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Adobe Digital Imaging How-Tos: Setting a Strong Foundation with Basic Edits

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Dan Moughamian shows you how to use the Basic panel to work with raw photos in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.
From the book

The Basic panel (Figure 25a ) enables photographers to set a foundation for the global contrast and color in their photos.

Figure 25a

Figure 25a The Basic panel (located in the Develop module) is a good place to start perfecting the tones and colors in your photos.

  1. Set the white balance using the Temp slider with the mindset of how you remember the scene. Slightly Cooler? Warmer? Correct the Tint if there is a noticeable shift toward reddish or greenish hues.
  2. Under the Tone controls, click Auto to set the global contrast (Figure 25b ).
    Figure 25b

    Figure 25b Start Basic edits with White Balance and Auto tone.

  3. Use the Exposure slider to brighten or darken all the tones for the photo other than the brightest (Recovery) and darkest tones (Blacks). You might find that reducing Brightness and then using the Exposure slider to set the scene's general brightness value will yield good results.
  4. Once you have balanced the scene's overall exposure, use the Recovery slider to restore highlight details that have been clipped. Use the Blacks slider to control where shadow details turn pure black.
  5. Use Fill Light to brighten midtone areas that are still too dark; this can have a positive impact on the overall contrast of a scene (Figure 25c).
    Figure 25c

    Figure 25c Fill Light operates on the same principle as a camera's fill flash.

  6. If the photo is still lacking punch or contrast after using the previous settings, a modest boost to the Contrast slider can provide the desired result.
  7. Increase the Clarity value for landscapes and other shots that display a lot of texture and detail; decrease the value for portraits and other shots where you desire to smooth rather than sharpen the details.
  8. If the colors in your image lack presence, you may need to increase their intensity using two possible methods:
    • Vibrance—Reduces or boosts the colors in subtle areas (like skin tones) without clipping them.
    • Saturation—Works more like traditional Photoshop saturation controls, producing a more pronounced effect.

I've found that in most cases, a Vibrance setting somewhere between 15 and 40 and a Saturation setting between 0 and 10 usually provide more than enough color punch. Ultimately, you will want to experiment with different combinations of these two settings to achieve results that suit your tastes. Figure 25d shows the final shot after some basic edits.

Figure 25d

Figure 25d Some images greatly benefit from manual control of Basic settings.

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