Lightroom 4: Highlight and shadow slider limitations

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I'm a real estate photographer. When editing photos that contain extreme amounts of highlights AND shadows (e.g. interiors of houses during daytime where the light inside is way less than the light coming in through the window, even when using copious amounts of flash to try to balance inside and outside lighting), I sometimes find myself setting Highlights all the way to -100 and Shadows to +100 and wishing they would go further. I suggest those sliders could be extended to the equivalent of +/- 150 or even 200 without affecting noise and colour casts, especially when using the latest batch of high-end DSLRs. Prior to LR4, I often achieved better results using a combination of the Fill Light and Brightness sliders. Real estate photographers mostly generate 800 x 600 pixel images for use on web sites, so noise isn't really an issue most of the time.
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Dave Williamson

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Posted 6 years ago

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jdv, Champion

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"100" means +/-100%. They could make a dial that goes to 150, but like a volume control, once you hit the end, you hit the end.

Try changing the images to the old process, and then the sliders will work like they did in 3.6 (to some extent.)

You may also want to tweak exposure first instead of concentrating on the highlights and shadows, which work an a much smaller part of the image.
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Rob Cole

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What do you mean by "to some extent". I thought the sliders would work *identically* to 3.6 if previous process version selected, no?
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Dave Williamson

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@John. That's why I said the "equivalent" of +/- 150 or 200. If the highlight/shadow range is extended past 100, they can then be renumbered to max out at 100.

I actually like the new PV settings because highlights are better controlled (i.e. they don't blow out as much, which is important when shooting interiors). Changing to the old 2010 process defeats the purpose.

I usually do tweak exposure first to get a fairly even spread between the highlights and shadows but find the dynamic range of photos taken with my camera a bit lacking (I use a 5D2; don't want to start a flame war!).
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Lee Jay

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Local highlight and local shadows still have to work even if the basic sliders are at 100, so there needs to be range left over for that.

And easy way to get more range without using the local controls is to turn contrast down, blacks up or whites down.
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Rob Cole

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Hi Dave,

I understand the difficulties of achieving good images of high contrast scenes.

Anyway, gradient-wise, if you start a gradient at the bottom edge and pull it downward a smidge, it will cover the whole thing at 100%. Exactly the same as painting the entire image with a 100% brush, except quicker to apply.

The way Lightroom works, local adjustment values are added to globals for net effect, so a global of 2 and a local of 2 results in a global of 4. Likewise, a global of 100 and a local of 50 gives a net of 150 - the extended range you are looking for.

Make sense?

PS - If you are not trying to capture motion in these scenes, an HDR or exposure blending technique would be ideal, but you already know about that, right?

Hint: If you want to make yourself a preset to apply to ultra high-contrast scenes, upon import or soon thereafter, include the above-mentioned gradient at say highlights=-50 and shadows=+50. That way, your global adjustments of 0-100 will have the same effect as 50-150.

Another thing to note:
---------------------------
Highlight locals won't effect shadows or even midtones that much. So you can paint a window much more sloppily in PV2012 than you needed to in PV2010, since painting outside the lines comes with far less penalty (and even use true highlight/shadow gradients in many more circumstances, if there are no critical tones that will be adversely effected outside the real "target" area). Likewise for filling shadows locally, +shadows won't over-brighten highlights at all, nor your mids too much.

Rob
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Dave Williamson

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Hi Rob. Thanks for your advice.

That's a pretty damn good workaround! I created a preset with H=-50 and S=+50 and it works very well. Now if there are enough LR4 users out there who have the same problem, Adobe might be convinced to change the sliders' range to +/- 150% of its present effect then relabel the '150' to '100'. That's exactly what I'm after. ;)
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Lee Jay

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"Likewise, a global of 100 and a local of 50 gives a net of 150 - the extended range you are looking for. "

No it doesn't. A global of 100 and a local of 100 with 100% density and flow is like a global of 150. Two pins will get you to 175, three to 187, and so on.
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Rob Cole

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@Lee - Is this law of diminishing local returns the case for *all* locals?

@Dave - Assuming each local has diminishing effects, as Lee Jay is saying, it's worth noting that if you use this technique for extending the range of the globals, your successive locals will have less kick than they would have otherwise...
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Lee Jay

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Not all, I don't think. Exposure is, I believe, additive.
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Dorin Nicolaescu-Musteață, Champion

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Another way to extend the range of Shadow Highlights is to drop Contrast and boost Clarity.

Hotestrly it seems that the maths between the Clarity and Shadow/Highlights is quite the same (with different parameters) and Clarity is a combination of Highlights and Shadows rolled into one.
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Rob Cole

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|> "Another way to extend the range of Shadow Highlights is to drop Contrast and boost Clarity."

Not exactly the same, but yeah...

|> "Hotestrly it seems that the maths between the Clarity and Shadow/Highlights is quite the same (with different parameters) and Clarity is a combination of Highlights and Shadows rolled into one."

What does this mean???
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Rob Cole

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Dave - would you mind making one of your raws available to me. And also consider sending to Eric Chan of Adobe to help make your point.

I can be reached via PM at:
http://forums.adobe.com/people/areohbee
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ja yo

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I really like the new Tone controls. The Highlights slider works great for naturally burning in bright skies! But I also find myself often wanting to pull the highlights down further than -100. I haven't been able to replicate or really extend the effect of the highlights control with any other combination of controls without unintended consequences.

I'd guess that the values chosen for the current 100% endpoints were a reasonable judgement call, and not a technical limit, but maybe I'm incorrect. If possible, please extend the four Tone sliders out to +/- 150 or 200. By labeling the new limits 150 or 200, any existing photos with changes in the +/- 100 range could be unaffected.

With the increased scene dynamic range that new cameras are able to deal with, it seems like many of my image files could handle more highlight recovery and shadow boost without clipping, and my photos would benefit from it. More cowbell!
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Lee Jay

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It is a technical limit.

If you need more range, use contrast, white/blacks, or locals. Most of the time, you don't need more range if you set exposure right.