of the side panels. Figure 4.18 shows the Basic panel in normal and expanded form. A wider panel offers you more precision when dragging the sliders. If you also hold down the p0012_04.jpg key as you drag, you can drag the panel as wide as you like. (Incidentally, this width resizing is possible with all side panels.)

Figure 4.18

Figure 4.18 Lightroom panels can be expanded by dragging on the side edge.

White Balance tool

The Temp and Tint sliders in the White Balance (WB) section can be used to precisely adjust the white balance of a photograph. With these, you can color-correct most images or apply alternative white balances to your photos. There is also a White Balance tool. You can activate this by clicking it or by using the p0174_01.jpg shortcut. This unlocks the tool from its docked location and lets you click anywhere in the image to set a new white balance (Figure 4.19). The floating loupe magnifier provides an extreme close-up of the pixels you are measuring, which can really help you select the correct pixel reading. As you hover over an image, you will also see the RGB readout values for the point immediately beneath the pointer (Figure 4.20), as well as at the bottom of the Histogram panel. These RGB readings are shown as percentage values and can help you locate and check the color readings (if the RGB values are all close enough to the same value, the color can be regarded as neutral). You can also use the p0174_02.jpg (Mac) or p0174_03.jpg (PC) keyboard shortcut to apply Auto White Balance. If the Auto Dismiss option is disabled in the Toolbar (see Step 1), all you have to do is click p0174_01.jpg to activate the White Balance tool and continue clicking with the tool until you find the right setting. You can then use the p0172_01.jpg key or the p0174_01.jpg key again to cancel working with the White Balance tool and return it to its normal docked position in the Basic panel.

Figure 4.19

Figure 4.19 The White Balance tool undocked from the Basic panel.

Figure 4.20

Figure 4.20 A close-up view of the Loupe magnifier and RGB percentage readouts below.

  1. To make a white balance adjustment, I selected an area of the picture that was neutral in color (but not a bright white area). If the Auto Dismiss box (circled) in the Toolbar is checked, the White Balance tool automatically returns to its docked position in the Basic panel after a single click. If the Auto Dismiss box is unchecked, you can click and keep clicking with the White Balance tool until you are satisfied with the white balance adjustment that you have made.

  2. The Show Loupe check box allows you to toggle displaying the loupe that appears below the White Balance tool. You can adjust the loupe scale setting by dragging the slider next to the Show Loupe item in the Toolbar. This slider adjusts the sample grid pixel size, and dragging the slider to the right increases the number of pixels used when sampling a white balance point measurement. Increasing the pixel sample size can be beneficial if you want to aggregate the pixel readings more, such as when you are sampling a really noisy image and you do not want the white balance measurement to be unduly affected by the pixels that contain color noise or other artifacts.

White Balance corrections

In most shooting environments, once you have found the right white balance, all the other colors will tend to fit into place. You can help get the white balance right in-camera by choosing a fixed or Auto setting. Or, you can use a white balance or color checker chart (like the X-Rite/Gretag Macbeth ColorChecker chart shown in Figure 4.21) as a preparatory step that will help you make a more accurate, measured reading later in Lightroom. A camera Auto White Balance setting may do a good job, but it really depends on the camera you are using, because even the best cameras will not know how to handle every lighting situation. Figure 4.22 shows a scene with mixed lighting conditions. This photograph could be processed for either the exterior daylight or the tungsten lighting indoors, and each could be said to be correct. In situations like this, you cannot always rely on the camera’s Auto White Balance setting; you have to decide for yourself which setting works best. This is where the White Balance tool (p0176_01.jpg) can come in handy. The trick is to analyze the picture and look for an area in the scene that should be a neutral, nonspecular, textural highlight. Aim to select something that should be a neutral light gray. If you click on an area that is too bright, there may be some clipping in one or more of the color channels, which can result in a false white balance measurement and consequently make an inaccurate adjustment.

Figure 4.21

Figure 4.21 The X-Rite/Gretag Macbeth ColorChecker chart. To take a white balance reading in Lightroom, click the light gray patch next to the white patch.

Figure 4.22

Figure 4.22 This image shows two possible white balances: one measured for the indoor lighting (left) and one measured for the outside daylight (right).

Creative white balance adjustments

Who is to say if a correct white balance is any better than an incorrect one? Before digital capture and the ability to set accurate white balances, photographers could only choose between shooting with daylight-balanced or tungsten-balanced film emulsions. Most would simply accept whatever colors the film produced. With digital cameras, it is easy to set the white balance precisely. There may be times, such as when shooting catalog work, when it is critical to get the color exactly right from camera to screen to print. But you do not always have to obsess over the color temperature at the capture stage on every type of image. You have the freedom to interpret a master raw file any way you like, and can change the mood in a photograph completely by setting the white balance to an alternative, incorrect setting (Figure 4.23). The key point to emphasize here is that the White Balance controls are used to assign the white point as opposed to creating a white balance. Dragging the Temp slider to the right makes an image warmer and dragging to the left makes it cooler.

Figure 4.23

Figure 4.23 Consider the same image processed using two different white balance settings. It is often largely a matter of personal judgment when deciding which version you prefer, because neither example has what could be described as a “correct” white balance.

White balance and localized adjustments

The Basic panel White Balance tool takes into account locally applied white balance adjustments. For example, if you use the Graduated Filter tool to apply a cooling white balance, when you then click with the White Balance tool, it ignores localized Temp or Tint adjustments to ensure the pixels where you click are neutralized.

  1. I applied a cooling Temp adjusted Graduated Filter to the sky in this image.

  2. When I selected the White Balance tool and clicked the top half of the image, the new, calculated white balance adjustment ignored the locally applied Temp adjustment and applied a cooler white balance as if there were no filter effect.

Independent auto white balance adjustments

As well as selecting Auto from the White Balance menu, you can use the p0024_01.jpg key plus a double-click on the Temp and Tint sliders to set these independently.

  1. I opened this image in Lightroom, which currently shows the As Shot white balance.

  2. I held down the p0024_01.jpg key and double-clicked the Tint slider. This auto-set the Tint slider only to apply an auto-calculated “Tint only” White Balance setting.

The Basic panel tone-editing controls

The tone adjustment controls are designed to be applied in the order they appear listed in the Basic panel (Figure 4.24), although there is no reason why you can’t adjust them out of order, should you prefer. In the following section, I refer to the Version 4 slider controls (although these are exactly the same as Version 3). Here, then, is a summary of what the Basic Panel sliders do.

Figure 4.24

Figure 4.24 The Basic panel controls using Version 4.

Exposure

The Exposure slider is both a midtone brightness and highlight clipping adjustment. This means that when evaluating an image, you use the Exposure slider to adjust the image to make it the right brightness. You drag to the left to darken. However, if you set the Exposure too dark, you will not be exploiting the full tonal range of the highlight areas. As you drag to the right to lighten, the image becomes progressively lighter. As you approach the point where the highlights might potentially become clipped, the brightening adjustment smoothly ramps off toward the highlight end, which helps preserve detail in the highlight areas. As you push the Exposure slider further, only then will you start to clip the brightest highlights. Mainly, you want to use the Exposure to get the image brightness looking right. From there on, no matter what you do with the other tone sliders, the midpoint brightness value will not shift too much until you further adjust the Exposure slider.

The Exposure slider’s response correlates quite well to the way film behaves, but is also dependent on the image content. With Version 4, as you increase Exposure, there is more of a “soft clipping” of the highlights as the highlight clipping threshold point is reached. Additional increases in Exposure will see the highlights roll off smoothly instead of being clipped. As you further increase Exposure, you will, of course, see more and more pixels mapping to pure white, but overall, lightening Exposure adjustments should result in smoother highlights and reduced color shifts. You should also find that it provides you with about an extra stop of exposure latitude compared to editing with the Version 1/Version 2 Exposure slider.

If you hold down the p0012_04.jpg key as you drag the Exposure slider, you will see a threshold mode view, which indicates the highlight clipping. This may be seen as a useful guide to where clipping may be taking place, but I do not recommend you get too hung up about the highlight clipping when adjusting the Exposure. When using the Version 4 Exposure slider, you just need to judge the image brightness visually and reserve using the p0012_04.jpg key threshold view for when you adjust the Whites slider.

Contrast

The Contrast slider can be used to control the global contrast. As you drag the slider to the right, an increased contrast adjustment will make the shadows darker and the highlights lighter. Dragging the slider to the left reduces the contrast adjustment, making the shadows lighter and the highlights darker. The Contrast slider does adapt slightly according to each image and allows you to better differentiate the tone information in the tone areas that predominate. For low-key images, the midpoint is offset slightly toward the shadows, and with high-key images, the midpoint is offset toward the highlights. Figure 4.25 shows how the contrast adjustment range adapts for a low key and a high key image, where the midpoint will sometimes be offset, depending on the image content. Note that increasing the contrast in Lightroom does not produce the same kind of unusual color shifts that you sometimes see in Photoshop when you use Curves. This is because the Lightroom/Camera Raw processing manages to prevent such hue shifts as you increase the contrast.

Figure 4.25

Figure 4.25 Compare the effective Contrast curve range for the Contrast slider with a low key image (top) and high key image (below).

Essentially, you want to first use the Exposure slider to set the Exposure brightness, and then adjust the Contrast slider according to how much the tones in the image you are adjusting need compressing or expanding. The remaining sliders can then be used to make further tweaks after these two initial image adjustments have been made.

One of the things that tends to confuse some people is the fact that, in addition to there being a Contrast slider in the Basic panel, there is a separate Tone Curve panel that can be used to adjust the contrast. The adjustments you make using the Contrast slider in the Basic panel are a basic, preliminary kind of tone curve adjustment. The thing to appreciate here is that when you go to the Tone Curve panel (where the default curve is a linear curve shape), the adjustments you apply here are applied relative to the contrast adjustment that has already been applied in the Basic panel. The Tone Curve provides a secondary fine-tuning control.

Highlights and Shadows

The Highlights and Shadows sliders are symmetrical in the way they behave, allowing you to lighten or darken the highlight or shadow areas. For example, you can use a negative Highlights adjustment to restore more highlight detail, or a positive adjustment to deliberately blow out the highlights. These sliders only affect the tone regions on either side of the midtone point. To be precise, the range of these sliders does extend beyond the midtone value, but the greatest effect is concentrated in the highlight tones for the Highlights slider and the shadow tones for the Shadows slider. Adjustments in the +/– 50% range will have a normal type effect when lightening or darkening, but as you apply adjustments that are greater than this, the lightening or darkening adjustments are applied via a halo mask (this is similar to the method used in HDR tone mapping). The thing to watch out for here is that as you apply a strong effect, the underlying halos can become noticeable. The goal has been to make the halo mask as unobtrusive as possible. For the most part, it is quite well disguised, but when pushed to extremes, it can be possible to detect halos.

Typically, after setting the Exposure and Contrast, you will then use the Highlights and Shadows sliders to enhance the highlight and shadow areas as necessary. Here again, it is possible to hold down the p0012_04.jpg key to reveal a threshold view as you adjust the Highlights and Shadows sliders. There may be some potential value in doing so at this stage, but I would urge you to mainly judge the appearance of the preview image for the nuances that can be achieved in the shadow and highlight regions rather than what a threshold analysis is telling you. The Highlights and Shadows controls also inform the whites and blacks how much tonal compression or expansion has been applied and the Whites and Blacks controls will adjust their ranges automatically taking this into account.

Whites and Blacks

In many cases, the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows adjustments may be all that are needed to make a good tone correction. Meanwhile, the Whites and Blacks sliders should be regarded as fine-tuning adjustments that are usually adjusted last. Here, it can definitely be useful to hold down the p0012_04.jpg key to reveal a threshold view, as this will allow you to set the white and black clipping points more precisely. To darken the blacks, drag the Blacks slider to the left and drag to the right when you wish to lighten. Blacks adjustments are auto-calculated based on the contrast range of each individual image. The Blacks range is adaptive and auto-calculated based on the image content. Where you have a low-contrast image, the Blacks adjustment will become increasingly aggressive as you drag the Blacks slider toward a –100 value. This means that you end up with more range, but at the expense of some precision as you attempt to crush the darkest tones.

Auto Whites and Blacks adjustments

The Whites and Blacks sliders support auto-levels-like functionality. You can p0024_01.jpg + double-click on either of these sliders to independently auto-set the Whites and Blacks adjustments. More specifically, when using this method, Lightroom analyzes the image and computes the Whites or Blacks value needed to just begin to clip. This is not quite the same as applying a standard Auto Tone adjustment, as the auto adjustment is recalculated based on all other adjustment settings that have been applied and also takes into account things like cropping and Lens Corrections and excludes pixels that are not currently visible from the auto calculation. Therefore, if there are some dark shadows in your image, but these become cropped, when you double-click the Whites and Blacks sliders, these settings will be re-evaluated when making a new auto calculation, as the following example shows.

  1. I started with a full-frame view of a photograph and then p0024_01.jpg + double-clicked the Whites and Blacks sliders to auto-set the Whites and Blacks sliders.

  2. I then cropped the image to focus more on the eagle’s head. When I p0024_01.jpg + double-clicked the Whites and Blacks sliders again, different values were computed based on the tighter image crop.

General Auto Tone adjustments

The Auto Tone setting (p0184_01.jpg [Mac] or p0184_02.jpg [PC]) can work well on a great many images as a quick-fix tone adjustment (circled in Figure 4.26). It automatically sets the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. And, as just mentioned, you can also use p0184_01a.jpg plus a double-click to auto-set 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 p0184_03.jpg (Mac) or p0184_04.jpg (PC) shortcut to reset everything. In addition, the Auto Exposure preset has been improved over a number of versions of Lightroom. The results you see should be more consistent from image to image, as well as more consistent across different image output sizes (as set in the Workflow options). For the most part, you should find that the Auto Exposure results appear to produce more or less the same results as in earlier versions of Lightroom. However, with over-bright images, the auto-setting results will now be noticeably tamer.

Figure 4.26

Figure 4.26 The Auto Tone button (circled) can be used to apply an instant auto correction.

An Auto Tone 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. It is unfair to expect an automatic function such as this to perform flawlessly every time, but for the most part, I do find the Auto Tone can still be a bit hit or miss. Auto Tone can sometimes produce decent automatic adjustments and provide an okay starting point for newly imported photos. However, you may often see less-than-perfect results. Photographs of general subjects—such as landscapes, portraits, and most photos shot using the camera auto-exposure settings—may be improved by using Auto Tone. However, subjects shot under controlled lighting conditions, such as studio shots, can often look worse. A lot of the time it really depends on the type of photography that you do as to whether an Auto Tone adjustment can help or not. Even if Auto Tone does not always produce perfect results, what it does produce can often be a useful starting point for making further edit adjustments.

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.

Basic panel adjustments workflow

  1. To start with, I selected the White Balance tool (p0174_01.jpg) and clicked a nonreflective neutral color to set the white balance. The RGB percentage readouts where I clicked with the White Balance tool now show a more neutral color balance.

  2. I dragged the Exposure slider to the right to lighten the image slightly.

  3. I then dragged the Contrast slider to the left to decrease the tone contrast.

  4. Once the Exposure and Contrast had been set, I dragged the Highlights slider to the left to bring out more detail in the midtone to highlight regions of the photo.

  5. Here, I dragged the Shadows slider to the right 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. At this stage, it can be useful to hold down the p0012_04.jpg key to see a threshold clipping preview for the whites and blacks. 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. In this final version, you can see the result of the Whites and Blacks adjustment. I also added +15 Clarity to boost the midtone contrast and added +12 Vibrance.

Histogram panel

When you are in the Develop module, the Histogram panel is displayed in the top-right corner. (The Library Module also contains a Histogram panel, but the histogram in the Develop module has more direct relevance when you’re making Develop adjustments.) Basically, the Histogram panel provides you with information about the distribution of the levels in an image and the means to turn the clipping previews for the shadows and highlights on or off. These previews indicate where there might be any shadow or highlight clipping in the image. You can either roll over or click the buttons circled in Figure 4.27 or press p0188_02.jpg to toggle displaying the clipping preview. A solid blue color overlay in the preview image indicates where there is shadow clipping, such as the on the chimneys in Figure 4.27, and the solid red overlay color indicates any highlight clipping, such as on the lighthouse and building fronts in the example. The clipping warning triangles themselves also indicate which colors in the red, green, or blue channels (or combination of channels) are initially being clipped most; the triangle colors eventually change to white as all three channels become clipped. If you want to hide the Histogram panel, you can use the p0188_03.jpg (Mac) or p0188_04.jpg (PC) shortcut to toggle collapsing and expanding this panel. In the case of the Figure 4.27 image, the clipping preview showed blue channel clipping in the shadows and yellow (red and green color channel) clipping in the highlight regions.

Figure 4.27

Figure 4.27 The Histogram panel with the clipping warning triangles highlighted.

If you are editing an imported JPEG, PNG, PSD, or TIFF image, the Lightroom histogram represents the tone range based on the file’s native color space. If, however, you are editing a raw capture, there are no gamut constraints until you export the image as a JPEG, TIFF, or PSD file, at which point the gamut space limit is determined by the choice of RGB output space. The sRGB space has a small gamut, and some of the colors may be clipped when you export. Display P3 matches the color gamut of the latest Mac screens and is a little bigger than sRGB. Adobe RGB is a popular, commonly used color space. ProPhoto RGB has the widest gamut of all. Incidentally, Lightroom uses a wide-gamut RGB space similar to ProPhoto RGB to do all the image calculations, and the histogram and RGB percentage readouts are based on this native Lightroom RGB space. To find out more about the Lightroom RGB space, please refer to the book’s website.

As you roll the pointer over an image, the Histogram display changes from displaying the camera data information to showing the RGB values (Figure 4.28). The Histogram information is useful, though only if you know how to interpret it correctly. For example, if you shoot using raw mode, the histogram display on a digital camera is misleading because it is based on what a JPEG capture would record, and the dynamic range of a JPEG capture will always be less than that available from a raw file. If you are shooting raw, the only way to tell if there is any clipping is to inspect the raw image in Lightroom or via Camera Raw in Photoshop. In other words, do not let the camera histogram unduly sway your judgment if you have good reason to believe the camera exposure you are shooting with is correct.

Figure 4.28

Figure 4.28 A Histogram panel view showing the RGB values.

The Histogram panel and image adjustments

As you adjust an image, you can observe how this affects the image levels in the Histogram panel. In Figure 4.29, notice how as the Exposure was increased, the levels expanded to the right. Also, as it was increased, the highlights did not clip any further and the midtones were brightened. But, if you push the Exposure adjustment to extremes, the highlights will eventually be forced to clip. You may also find it useful to reference the Histogram panel when adjusting images that appear to be overexposed. As you decrease the Exposure slider, more information should appear in the highlights, and this will be reflected in the histogram display (Figure 4.30). However, the ability to recover highlight detail in this way mostly only applies when processing raw images.

Figure 4.29

Figure 4.29 In the Histogram panel view on the left, the highlights needed to be expanded to fill the width of the histogram. In the example on the right, I adjusted the Exposure slider to make the image brighter.

Figure 4.30

Figure 4.30 The Histogram panel view on the left shows the histogram of an overexposed image with shadow and highlight clipping. The example on the right shows how the histogram looked after applying negative Exposure and Highlights adjustments.

Lightroom also provides optional Lab color readouts. To enable this, right-click in the Histogram panel to access the context menu shown in Figure 4.31 and select the Show Lab Color Values option. As you hover over the image, you will now see Lab values in place of an RGB readout. With this enabled, you might, for example, want to aim for even a* and b* values when evaluating skintones. However, when soft proofing is switched on, the readout display will always default to RGB values.

Figure 4.31

Figure 4.31 The Histogram context menu with the Show Lab Color Values menu option.

The histogram is more than just an information display. You can also use it to actively adjust the following Basic panel tone slider controls: Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. As you roll the pointer over the histogram, you will see each of these sections highlighted (Figure 4.32). And if you click and drag left or right inside the Histogram panel, you can use this as an alternative way to adjust the Basic panel sliders. You can also double-click these areas of the histogram to reset the values.

Figure 4.32

Figure 4.32 You can click different sections of the histogram and drag right or left to increase or decrease the setting represented by that particular section of the histogram.

Navigating the Basic panel via the keyboard

You can use the p0191_01.jpg and p0191_02.jpg keys (or you could refer to these as the p0191_03.jpg and p0191_04.jpg keys) to cycle backward or forward through the Basic panel settings, making each active in turn. When a setting is selected, you can use the p0103_15.jpg and p0103_05.jpg keys to increase or decrease the unit settings. Holding down the p0024_01.jpg key when tapping the p0191_05.jpg keys uses larger increments, while holding down the p0012_04.jpg key uses smaller increments. As you do this, you will also see an overlay appear in the content area indicating the adjustments being made (Figure 4.33).

Figure 4.33

Figure 4.33 A Basic panel settings overlay.

Correcting overexposed images

Lightroom has the ability to reveal highlight detail that might otherwise be hidden. You can often recover seemingly lost highlight information by combining a negative Exposure adjustment with a negative Highlights slider adjustment. Although Lightroom can recover the highlight detail on most images, it has a limited effect on pixel-based images such as JPEGs, PNGs, or TIFFs. This technique produces the best results on raw images, because Lightroom is able to use all of the luminosity information contained in a raw file that is simply waiting for you to access it. In the accompanying example, I was able to recover just over one stop of overexposure, but in some instances it may be possible to recover as much as two stops.

How this works is that Lightroom features an internal technology called highlight recovery, which is designed to help recover luminance and color data in the highlight regions whenever the highlight pixels are partially clipped—in other words, when one or more of the red, green, and blue channels are partially clipped, but not all three channels are affected. The highlight recovery process initially looks for luminance detail in the non-missing channel or channels and uses this to build luminance detail in the clipped channel or channels. After that, Lightroom applies a darkening curve to the highlight region only and, in doing so, brings out more detail in the highlight areas with good highlight color rendering that preserves the partial color relationships, as well as the luminance texture in the highlights. There is also less tendency for color detail to quickly fade to neutral gray. This technology is designed to work best with raw files, although JPEG images can sometimes benefit too (but not so much).

The ability to recover overexposed highlight detail is also dependent on the capture abilities of the sensor. Not all sensors are the same, and with some cameras you do have to be very careful not to overexpose. If the highlights are completely blown out in the original image, you will never be able to recover all the detail completely, but using Version 4 (or Version 3), I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the difference when reprocessing some of your older Version 1/Version 2 shots. Figure 4.34 shows a direct comparison between working in Version 2 and working in Version 4 on an image where the highlights were burned out (and you cannot get much more burned out than shooting directly into the sun).

Figure 4.34

Figure 4.34 Compare an extreme highlight recovery in Version 2 (top) and Version 4 (bottom).

It is often better to optimize the camera exposure to capture as much of the shadow detail as possible, but without overexposing to the point where you are unable to process important highlight information. I will often ignore the camera or light-meter readings and deliberately overexpose at the time of capture in order to record the maximum amount of levels information and use the combination of negative Exposure and Highlights adjustments when processing the image in Lightroom.

  1. This overexposed photograph was initially processed using the default Basic panel settings in the Develop module. The histogram showed severe clipping in the highlights, and you can see here how there is not much detail in the lightest areas. A histogram like this can appear disconcerting until you realize that there is more information contained in the image than appears at first sight.

  2. The main treatment for an overexposed photo is to apply a combination of negative Exposure and Highlights adjustments, though I mainly used the Exposure slider to achieve the desired darkening.

Correcting underexposed images

Underexposed images present a bigger problem because there will be fewer levels available for you to manipulate, particularly in the shadows. However, the Basic panel controls in Lightroom can be used to brighten an image and lift out the shadow detail. The way you need to approach this is to start by dragging the Exposure slider to the right until the image appears to have about the right brightness. As you do so, do not worry too much about the shadows, because the next step will be to adjust the Shadows slider by dragging this to the right to bring out more detail in the shadow regions of the image. Beyond that, it is all about fine-tuning the remaining sliders. In the example shown here, I needed to reduce the Highlights to preserve tonal detail in the highlight areas, and I also needed to adjust the Blacks slider to compensate for the Shadows adjustment and maintain the right amount of contrast in the darker areas. You will also want to watch out for deteriorating shadow detail, as brightening up a dark photo can reveal problems in the shadows such as tone banding and noise. See Chapter 6 for advice on how best to handle such situations.

  1. To begin with, this image was underexposed and the Basic panel settings remained at the default 0 settings.

  2. I dragged the Exposure slider to the right, which lightened the image considerably. But because I was lightening for the midpoint, this adjustment also over-brightened the highlight areas. To compensate for this, I applied a negative Highlights adjustment. I also added a positive Shadows adjustment to lighten the dark areas of the photo. Finally, I applied a small negative Blacks adjustment to ensure the shadows were clipped correctly. The end result is a photo that is perfectly usable (considering how dark it was before). However, lightening such a dark original will also amplify the noise, which may be especially noticeable in the deep shadow areas.

Match Total Exposures

You can use the Match Total Exposures command to match the exposure brightness across a series of images that have been selected via the Filmstrip. Match Total Exposures calculates a match value by analyzing and combining the shutter speed, the lens aperture, the ISO, and any camera-set exposure compensation. It then factors in all these camera-set values, combines them with the desired exposure value (as set in the most selected image), and calculates new Lightroom exposure values for all the other selected images. I find this technique can often be used to help average out the exposure brightness in a series of photos where the light levels have gone up and down during a shoot, or where there is a variance in the strobe flash output. The former chief Lightroom architect Mark Hamburg also liked to describe this as a “de-bracketing” command. Basically, if you highlight an individual image in a series and select Match Total Exposures, the other images in that selection will automatically be balanced to match the exposure of the target image.

  1. To begin, I made a selection of photographs in the Library module Grid view. As you can see, the light levels varied quite a bit when I shot this photo sequence.

  2. I selected the photo with the most correct-looking exposure and made this the most selected, target image. I went to the Develop module and chose Match Total Exposures from the Settings menu (p0197_02.jpg [Mac] or p0197_03.jpg [PC]).

  3. In the Library Grid view, you can see the exposure appearance of the selected photos is now more evenly balanced compared to the Library Grid view in Step 1.

Highlight clipping and Exposure settings

The main objective when optimizing an image is to ensure that the fullest tonal range can be reproduced in print. With this in mind, it is vitally important you set the highlights correctly. If the highlights are clipped, you risk losing important highlight detail in the finished print. And if you don’t clip them enough, you will end up with flat-looking prints that lack sparkle.

When setting the Exposure and Whites sliders, you need to be aware of the difference between reflective and nonreflective highlights and how the highlight clipping you apply affects the way the image will eventually print. The two examples shown in Figure 4.35 help explain these differences. A reflective highlight (also referred to as a specular highlight) is a shiny highlight, such as the light reflecting off a glass or metal surface, and contains no highlight detail. It is therefore advisable to clip these highlights so that they are the brightest part of the picture and are printed using the maximum paper white value. In Figure 4.35, the metal sculpture has plenty of reflective highlights, and you would want to make sure these were clipped when making an Exposure adjustment. Nonreflective highlights (also known as nonspecular highlights) need to be treated more carefully. These mostly contain important detail that needs to be preserved. Each print process varies, but in general, whether you are printing to a CMYK press or printing via a desktop inkjet printer, if the nonreflective highlights are set too close to the point where the highlights start to clip, there is a risk that any important detail in these highlights may print as paper white.

Figure 4.35

Figure 4.35 The top image mostly has reflective highlights that do not contain any detail. In the lower image, the lightest areas are the building and carriages. These contain nonreflective highlights that should not get clipped.

It is not too difficult learning how to set the Exposure and Whites sliders correctly. Basically, you just need to be aware of the difference between a reflective and nonreflective highlight, and the clipping issues involved. Most photos will contain at least a few reflective highlights. In practice, I use the highlight clipping preview when adjusting the Whites slider (discussed on page 187) to analyze where the highlight clipping is taking place and toggle between the clipping preview and the Normal image preview to determine if these highlights contain important detail. Alternatively, you can use the clipping warning in the Histogram panel as a guide as to when the highlights are about to become clipped. I usually adjust the Whites slider so that the reflective highlights are slightly clipped, but at the same time, I carefully check the nonreflective highlights to make sure these are protected. To do this, I will either reduce the Highlights slider to protect the highlights or (more likely) adjust the Whites slider so that the reflective highlights are a little less bright than the brightest white.

Clipping the blacks

Setting the blacks is not nearly as critical as adjusting the highlight clipping. It all boils down to a simple question of how much you want to clip the shadows. Do you want to clip them a little, or do you want to clip them a lot?

There is no need to set the shadow point to a specific black value that is lighter than a 0 black unless you are working toward a specific, known print output. Even then, this should not really be necessary, because both Lightroom and Photoshop are able to automatically compensate the shadow point every time you send a file to a desktop printer, or each time you convert an image to CMYK. Just remember this: Lightroom’s internal color management system always ensures that the blackest blacks you set in the Basic panel faithfully print as black and preserve all the shadow detail. When you convert an image to CMYK in Photoshop, the color management system in Photoshop similarly makes sure the blackest blacks are translated to a black value that will print successfully on the press.

On page 187, I showed an example of how to use a clipping preview to analyze the shadows and determine where to set the clipping point with the Blacks slider. In this example, the objective was to clip the blacks just a little so as to maximize the tonal range between the shadows and the highlights. It is rarely a good idea to clip the highlights unnecessarily, but clipping the shadows can be done to enhance the contrast. Figure 4.36 shows an example of deliberately clipping the shadows in an image to go to black. A great many photographers have built their style of photography around the use of deep blacks in their photographs. For example, photographer Greg Gorman regularly processes his black-and-white portraits so that the photographs he shoots against black are printed with a solid black backdrop. Some photographs, such as Figure 4.37, may contain important information in the shadows. In this example, a lot of information in the shadow region needs to be preserved. The last thing I would want to do here would be to clip the blacks too aggressively, as this might result in important shadow detail becoming lost.

Figure 4.36

Figure 4.36 In this photo, the Blacks slider was dragged to the left to deliberately clip the shadows to black.

Figure 4.37

Figure 4.37 Here is an example of a photograph with predominantly dark tones. When adjusting this photo, it would be important to make sure the blacks were not clipped any more than necessary to produce good, strong blacks in the picture.

Creating HDR photos using Photo Merge

The Photo Merge feature can be used to process raw or non-raw images to generate either high dynamic range (HDR) or panorama images, which are saved as master DNG files. Let’s start though by looking at how Photo Merge can be used to create HDR DNGs.

The principles here are the same as when using the Merge to HDR Pro method in Photoshop. You need to select two or more photos of a subject that has been photographed using different exposure settings and shot using the same format—either raw or JPEG. You can even use the Photo Merge feature when only Smart Previews are available. The photographs need to be shot from the same position, ideally, with the camera firmly mounted on a tripod. When making the exposures, the lens aperture must remain fixed, and you adjust the exposure only by varying the time duration. You can shoot a bracketed sequence of two, three, five, or seven images, where the exposures can be bracketed in two-stop increments (or even wider). According to the engineers, a DNG Photo Merge can be really effective when processing just two image exposures; for example, you might have a landscape subject and one capture is exposed for the ground and the other for the sky.

Creating an HDR Photo Merge from raw file originals can produce a merged DNG master image that extends the dynamic range and preserves the image data in a raw state. It can be argued that many raw images do already have a high dynamic range. Consequently, there should not necessarily be a huge difference when editing Photo Merge HDR photos compared to regular raw photos. The results you get using HDR Photo Merge in Lightroom will be slightly different from using Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop. This is to be expected because the processing technique is not exactly the same. Therefore, you will find the results you get in Lightroom may be better, or they can sometimes be worse.

To create an HDR Photo Merge, select two or more photos to merge; both must be in Version 4. If not, make sure you update them to the latest process version. Having done that, choose Photo ➯ Photo Merge ➯ HDR, or use the p0200_01.jpg shortcut. To open in “headless” mode, use p0200_02.jpg. In “headless” mode, Lightroom processes the photos automatically without showing the HDR Merge Preview dialog (and processes the images based on the last used settings). Otherwise, you will see the dialog shown in Step 2 (see page 202), where you have the option to edit the HDR Photo Merge settings. If the photos were shot handheld, you will need to select the Auto Align option (the auto alignment has been improved in this latest version of Lightroom).

If Auto Tone is unchecked, default Develop settings will be applied and these will be based on the most selected photo. When Auto Tone is checked, Lightroom applies a suitable Auto Tone adjustment during the Photo Merge HDR DNG creation process. If settings have already been applied to the source images, some of these will be copied to the resulting HDR DNG, but not all. In the case of an HDR Photo Merge, existing Basic panel tone adjustments, Tone Curve adjustments, localized corrections, plus Upright and Crop adjustments will not be copied, but other settings will be.

The resulting DNGs from an HDR Photo Merge will be saved as 16-bit floating point files (Figure 4.38), where the merged data will be raw linear RGB data. If the source images used in a Photo Merge come from multiple folders, the resulting DNG file will be created in the same folder as the first image in the selected set. The HDR DNG files can be quite large in size. You could argue these are not truly raw files, but DNGs produced this way are still mostly unprocessed and allow you to make creative color and tone decisions via the Lightroom Develop module. You also retain the flexibility to reprocess the resulting HDR DNG files any time you like and apply later process versions. Essentially, you can merge raw files to create an unprocessed master where you can then fine-tune the settings at the post-Photo Merge stage, adjusting things like the white balance and endpoint clipping.

Figure 4.38

Figure 4.38 The Metadata panel in DNG mode showing DNG information for a Photo Merge HDR DNG file.

Deghost Amount options

It is crucial to avoid anything in the scene moving between exposures. Some cloud movement can be okay, providing the clouds haven’t moved too much. Where subject movement is likely to be a problem, such as with moving water and trees, the Lightroom Photo Merge deghosting algorithm can help reduce ghosting artifacts.

When creating a Photo Merge HDR, you can click on one of the four buttons ranging from None to High (Figure 4.39) to apply the desired level of deghosting. In this particular example, I merged three bracketed exposures where there was movement in some of the trees and water between each exposure. I selected the Low Deghost Amount option and checked the Show Deghost Overlay option. This highlighted in red the areas where the deghosting would be applied. (On the Mac, use p0171_01.jpg to turn the overlay on or off and use p0171_02.jpg to cycle through the available overlay colors.)

Figure 4.39

Figure 4.39 This shows a close-up of the Deghost Amount options plus examples of the Photo Merge HDR dialog preview without and with the Show Deghost Overlay options checked.

It is recommended that you enable deghosting only when it is necessary to do so. The Lightroom Photo Merge method may utilize more than one image to deghost the resulting HDR. When it works, it is great, but when it doesn’t, this can sometimes lead to unwanted artifacts in the final image, so it is best to leave it at the default None setting if you don’t need it.

  1. I went to the Library module and selected the two photos shown here. There was a four stops exposure difference between each of these captures. In the Library module, I chose Photo ➯ Photo Merge ➯ HDR.

  2. In the HDR Merge Preview dialog, I checked Auto Tone to apply an auto adjustment. Because this scene featured fast flowing water, I selected a Medium Deghost setting with Show Deghost Overlay checked.

  3. I clicked the Merge button in the Photo Merge – HDR dialog to create a DNG HDR master, which was automatically added to the catalog. The DNG I created was named based on the most selected image in the photo selection, with an –HDR suffix to distinguish it from the source images. In this example, an Auto Tone Develop adjustment was applied. You may want to fine-tune these settings though. For example, with this image I also adjusted the HSL panel settings and applied a lens correction to the image.

Creating panorama photos using Photo Merge

You can also use the Photo Merge feature to create DNG panoramas from raw as well as non-raw files. The resulting files are 16-bit integer DNGs. Like the HDR DNGs, these are demosaiced DNGs saved as raw linear RGB data (Figure 4.40). What distinguishes these from regular DNG files is the fact they don’t have mosaic data, but do have transparency data. Although the images are partially processed, you still retain the ability to apply Develop module edits and update to later process versions as they become available.

Figure 4.40

Figure 4.40 The Metadata panel in DNG mode with a Photo Merge Panorama DNG file selected.

One of the things I have noticed with a conventional Photoshop Photomerge workflow is how the Photomerge processing can often cause the highlight values to clip. You may carefully set the highlight end points at the pre-Photomerge stage, only to find they become clipped in the resulting Photomerge composite. Therefore, being able to preserve the raw data when using the panorama Photo Merge in Lightroom allows you to avoid this problem completely, maintaining full control over the tones, and avoid undesired clipping. Because you have the ability to use Photo Merge in Lightroom to create HDR DNGs, you can also produce panoramas that are made up of HDR DNG files. However, the file sizes can end up being really huge if you adopt this approach, and it may take longer to carry out all the processing. For optimum alignment, it is best to carry out the HDR Photo Merge first, and then apply the panorama Photo Merge after.

To create a regular Photo Merge panorama, you first need to select a series of photographs that together make up a panoramic view. Then, go to the Photo menu and choose Photo Merge ➯ Panorama (p0204_01.jpg). You can use p0204_02.jpg to open Photo Merge in “headless” mode, without showing the Panorama Merge Preview dialog (and process the images based on the last used settings). Otherwise, you will see the dialog shown in Step 2 (see page 206), where you have the option to adjust the projection method and other settings.

When photographing a panorama sequence, it helps for you to have a decent overlap between each capture. There should be at least 25% overlap, or more if shooting with a wide-angle lens. It helps if you have the camera mounted on a tripod when you capture these; better yet, use a special tripod head that allows you to align the nodal point of the lens to the rotation axis. But you can certainly get good-enough results shooting handheld. Ideally, the exposure setting should be consistent, but even if the photos are captured with a variance of exposure, the Photo Merge process can even these out to a certain extent. Lens warp, vignette, and chromatic aberration are automatically applied to the images behind the scenes before stitching, so such settings in the source images are ignored and not copied to the resulting panorama DNG. Other adjustments, such as Basic panel, Tone Curve panel, Lens Corrections panel defringe adjustments, and color adjustments, are copied, but Upright and Crop adjustments aren’t included.

Panorama projection options

The Panorama Merge Preview projection options are shown in Figure 4.41. In most cases, Photo Merge auto-selects the best method and will give the best results. It may also better preserve image content in individual photos such as birds flying in the sky. But the auto-selected projection method won’t always be the best one, so it is often good to check the alternatives. Perspective mode can produce good results when processing images that were shot using a moderate wide-angle lens or longer, although wider-angle lens captures can produce distorted-looking results. Perspective is the best option to choose for architectural subjects, which can then be successfully corrected using the Transform panel controls. Cylindrical mode ensures that photos are correctly aligned to the horizontal axis. This mode is particularly appropriate when merging single rows of photographs that make up a super-wide panorama. Spherical mode transforms the photos both horizontally and vertically. This mode is more adaptable when it comes to aligning tricky panoramic sequences. So, for example, when you shoot a sequence of images that consists of two or more rows, the Spherical projection mode may produce better results than the Cylindrical method.

Figure 4.41

Figure 4.41 The Projection options in the Panorama Merge Preview dialog.

  1. To demonstrate the Panorama Merge Preview function, I selected the three photographs that are shown here in the Library module Survey view mode. I then went to the Photo menu and selected Photo Merge ➯ Panorama.

  2. This opened the Panorama Merge Preview dialog, where I could select the desired projection and preview the results before committing to creating a full Photo Merge. In this instance, Photo Merge auto-selected the Cylindrical option.

  3. I set the Boundary Warp slider to 50% to warp the image to make the boundary fit the surrounding rectangular frame (Boundary Warp is discussed in the following section). I then clicked the Merge button.

  4. Lightroom created a full Photo Merge Panorama DNG, renamed based on the most selected image in the photo selection, adding a –Pano suffix. The Develop settings applied here were based on whatever was the most selected photo in Step 1. I also added Guided Upright adjustments to correct the perspective.

  5. Finally, I went to the Basic panel in the Develop module and adjusted the Tone and Color settings to produce the finished version shown here.

Panorama Photo Merge performance

Panorama Photo Merges have been optimized to run up to twice as fast compared with the previous version of Lightroom, plus you can now create panorama Photo Merges when only Smart Previews are available. Multiple merge operations are added to a queue for better management. However, queued jobs are only initiated when the CPU usage is below a tolerable limit. Panorama Photo Merges also respect localized adjustments, such as spot removal work that has been applied before merging. For example, if you have a dirty sensor, you can use the Spot removal tool and sync the edits across all the frames before you merge them. This might save you time carrying out repeat spotting work on the final merged image.

Boundary Warp slider

You can adjust the Boundary Warp slider to preserve image content near the boundary that might otherwise be lost due to cropping. Higher amounts cause the boundary of the panorama to fit more closely to the surrounding rectangular frame. This can be beneficial when processing landscape panoramas, although it may cause some noticeable distortion if applied to architectural subjects. However, Lightroom-generated panoramas contain the necessary metadata to allow them to be perspective-corrected using the Adaptive Wide Angle filter in Photoshop CC.

  1. In this example, I selected six photographs in Lightroom and chose Photo ➯ Photo Merge ➯ Panorama. This opened the Panorama Merge Preview dialog and auto-selected the Cylindrical projection option.

  2. I adjusted the Boundary Warp slider to 100 to get the boundary to fit the surrounding rectangular frame, and clicked Merge.

  3. For the final panorama, I edited the image using the Transform panel, adding a couple of Graduated Filters plus Basic panel tone and color adjustments.

Clarity slider

The Presence section in the Basic panel includes the Clarity slider, which is essentially a local area contrast adjustment control. The Clarity effect is achieved by creating variable amounts of contrast by adding soft halos to the edges in a photograph. This builds up the contrast in the midtone areas based on the edge detail in the image. The halos are generated with the same underlying tone mask algorithm that is utilized for the Highlights and Shadows sliders, which makes the halos less noticeable. The net effect is that a positive Clarity adjustment boosts the apparent contrast in the midtones but does so without affecting the overall global contrast. Normally, you would want to start with a Clarity setting of around 10 so as not to overdo the effect too much. But as you increase the Amount, this strengthens the midtone contrast, which in turn makes the midtone areas appear more crisp.

  1. This Fit view magnification shows a photograph of an old tractor with the Clarity slider at the default 0 setting.

  2. For comparison, I set the Clarity slider to +100. The reason I took the slider all the way to the maximum setting was to create the most dramatic difference between this and the previous screen shot. You can see much more midtone contrast in the texture of the rust and lichen.

Images that benefit from adding Clarity

All image adjustments are destructive. So, one way or another, you will end up either expanding the tones in an image, which stretches the levels farther apart, or compressing the tones by squeezing the levels closer together. Where tone areas become compressed and portions of the tone curve become flattened, you consequently lose some of the tonal separation that was in the original. A positive Clarity adjustment can, therefore, be used to expand areas of flat tone and enhance detail that was in the original capture image. The kinds of photos that benefit most from adding Clarity are those that have soft midtone contrast where you want to make the image look more contrasty, but without causing the shadows or highlights to clip. For example, when I use the Soft Proofing feature and preview photos that are to be printed on a matte paper, I find it helps to increase the Clarity to counter the lack of contrast seen in the preview image.

Negative Clarity adjustments

A negative Clarity adjustment does the exact opposite of a positive Clarity adjustment. It softens the midtones and does so in a way that produces an effect not too dissimilar to a traditional darkroom diffusion printing technique (see steps below). The net result is that you can create some quite beautiful diffuse soft-focus image effects, and negative clarity is particularly suited to black-and-white photography.

  1. With the Clarity set to 0, this is a nice picture with lots of sharp detail, but it is also a good example to show the pseudo-diffusion printing technique.

  2. In this step, I applied a –90 Clarity adjustment. As you can see, the negative Clarity adjustment created a kind of diffuse printing effect.

Vibrance and Saturation

The Vibrance and Saturation sliders are located at the bottom of the Basic panel in the Presence section (Figure 4.42). Both can be used to adjust the saturation in an image. The main difference between the two is that the Saturation slider applies a linear adjustment to the color saturation, whereas a Vibrance adjustment uses a nonlinear approach. In plain English, this means that when you increase the Vibrance, the less saturated colors get more of a Saturation boost than those colors that are already saturated. This can be of a real practical benefit when you are applying a Saturation adjustment to a picture and you want to make the softer colors look richer, but you do not want to boost the color saturation at the expense of losing important detail in the already bright colors. The other benefit of working with Vibrance is that it has a built-in Caucasian skin color protector that filters out colors that fall within the skin color range. This can be useful if you are editing a portrait and you want to boost the color of someone’s clothing, but at the same time, you do not want to oversaturate the skin tones.

Figure 4.42

Figure 4.42 The Basic panel with the Vibrance and Saturation sliders located at the bottom.

With most photographs, Vibrance is the only saturation control you will want to use. However, the Saturation slider still remains useful, because a Saturation adjustment can be used to make big shifts to the saturation, such as when you want to dramatically boost the colors in a photograph or remove colors completely. Figure 4.43 shows some examples of Saturation and Vibrance adjustments.

Figure 4.43

Figure 4.43 A comparison of Vibrance and Staturation slider adjustments.

The main thing to understand is that a positive Saturation adjustment will boost all colors equally. In the example shown in Figure 4.43, it made all the colors equally more saturated and as a consequence, there was some color clipping in the red nose of the mandrill monkey. In the version next to it, I increased the Vibrance to +100. This resulted in an image where the reds in the nose did not receive such a big color boost, but the other colors, which were less saturated to begin with, did receive a major boost in saturation. However, they were not oversaturated to the point where any of the color channels were clipped. This shows how the Vibrance adjustment can be effective in preserving more tonal detail as you boost the color saturation. Dragging the sliders the other way, a full negative Saturation adjustment will desaturate all the colors completely, whereas a negative Vibrance can be used to gently desaturate a photo. As you can see, a negative Vibrance of –100 produced a subtle, desaturated look. Ultimately, many images can benefit from a small Vibrance boost, although in this example, because I really wanted to emphasize the colors in the mandrill’s face, I felt the optimum adjustment would be +50 Vibrance. This is much more Vibrance than I would apply generally, but it seemed an appropriate setting to use for this particular photograph.

Quick Develop panel tone adjustments

All the Develop controls discussed so far are also accessible via the Quick Develop panel in the Library module (Figure 4.44). To see all the controls shown here, you need to click the expansion arrows on the right. To restore an adjustment to its default setting, click the name of the adjustment. Using the Quick Develop panel, you can apply Basic panel tone and color adjustments without having to leave the Library module. Quick Develop adjustments can be applied to multiple selected images in a Grid view or in the Filmstrip. But the main difference with Quick Develop is that Quick Develop adjustments are always applied relative to the current Develop settings. For example, if you select a number of images that have already had different Exposure settings applied to them, you can use the Exposure buttons in Quick Develop to make those photos relatively lighter or darker (as opposed to synchronizing all of the photos with the same Exposure value).

Figure 4.44

Figure 4.44 The Quick Develop panel.

Using Quick Develop is the same as working in the Develop module, except you don’t have the same fine degree of control. It is therefore ideal for making first-pass edits, where you still need to do most of your work in the Library module (such as rating images and adding metadata) without having to switch back and forth between Library and Develop to apply image adjustments. However, it is important to bear in mind that the Library module previews will not be as accurate as those displayed in the Develop module. The Library module previews are Adobe RGB rendered, whereas when you edit a photo in the Develop module, the image preview you see is generated on the fly via the Lightroom Camera Raw engine and edited using the wider-gamut Lightroom RGB space. Therefore, the previews you see in Develop are always going to be the most accurate. Also, when you edit a photo using the Quick Develop controls in the Library module, the quality of the Loupe view preview will be dependent on whatever settings you have selected in the Catalog Settings File Handling section. You have to bear in mind here that the Library preview mechanism is primarily designed to generate decent-quality previews that enable fast Library module browsing; it is not so ideal for assessing Develop settings adjustments. You may also notice that unlike the Histogram panel in the Develop module, the Histogram panel in the Library module features an animated transition when adjusting the values in the Quick Develop panel.

To apply Quick Develop adjustments, go to the Library module and select a photo, or make a selection of several photos. Next, you can click to access the Saved Preset list shown in Figure 4.45 and choose a default setting or a previously saved preset as your starting point (the Develop settings are arranged here in a hierarchical list). Or, you can click the arrow buttons in the Quick Develop panel to increases or decreases any of the Quick Develop adjustments. The single-arrow buttons increase or decrease a setting by small amounts, and the double-arrow buttons by larger amounts. Any adjustments you make here simultaneously update the settings in the Basic panel of the Develop module.

Figure 4.45

Figure 4.45 The Quick Develop panel showing the Preset and White Balance menu lists.

The Treatment menu section lets you decide whether to process an image in Color or Black & White. To be honest, I think it is better to memorize the p0668_04.jpg shortcut as a means for toggling between the Color and Black & White modes and rely on the Treatment menu as more an indicator of which mode a photo is in.

Next, we come to the White Balance options, which include the Temperature and Tint button controls. If you are shooting with a camera set to Auto White Balance mode, or you used a white balance that was correct for the lighting conditions at the time of shooting, you will probably want to leave this set to As Shot. Otherwise, you can click the White Balance menu (Figure 4.45) and choose one of the preset settings listed there, or select the Auto setting and Lightroom will calculate an optimized White Balance setting for you (or use the p0217_01.jpg [Mac] or p0174_03.jpg [PC] shortcut). With the Temperature buttons, if you click the left-arrow buttons, the image becomes incrementally cooler, and if you click the right-arrow buttons, the image becomes warmer. The Tint buttons can be used to apply a green/magenta bias. Clicking the left-arrow buttons makes a photo more green, and clicking the right-arrow buttons makes it more magenta. The single-arrow buttons produce small shifts in color, and the double-arrow buttons produce more pronounced color shifts.

Clicking the Auto Tone button applies an Auto Tone adjustment (p0184_01.jpg [Mac] or p0184_02.jpg [PC]). This automatically adjusts the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks settings.

Process version conflicts

If there is a process version conflict when two or more photos are selected, the Quick Develop buttons will appear dimmed (see page 161).

The other tone controls

With the remaining tone and color controls, I advise you to start by adjusting the Exposure amount first, because the Exposure is critical for determining the overall brightness. A p0217_10.jpg-click on the Exposure single-arrow button is equivalent to a 0.17-unit shift in the Develop module, a single click equivalent to a 0.33-unit shift, and a click on the double-arrow button equivalent to a 1.0-unit shift.

After you set the Exposure, you may want to adjust all the other tone control buttons. Here, a p0217_10.jpg-click on the single-arrow button is equivalent to a 3.0-unit shift in the Develop module, a single click on the single-arrow button equivalent to a 5.0-unit shift, and a double-arrow click equivalent to a 20.0-unit shift.

If you hold down the p0012_04.jpg key, the Clarity buttons in the Quick Develop panel switch to Sharpening buttons (Figure 4.46). In this p0012_04.jpg key mode, the Sharpening controls in Quick Develop are equivalent to Sharpening Amount slider adjustments in the Develop module Detail panel. Although you do not have access to the other three sharpening sliders, you can still make an initial sharpening adjustment before you get around to fine-tuning the other settings later. As you hold down the p0012_04.jpg key, the Vibrance buttons switch to become Saturation buttons. With both the Sharpening and Saturation controls, a single-arrow click is equivalent to a 5-unit shift in the Develop module, and a double-arrow click is equivalent to a 20-unit shift.

Figure 4.46

Figure 4.46 The Quick Develop panel view with the p0012_04.jpg key held down.

The Reset All button at the bottom resets all the Develop settings that have been applied to a photo (and not just those that have been applied via Quick Develop) to their default import settings. You can also use the p0218_02.jpg (Mac) or p0218_03.jpg (PC) shortcut. However, this action resets all the Develop settings to a zeroed or default state, so use this button with caution.

A typical Quick Develop workflow

The following steps show how you might want to use the Quick Develop panel while working in the Library module.

  1. These photographs were shot in raw mode and imported using the Default Develop settings and As Shot White Balance (circled above). In this first step, I made a selection of the photos I wanted to edit.

  2. I wanted to warm the colors in the selected photos, so I clicked the double-arrow button (circled above) to make the selected photos appear warmer.

  3. I then wanted to apply some tonal edits. I clicked the Auto Tone button followed by the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows buttons (circled above). This improved the brightness and contrast.

  4. Alternatively, you can work on the images one at a time in Quick Develop. I double-clicked one of the photos to work in the Loupe view, then I reduced the Exposure, darkened the Highlights, and lightened the Shadows.

  5. I selected this recently edited image and the photo next to it and clicked the Sync Settings button at the bottom (circled above).

  6. This opened the Synchronize Settings dialog, where I clicked the Check All button to select all settings. I then clicked the Synchronize button to synchronize the settings across the two photos selected in Step 5.

Editing video files in Quick Develop

As well as being able to play video files directly in the Library module Loupe view, some limited video editing is possible using the Quick Develop panel. Lightroom does not yet offer full video-editing features—for that, you will want to use dedicated video-editing software. But it is nonetheless an achievement to at least be able to view and edit video clips in Lightroom. So, let me run through some of the key features. Figure 4.47 shows how video files are displayed in the Library module Grid view. In the Library Loupe view, you can navigate a clip to play it and edit the start and end times; you also have access to some of the Quick Develop image-adjustment options that will let you adjust the White Balance, Exposure, Contrast, Whites, Blacks, and Vibrance.

Figure 4.47

Figure 4.47 An example of a video thumbnail in the Library module Grid view. The video badge shows the track length time.

Loupe view video-editing options

There are a few selectable items in the options menu (which are shown in the following steps). Capture Frame can be used to extract a frame and automatically add this to the folder and to the catalog as a separate JPEG image. The Set Poster Frame option allows you to select a frame other than the start frame and then use it as the thumbnail preview in Lightroom (Slideshow will then also use the poster frame). Lastly, there is the Display Trim Time as SMTPE option. This is an absolute time code that is used when you want to synchronize different devices (providing they are compatible). It is something that is really of more interest to those who are carrying out professional video editing. Personally, although I find Lightroom useful for importing video clips at the shoot stage, I do all the main editing and grading using Adobe Premiere.

  1. When you inspect a video file in the Lightroom Library module Grid view, you can quickly track all the frames in a sequence by hovering over the thumbnail and moving from left to right.

  2. I double-clicked the thumbnail in the Grid to go to the Loupe view. Here, I could click the Play arrow button or tap the Spacebar to play the selected movie clip (click again to pause). I could quickly navigate a video clip by dragging the frame-selection button and click the gear button (circled) to reveal the key frames. If “Show frame number when displaying video time” is selected in the Loupe View Options, the frame number is displayed after the minutes/seconds timeline display.

  3. I dragged the start and end points to trim the movie sequence (You can also use p0223_02.jpg to set the input point and p0233_03.jpg to set the output point for a clip). I then selected a midway point in the video clip and selected Set Poster Frame from the Settings menu. This updated the thumbnail preview in the Grid view with a more relevant frame from the movie sequence.

  4. The Quick Develop controls can be used to apply basic Develop edits. In this example, I made the sequence a few clicks warmer to remove the slight bluish cast and also clicked the Auto Tone button to optimize the tone balance.

  5. Although you cannot edit videos extensively in the Quick Develop panel or Develop module, you can make use of saved presets to apply some types of Develop adjustments. To do this, I clicked the Settings menu and selected Capture Frame. This created a JPEG photo from the selected frame stacked with the original.

  6. I was then able to edit the capture frame JPEG using the Develop module controls. Here, I applied a Tone Curve plus a Split Toning adjustment (which you can’t do using Quick Develop). I was thereby able to create an adjustment that produced a cross-process color effect.

  7. I then clicked the + button in the Develop module Presets panel and saved the edited setting as a new preset. Although you can save any Develop setting as a preset, there is still a limited range of options when saving a preset to be applied to a video clip. Not all your current Develop presets can be applied to video files; therefore, these will appear grayed out.

  8. Finally, I returned to the video-clip file in the Library module and selected the preset I had just created from the Saved Preset menu in the Quick Develop panel.

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