Anything Photoshop or Photography

How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly

Just realized that I am starting my third year of blogging today! How appropriate that I am back to processing an image from the beginning. This is an image of a beautiful church along a busy highway in the Belarusian countryside. It was post-processed in Lightroom 4 following the workflow below. Since Adobe has released Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6, many of the sliders were updated and are much improved from their earlier versions. I finally got a chance to check out Scott Kelby’s training and book to learn about what had changed and what works quick in the new versions. Scott probably has the best Camera Raw workflow out there for both programs and this blog attempts to show how he does it. His The Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Digital Photographers book goes through all these steps very thoroughly. His CS6 book is great, but do not use it as the go-to book for everything there is to know about Photoshop – it is definitely targeted to digital photographers and photo problems. Check out Scott Kelby’s Photoshop for Travel Photographers excellent video where he covers what I am doing in this blog and more. The image above is a good example of his workflow. (Details for the above image include: White Balance – Temp slider moved left to get bluish feel; Exposure set to -0.59, Contrast +49, Highlights -100 to bring out sky, Shadows +37, Whites -16, Blacks -6, Clarity +71 for details, Vibrance +33, and Neutral Density Gradient with Exposure set to -0.80. In Photoshop a clean up layer was used to get rid of power lines and pole. Some sharpening was added and My Thin Double Edge Frame was applied with colors sampled from the image.)

The Camera Raw sliders were designed to be used from top to bottom.

1.  Look at the White Balance – your Tint and Temperature sliders. If you are shooting outside with a DSLR, the white balance may not be an issue. Try checking out the White Balance drop-down options too. If image shot on a cloudy day, it may really improved the results. Use presets below to get same White Balance options for a JPEG file as for a RAW file. It can also be used creatively as in the blue-toned image above.

For Lightroom 4 users: Matt Kloskowsky of Lightroom Killer Tips fame created a some time ago a set of White Balance presets that still work great since only the Temp and Tint sliders are changing – just download them to get a quick look at how each White Balance setting appears on your image in the Navigator. For ACR users: create your own presets by selecting a White Balance from the drop-down menu in the Basic section, then go to the Preset section (2nd icon from right) and click on folder icon at bottom – name White Balance Shade for example, choose subset White Balance, and say OK. It will appear in your preset list. Can now quickly click on each preset to see how the White Balance adjustment will look on your image. Be sure to make a preset for As Shot so you can return to your original settings if you want.

2. Next check out the Exposure and Contrast sliders. If image looks a little washed out, use the Contrast slider. If all check out here, you do not have to use the Highlights, Shadows, Whites or Blacks sliders. The new Exposure slider now controls mostly midtones and includes the old Recovery slider (Exposure slider in CS5/Lightroom 3 covered both midtones and highlights) so adjusting this slider can really enrich the color tones.

3. Go to your Highlights Slider and move left to bring back detail in the sky. This slider is almost always used in this way. There was no Highlights slider in CS5 or Lightroom 3.  Next the Shadows slider is brought to the right to bring out detail in the image. If you go all the way to +100, you will probably have to go to the next step as your image will look flat in the Shadows. This slider basically replaced the Fill Light slider in the CS5/Lightroom 3 versions.

4. The Blacks and Whites sliders are for fine tuning and you do not always need to use them. Try them just to see if an adjustment helps. If there is clipping in the image as shown by looking at the Histogram top corners (if they are colors, you have clipping), then adjust them to get rid of either the shadow clipping or whites clipping. By clicking on the triangle in the corner, you can see in red on the image where the clipping is occurring. Now you set negative numbers for these sliders.

5. Next one of the most important and most improved sliders in Camera Raw – the Clarity Slider. Totally revamped from CS5 and Lightroom 3, this slider now can be cranked up very high without halo effects. It is used to increase the Midtone Contrast in an image. Use this on any image that has details, especially landscapes, buildings, metal objects. Do not use it on people or puppies!

6. Now it is time to finish up with Vibrance. Do not use the Saturation slider. The Vibrance will only affect the duller colors in your image, not the ones that are already as bright as you want them or any of flesh tones. Saturation will increase all color equally.
….. This yellow flower/plant taken at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the Big Island in Hawaii was a very simple image to adjust in Camera Raw. No change to White Balance, Exposure set to -.06, Contrast +45, Highlights -100, Shadows +80, Clarity +39 and Vibrance +37. Since the green background color was a little overwhelming, in the HSL section’s Saturation sliders, the Green slider was set t0 -57, Yellow +19 to brighten this color, and Orange set to +41. Usually you do not have to go to these colors, but sometimes it is needed to individually tweak a color you want. I also used a little Noise Reduction moving the Luminance slider to 25. The last step was to add some vignetting going to the Effects section and selecting Post-Crop Vignetting – Style Highlight Priority and Amount to -22. Scott says this creates a better vignette than the one in Lens Correction. I did not like the crop of the image, so for some reason in Photoshop I cropped and removed spots. Next Scott’s Spotlight Effect, a really easy technique to follow and is the first thing he covers in his video, was used. The Unsharp Mask Filter was applied and it done!
…..This image of the Manta Roller Coaster at SeaWorld Orlando definitely was in need of work – it was way underexposed! I liked this image as the coaster has what looks like whale tales around it and you can see the people through the screen on the coaster. To correct the underexposure issue, the White Balance was changed to Daylight just to lighten the sky up so it looks like it did when the shot was taken. Next the Exposure Slider was set to +1.57, then Contrast was set to to -53. Now the people on the ride can at least be seen! Setting the Highlights to -100 brought out the cloud details beautifully. Setting the Shadows to +100 brought out the detail in the coaster and green bushes. Since there is no clipping in the image, the Blacks and White do not need to be adjusted. I tried the Whites slider and it did make the clouds a little whiter when set to +35, so that is what I did. The Blacks slider was set to +25 to make the whole image look a little brighter. Then I realized both had clipped colors by looking at the Histogram top corners. The Whites slider was changed to +22 and Blacks to +76 to get rid of the clipping. Now it is time to add clarity – it was set to +100 to bring out detail. The Vibrance slider was set to +59. And that is how you open up an extremely underexposed image! For this image, I decided to add the vignetting in Photoshop since the emphasis is off center. There also was some clean up work to do since there was debris in the screen I shot through.
…..This final image is of a beautiful old church in the town of Sterling in Scotland as taken from high above at Sterling Castle. Once again the same workflow above was used. I just went down the list of sliders and set my Highlights back and Shadows up, added Contrast, Clarity and Vibrance. This time a Gradient Adjustment reducing the Exposure and Shadow sliders a small amount to bring out the clouds a little. Some Luminance and checked Enable Profile Corrections. A vignette was added. In Photoshop Scott’s Spotlight Effect was added. There was bright orange construction material around the hospital so I used Replace Color and changed it to brown. A black layer mask was added and the orange color was painted out. Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Detail’s Bold Detail was applied and then once again a black layer mask was added and just the building was painted back with the detail. My Thin Double Edge Frame was added to finish up.

I hope you are able to see how easy it is to use the new Camera Raw sliders and realize that you hardly have to do anything in Photoshop anymore. I really love the fact that it is getting easier to get very high quality results with images that aren’t so high quality and very quickly!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
I Didn’t Know That! Converting Lightroom Preset to Adobe Camera Raw Preset
Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script

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