Lightroom 4b: improve basic tone controls.

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My experience with Lr4b (PV2012) basic tone controls is often "precarious":

It is often difficult to get a balance of settings that looks good from one end of the tone curve to the other. It's supposed to be easier (or at least not so much harder). I think Adobe has not yet met that goal.

It seems holding one tonal range fixed while moving another is not a good idea.

It seems that's how the shadow & highlight sliders are working.

i.e. when you adjust shadows, highlights are held in place, and when you adjust highlights, shadows are held in place.

This seems to inevitably lead to potential problems in the midtones at the junction where they are overly compressed or stretched.

I think I may be on to something here, but whether my theory has any merit or not, the bottom-line is that I am often unsatisfied with Lr4b. There are some notable improvements, to be sure, but the basic tonal adjustments need to go back on the table in the lab, in my opinion.

To people assessing my theory, beware: it is difficult to analyze histogram in Lightroom because tonal redistributions cause misleading/distracting height fluctuations. But, if you cover the left side of the histogram and adjust shadows, the height of the right side may change a lot, but the tone positions change very little. Similarly for adjusting highlights.

Notice, the same is not the case for whites and blacks - adjusting either results in a continuous shift along the whole histogram.

In fact, the blacks slider has more impact on upper mids and highlights than the shadow slider does. And, the whites slider has more affect on shadows than the highlight slider does.

It seems that balance needs to shift - have shadow slider push more into the highlights and have blacks slider scope limited more to bottom-most end, and likewise, have highlights slider push more into the shadows, and have effect of whites slider be more confined to upper-most tones.

(note: if this change is made, then one need not keep returning to the exposure slider to adjust mid-tones, which results in the need to readjust highlights and shadows..., rinse & repeat... - the exposure would be once again set based mostly on general extent, and not so much for midtones - exposure, after setting once, would maybe only need to be fine-tuned in conjunction with whites in special cases)

But *all* sliders, regardless of their emphasis, should affect the *whole* range of tones in a continuous organic fashion, so there are no excessive tone compressions or over-stretching...

Please forgive me if you've already thought about all this and have already optimized this as best you can. I am admittedly still on the learning curve. I don't mean to sound arrogant, on the other hand at the moment, it really seems to me that I've hit on the main problem with the new tone controls. Perhaps I will be humbled before this thread is over...

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Rob Cole

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Posted 6 years ago

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Luigi Rocca

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I absolutely agree. For same (most?) images, the new black/shadows/highlights/whites works great - it's better than the 2010 process.

BUT - for some images, what fill light did is actually not doable with the new sliders.

In my experience, you could push shadows and actually make them become midtones, and easily recover contrast adjusting the black point as needed (extreme parameters, something like filllight+60 blacks +30). Maybe I'm wrong, but I think this possibilty has been overlooked because when you use fill light this (sometimes extreme) way, horrible noise creeps in with most cameras. But this is not the case with FF cameras or recent APS-C like the nikon D7000 and the pentax K-5. You practically have a kind of in-camera in-lightroom single photo poor man's HDR, that is vastly more cheap and practical that any other HDR workflow I can think of!

I often found extremely useful to expose for highlights in very difficult lights situations, knowing I could easily push shadows (even deep shadows sometimes!) in midtones and getting a properly balanced photo (this had its own problems, mind you: halos happens doing this but you can manage them). This is not so easy anymore with the new sliders, you always seem to miss contrast and you have to push back in a LOT of contrast and clarity to recover it, without getting the same effect/result you could before (by the way the new clarity it's a vast improvement that makes 2012 process a win only by itself).

I don't know if it's practical for adobe developers to tweak the new lightroom algorithms to allow this. Probably you would need to reintroduce something like the fill-light and black point sliders (maybe with new names?) alongside the new ones, but only the computer scientists the did the new process know if this is a user interface problem or something that would require more deep changes.

Or adobe could tell us a way to use the new sliders to really push the shadows - maybe we still don't know how to use them in the most effective way!
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Rob Cole

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Hi Luigi,

I've come a long way since I wrote that, but the bottom line is still the same:

Even with more extensive experience using PV2012 it is hard if not impossible to get as good results sometimes as PV2010.

But it's very true - you MUST learn to use the new controls in the most effective way, and you may also need a little tone curve supplementation.

I vary all over the map how I feel about PV2012 - on a good day it's like heaven, and on a bad day, more like he||.

New Clarity: love it on some few, but hate it on most others I regret to say. Luckily PV2012 is usually so clear and detailed that extra clarity is not needed.

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