Adobe Photoshop Lightroom & “Developing” your digital photographs

Excerpt from an email to a friend as we discussed & shared LR developing technique.

LR really easily allows you to play with contrast and more in a way where you can quickly develop your own ‘darkroom’ approach, or ‘look’. You can even save things as quick presets. For our recent UK trip I did this; I set up 3 different presets for my parents home by playing with a three different pictures then based on the type of shot (was it particularly low light and something I wanted to be warm, or was it brighter and needed to look a bit punchier?) and then just clicked on the preset as I went through my photos… Some needed some extra work but it got me closer to final very effectively and with great efficiency.

My general “quick” approach:

  1. I normally add a little extra sharpness, depending on the picture I’ll play with the various LR setting here
  2. I bump up exposure to brighten, avoid burn outs though (LR has a way to detect and warn you)
  3. If the foreground is particularly dark I add a bit of fill light
  4. I normally add 2-5 points extra "blacks" to enrich the shadows
  5. Curves – this is generally image by image specific based on how the contrast looks for the particular picture and it’s unique subjects/elements
  6. Add clarity or the opposite (soft focus) to either crystallize or give emotion to an image

It’s amazing how quickly those 6 little things (and image dependent maybe a few others) gives you a very powerful way to polish and develop your pictures. Then again how many primary colors or musical notes are there? Yet we can never image all the paintings or all the songs 🙂

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