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Putting It All Together (Doing a Start-to-Finish Tweak)

Okay, we’re nearly done with what we do to edit our images here in Lightroom, but before we uncork the next chapter of adjustments, I thought it might be good for you to see how all these sliders in the Basic panel work together. So, go download this image and follow along (the download link is in the “Seven [or So] Things You’ll Want to Know...” part up front that you skipped). I think this will really help you see how all these adjustments work together.

Step One:

Remember this image from earlier in the chapter (the one we used in the Exposure technique)? We’ll it’s back, but we’re going to do more than just fix the overall brightness. Here’s something that I do that I think might help you when you’re sitting there in front of Lightroom looking at an image that needs help: each step of the way, just ask yourself, “What do I wish were different in this image?” Once you know what it is you want to do next, the controls are all right here in Lightroom, so that’s the easy part. The hard part is really sitting back and analyzing the image and asking yourself that question after every step. I can tell you what I wish was different here. I wish it wasn’t so dark, so we’ll start there.

Step Two:

To make the overall image brighter, we drag the Exposure slider to the right until it looks good to us. I didn’t drag it quite as far this time as I did earlier in the book (I dragged it to +1.70, here) because now I have more sliders I can use for particular areas. Next, the image looks kinda flat to me, so I want to add more contrast by dragging the Contrast slider a little to the right (here, I dragged it to +24). Then, I’m going to use that tip I mentioned in the Highlights technique back on page 168, and enhance the cloudy skies by dragging the Highlights slider all the way to the left to –100. Now the sky doesn’t look as light and bright and the clouds have more detail.

Step Three:

Looking at the image back in Step Two, there’s a lot of detail in the bridge and in the trees and buildings alongside the river, but it’s kind of lost in the shadows. So, I’m going to bring out the detail in those areas by dragging the Shadows slider to the right quite a bit (here, I dragged it to +76). I knew when I first looked at the image that I’d be opening up these shadows (I use the Shadows slider a lot), and that’s why I didn’t drag the Exposure slider as far to start with. To set the white and black points using the Whites and Blacks sliders, I let Lightroom set them automatically, which you do by Shift-double-clicking directly on the Whites slider knob and then the Blacks slider knob. Okay, so far, so good, but there are some finishing moves that could help this image be more colorful and enhance the detail and texture overall.

Step Four:

To bring out the texture in the buildings, trees, and river, I increased the Clarity a bit (cityscapes like this love Clarity and, honestly, I could have pushed it a lot farther than +13. It probably could have easily gone to +30 and not looked bad. Maybe higher. Photos with lots of fine detail like this love Clarity and Sharpening, but we haven’t gotten to sharpening yet). Lastly, the color in the image is very muted and, under that cloudy sky, I don’t want to make the colors “pop,” but I would like to make the colors in the image a bit more vibrant. So, I dragged the Vibrance slider to +22. That whole process will take you just a minute or so. The thinking part takes a lot more than the dragging sliders part. There are still some things I’d definitely add to finish this photo off, but we don’t cover them until the next chapter. Hey, it’s something to look forward to. :)

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