lightroom 2 – tip #7

As I said in the beginning, these tips were created using a combination of my own experimentation with LR2 and Scott Kelby’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers. I highly recommend this book for anyone learning LR2.

Setting overall exposure is very easy. Just drag the Exposure slider left or right until the desired look is achieved. Be careful not to blow out your highlights. This occurs when areas of the image become so bright that they contain essentially no data. It becomes very noticeable when doing other pixel edits later. Also consider what happens to these areas when printed. The way most inkjets print white is by not laying down any toner at all. You can imagine how this might be a problem.

So, how do you avoid blowing highlights? I use Scott Kelby’s suggestion of using the clipping warning feature. Just click on the arrow in the upper right hand corner of the Histogram. All blown highlights are shown in red. If there are large areas of red you may want to back off with the exposure slider. If you can’t back off far enough without darkening the main subject, try the recovery slider. Increasing it will add detail back to your highlights, but be careful. Too much recovery can make skin tones look gray and people look like the living dead. You don’t want that.

Here is a tip from Kelby: Try using the recovery slider with landscapes and be amazed at what it can do for skies.

On the other side is clipped shadows. This happens when there are large areas of an image with no detail, just black pixels. These are much less of a problem than blown highlights but can be a problem in certain situations. If you have clipped shadows, increase the exposure slider. To see a warning similar to the blown highlight one click the arrow in the upper left-hand corner of the histogram.

The other basic tone sliders:

  • Kelby mentions the Brightness slider as an afterthought. This is used to adjust midtones but I have not found it to be very useful myself.
  • It seems that everyone agrees that the Contrast slider is pretty useless. I agree with that assessment and would recommend doing contrast adjustments elsewhere, such as the Tone Curve.
  • Use the Blacks slider to get rid of haziness or washed out colors. I use this on almost every photograph to deepen the colors even when there is no haziness. Kelby does not seem to use this the same way and I will probably remove it from my edit workflow and see what happens.

Relevant keyboard shortcuts:

  • Backslash key will show you the before and pressing it again will take you back to the current setting.
  • Y and Shift-Y will bring up the side-by-side and split screen before and after tools.
  • To toggle both clipping warnings simply press the J key.

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