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Image ProcessingChuck Haacker's Lightroom Workflow as of March 2018 (Join In!)

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Charles Haacker
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Chuck Haacker's Lightroom Workflow as of March 2018 (Join In!)

Post by Charles Haacker » Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:30 pm

For this demo I deliberately picked what I think is a tough shot, made in a very dimly lit vet's museum. I love to work in dimly lit museums strictly by the "available dark." I never use a tripod (they are almost always forbidden anyway as a potential safety hazard to other visitors). Instead I usually use my "stringpod" and rely on "floating" ISO and onboard image stabilization to get me reasonably sharp shots. These were all raw captures (I never shoot jpeg anymore) made with my 1" sensor Sony RX10 which has an f/2.8 lens and inherently greater DOF due to a smaller sensor than my A6000.
DSC00683-Edit.EMlr.jpg
This one is the final version after all Lightroom adjustments plus a trip into Photoshop to kill some annoying reflections (that work may be a little visible if you look closely --- I need more practice but this one was also very tough to do seamlessly). This is an accurate representation of what it actually looks like, complete with mixed light sources. That never bothers me; it looks like it looks.
Attachments
Capture 01.JPG
This is a screenshot of the original zeroed-out raw capture. It is underexposed because when I made this I was still cautiously fearful of overexposing highlights, i.e., I was not ETTR. If you look to the BASIC panel and the histogram you can see the sliders are zeroed and the histogram is bunched to the left. The clipping indicators are on, though (I almost always leave them on) and there is no black clipping visible in the image so the underexposure is not extreme.
Capture 02.JPG
Here I've applied a preset of my own. On the left panel it is number 03. Highlights Down Shadows Up. It also incorporates some other presets that I like, including adding some clarity and vibrance. The histogram is still bunched to the left, and the highlight side is now pulled well away from the right side. It looks even darker than the original. because it is, from pulling the highlights down. I will correct this by increasing exposure.
Capture 03.JPG
Now I have just increased the exposure by one full stop, nothing else. You can see how the histogram has shifted more toward center, but the highlight side is still not "touching the wall" on the right because I have not yet set the black and white points. I usually do so ONLY after I have adjusted the shadows and highlights and, if necessary the exposure as well.
Capture 04.JPG
The only change now (and it is definitely subtle) is that I have now set the black and white points. You can see the change in the sliders and a subtle shift in the histogram. I always set the black and white points by holding down the ALT or OPTION key and moving the slider while watching the screen for the clipping indicators. I usually back off the whites all the way but sometimes leave just a very little black as a "base."
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by Charles Haacker » Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:32 pm

Here are the remaining screenshots, sharpening and addressing noise:
Capture 05.JPG
Now I must address the noise inherent in making handheld shots with very little light. You've noticed that the ISO soared to 3200 (where I had it capped to try to hold the noise down). Here I have enlarged to 100% and you can see the racket. If you look to the basic panel you see that I've applied some sharpening but that also increases noise.
Capture 06.JPG
Here you will see several changes in the sliders, but the key one is the COLOR slider, up 20. Most of the worst noise here was COLOR noise. It doesn't take much to knock it down and get a smoother look. I also have the NIK collection and could tinker further but I don't really mind that much: noise ("grain") is part of the picture.
DSC00683-Edit.EMlr.jpg
Once again, the final version...
PLEASE feel free to add your own workflows, ask any questions, make comments, throw brickbats...I will be learning this stuff myself until I go blind or croak. :D
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by minniev » Fri Mar 30, 2018 2:57 pm

Great post Chuck. My workflow is very similar except that I have an import preset that applies to everything as it enters LR. It involves the same stuff you have in your preset - highlights and shadows, clarity, vibrance plus some tinkering with curves and colors that seems to give me a good starting place for most everything else. I do have a few other home-made presets that do other things and some third party presets that I find here and there, especially for monochrome stuff. Then, if I want to do anything further I take the image into Photoshop. If I am using third party plugins like Topaz or NIK, I do it via PS so I will have access later to the layers and can tinker without starting over.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:16 pm

minniev wrote:
Fri Mar 30, 2018 2:57 pm
Great post Chuck. My workflow is very similar except that I have an import preset that applies to everything as it enters LR. It involves the same stuff you have in your preset - highlights and shadows, clarity, vibrance plus some tinkering with curves and colors that seems to give me a good starting place for most everything else. I do have a few other home-made presets that do other things and some third party presets that I find here and there, especially for monochrome stuff. Then, if I want to do anything further I take the image into Photoshop. If I am using third party plugins like Topaz or NIK, I do it via PS so I will have access later to the layers and can tinker without starting over.
I should hasten to add that the highlights-down-shadows-up is not a one-size-fits-all thing. I find it works fairly well in relatively high contrast situations, but it may not work at all in low contrast ones. Like anything else you have to Intuit whether it's working or not. I had a picture recently where I lowered the highlights but also increased the shadows because I wanted them to recede into the background, to emphasize the brighter areas. That's one reason I disagree with Matt's Command Sergeant Major's insistence on what sounds to me like a formulaic approach: I don't think you can do that successfully all the time. When it works, it works. When it don't, it don't. :|
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by Matt Quinn » Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:53 am

Chuck, This is great. I enjoyed and benefitted from looking over your shoulder. I always slide the highlights and shadows to their respective side so I will now make a preset for that. Also, I will include about +5 on clarity; I can always increase or decrease it later. I don't think I can include anything on the blacks or whites since each photo is different. Reading your flow and Minnie's reply has prompted me to try the preset. Makes sense since I always move those sliders before I do anything else. Thanks. Matt
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Post by Charles Haacker » Mon Apr 02, 2018 3:05 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 12:53 am
Chuck, This is great. I enjoyed and benefitted from looking over your shoulder. I always slide the highlights and shadows to their respective side so I will now make a preset for that. Also, I will include about +5 on clarity; I can always increase or decrease it later. I don't think I can include anything on the blacks or whites since each photo is different. Reading your flow and Minnie's reply has prompted me to try the preset. Makes sense since I always move those sliders before I do anything else. Thanks. Matt
Bear in mind that the highlight-shadow trick is not a panacea, a one-size-fits-all. It can work very well, mostly (I find) with images with lots of contrast. The lower the contrast in the original scene the less well it works because it naturally flattens out the contrast, contrast being the difference between highlight and shadow. If there isn't much contrast to begin with, lowering the highlights and opening the shadows will make a gray scene grayer. :)
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
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All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by Matt Quinn » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:04 pm

Ah, that was another of Instructor X's commands. Thanks. If I establish the preset with h&s at their extremes, can I dial them back after import on individual photos and have the result you mention with lower contrast photos? What do you use to judge how much h and s to use on individual photos? With b&w, I slide till the triangle appears. is there anything you use for h&s other than your judgement? Thanks again. Matt
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Post by Charles Haacker » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:40 am

Matt Quinn wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:04 pm
Ah, that was another of Instructor X's commands. Thanks. If I establish the preset with h&s at their extremes, can I dial them back after import on individual photos and have the result you mention with lower contrast photos? What do you use to judge how much h and s to use on individual photos? With b&w, I slide till the triangle appears. is there anything you use for h&s other than your judgement? Thanks again. Matt
Absolutely you can dial them back. One of the great things about Lightroom is that it is non-destructive. You can take an image all the way back to zero and start over. Occasionally I like to make one or more virtual copies by pressing command or control plus the single quote key. Instantly you have a virtual copy that you can revert to zero or do anything else with it, such as convert to B&W or --- anything! Virtual copies look and behave like the original files but take up no space, yet you can still export them as jpegs or whatever. They are ubercool!

Don't forget that shadows and blacks are not precisely the same. Black is black unless it's gray when it should be black. Shadows are more nuanced; they should have discernible detail, but how much is very much a judgment call. I almost always adjust my H&S where I think I want them before setting black and white points, which you can do by watching the triangles, or the histogram, or depressing the ALT or OPTION key and watching for the indicators to appear on the otherwise blank screen.

As to gauging or judging "how much?" That is very hard to explain in words. Experience is the great teacher, and looking at other people's pictures, trying to figure out how they got where they ended up. In my case I go back into the archives and do stuff over because my skills improve. My tools have improved as well: Lightroom! :win: I'm now amazed that I managed to get anything decent-looking at all before it, and one of the major-est things is the fine, fine control of shadows and highlights, and the precision setting of black and white points. (That's a big reason I dig back in the archives and do stuff over when I perceive that it wasn't done right originally.)

Another trick is to sleep on it. I can NOT wait until I can dash down the stairs, rip the card out of the slot, jam it into the computer and start immediately importing. I often, always actually start playing while they are still importing, which slows the process down, but I gotta see! I gotta SEE! So sometimes I will edit until I get bleary. Then it's time to crash and come back tomorrow, often to discover that the stuff I thought was good last night, wasn't. It's usually a matter of tweaking rather than starting over, but it helps to be refreshed. (Y)
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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