Now we’re at the point in the Lightroom workflow where we’re ready to move into working in the Develop module. Well, almost, anyway. Just before we do that, it’s a good idea to put the Library’s Sorting Order to User and then drag and drop to group shots that have the same white balance, exposure, and contrast considerations so that it’s easy to select the whole series for simultaneous developing.
For some types of shoots, you may need to send images to a client or colleague before you actually take the time to develop them. After all, you’ll spend less time developing if you only have to develop the images that are actually going to be used. So I flag all the images that I’m going to submit for consideration, make Virtual Copies of them in the Library Module, and then Auto Adjust each of them before exporting them to a JPEG folder that will be uploaded to the client. If the situation demands showing the client exactly what the finished develop might look like, I’ll also pick one shot for the series and develop that according to the workflow below. About half the time, it ends up being the chosen shot and then there’s no need to waste time on the rest of the images unless and until the time comes when you want to use them for other purposes.
Once you’ve done all that, here’s my suggested workflow for processing the images you do need to process:
Process all the “series” first by selecting them all, entering the Develop module, and clickint the Synchronize button. Then follow the steps you will use for all the images, as listed below, and click the Synchronize button again. Now all you have to do is process the unique images individually, according to the same workflow.
1. Select all the images from a given camera lens combination and ISO setting and give them all the same degree of sharpening and noise reduction using the Synchronize button and turning off all the other options in the Synchronize dialog that appears as soon as you click the Synchronize button.
2. Use the Right and Left arrow keys to search through all the images, so you can see a full-size representation of those that might need cropping, leveling, or spotting. Don’t waste time doing any of these things to images that you don’t intend to immediately take through the rest of the Develop routine.
3. First, try to make sure that all your brightness levels are within the range of the Histrogram. It’s a more accurate visual starting point than adjusting the individual sliders. Place the cursor in the Histogram and drag the left side of the Histogram to set the Black point so that the foot of the Histogram is just touching the left frame of the graph. Drag the right side of the Histogram so that it’s just touching the right side of the graph. Finally, place the cursor in the top center of the Histogram and drag left and right to adjust the brightness. You should now be able to see all the brightness information that your sensor recorded.
4. Technically, you now have a full-range image, but aesthetically, you probably want to change the brightness or color balance of specific areas. Start by making sure the color balance is what you want it to be. The best way to do this so that the color balance is technically correct is to click on some part of the photo that you know to be absolutely white or gray, such as a color chart or gray card. If you didn’t have time to insert one in the first shot of each series, look for something like a white color or napkin. Now drag the eyedropper to that area in the image and click. Of course, if you did use a gray card, click on it instead. If you don’t want to buy a gray card, a bleached white coffee filter is an excellent substitute.
5. Turn on the Gamut Warning indicators. Blocked highlights will turn into red patches and blocked shadows into blue patches. Adjust the Recovery and Fill Light sliders until you get rid of as much of the blockage as possible.
6. Now use the individual sliders in the Tone and Presence panels to get the subjective looks you want fromn each of the areas of tonality. I find the slider I most often have to move is Fill Light, but the most important thing is to do whatever “feels good” to you.
7. Tweak contrast using the Curves panel by clicking on the Adjust Tone Curve button in the upper left corner of the Tone Curve panel and then dragging over the areas in the image where you want to change the contrast within a tonal region. For instance, I often lighten skin tones by dragging upward and darken shadows where I want less detail downward. The beauty of working this way is that you can see the contrast changes interactively.
In the next installment, I’ll talk about processing for special effects by using Presets, the HSL panel, splitting the mid-tones and highlights, and setting sharpening and noise reduction.