Getting to Grips with Photoshop – Session 2

This session is mainly concerned with Lightroom. You may wonder why a course on Photoshop includes a session on Lightroom. The answer is that Lightroom is very good at certain things and it is quicker and easier than Photoshop for these things.

Preparation

In this session, we’ll be using two RAW images which you can download below. Some of you may shoot using the jpg format. If you do, I would strongly recommend using the RAW format instead. RAW files contain considerably more information than jpgs and will produce the best image your camera is capable of taking.

Instructions for downloading the RAW file

Create a folder called PS Online somewhere on your system. It doesn’t matter where, so long as you can find it again.

For each file:

  • right-click each download link at the end of this section and choose Save Link As. This opens the Save File dialogue. Navigate to the PS Online folder on your system and click Save
  • alternatively you can left-click the link and it will save to your usual Downloads folder. From there you can move or copy the files to the PS Online folder. 

RAW file links

Leaderfoot Bridge

Ocean Terminal

Workflow

However you process your images, it is a good idea to develop a workflow. This is an outline of the different steps you will follow every time you process an image. There is no single correct workflow – what works for you is what matters.

Many people use Lightroom to produce their final image. My intention is to use it to prepare an image for Photoshop and the workflow below reflects that. (It’s worth noting that, within Photoshop, there is a filter called Camera Raw which does most of what Lightroom can do.)

Getting Started with a Lightroom Workflow

What follows is not a complete guide to all that Lightroom can do. It’s an introduction only to some of the features which I use in my own workflow. For more information, follow any links which are included.

Find out more about each of the workflow headings by clicking on the + sign on each header.

Before you can use images in Lightroom (LR), they must be imported from your hard drive or directly from your camera or card. When importing from your hard drive, Lightroom will not move or copy the actual files but will add a reference to their location in the LR catalogue. If they are coming directly from your camera or a card, then Lightroom will copy them to your hard drive when it imports them.

How to import images:

  • In Lightroom, make sure you are in the Library module. Click the Import… button to open the Import window.
  • On the left, select the folder on your hard drive with the photos you wish to import. The images in that folder will appear on the main Lightroom window. (If you don’t see your photos, make sure Include Subfolders is checked.)
  • At the top, click Add. This imports images without moving or copying them.
  • Uncheck any photos you don’t want to import.
  • Click the Import button in the bottom-right corner of the Import window to start the import.
  • You can also import directly from your camera’s memory card. In this case you will have to choose a destination folder on the right of the import screen before you click Import. Files will be copied from your card to the chosen location on your hard drive.
  • Your imported photos will be displayed on the filmstrip at the bottom of the LR screen. Go to the Develop module to begin editing.

There are also a number of other available options when importing photos. Find out more in this article: How to Import Photos into Lightroom

Lens Correction

All lenses have a degree of distortion. Lens Correction allows you to correct this to a greater or lesser extent.

  • open the Lens Correction panel on the right-hand side of your screen.
  • tick ‘Enable Profile Correction’

Job done. Lightroom will choose the correct profile for your lens and apply the correction. You will see your image flex a little when you select this option.

Transform

The Transform panel contains a number of tools which enable you to adjust perspective in your image. Horizons can be straightened, vertical lines in buildings can be made vertical, buildings which lean back can be fixed and so on.

I’ll cover this tool in greater depth during Session 2.

Find out more in this article: How to Use the Lightroom Transform Tool

Crop

The Crop tool in Lightroom is very straightforward. Sometimes I will use it but more often than not I’ll opt to crop in Photoshop as this gives me more options.

  • start by selecting the Crop tool
  • click the padlock On to make a crop of a specific aspect ratio
  • select a preset aspect ratio  from the dropdown
  • if you want to change from landscape to portrait format, click the Aspect icon and drag out a rectangle on your image. (This can be a bit fiddly!)
  • if you want to make a freeform crop, click the padlock Off
  • drag the handles on the image and double-click to crop

You can also straighten your photo by clicking the Straighten tool and drawing a line across your image. Great for squint horizons!

Adjust Tonality

Here’s where you can adjust highlights, midtones and shadows and bring your photo to life! In spite of their simplicity, they are very powerful tools. You can find these tools in the Basic panel.

The main controls are highlighted in the yellow box.

Exposure

I rarely use this as it’s not a bad idea to get that right in camera!

Contrast

I NEVER use this in Lightroom as it is a pretty blunt instrument and it hard-wires contrast adjustments into the image sent to Photoshop.

Whites and Blacks

I set these first (although I may revisit them later). These tools allow you to add or subtract white or black to your image. Their main use is to set the white and black points. The white/black point is the point at which pixels are pure white/black. By setting these points you are ensuring that you are using the full range of tones in your image. Although you can set these points precisely, you may choose to vary the result. Your eyes are the best judge!

To set the white and black points hold down the SHIFT key and double-click the small triangles in both the Whites and Blacks sliders.

Note: If there are some very bright pixels in your imag, it may fool Lightroom and set the white point at -100. If this happens, just slide it slowly up until it looks right!

Highlights and Shadows

The Highlights slider adjusts the highlights or brightest pixels in your image. Slide to the right to increase the brightness of these pixels. Slide to the left to decrease the brightness. This tool is great for recovering detail in skies and other brighter parts of your image.

The Shadows slider adjusts the shadows or darkest pixels in your image. Slide to the right to increase the brightness of these pixels. Slide to the left to decrease the brightness. This tool is great for recovering detail in shadows and other darker parts of your image.

Adjust Colour

You can adjust colour in several ways in Lightroom. In the Basic Panel you can:

  1. Convert your image to black and white – I would usually do this in Photoshop. 
  2. Apply a colour or monochrome profile – I tend to use the Adobe Colour Profile.
  3. Adjust White Balance – see below.
  4. Adjust Vibrance and Saturation – I never use this in Lightroom
White Balance

As you will probably know, the colour of light changes according to the nature of the light source. The sun produces a very different colour of light depending on the time of day and artificial light of different kinds can also result in very different colours.

 

If you shoot RAW files, I would recommend setting your camera to Auto White Balance. This will take care of most situations for you. If you do need to adjust the colour balance, this tool makes it very straightforward.

  • The dropdown next to ‘As Shot‘ in this graphic, gives you a number of lighting scenarios including auto.
  • The Temp slider will make the colours less yellow if you slide to the left, more yellow to the right.
  • The Tint slider will add green or magenta.
  • The eyedropper can be used to find a neutral tone in your image and will adjust white balance automatically. I would recommend you ignore this as it is often impossible to find a neutral tone!
The HSL panel

This has a set of controls which enable you to adjust 8 separate colours. You can adjust:

  • Hue – this is the actual colour. The controls here are rather limited in that you can only ‘move’ a colour towards its neighbours on either side. For example, the orange will become redder if you move the slider to the left, and more yellow if you move it to the right. 

  • Saturation – this is the amount of colour. Slide to the left to make the colour less saturated, to the right to make it more saturated.
  • Luminance – this is the brightness of the colour. Slide to the left to make the colour darker, to the right to make it brighter. Reducing the brightness of aqua and blue is often a great way to improve the sky.
Sharpening and Noise Reduction

These functions are both carried out in the Detail panel.

Both are described very well in this article: Sharpening in Lightroom: Make the Most Out of the Detail Panel.

I will nearly always apply Sharpening in Lightroom but I will only use Noise Reduction rarely. I prefer to use the Define module in Nik Software for this.

Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush

Both of these tools allow you to adjust specific areas of the image. They work in a similar way. Select whichever of the tools you want to use. A dialogue with a variety of settings will be displayed.

To use the Graduated Filter, click on the image and a dot with 3 bars appears. You can resize and rotate this so it covers any section of the screen. You can move the whole thing by dragging the dot in the centre. If you drag the bars so they are further apart, the transition will be smoother. You can add more than one Graduated Filter  to an image. This tool is useful for making skies a bit darker.

The Adjustment Brush allows you to ‘paint’ anywhere on your image. You are then able to adjust the areas you have painted, separately from the rest of the images. You can alter the size of the brush at any time. This is a very powerful tool and, with practice, it can be used very precisely. You can create multiple brushes in any image.

In both cases you can apply a semi-transparent red overlay by clicking ‘Show Selected Mask Overlay’ just underneath the image window on the left. It’s also possible to add to or subtract from the selection by using the Brush tools.

Once you have ‘set’ either of these tools, you can adjust any of the sliders shown in the dialogue to adjust the selected parts of your image.

Read more about the Graduated Filter.

Read more about the Adjustment Brush.

When you have finished all the adjustments you want to make in Lightroom, it’s time to move the image over to Photoshop. This is very easy to do.

  • Right-click anywhere on the image and a menu will open up
  • Point at ‘Edit In‘ and a second menu will open
  • Click ‘Edit in Adobe Photoshop 2020…

The image will now open in Photoshop. If Photoshop is not already loaded, it will be opened automatically.

A few general tips

Any slider in Lightroom can be reset to its default by double-clicking the wee triangle in the slider.

Set the Panels to Solo mode. This means that only one panel will ever be open at any one time. This will save a lot of scrolling up and down. Right-click on any panel and click on ‘Solo mode‘. 

You can also change the order of the Panels so that you can move your favourite ones to the top. Right-click on any panel and click on ‘Customise Develop Panel‘.

Use the Navigator panel on the top left to look at your image in different sizes. It’s particularly important to check your image at full size so you can check for unpleasant ‘joins’ if you have used the Adjustment Brush.

Create a preset called Basic which applies Lens Correction automatically when you import images. You could also include any other adjustments in this Basic preset. Read more in this article: How to Create a Standard Import Preset.