I’m currently working on portfolio reviews, and one of the questions I get asked most often is: “what do you normally do when you edit your photos?”. My stock answer is “it depends”. It depends on what the photo looks like, where it was taken, what the exposure is like (good or bad), what colors it contains, and what ‘look’ or style I’m trying to achieve. But as far as answers go, I can do better than that. So I bring you, my ‘typical’ before and after. i.e. what I ‘normally’ do to a photo using Lightroom and Photoshop.
Before and after:
The before photo of miss Zen was underexposed, as many of my photos are. So the steps I took in Lightroom involved fixing the exposure, removing that ugly grey haze that all digital photos have, and making it ‘pop’. FYI: for those who are new- I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 for about 98% of my digital editing, and shoot exclusively in RAW.
Exposure: +1.00 (this is a pretty strong adjustment! Ideally I don’t like to add more than about a half stop of increased exposure with software, but I’m shooting in RAW so the file here can handle it).
Recovery: 6 (I only ever do this on shots that have blown out highlights, which I usually prefer to fix either by adjusting exposure or brightness or using the adjustment brush and lowering the exposure on select areas. Going too heavy on recovery makes an image look muddy and gross).
Fill light: 20 (I’m always pretty heavy handed with this as I always like to add blacks back in)
Blacks: 11 (I usually do somewhere between 8-12. This can go a long way in making an image ‘pop’. Blacks + brightness on a RAW file = love.)
Brightness: +75. (I usually try and use brightness first before exposure, because increasing the exposure can blow your highlights out, while increasing brightness preserves them, but here I knew I needed some extreme brightening, so I used both).
Clarity: +20. (I always try and use a light hand here and only add between +7 to +14 if necessary, because it can make a shot look really gritty if too strong a setting is applied. But here it’s great for the graffiti, and if I had more time I’d use the adjustment brush and paint on +100 clarity on the graffiti only to really make it pop).
Tone curve: darks: -21. I swear this is my default setting for 95% of my images. lol
HSL (love these sliders!!). Saturation: blue: +25, purple: +50. Luminance: blue: -54, purple: -23. I did this to keep the vibrance in those colors without affecting the vibrance of the overall image.
Sharpening: amount: 41, Radius: 1.0 (default), detail: 25 (default), masking: 0 (default).
Adjustment brush: I did selective adjustments on Zen’s face to clone out junk, because she had some goopies around her eye and some dandruff in her fur (oh the shame!). Lightroom’s automatic adjustments do an amazing job, and I rarely need to change the area they are selecting from. Thank you Lighroom. I love you.
Sharpening: smart sharpen: amount: 48, radius: 0.8. My sharpening is usually between 0.8-1.4 for radius, and 35-72 or so for amount, depending on what my output is (you always want to sharpen for output). I always use smart sharpen, because I’ve used every plug-in and action in the book, and have always been happiest with smart sharpen. Also, I sharpened twice here (once in Lighroom and once in PSCS5), because I’m not entirely happy with Lightroom’s sharpening results. It’s an ‘ok’ place to start out with using a subtle adjustment like I did here, but for great sharpening, nothing beats photoshop, IMHO.
That’s it! I try and keep my editing as simple as possible these days, because I find that the more I fiddle with it, the less natural the results are.
Hope that helps someone out there. Happy editing! 🙂