This is all about getting the colours in the image right. I shoot in RAW, not JPEG. This means that I can adjust the white balance in Lightroom. Which means that I can set my camera to Auto White Balance and sort it later.
Now I know that this is hardly textbook technique, and that the purists will all be saying that you should get it right in camera, which is of course true, but I want to concentrate on taking photos rather than fiddling with my camera.
This is what I do, and this is how I roll!
If you shoot in RAW you can choose one of the white balance presets, which are
- As Shot
Click on each of presets and you can see what happens to an image – pretty cool eh?
You will notice that I have Custom selected. This is how I do white balance.
I use the eye-dropper tool, circled in red above, and move the eye-dropper to a neutral place, grey if possible. This is normally clouds. I move the eye dropper around until the three numbers are pretty much the same – within 1 of each other is good enough for me.
For architectural work I use a grey card to get a neutral grey, and a colour checker. But for landscape and travel photography this is just fine.
That is custom white balance done.
It sounds complicated but isn’t – custom white balance really is that simple.
Slide right to make the image lighter, left to make the image darker. That’s about it really!
Contrast is the difference between light and dark tones. If you slide the contrast slider to the left look what happens – it goes all flat and horrible. Slide to the right and the image comes to life. Go too far to the right and things start going pear shaped.
There is a sweet spot for contrast, which I find to be 20 – 50 for the kind of photography I do.
And I never slide to the left. Never.
One thing to remember here is that if you have done an HDR Merge in Lightroom you may find that the contrast has been stripped out, so will need adding back in.
Highlights – Shadows – Whites – Blacks
To keep this simple this is what I tend to do, which works for me and gives me consistency with my images. These four are all very much inter-related.
First, I set the black and white points using Lightroom. To do this I hold down the shift key, and then double click on each slider.
Next, I drag the highlights to the left until I like the effect I am getting, and then drag the shadows slider to the right until I like the look.
That is fundamentally that – I might tweak the sliders a bit more but that is all.
Again, these are visual adjustments that I am doing to the image.
Clarity is another form of contrast – move the slider to the right and you get a sharper, crisper image. Images with textures benefit from a good lump of clarity. As with all these things don’t go too far – my rule of thumb is to slide to the right until I like the effect, then slide back to the left a bit – just tone it down so it looks natural.
Clarity is adjusting the contrast mainly in the midtones.
Slide to the left and watch what happens!
I tend to use the range of 20-50 for clarity adjustments.
This is an excellent adjustment, which I have used on this image as there is some haze in the background that I would like to reduce. Dehaze does what it says – it reduces haze.
I only use it when needed – it can also be used to give a further contrast boost to an image but be careful – don’t go too far. And slide to the left and it becomes the un-dehaze tool – it adds haze! If you have a photo with a bit of mist you can make the scene more misty – have a go sliding to the left and see what you get!
My favourite slider
Vibrance enhances the colours in the mid tones – vibrance produces a natural enhancement to the colours in an image. I use vibrance on every image, again typically within the range of 20-50.
Saturation in Lightroom is a bit of a blunt instrument which I very rarely use. Sometimes I slide it to the left to reduce the overall saturation within an image, but normally I just ignore it.
I never slide the saturation slider to the right.
Have and go and see what it does. Not great.
Summary of the basic panel in Lightroom
The Basic Panel in Lightroom is where I do 80% of my image processing. It is far from basic – I don’t know why Adobe call it that!
Have a play with the sliders and see what you can do – it is a remarkably powerful set of tools. And it is all non-destructive.
I will come back to the bits at the top at the end.
Tone Curve Panel
I don’t use this anymore. I look at the tone curve panel as refining of the highlights, shadows, blacks and whites in the basic panel.
I used to use it but was never sure why I was using it. And then I stopped using it completely and nothing changed!
I guess I am not that refined…
By the way, a word about solo mode
If you don’t want a panel to be visible right click anywhere within the panel descriptions and you can deselect a panel from view. Don’t worry – you can add them back by doing the same thing anytime – but why bother having things on view that you don’t use?
This is a great panel for doing subtle adjustments
I rarely bother with Hue, I just use Saturation and Luminance in the HSL panel. With this tool I can change the saturation and luminance of individual colours, and what is even better is that I can do this by clicking on a specific part of the image.
This is what I do.
Here is the Luminance panel with the adjustments I have made.