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In Detail: Editing Images using Lightroom 3

Lightroom 3 is a more sophisticated image manipulation program than its predecessors, and although not intended to match the versatility of Photoshop, Lightroom does now contain a decent suite of editing tools. These include a red eye removal tool, a spot removal tool, a graduated filter, crop tool and multi-purpose adjustment brush. A minor but very welcome change is an improved curves tool.

Like Adobe Camera Raw for Photoshop, Lightroom is also equipped with camera profiles for some DSLR's RAW files (which mimic the various color and tonal presets available in-camera), although support is still far from universal, and to all intents and purposes limited to Canon and Nikon DSLRs.

Tool shortcuts

  • Crop Overlay: R
  • Spot removal: Q
  • Red Eye Correction: no shortcut
  • Graduated Filter: M
  • Adjustments Brush: K
Lightroom's multi aspect ratio crop tool is excellent. Marked with a rules of thirds grid, it works a little differently to similar tools in Photoshop and other programs. You create the crop, then drag/rotate the image inside it.

You have a choice of aspect ratios, including 'custom', and the bounding of the crop automatically changes to keep the image inside the crop area. Pressing return or hitting M applies the crop, but clicking on the Crop Overlay tool again (or hitting M again) allows you to edit the crop whenever you like.
Lightroom 3's spot removal tool combines the functionality of Photoshop's clone stamp and heal tool (in fact you can toggle between clone/heal in the dialog).

Like the crop tool, it takes a little getting used to. To clone out a dust spot, click on the spot, and Lightroom will extend a matching sized circle to an area that roughly matches in tone. You can override this by dragging it out into another area if you want.

You can go back to each point and re-direct the clone/heal target as many times as you like.
With the graduated filter tool selected, to create a graduated filter effect, simply click at the top of your image and drag down.

You can drag the midpoint up or down to fine-tune its position, and you can adjust its effect using the myriad on-screen sliders. If you want a neutral density effect, leave color at 'none' and use the 'exposure' slider.
The adjustment brush is probably the most versatile tool in Lightroom 3's Develop suite. Using this brush, many of the adjustments that you can make in the Develop pane can be 'painted' onto an image.

These include exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpening. Under the 'effect' dropdown are more options, including teeth whitening and skin softening.

The only thing you need to be aware of when using all these tools, is that unlike Photoshop, you can't hit 'H' to return to the hand tool to track around your image. Instead, holding down the spacebar temporarily activates the hand tool.

You can also track using the small navigation pane at upper left, or deactivate whatever tool you're currently using. You can do this by clicking on the active tool's icon, which deactivates it, or hit whatever shortcut key, so K for the adjustment brush, R for crop, M for graduated filter, and so on. We'd question why the shortcut keys are so bafflingly obscure given the function of the tools to which they're attached. 'M' for graduated filter....? Whatever tool you are using, hitting the 'Z' key toggles between zoom levels.

Non-Destructive Editing

Image manipulation in Lightroom 3 is non-destructive. What this means is that when you make an adjustment to an image in the Develop window, the original is untouched. Your changes only get 'baked' into permanence when you export a file from Lightroom, but even then, the exported file is a only copy of the original, which remains untouched.

Speaking of copies, Virtual Copies are a useful feature of Lightroom. If you right-click on an image in the filmstrip or loupe view, you'll see an option to 'make virtual copy'. Very simply, this creates a new preview image, allowing you to experiment with multiple versions of the same shot without doing anything to the original file.

Right-clicking and selecting 'make virtual copy' duplicates the image in Lightroom's catalogue, so you can experiment with different effects.

If you've made a lot of copies, you might find it easier to collapse them into a 'stack'. To do this, right-click any image in the stack and click 'collapse stack'.
Using the Compare view in the Library window, you can examine the different versions of your shot side-by-side, and decide which you want to save. If you don't like any of them, just create another virtual copy and have another go.


Monochrome conversions

Lightroom 3 features sophisticated controls for creating black and white images. As well as an 8-color mixer, it is also possible to create a split toning effect, and to add noise to mimic the look of film grain.

Click this link to download original color version
In the B&W tab of the Develop window you can find a versatile channel mixer for creating the ideal mixture of tones in your monochrome image.

I've also added a vignette, and put a neutral density graduated filter over the top third of the sky.
Beneath the B&W mixer controls are sliders for split toning. I've given this image a basic sepia tone in the shadows.

The final step in my workflow for this shot was to add a film grain effect, using the grain control in the 'effects' tab.

Editing JPEG files

Although it is a powerful RAW file editor, Lightroom can also be used to catalogue and edit JPEG and TIFF files. Naturally however, the amount of editing that JPEG files can take before image degradation starts to occur is less than RAW, partly because the bit depth is so much smaller, and also because gamma adjustments have already been made to the files.

That said, it is possible to make fairly extreme brightness and color balance adjustments successfully to JPEG files in Lightroom 3 before any nastiness becomes visible in the images. There is more data in TIFF files, but even a 16-bit TIFF isn't quite as malleable as a RAW file, where all of the tonal data is essentially fluid. In JPEG and TIFF files, the RGB values are fixed in relation to one another, and any adjustment takes the form of compressing or stretching their values from this fixed starting point.

Exporting files to External editor

Lightroom 3 is a very capable program, but there are still some things that it cannot do, or for which you might find that Photoshop or another similar program is more suitable. If you have Photoshop installed on your computer, Lightroom will set it as the default editor when you hit the ready-made Ctrl+E (or Apple key + E if you're on a Mac) shortcut. This opens the file in Photoshop's editing window, at which point you can make whatever adjustments you like before saving and closing as you would normally.

Assuming you just click 'save' and don't change the filename or select a new location, the edited image will then appear as a .tif in your Lightroom filmstrip alongside the original (remembering of course that all of these images are just previews). If you don't use Photoshop, you can specify which program you want to designate as an external editor in the 'external editor' tab of the Lightroom 3 Preferences pane, and the same Ctrl+E shortcut will work.

For more in-depth image adjustment, you can send files to Photoshop as Adobe smart objects. If you're working with RAW files, by exporting as a smart object the RAW data is preserved, including any adjustments that you made to exposure, white balance etc., in Lightroom 3. To access the RAW file in Photoshop, double click on the smart object layer in the Layers palate and it will open in Adobe Camera RAW.

Editing RAW files as smart objects in Photoshop is especially useful if you need to make extreme exposure adjustments, because it allows you to create multiple layers of differently processed raw data which you can then blend together.

To make a copy, right click the filename in the layers palate and select 'new smart object via copy'.

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mody hector20
By mody hector20 (3 weeks ago)

nice program