Before getting into LR, one of many reasons for its existence is its ability to take a RAW file as captured and turn it into the picture you visualised when you pressed the shutter button. But why RAW?  And the simple answer is – why wouldn’t you want to use as much data as possible to maximise your options on image adjustment? It also means you get to decide how the image should look rather than allowing the camera – or the camera designers – to decide for you.

As stated, Lightroom is many things including a DAM – Data Asset Management – system. This means it can do what a file explorer can do and so much more. It appears there are concerns over what happens to the original image file once you let LR loose on it and, to put everyone’s minds at rest, the answer is NOTHING. Nothing happens to your original file and, whatever you might do to an image in Lightroom, you can always revert to the image as it was first imported. There’s an interesting term that many may not have come across before – imported – so we need to determine what that means and how we do it.

Let me also say up front, it’s not about the right way to do things. It’s about finding a way that suits you. This is what I do – and that’s all I’m saying.

Set up a folder where you save your images. Most serious photographers back up their images to guard against loss – your choice. I use an external drive and a hierarchy of folders starting with the year, then month then the shoot I am downloading from the memory card, with additional information giving a clue as to subject or location, e.g. For 3rd November 2017 firework display, I set up a folder that has the following address on my system – Pictures/2017/1711/171103 Fireworks. If you are wondering about the reverse date, it’s a habit picked up years ago to simplify filing.

Personally, I prefer to move images from the memory card to the newly created folder, return the memory card to the camera – and, more often than not, format the card.

Import to LR – open LR, it defaults to Library module, choose Grid view if not already (Shortcut key G). Hit ‘Import’ button (bottom left) and navigate to source. (One caveat – remove memory card before commencing Import to avoid confusion.) Again, you may prefer to insert your memory card or connect your camera and allow LR to import directly but then you need to set up your folders inside LR.

This might be a good place to remind the reader that, if you choose to use LR for image management, any moving of image files or associated folders must be carried out within LR – or you risk LR losing track of your images. LR is capable of creating new folders and sub-folders, moving and renaming folders and every operation a file explorer might offer.

Having located the folder and images you wish to import, you have the option to select/deselect individual files. (Default is all selected) As mentioned by MikeB, deselecting images results in the preview going too dark to see any detail. I tend to import all images and remove or delete by choice afterwards. (To remove an image from LR, mouse over, right click and scroll to ‘Remove…’ at bottom of menu, click and choose from options. It is possible to remove an image from LR without losing it completely.)

Collections and keywords. It is worth mentioning these at this stage as a method of simplifying finding a specific image in months or years to come. In the Library module, you have the option to select any number of image files and apply keywords which can then be used to search. Another way to simplify finding all images of a given subject is to set up Collections. It is then a simple matter of selecting and dragging files onto the collection name. (More later)

Basic edit – The system I use is to select the first image I wish to process and enter the Develop module by hitting D (or you can select Develop from the toolbar or the Window menu). The tools available on the right side of the screen are the same as in Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter, albeit a different layout and the layout will differ depending on the version of LR.

Drop down to Camera Calbration at the bottom, to the second item listed – Profile – and click on the default value to see options. Default is Adobe Standard, my preference is Camera Standard. LR recognises the camera and lens used to capture images and will adjust its presentation of the image based on these and the profile you select.

Move up to ‘Basic’ section. Time for another little tip. By the time you have adjusted each section, it will be difficult to navigate between them as they are all open and more than fill the height of the column. Right click on a section heading  and scroll down and click on ‘Solo Mode’. Whenever you select a new section, any other open section will close. The same option is available in the explorer part of Library.

The first points to check are the Temperature, Tint and Exposure of the image. In our session on Monday (13/11/17), these items were not discussed as the assumption is that the image as captured is what was intended. They will be covered in a later session.

In Basic, slide highlights to 0 and shadows to 100, find white and black points, reset highlights and shadows. Click and drag the ‘Highlights’ slider left from the centre to the 0 position and drag the ‘Shadows’ slider right to the 100 position. Holding down the ‘Alt’ key on a PC (‘Option’ key on Mac), click and drag the Whites slider – and don’t worry when the image turns black. Dragging to the right, i.e. increasing Whites will probably result in some areas of the image becoming pure white in which case, these parts of the black image will turn white. With the Alt (Options) key still depressed, move the slider to the left until the white areas turn back to black. The brightest parts of the image will now be just short of being clipped or blown out.

Move to the Blacks slider and, again, holding the Alt (Option) key, click and drag it to the left. This has the effect of turning the image white and continued movement will eventually produce coloured areas which will turn black if the slider is moved far enough left. This is an indication of blocking where the dark areas of the image have reached pure black and will show no detail. Now move the Blacks slider back to the right until most of the image has returned to white. Depending on the image, some blocking or total black may be acceptable.

Release the Alt (Option) key and confirm that the range of tones is as you want and the histogram is showing some areas of near black and some near white. This series of operations has, effectively, maximised the tonal range within the original image file. (Depending on the subject, this may not always be what is required, e.g. a misty morning with limited tonal range.) It is now possible to return to the Highlights and Shadows sliders and adjust them to achieve the look you want by trial and error.



Dave Ashfield – 19/11/2017