Not only does Lightroom make picture-(technically) perfect developing possible in an instant by using the panels in the Basic and Tone Curve sections, you are also given several means of affecting specific regions, colors, and special effects within Lightroom. That’s what I’ll discuss in this segment of the Milburn Lightroom Blog blab. Part IV will be all about incorporating regional processing in Photoshop and LightZone by accessing them from within Lightroom.
Before you create these “special effects,” it is a good idea to make a virtual copy of the original, especially if the special effect you’re after isn’t one that you’re always likely to use for the particular image you created it for. That way, you can always return to the Virtual Copy and modify it or open it in Photoshop from where you left off the last time. Yet the additional version is only a set of data instructing Lightroom on how to develop the image and takes up next to no additional disk space on your hard drive. Of course, if you save a version of a Virtual Copy as a Photoshop file, it then becomes an actual file. All you have to do to make a Virtual Copy is Right Click on a selected thumbnail and choose Make Virtual Copy from the in-context menu that appears.
Actually, I’m rushing it a bit. There are some “special effects” in the Presence panel of the Basic panels group. As a rule, I set Clarity to the maximum “snap” I can get from an image without seeing sharpening highlights around the shadows. You can determinine when the halo appears for any image from any camera at a given ISO setting by enlarging to 100% and then cranking up the setting until you see even the slightest hint of white appearing between contrasting edges. I set Vivacity after Clarity while at the same enlargement to make sure that no unwelcome color noise starts to appear (especially likely at higher ISO). BTW, speaking of Vivacity, it’s a very nice way to add some “snap” to a photo with very little effort. It’s equally easy to just drag it back to it’s “zero” setting if you don’t want it to affect the other settings in the HSL, Highlights and Shadows, and Camera Calibration panels that are mentioned in the balance of this blog. Also, there’s another thing to watch for when you use Vivacity: “over-snap.” That is, it’s possible to make the colors so vivacious that the look just becomes totally unrealistic…even though Vivacity does eliminate the color blocking and shifting that often occurs if you simply use saturation sliders.
Next, there’s the amazing HSL panel that will allow you to greatly dramatize photos by individual slider controls over the Hue (color tone), Saturation (intensity), and Luminance (brightness) of eight individual colors. Of course, you can control the same properties of in-between colors by mixing the colors they are made of. However, this can be a challenge because you have three properties to control for each of those colors in the mix. I find these controls most useful when I want to do one of two things: (1) Give the picture more “mood” or (2) Emphasize differences in texture or details within a picture.
In the HSL panel, you can also change the properties of individual colors by clicking the Direct Adjust icon and dragging inside the area of color that you want to change. It can be a quick way, for instance, to take the redness out of someone’s face or to emphasize the redness in Autumn leaves.
Just how you change the colors in the HSL panel is generally a matter of experimentation. Set the image in the Preview window to fit the screen so that you see the whole image. You can then see the results as you drag the sliders. In typical Adobe fashion, you’re given lots of choice as to the layout of these controls. To adjust color, you can adjust in either HSL or Color mode. I like HSL mode because it’s easy to see whether you’re adjusting Hue, Saturation, or Color for each of the eight individual colors because you have to click a header command for each of these and then use the slider. On the other hand, you can click All and you’ll see all three sets of the sliders at the same time, just by scrolling up and down. You can also choose the Color version of this panel and you’ll see the three sliders under the names of each of the colors…or, you can click a color patch at the top and see only the sliders for that particular color.
There are other ways to change colors relationships and effects, too.
The Split Toning Panel lets you separately adjust the Hue and Saturation for Highlights and Shadow and you can adjust the brightness level at which highlights transition to shadows by dragging a Balance slider. I’ve found this particularly helpful in adding weather moods to skies in landscapes and all sorts of mood and punch to the shadows in a variety of subjects.
The Camera Calibration panel is actually provided as a means to allow you to set the color balance for each of the primary colors and for the shadows. However, I often use the Tint slider to neutralize the gray tones in those images in which I’ve manipulated the colors as described above.
As you make these changes, they are recorded in the History panel. Any time you want to compare a previous interpretation, or return to one, just click on that state in the History panel and you’re right there. No need to fiddle around re-adjusting things.
When you’re done with all these fancy adjustments, if you think you’re created a “look” that you might want to apply to certain types of images in the future, click the + icon on the Presets panel bar and type a name for the Preset that will remind you of that exact look… “Autumn Hues,” for instance. If you have variations on the same theme, add the description of the variation…for example “Super Saturated Autumn Hues.”
Jack Davis has created a series of 20 Lightroom presets that can be downloaded for free from the OnOne software site at http://www.ononesoftware.com/photopresets-wow.php. It’s a very good way to apply the special effects I’ve discussed here. You can preview them in the Preview panel by opening the Preset Panel in Library mode and simply dragging the cursor down the pre-set names while you watch the effect on the image in the Preview window. Before you click on any of these, however, make a Virtual Copy of your image and add the name of the preset to the name of the file. Once you’ve applied a preset, you can tweak it with any of the adjustments mentioned in this blog. You can also “take it to the next step” by opening two Virtual Copies of the same image, each with a different preset and tweaks, in Photoshop. But creating regional effects in Photoshop and LightZone is the subject of my Lightroom workflow blog for next week. Until then, hasta luego, muchachos.