Lightroom: Photoshop type levels tool and proper sliders please

  • 3
  • Idea
  • Updated 5 years ago
  • (Edited)
I'm trying to use Lightroom how I'm supposed to use it, i.e use the basic panels sliders instead of using a levels tool like how I’m so used to in Photoshop. However, i find it very hard getting my photo's to look right using this method i.e I’m not very good at all at judging how much is too little or too much exposure to add etc etc. I find myself saying to myself all the time that i wish Lightroom had a proper levels tool just like Photoshop. I mainly wish this when dealing with my many under exposed Jpeg images (yes I’m no professional photographer, lol).

My workaround now is to use the Point curve tool like a levels tool, finding the black and white points in the underexposed images (Jpegs) and then taking a snapshot of the photo. Then I reset the point curve, close it and move up to the basic panel sliders. Then i use the exposure slider (& a bit of contrast etc) to adjust the image, comparing the result to the point curve snapshot until both the image and the snapshot look around about the same brightness. This seems like the only way I can really be sure that I’m not over exposing my image etc, like I normally do. I then i discard the snapshot & have an image that i feel is about right in its exposure. All this seems like a lot of extra work for me. I would so much prefer just to have a proper levels tool with its own black and white point sliders, even if it was integrated into the point curve tool. Maybe some kind of better values indicators too.

I personally think the Lightroom programmers need to realise that some people like me are not professional photographers, and that we mainly just want to use a program like Lightroom just to edit some Jpegs non destructively, and to have the basic essential tools that we've been so used to in programs like Photoshop etc etc. There's not really any good alternative program for us to use if we want the power of non destructive editing for our Jpegs.
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
  • hoping

Posted 6 years ago

  • 3
Photo of TK

TK

  • 531 Posts
  • 111 Reply Likes
Rob, I respect your PV2012 knowledge and appreciate that you love the results. As a matter of facts I just played a little with PV2012 with a trial version (I was really just testing a new laptop) and when I processed the same image with PV2012 and PV2010 I was a *lot* quicker with PV2010 but surprisingly liked the result with PV2012 a bit better. It was a very quick a dirty test, though, so I'm not concluding much from it.

Anyhow, here's what I think is broken with PV2012 (not that I believe anyone minds):

A commonly used and well-tested approach to image editing is to fix first what bugs you most. If the black point is off, I like to fix that first before I get to the midtones. If there are highlights screaming at me, I don't want to fine tune midtones first.

The underlying mechanics of PV2012, however, only work as intended when you use the sliders in an intended order. If one has the willingness to always stick to that order (or slight deviations to it) then PV2012 can produce great results.

On top of that the effect of a slider depends on image content so you have to internalise that as well, not just its general intended effect.

The tragedy, AFAIC, is that we probably could have gotten the same great improved image quality with more conventional controls. If only LR4 gave us the opportunity to opt out of "auto-" and "adaptive everything". If people want a soft "film like" roll-off for exposure, that's fine. But why foist it on everyone?

But it wasn't to be and my hopes for future LR versions aren't high as people are getting used to complying to a tool, rather than demanding that the tool can be used intuitively by competent users.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
TK,

Dunno if you recall my complaints during the beta:

http://forums.adobe.com/message/41771...

Despite my improved editing skills, those complaints really haven't changed much.

In a nutshell: I *don't* like PV2012 from a usability standpoint, but ya gotta use it how they made it...

Cheers,
Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Hi TK

Interesting reply
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Ok, if my understanding is now correct (corrected), then:

Contrast is a more complicated adjustment than just using the contrast slider because:

Even after adjusting the contrast with the contrast slider, if you then adjust the blacks &/or whites sliders afterwards then the contrast is further affected by those 2 sliders too?

this doesn't get easier, but i suppose knowledge is power, lol
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Paul,

Sorry for the misunderstanding...

blacks & whites sliders do not affect the contrast slider, but they do affect image contrast.

I have a way of making things seem more complicated than they are - sorry 'bout that.

Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
No, you made perfect sense to me and i have lept forward a step in my understanding of what is actually going on when you use those sliders.

Even the good old levels tool makes more sense now, i.e adjusting the blacks & whites sliders on the levels tool sets your blacks & whites points but gives a linear boost to all tones and thus contrast isn't changed? Please tell me I'm right, lol.

That being true, I can understand now why the levels tool is so appealing to people that have limited knowledge of photo enhancing - Obviously then the levels tool limitations is down to the fact that it cant really be used to adjust contrast in just parts of an image, unlike the basics panel sliders?
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
|> "adjusting the blacks & whites sliders on the levels tool sets your blacks & whites points but gives a linear boost to all tones and thus contrast isn't changed? Please tell me I'm right".

Right you are.

|> " the levels tool limitations is down to the fact that it cant really be used to adjust contrast in just parts of an image, unlike the basics panel sliders?"

Right again, and same is true of Lr4's tone/point curve. Thus the reason the recommended order is basics first for the heavy lifting, then tone/point curve to fine tune.

And in response to a quote from a long time ago - yes: perhaps a better name for the basics sliders would be "the advanced sliders" ;-}

R
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Yay, lol

I've noticed with all my old compact camera shots that they need a lot of attention in Lightroom. Luckily lately I've been using a lovely system camera (Lumix G10 & GF3).

I've been experimenting with the various modes and have noticed:

Intelligent Auto mode: Often motion blur from baby Emily (she never sits still, lol), and also exposure in never quite right.

Shutter speed mode: Often i get it wrong, and the photos are dark, thus exposure needs a lot of attention in Lightroom. No motion blur.

Aperture mode: Exposure is automatic & always perfect and no attention needed in Lightroom (especially as i now always try and have the light source behind me) . Background de-focused bringing attention to the subject instead. No motion blur at all as the shutter speed is automatically adjusted by the camera to give the shortest opening time.

I think i'm always going to leave the camera on Aperture mode.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Big strides... :-)
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
TK, I thought you and Paul might appreciate this one:

http://forums.adobe.com/message/45990...
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
TY Rob
Photo of TK

TK

  • 531 Posts
  • 111 Reply Likes
Thanks, Rob.
If I needed better IQ than PV 2010 can give me, I may enter the dungeon and fight the PV 2012 dragon, but it just does not entice me sufficiently to replace my "fix what is broken approach" with a "clairvoyantly adjust sliders in a fixed (arbitrary) order, trusting it will all come together in the end" approach.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
I've heard from a few other folk too who feel that it's just not worth it to learn PV2012. That's not a good thing for Adobe if you ask me. Also, I still can't see much value, from a user perspective, in having Lightroom sliders be same as Revel's, other than to give a sense of familiarity to someone who uses both, since the adjustments on one, do not translate to the other. It's a mystery to me why Adobe cared much that Lightroom's basic sliders had anything to do with Revel's - or do you think Revel really uses the same code as Lightroom for exposure & contrast & highlights & shadows, and then just does without the blacks & whites sliders? If so, it sorta begs the question of why not just toss the blacks & whites slider code in there too? Maybe just paving the way for the future, when Lightroom and Revel are integrated?
Photo of Chrisf01

Chrisf01

  • 16 Posts
  • 1 Reply Like
I had a look at the above forum where Rob says:

"Let's see, where were we? - oh yeah: auto-tone. It *really* needs to be fixed! Why? because it's too much for people to have to take the time to master PV2012 before they can get decent results. If one could choose from a matrix of auto-toned options where at least one of them looks pretty good after first click, but would look even better after only a few minor adjustments, it would be a righteous way for people to get good results with PV2012 out of the box, then get improved results as they improve their technique... "

Ditto, ditto, ditto - that's all I ask!!!

Chris
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Absolutely

I also still believe in an auto levels button (with an option of how much black & or whites are clipped at %). I think Adobe should let the user decide if they want to use one or not. Embarrassingly, when i first tried Lightroom out in a trial i thought the blacks and whites sliders in the basic panel were the same as the blacks and whites sliders on a levels tool (and i can fully understand why i assumed that at the time). If i knew then that was incorrect and that Lightroom had no levels tool or auto levels, i might not of bought Lightroom, or at very least used it just as a cataloging & cropping tool, and done all the tone stuff externally in Photoshop elements 1st (& healing whilst there).
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Be careful what you ask for...

Gazoo (@v4.17) now has auto-black/white-point curve presets:



I still don't recommend them as a substitute for basic settings, but as always: it's your call.

Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Thanks Rob, i will check it out.

If i could design a tool for my image editor i would choose a levels tool with a fill light. The fill light would effect a much wider range of tones than the Lightroom shadows slider, but would not effect the high tones. It would have the ability to include auto contrast in the fill too.

My reasons are that the Lightroom exposure slider just seems to bunch up & blowout the mid and high tones together too much and this is not nice if i don't want the high tones effected, i.e snowy picture or an image with something bright in the background. Yes i can use the highlights recovery slider, but it never seems to give the results i want. I think it's far better to come from the other end and just fill the darks and mids with a decent fill light without effecting the highs in the 1st place.

I've tried ACDSee with it's fill light, but frankly i think it gives rubbish unnatural results. Google's Picasa fill light is even worse. About the only 2 good fill light tools i've found are in Sagelight and Arcsofts photostudio darkroom, but other features and bugs let the programs down too much.

I can't understand why this simple approach to fixing images that have dark area problems is not common sense. It would be a super fast way of fixing the photos too i think.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Hi Paul,

if +exposure compresses upper mids / highlights too much, then do this:

-exposure
+whites

and/or use a debrightening ("U"-ish shaped) tone/point curve with an upward inflection/slope through the highlights/whites.

Also, if PV2012 is ganging up tones prematurely in the upper quadrant, bringing in the white-point (using point curve) is another option to consider (along with dropped exposure and/or reduced whites).

Similarly, large -blacks in conjunction with large +shadows can stress the shadows non-optimally sometimes (in my opinion), in which case one can bring the blacks slider rightward, and bring black-point in (using point curve) for a more natural (less "vivid/punchy", but still well-seated) shadow look.

PS - I hear ya about the fill. That was a nice feature in Lr3, and similar effect requires more finesse in pv12.

Cheers,
Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Hi Rob

Good to see your replies are just as thorough as i remember, lol.

I will try your recommendations.

I should of pointed out that most of my images are Jpegs, and the images i was referring too were basically images that needed brightening somehow.

Let me give you an example.

Say i have an image of my child, with this going on in the image:

1) She is indoors. There is a bright window to the side of her in the image too.
2) I bounced a flash off the ceiling, and so parts of her are bright but parts of her are darker too.
3) The image as it is has a good tonal range.
4) I want to brighten her in her dark and mid tones and at the same time want to also reduce the brightness of the bright window.

OK, so in Lightroom, increasing just the shadows is not enough, as i want to increase her mid tones too, So:
- I increase exposure and contrast a lot until she is bright enough. However in the window and surrounding area of the image, the mid tones have been pushed into the high tones with a lot of clipping. Lots of definition lost.
- I compensate by using a lot of the highlights recovery slider. However this also takes away some brightness from my child in the image too (remember some parts of her are brighter than others). I don't want her brightness reduced at all anywhere. Therefore i get the urge to increase exposure again (& so have to stop a vicious circle forming). Therefore the highlights recovery method is non selective and not ideal (p.s masking is too much mucking about).

Surely that is a mad way of doing things. Surely instead of the exposure/contrast/highlights recovery method, a better way is to have a levels tool with a decent wide intelligent fill light. It would brighten just the parts in the image that need brightening (not just the shadows), and leave all the high tones alone and without the clipping and compression problems. It would take 30 seconds to adjust the image and with minimal mucking about.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Fair enough Paul. Until then, consider using locals if globals + curve leave some parts non-optimal.

Sorry for less than uber-thorough response, but I think that's kinda it, tone-wise:
* basics if enough
* supplement w/ a curve (or a straight line with adjusted endpoints) if need be.
* locals to finish if need be.

If it's any consolation, I find pv12 seems to "fit" some photos better than others.

UPDATE: consider -contrast too (along with +vib/sat maybe), and/or a different camera profile, you may have less of a fight that way. +clarity of course can also help fill the gap when -contrast is being used. And +contrast can be used as local too, to strategically re-contrast some areas.

Also, I regularly use +blacks for photos like you've described - it has a way of brightening, like exposure (more smoothly than +shadows), but with less crowding of the highlights - it can be modulated with curve to keep darks dark enough.

R
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Rob, thanks so much for the tips.

The + BIG blacks is a fascinating trick/tip - I would never of thought of that as i was still thinking of the blacks slider in LR as being the equivalent of the blacks slider in a levels tool and never realized its potential in the other direction.

Also, your tip on using more +whites instead of so much +exposure has helped me a lot too. It really does seem to negate some of the bunching of the mids into highs tones that i was describing.

How someone is supposed to know all this without chatting to someone like you is beyond me. Perhaps Adobe need to produce a beginners video specifically aimed at non professionals like me, that actually explains these essentials & fundamentals and in a way beginners can understand? Perhaps even you could (BUT for a beginner, lol).

Good man.

fun·da·men·tal - Something that is an essential or necessary part of a system
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
You bet Paul. pv12 is a tricky beast to be sure. - easy to learn to get photos in the ball park, but when it comes time to optimize, it can be entirely unclear what to do. I spent hundreds of hours learning it. I very much enjoy using it now, but it was extremely frustrating for me too in the early days, and still gets my goat every now and then ;-}. Cheers, Rob.

PS - I can easily see Adobe taking what they've learned image-quality/tone-wise to bring us pv12 and re-imagining it into a set of controls that are more straight-forward to use, offer more consistent behavior, and more control without being unwieldy...

This story still unfolding,
Rob...
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Rob

I'm quite interested in learning more about using +blacks as a kind of fill light and then finding the black point with the point curve instead.

Can i ask you, is this a recommended or recognized procedure in Lightroom 4 or is it something you're not meant to really do but just works well?

Could you explain to me a bit more about it if possible as i have a few unintentionally backlit overexposed photos that i just might settle on using this method with.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Hi Paul. I'm not sure what to say here. +blacks has a response curve (how much it brightens at each luminosity) that is very reminiscent of Lr3's fill light. *BUT* it does not use the masking/re-combining technique of Lr3 fill and Lr4 shadows slider. So, it can be good when you've already got intra-shadow contrast to spare, and want to brighten the darks and/or mids with less encroachment on the highlights. It's another tool for the kit whether it's sanctioned or not ;-}. As you've also noted -exposure +whites is another technique for brightening (or debrightening, depending on the relative amounts used) the image whilst minimizing highlights compression (often coupled with -highlights +shadows).

Also, my guess is that -contrast is underused in Lr4. Why? because you can mostly control highlights & shadows with those sliders, and people tend to like contrasty images. But often you can get by with much less contrast when you've got whites cranked up (relative to exposure), and have blacks well seated (whether via -blacks or point curve). And if you are going to do your own curve, lowered contrast often helps keep you from fighting against canned contrast when your objective is to roll your own.

Want to decompress highlights?
* reduce exposure
* reduce contrast
Not bright enough now? +whites (-highlights to keep from overclipping). +shadows to bring up bottom end.
Not contrasty enough now? -blacks (or tone/point curve)

Want to fill the shadows?
* increase exposure, if room without compressing highlights too much.
* increase shadows, unless doing so will result in too much intra-shadow contrast.
If either of the above issues arise (or if +shadows is not reaching far enough), consider +blacks instead (coupled with -contrast maybe and some custom tone/point curve to optimize light distribution, read: debrighten strategically).

To summarize: +blacks (somewhat counter-intuitively) brightens more tones than +shadows, and does so in a way that tends to "soften" the look (e.g. less HDR-like). Likewise, +blacks brightens the whole image (like exposure) but with less highlight compression. The optimal amount of +blacks in an image depends on other settings and curve and also the kind of look you are wanting.

Also, +clarity often goes very nicely with +blacks: helps restore some of the contrastiness lost using +blacks, without further darkening shadows (or re-compressing highlights) the way +contrast would.

Parting thought: as you've noticed, -highlights does not always expand highlights - often it simply debrightens them, which granted is often enough to be able to see highlight detail better, but to really spread them out, you may need -exposure -contrast +whites to go with that -highlights (or instead of it).

And as TK has noticed, part of the trickiness of pv12 comes from inconsistency of slider behavior. Sometimes -highlights reaches way left of the midline, and sometimes it only affects a narrow range way right of the midline, so one needs to adapt to pv12 the way pv12 is adapting to your image (use the sliders that work for what you're trying to do, not the ones that don't) ;-}.

To more specifically answer your question, yes: +blacks to brighten/fill, in conjunction with simply moving the black-point in (via point curve, to keep seated) can be a way to enhance a photo that requires less pv12 prowess and finesse, and less tinkering... (and along those lines: if +exposure and/or +whites behaviors are jamming the highlights and/or whites too much (or are otherwise causing you a pain), another option is to leave them lower and bring in the white-point using the point-curve to re-brighten).

?,
R.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Here is a version of "Emily" which illustrates the points we've been discussing:

http://www.robcole.com/Rob/Personal/P...

Things to note: no adjustments were made other than:
* bringing up exposure a fair amount (since it was obviously *way* underexposed) - no attempt was made to optimize exposure or bring into clipping - no highlight encroachment, etc.
* Blacks +100 (the primary element intended to be illustrated) - as primary fill, without overbrightening highlights, which is what this photo badly needed.
* Clarity +20 (relatively large clarity amount does not make her look over-clarified, when used in conjunction with big +blacks, and no +shadows...
* Vibrance +20 to add coloric punch back in.
* Point curve (no curviness): black point in a little, and white point in a fair amount - the other "points" (pun intended), that are being illustrated by this example.

Note: if this were my photo, I'd combine some of the elements that have been illustrated in this thread, as opposed to going whole hog with one or the other, e.g. the Bright n' Punchy version is over the top in my opinion (and TK strongly agrees), but the BIG +blacks version is a little bland for my taste - elements of each could be combined...

Cheers,
Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Hi Rob
I'm having a feeling that Lightroom is not completely for me.

My reasons are because of the controls, the ease of understanding them and the ease of using them to get the image results I want. They don't seem easy or even natural too me at all. The amount of time having to be spent on each image is too much too. I even think the image results can sometimes be disappointing too.

I think I still want to use Lightroom for the odd RAW development, and for cataloging and non-destructive cropping, but I have found and want to use a different editor to enhance my images before then going into Lightroom to those things.

It's called Sagelight Image editor and it just seems more powerful, faster & easier to use and understand. It just seems more me, lol.

Take a peek at these videos and tell me what you think please:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwMyow...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0p_Xs...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F7xAg...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pnGZG...

Not to mention the great masking tool and also the light blender too (there's no video for that yet that i can see).
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Paul,

Sagelight looks really good (I didn't try it though).

Really, if you are only (or mostly) editing jpegs, then Lr (editor-wise) is indeed less necessary. It still works well for jpegs, but what you give up when editing raws in other editors is the stellar raw conversion technology in Lightroom.

So, I won't take it personally if you jump ship - just make sure you pay a visit after using Sagelight for a while - sometimes the devil is in the corner cases, and we want to know the truth ;-} (I do anyway...).

PS - I very much like the idea of the masking: kinda like an editable U-point mask. Technology akin to that is my #1 hope for Lr5's dev module (or Lr6, or 7, or...).

I came to Lr from NX2, and (edit) feature-wise Lr is lean compared to NX2. And I continued to use NX2 as my raw converter when using Lr2. It wasn't until mid Lr3 lifecycle when Adobe resolved the highlight color-cast issues, that I really preferred Lr rendering across the board. Still, NX2 is my primary external editor (just for cooked files now). I own Photoshop too, but I rarely use it... If you've never tried NX2, it might be worth comparing to Sagelight. It's written for Nikon raws, but works very nicely on any ol' jpegs. My only reservation in recommending it whole heartedly is that it's future is uncertain, since Nik was bought by Google, and there hasn't been a new (major) version since 2008.

Cheers,
Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Devil is in the corner cases? What does that mean? lol

Cheers Rob and thanks for all your time with all your replies buddy
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Devil is in the corner cases (as opposed to being in the details - a common saying):

Sometimes one can try a software which works well in 95% of cases, but in 5% you can't get acceptable results, which means you need another solution in those cases, which means it's a deal breaker if you really want to stick with just one.

Sometimes it doesn't matter how many great features there are, but whether or not there are any deal-breakers.

eh?
R
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Yes, to your logic

Hmmm
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
I'm now totally missing Lightroom!

Best just to practice more and become better with techniques.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Grass sometimes (not always ;-}) looks greener on the other side of the fence (to many of the defenders in this forum, the grass looks greener on *this* side of the fence ;-}).

So, again - to brighten/fill a photo using Lr (pv12):

The heavy lifting:

+exposure -highlights +shadows

but as you've noted that formula has limitations...

So, if it still jams the highlights too much (-highlights may not gel perfectly with top end sometimes), then maybe:

-exposure +whites (maybe more -highlights & +shadows to go with that)

That assumes you have room for the +whites and that additional "intra-highlight" and "intra-shadow" contrast is good (or at least ok). If not, then maybe go more with:

-contrast

If that leads to too little midtone contrast and pizazz, then maybe:

+clarity +vib/sat (and/or -blacks).

Note: you may need to go to the tone/point curve if still not making it:

In general, a U-shape works well in pv12 when photo needs a lot of brightening via +exposure (and/or +blacks), since it can strategically (and smoothly) remove light without requiring a downward slope anywhere (which is what tends to suck the life out of a region).

But also, an 'S' shape may work, *if* you need more "midtone" contrast (and can live with some darker darkness, and/or brighter/more-compressed highlights) but with a different center-point than Lr would choose for you, etc...

And if more light is still needed downstairs, then +blacks may provide the magic bullet, since it will light up the whole photo (darks most, mids next-most, ...) without unseating too much or brightening/compressing highlights as much as +exposure will (I mean, *might*, since it depends on how -highlights is working up there).

Note: +blacks loves +clarity to unsoften the softness that comes with using +blacks in that manner (relatively large positive values).

Also, one can move the blackpoint in using point curve, to reseat, if need be.

Similarly, if +whites (and/or +exposure) is over compressing white tones, simply back off and then move white point in using point curve.

The other thing to remember is that Lr has great local adjustments for toning. e.g. one can drop contrast to help brighten shadows, then replenish contrast to subject features using a brush. Likewise, one can bring down over-exposure in critical regions via brush...

This is the formula I followed to create a very natural but exposure-evened (and bright) version of the Emily pic:

i.e.
Large exposure, w/debrightening "U" curve.
moderate +blacks with point curve to reseat.
very low contrast, with a touch of re-contrasting to Emily's facial features.
fairly large +clarity and +vib/sat, since it seemed to work to restore pizaazz without too much harshness, given the low contrast, +blacks, ...
a touch of reduced exposure to areas over-brightened by excessive flash light.

Note: unlike the bright n' punchy version (which has large +shadows -highlights), it relies on only small values for -highlights & +shadows, which is why it has the more natural look I was shooting for. (note: I actually like the bright and punchy version too, but it's more of a challenge to "reduce contrast (& brighten)" a photo in a fashion that looks natural, shadows=+100 & highlights=-100 will nearly always do the job, but often give it that "HDR look" (or other unnaturalness) that may not be desired...).

PS - I did not spend long editing this photo (on this pass, since I knew what I was shooting for due to past experience with it). - locals are actually quite subtle and were quickly applied.

Emily again (Rob's Choice)

Notice: I rarely use whites in the negative region, it seems to have a dulling effect that is hard to compensate for without undoing everything "you" were trying to do with it in the first place. Still, it has it's place: Emily version above has whites=-10, since it helped a tad, and a little softness/dullness at the top end was ok for this version... - it could have easily been finished with whites=0. Definitely not a photo where +whites was needed or desired, at least not in this version.

Rule #5: Enjoy!
Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Rob.

Thanks for the great tips (except for the fact that i keep having to go all the way back and re-do all my entire photo collection yet again with them, lol)

The Basics Panel sliders are finally making sense to me, and I'm feeling confident in using them now.

Even the very basic principle of brightening an underexposed photo using the exposure slider (with contrast) until the mid tones are bright enough (or start to compress) and then finishing of the brightening with the whites slider makes sense to me know (after chatting to you), and i have to finally admit that it's actually a much better way than using just a levels tool. I'm not sure why i found it so hard to grasp that principle as it seems really simple to me know. I know one thing: I wouldn't of figured out the correct procedure without chatting to you on here, and found nothing on the net prior to that, that would of pointed me in the right direction. I didn't even really know what the whites slider was for.

I stand by my opinion that Adobe need to do much more to help the absolute beginner get started and to understand simple principles like that, because without them nothing else is going to make sense.

Anyway lots of other great tips and techniques from you, and much to go on.

Thanks
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Glad you're coming up to speed Paul, and you're welcome.

I haven't read Adobe's "Lr Classroom in a Book" or anything, so I'm not really qualified to say how well their informational offerings cover the finer points...

Certainly the Lr help and online tutorials by Julieanne Kost etc. barely scratch the surface...

Cheers,
Rob
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Paul,

I want to thank you too, for pushing me to figure this stuff out more...

My editing ability has improved since I came to realize PV2012 does not always satisfy at the extreme ends of the histogram.

I mean, in the beginning I learned to use tone/point curviness to try and finesse the tone near the extreme ends, but since then I've found that simply easing up on +whites and/or -blacks and bringing endpoint(s) in via the point curve (and often no curviness is required) produces better results in some photos than trying to go all the way (to the endpoints) using basics.

+blacks (relatively speaking, i.e. less negative...) and black-point in via point curve: less extreme intra-shadow contrast, without reducing "fill" (and a softer look with warmer highlights). (tip: the more +blacks you have, the more +clarity you can get away with).
-whites (relatively speaking, i.e. less positive) and white-point in via point curve: less white mud (allows for greater intra-whites contrast in some photos, without dulling highlights).

Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Hi Rob

Hey the feelings mutual as i feel i want to thank you too. Without your help Lightroom for me would be in the Bin. Now I'm Loving it instead (i would never of figured out that the whites slider is an important part of stretching that histogram out when brightening an underexposed image, etc etc). What i really respect about you is your willingness to help those that know far less than yourself, rather than just surrounding yourself with like minded & advanced users of the same level. I think perhaps you're right that sometimes understanding how a beginner see things can actually give insight that would of long since been missed or forgotten.

I still think Lightroom lacks a little bit when it comes to brightening backlit fully exposed Jpeg photos (i crave a dedicated fill light with the ability to control the fill range), but all things considered it still beats the next best editor by a distance. I'm understanding it now & loving using it.

Sagelight has a very good fill light, but has no control yet over some weird feathering that goes on which is a shame, but its the kind of fill light that I'm talking about. Arcsoft Photostudio Darkroom has quite a nice fill light too.
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Hi Paul,

You're welcome, and again: thanks.

Indeed, you can sometimes only go so far with the global controls.

In cases when you just can't seem to satisfy one region without destroying another, it's time to break out the paint brush... (or an external editor with layers or more powerful masking...).

PS - Hopefully Adobe is taking note of the difficulties people have using Lr/ACR to accomplish their goals (e.g. normalizing backlit photos) and will come up with another round of improvements that give us even more editability in Lightroom... - I like your idea of a fill light that allows one to specify tonal range.

Note: if Adobe comes up with a general purpose masking technology, then one could isolate various tones/colors in a target region, and apply not only "fill", but noise reduction and/or color mods too...

Cheers,
Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Agreed x 100 buddy
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Rob

Just out of a matter of interest:

I'm finding that the text overlay on the point curve that displays the values for the points are far too small to see properly. Is there a plug-in (maybe by you) where the values for the black &/or white points can be either entered (via keyboard) or at least viewed more easily. I'm asking because it's hard to make sure the vertical values stay at 0 or 100 for the black &/or whites points.

Paul
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Gazoo supports nudging or bending the end-points, but I haven't yet implemented manual entry. Somebody was going to make a plugin featuring big all-visible-at-once point/channel curves, but I don't think it was ever finished.

1 Hot Tip: Use the Alt key (it makes point adjustment much less sensitive). Granted that doesn't help you see the numbers, but that's the best I got atm.

r
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Ty buddy
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Behavior of auto-blacks and auto-whites has changed in Lr5.3.

Although there is no mention in release notes, it used to be:

* shift double-clicking gave auto-tone value, independent of all other adjustments (somewhat dependent on cam-cal profile), and so could be done at any time, e.g. first.

But now it's:

* shift double-clicking intelligently finds a value which depends on other sliders, e.g. exposure, and therefore can not be done at any time, e.g. must be done after exposure.

PS - Although I see the merit in the new handling, I wish the old handling still existed, and I wish the change was not made without any mention.

Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
Hi Rob, nice to meet you again on here :)

As a Lightroom user and in respect of dark images, I have moved on nicely from a complete novice that only wanted to use a levels tool to brighten a dark image, to a user fairly adept at using the 'Basics' panel 1st in the way it was designed to be used, i.e exposure, contrast, whites and blacks (LR4).

Having said that, i do still use the point curve on most of my dark images to finish off the brightening if i feel that a full histogram cannot be achieved using the 'Basics' panel alone without it overexposing locally or globally.

As you mentioned above, I never knew you could shift/double click on the blacks and whites sliders in the 'Basics' panel to get auto values and is a great little tip. I would however say that for me personally it would be great to have black and white point sliders in the point curve like how a levels tool has (& possibly with some kind of auto feature too), rather than the annoying and clumsy method of having to move those point dots around with the mouse and having to check that the height values are still either '0' or '100' all the time, lol

Paul
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
Hi Paul - long time no post! FWIW: I agree, there are times when moving whites (especially) via point curve and blacks (sometimes too) gives better results than using whites and blacks sliders.

Although I would never recommend starting in Lr by bringing white/black points in via the curve (like I usually do in NX2) - because of the radically different design of Lr versus others like NX2, there are times when simply tightening via the tone curve (white/black points) would not only give better results, but would be very convenient too. (I do this using Gazoo, but it needs to be native too..).

In the mean time, consider Alt-drag for moving the endpoints - much less squirrelly that way ;-}

Cheers,
Rob
Photo of paul beckwith

paul beckwith

  • 44 Posts
  • 4 Reply Likes
I actually ended up making a preset folder containing 50 presets called 'Levels', which move the white point on the point curve along from 100 through to 50 (all with a height value of 100).

Works quite well, lol
Photo of Rob Cole

Rob Cole

  • 4831 Posts
  • 384 Reply Likes
More than one way to get a job done - enjoy!