Our talk this week was given by Joe Houghton, via Zoom, on the use of Lightroom for image processing. Joe Houghton is an Adobe Certified Expert with both Lightroom and Photoshop. He told us that he has been using Lightroom since he first saw it at a pre-production stage.
Joe had asked for a selection of club members images in unedited RAW versions, as well as their final version after process adjustments. Joe selected a half dozen images from those submitted and talked us through his development path towards a finished image, describing his steps and thinking throughout. He had not reviewed any of these images before opening them on the night. Finally, his processed version was compared side-by-side with the owners original output. The differences between these pairs of pictures (viewed via the Lo-Fi signal delivered by Zoom) varied from subtle enhancements to stark differences.
The session was recorded for uploading to the club membership website in the near future, to allow a more leisurely review and search for new techniques at our own individual pace.
The first tip of the evening was a method to lengthen the adjustment sliders in Lightroom to allow greater sensitivity in achieving that final ‘perfect’ setting. This was achieved by holding down the Alt/Option key and dragging the width of the adjustment column in the develop module. Joe stressed that a great many options are available in Lightroom by toggling functions using the Alt/Option key – it’s often worth trying this action to see what alternatives pop up.
The mantra for examining images was subject / background / corners. This was used throughout the evening both in terms of cropping images and in eliminating distractions around the frame. The most striking feature of the editing process however, was the use of shortcut keys to jump to a new process, used to cut across a whole sequence of mouse operations used when this writer navigates within the software.
Joe processed the images initially for the whole frame, setting black and white points on the histogram, and then cropping the image to concentrate of the desired subject within the frame. The crop tool was described as an under utilised part of the software. He then began enhancing specific parts of each image using graduated filters, radial filters, and brushes, and also specific sliders within each function to bring out the desired effects. The texture slider was a favorite (a ‘high frequency detail’ adjustment) and was especially effective on masonry, foliage, fur and feathers. The range mask option was very effective for controlling the extent of the applied filters, allowing the software to discriminate between brighter and darker parts of an image before applying the edit. Texture sliders and range masks are both available in the subscription updates for Lightroom, but not earlier purchased versions.
The radial filter was used on a number of images, strikingly often with one superimposed upon the same general area as another. On some occasions the various ‘pins’ for separate editing points were getting in the way of applying further edits. Joe then used the ‘H’ key to hide away these ‘pins’ to allow further edits to be applied to the same location within the image. This process can be repeated until the desired effect is achieved.
One particular image had problems with converging verticals and an out of level horizontal. This was all corrected with one click within the ‘transform’ module, after a couple of steps to identify true vertical and horizontal lines.
A number of images were converted to black and white on the evening. The basic advice for this was ‘be bold’ in carrying out adjustments after conversion, to enhance the drama of the final image. Contrast should be fairly strong here, and individual colours in the original image can be lightened or darkened using the HSL sliders after the black and white conversion.
Joe Houghton has a web presence where further advice can be found covering many photography issues. Website addresses are set out below:-
Finally, many keyboard shortcuts were used to save time during the evening. Complete lists of these shortcuts are available within Lightroom itself, or are available for printing from the web. The only problem when reviewing these lists is that they are so extensive as to be intimidating. Joe Houghton’s advice is to learn to use one shortcut per week, focusing on those that you actually have cause to need regularly.
A very interesting evening, demonstrating how much there is still to learn if this software is to be used effectively.