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Home > Post Production > Getting to Know Adobe Lightroom: The Develop Module (Part Three)

Getting to Know Adobe Lightroom: The Develop Module (Part Three)

In the third and final part of exploring Lightroom’s Develop module we’ll be looking at the final set of tools with which you can adjust and refine your images.

First up we have the Split Toning panel. The technique of split toning an image – adding a colour tint to either or both the highlights and shadows of an image – has been around since the 19th century. In those days of course there were no digital tools so effects like split toning were achieved chemically in the darkroom. This involved replacing the silver salts in the (black and white) print with metals such as platinum or gold. With Split Toning you can achieve almost the same effect with far less fuss or mess. And, as a bonus, you can apply split toning to colour images too, something not possible in the darkroom.

The Split Toning panel is divided into three sections. You can apply the effect solely to the Highlights, the Shadows, or when applied to both, the Balance between the two. To apply the effect you first select the Hue (or colour) of the tint. You can either do this by moving the Hue slider to the appropriate value, or by clicking on the colour picker box just to the right of the Hue slider. Once you’ve picked a colour you then adjust the Saturation – or vividness – of the colour tint. The higher the Saturation value, the more vivid the colour tint. 

Adjusting the Balance slider shifts the effect between the Shadows and the Highlights. Set a negative value and Lightroom applies the Shadow setting to a greater range of tones across the image, with fewer tones being affected by the Highlight setting. Use a positive Balance value and the situation is reversed.

A good rule of thumb when applying Split Toning is to use a warm colour for the Highlights and a cooler colour for the Shadows. This effect is seen a lot in movies which, once you’ve spotted it once, you’ll notice a lot. (The effect, applied as a grade in post-production, is known as ‘orange and teal’. The fact that it has a name shows you how ubiquitous the effect is.)

Split toning arguably works best when it is used sparingly and subtly. 

The Detail panel has the tools necessary to sharpen an image, or to reduce – even remove – the effects of image noise. 

Raw files can look slightly soft when first opened, especially compared to a JPEG saved in-camera. This is because JPEGs are sharpened before they are saved to a memory card, Raw files are not. Sharpening images is a slight cheat. It’s achieved by increasing the contrast of edges at the pixel level – the higher the contrast, the sharper the image looks. Unfortunately, there are consequences. Go too far with sharpening and you begin to see ugly halos around those edges.

There are four sliders on the Sharpening half of the Detail panel. The Amount slider is used to control the degree of sharpening in an image. At 0, no sharpening is applied to an image at all. A value of 40-60 is a good general setting for most images. Radius refers to the number of pixels from an edge to which sharpening is applied. A value of 1 affects images details one pixel away from an edge, whereas 3 – the maximum value – affects details up to three pixels away. The higher the value of Radius, the more likely it is you’ll see those odd halos mentioned above. Generally Radius should be kept below 1.5, unless an image really needs a lot of sharpening. The Detail slider alters the amount of sharpening on the edges. Use a low value and only large, well-defined edges are affected. Increase the value and even smaller or finer edges are affected. Finally, Masking is used to stop areas that wouldn’t benefit from being sharpened – such as skies or skin – from being affected by Sharpening. At 0 sharpening is applied equally across the entire image. However, as you increase the Masking value to 100 only very distinct edges are sharpened. If you hold down Alt (PC) or Cmd (Mac) as you alter Masking a monochrome overlay is added to the image that helps you see which areas are being masked. Areas that are shown as white will be sharpened, whereas those that are black are protected from sharpening. 

As with a lot of Lightroom corrections, set Sharpening and Noise Reduction with the image at 1:1 (100%) magnification.

Noise, seen when a high ISO setting was used, reduces fine detail in images. Noise Reduction lets you reduce the affects of both luminance and colour (or chroma) noise. There are six sliders you can adjust, three relating to luminance, and three for colour. Luminance noise is generally seen as a slightly gritty texture in an image, a little bit like film grain. Colour noise results in blotchy, random splots of colour in an image. Of the two, luminance noise is generally regarded as the less objectionable. 

When both Luminance and Colour are set to 0 then no noise reduction is applied. The maximum noise reduction you can apply is 100. The problem with high values is that noise reduction has a tendency to smooth out fine details as well as noise, giving a shot a strangely plastic look. Typically, somewhere around 30 for Luminance and 25 (the default) for Colour is fine for most images. 

(Luminance) Detail sets the threshold at which luminance noise is reduced. A high value sees image details preserved at the cost of less noise reduction. Using a lower value reverses this. The Contrast slider affects the contrast in an image as noise is reduced. Use a high value to preserve contrast, at the cost of less noise reduction, or a low value to reduce luminance noise but with the risk of lower image contrast. 

(Colour) Detail works in a similar way to above – use a high value to preserve details or a low value to reduce colour noise. Smoothness does exactly what the name suggests. A high Smoothness value will help to reduce colour noise, but will smother details, and can make colour in the image look generally flatter and less saturated too.

Ultimately, any noise reduction is a trade-off between removing noise and retaining fine details in your images. The ideal is no noise reduction – and modern sensors are getting close to this, particularly if ISO is kept below 1600 – or should be applied sparingly if needed.

There’s no such thing as a perfect lens, though some are better than others. Lens corrections helps you correct the various imperfections of a lens, starting with Remove Chromatic Aberration. You can correct lens defects automatically with Profile and selecting Enable Profile Correction, or by applying your own corrections with Manual. The Profile option works best if Lightroom has a profile for a particular lens saved in its system. This is true for most modern lenses, but is less likely if you use older or adapted lenses. (Lenses without electronic connections don’t leave a record in an image’s metadata, information that Lightroom needs to be able to recognise a lens.) Usually Lightroom will automatically apply the right lens correction but occasionally you may need to select the relevant lens from the MakeModel and Profile pop-up menus. Even with a profile selected you can still (usually) tweak Distortion and Vignetting manually too.

Switch to Manual correction and you have more control over how lens problems are dealt with. As with Profileabove you can correct Distortion and Vignetting, but you can also correct for a particular type of chromatic aberration known as spherochromatism – of which more in a moment.

The Distortion slider lets you correct either pincushion distortion when dragged to the left, or barrel distortion when dragged right. Selecting Constrain Crop, crops the image if the correction creates white or empty areas at the edge of the image. (Mainly seen when correcting barrel distortion, which pulls the edges of the image towards the centre.)

Spherochromatism is seen most readily on high contrast edges, such as the black and white hairs on a cat.

Spherochromatism is commonly seen when using fast prime lenses at maximum aperture, taking the form of red/cyan or blue/yellow colour fringing. One cure is to stop the lens down, as this reduces or removes its effect. However, it’s fun to use fast primes wide open, so the other cure – post-production correction – is often needed. Correcting for spherochromatism is surprising difficult, but the Defringe option can do a pretty good job. To use it, select the appropriate Amount value for the relevant colours you see in the fringing. You can also widen the range of colours that are corrected by moving one or both of the controls in the Purple Hue or Green Hue slider.

Lens Vignetting can be reduced by using a positive Amount value, or you could even add a vignette by applying a negative value. Midpoint controls the extent of the vignette removal. Use a high value to correct only the edges of your image, or a low value to push the correction further into the centre.

The Transform panel offers tools for correcting perspective distortion – commonly seen as converging verticals when a camera is tilted upwards when shooting building. However, Transform has more uses than that (and sometimes you really don’t want to correct for converging verticals – it is a legitimate technique when done deliberately). Use the various controls to correct an image as necessary, selecting Constrain Crop if you want Lightroom to crop out any white areas created as you make your corrections.

The Effects panel offers tools to further personalise your photos. Grain is used to simulate the random granular structure of film. (It’s slightly ironic that you can reduce noise one way in Lightroom, but then essentially add it back again!) The Amount slider controls how heavily grain is applied, Size and Roughness controls its character – the higher the Size and Roughness values, the grittier your image will look. Adding grain works well with black and white images, arguably less so with colour.

As we’ve seen you can add vignetting as an effect using Lens Correction. However, this only works effectively on uncropped images as it’s always applied to the entire image – crop and you may lose some or even all of the vignetting. Post Crop Vignetting – as the name suggests – is a better option if want to add a vignette to a cropped image, whether dark or light. There are three Post Crop Vignetting options available from the Style pop-up menu: Highlight Priority preserves highlight contrast, preventing them from looking muddy; Colour Priority tries to preserve colours as far as possible, though highlights may be compromised (though the Highlights slider, described below, can help offset this effect); Paint Overlay affects both colour and highlights equally.

Vignettes help to direct the eye towards the centre of an image and works particularly well with portraits or other subjects when placed centrally.

The Post Crop Vignette options otherwise work in a similar way to the Lens Vignetting corrections described above. However, there are more controls, such as Roundness, which controls the shape of the vignette; Feather, which affects how hard or soft the edge of the vignette is; and Highlights, which controls how much the highlights in an image are affected when Highlight or Colour Priority are selected.

Finally, we come to the Calibration panel. This lets you tweak how colours in an image are rendered. Generally, this is one panel you’d leave alone – only altering Process to the latest version if it isn’t already. If you want to affect an image’s colour use Profile on the Basic panel. This lets you select picture parameters similar to those found on your camera. 

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