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Making basic adjustments to tone and color

From: Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

Video: Making basic adjustments to tone and color

We'll start processing our project photo in the Basic panel in Lightroom's Develop module. The Basic panel contains the basic global adjustments to tone and color that you'll apply to almost every photo that you process in Lightroom. If your Basic panel isn't open, then click its title bar here in the column on the right of the Develop module to expand it. Here you'll find a series of sliders divided into three sections. The most efficient approach to these controls is to start at the top, and just work your way down, but feel free to jump back up to readjust any slider at any time.

Making basic adjustments to tone and color

We'll start processing our project photo in the Basic panel in Lightroom's Develop module. The Basic panel contains the basic global adjustments to tone and color that you'll apply to almost every photo that you process in Lightroom. If your Basic panel isn't open, then click its title bar here in the column on the right of the Develop module to expand it. Here you'll find a series of sliders divided into three sections. The most efficient approach to these controls is to start at the top, and just work your way down, but feel free to jump back up to readjust any slider at any time.

If you want to start over, you can always go down to the big Reset button at the bottom of the column, and click that to set all the sliders back to their defaults of 0. And Command+Z, or Ctrl+Z on a PC, will Undo your last move, including clicking the clicking the big Reset button. Now, let's start at the top with the White Balance controls. I remember this scene as being a bit warmer than the blue color cast that I see in the photo now, but the auto white balance setting on my camera, which I often use while traveling, was fooled by the changing light at dusk.

To fix that, I'm going to go over to the Temperature slider, and drag it slightly from the blue end of its scale toward the gold end. To warm things up a little more, I'll go to the Tint slider, and drag it away from the green end of its scale toward the magenta end. By the way, if you're working along with me on this photo, don't feel that you need to use the exact values that I've chosen here, or for any of the adjustments in this course. The brightness and color of your monitor may be different than mine, so you can move the sliders in the same direction that I'm doing, but I suggest you choose values that look best to you on your monitor.

Let's go on to the Tone section of the Basic panel. Here we'll use the Exposure slider to set the overall brightness of this photo. This photo is a little dark, so I'm going to drag the Exposure slider to the right. If I go too far, like this, brightening up the photo too much, I can get the slider back to its starting point of 0 by double-clicking this slider head. That's a really useful shortcut that works on any of these sliders. Now I'll drag the Exposure slider just slightly to the right to make the photo slightly brighter.

Next we come to the Contrast slider. This slider offers a quick way to increase or decrease the range of tones in the photo, making a photo look either more contrasty, like this, or flatter, like this. Let's drag this slider just slightly to the right of its default. I'm using a particularly light hand with this Contrast slider, because later in this course, we'll be adding more contrast to this photo in Photoshop. The next four sliders in the Basic panel are for setting the tonal values of the dark and light parts of the photo.

The Highlights slider affects the three-quarter tone bright areas most. If I hover over that slider head, take a look up in the histogram, and you'll see a slight overlay over the part of the histogram that's most affected by this slider, and the same is true of these other four sliders. The Highlights slider can help you to see more detail in light areas of a photo, like the clouds in this scene. So, I'm going to drag the Highlights slider way over to the left to try to get more detail back in those clouds. The Shadows slider, on the other hand, can brighten relatively dark areas, like the foreground of this photo, so I'm going to drag the Shadows slider over to the right to do just that.

The next two sliders, the Whites and Blacks sliders, affect the extreme light tones, as you can see by the overlay in the histogram, and extreme dark tones, respectively. In the last movie, when we took a look at the histogram, we saw that there are no extreme bright tones in this photo, and we decided that that's something we want to correct in order to brighten the light areas, and give the photo more contrast. So, I'm going to drag the Whites slider to the right, but before I do, I'm going to turn on a highlight clipping warning, which will let me know if I drag the Whites slider too far to the right, so that I'm blowing out detail in the brightest tones.

To turn on the highlight clipping warning, I'll click this small triangle at the top right of the histogram, and now I'll go back down to the Whites slider, and I'll drag to the right. You can see that if I drag too far, I see these big red marks in the photo. Those indicate the parts of the photo that are being blown out to pure white, with no detail. So, I'll drag the Whites slider back over to the left, until those little red marks just disappear, or until there are just a couple of them left in the photo, and then I'll turn the highlight clipping warning off by clicking the triangle on the top right of the histogram again.

Now let's go to the Blacks slider. Using the Blacks slider to push the darkest tones in a photo to pure black is a good way to intensify the look of a washed out photo. To add a little black to this photo, I'll drag the Blacks slider slightly to the left. The last three sliders, those in the Presence section, are the ones that can really give a photo personality. The Clarity slider is one of my favorites; it's useful for increasing or decreasing midtone contrast. If you shoot scenes with detail on your travels, then you'll love what dragging the Clarity slider to the right can do to bring out detail and texture. I'm going to zoom in on this image, so you can see this better, and then I'll go to the Clarity slider, and I'm going to drag it to the right, and as I do, you can see the detail come out in this photo.

I'll click again in the photo to zoom back out. Finally, you have a choice of two sliders in the Basic panel that will increase or decrease overall color saturation. The Saturation slider will intensify all colors equally, so it's often not the best choice, as you can see in this photo if I drag the Saturation slider over to the right. I think that the red buildings are getting just oversaturated, so I'm going to put the Saturation slider back to its default of 0 by double-clicking its playhead, and I'll use the Vibrance slider instead, dragging that over to the right to saturate with a lighter hand.

The Vibrance slider often does a better job on colorful travel photos like this, because it intensifies the colors that needed most, rather than all colors equally, and it protects the colors often found in skin tones, like the reds and yellows that we have in these buildings. That brings us to the end of the controls in the Basic panel. To compare where we are now to where we started, I'm going to press the backslash key. That's the three to the right of the P key on my keyboard. When I press the backslash key, you can see that before version of the photo; this is where we started, if you can believe it, and I'll press backslash again to see where we are now.

As you can see, the global adjustments to tone and color that we just made in the Basic panel have gone a long way toward enhancing this photo, but there's more to do in Lightroom before we take this photo into Photoshop, so please stay tuned for the next movies.

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Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

12 video lessons · 5778 viewers

Jan Kabili
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