Three Stages of a Lightroom Workflow

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Inside every photographer is a geek who likes to play around in Lightroom.

Admit it, you’ve opened an image in Lightroom and tried all kinds of different combinations of exposure, contrast and saturation just for the hell of it.

Fun as it may be to just play around with post processing, there is also a time when you want to get stuck in and get your images processed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

That being said, many photographers out there don’t have a solid plan when they sit down to process their images or, and this is sometimes worse, they get so caught up in the technical side of processing that they work in a very inefficient way and never really realize their images’ full potential.

Since post processing is an extension, or finalisation of the artistic process thinking about it and approaching it in that way just makes sense to me.

When you step back from all the sliders there are basically three things you need to do to an image during processing.

  1. Clean up and fix any mistakes.
  2. Adjust the global mood, look and feel or the image.
  3. Make local adjustments to help lead your viewer’s eye through the image.
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Clean Up

During this first step I check for anything that needs to be fixed in the image.

This could include removing dust spots – the screen shot below shows the Visualise Spots feature in Lightroom 5 –  and fixing a slightly skew horizon, both of which I find incredibly annoying and distracting during the post processing process.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

I personally also include cropping in this step as it allows me to crop out any distracting parts of the image and leaves me with the exact image and frame content I am working with.

Once the clean up is done I am left with a RAW file that has no distracting elements and is ready to be processed.

Look and Feel

If you’re doing it right you should have a reason to pick up your camera and click the shutter in the first place.

What you do in post processing should ideally pick up on this reason and follow through the artistic process you started when capturing a frame.

Yeah, I know this might sound like arty farty stuff but the moment you actually connect the two – capturing the frame and post processing – you will create stronger images.   Images that show the viewer the moment, emotion and mood you experienced when clicking the shutter.

So during the second stage of processing, once you have cleaned up your image, the main goal is to make global changes to the image which will help fine tune the overall mood, look and feel and mood of your image.

Adjustments during this part of the workflow will include things like:

  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Black and White Points
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Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

Remember that all of these adjustments are global and will affect the entire frame.

The goal here is to get the overall look, feel and mood of the image as close as possible to the scene you saw and that prompted you to pick up your camera.

Lead the Eye

During the final stage of processing the goal is to make specific local adjustments – if needed – to help you to finalize your image and assit you to effectively guide your viewer’s eye around the frame

Using the special adjustment brush, and now in Lightroom 5 the new Radial filter, you can assist in guiding your viewer’s eye into and around the frame by doing some local adjustments.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

A little local sharpening here and a bit of dodging or burning there can take a good image and make it great.

For wildlife photography the goal is simple – process the scene you captured as naturally as possibly and, if you think like me, to do it in as short a time as possible.

Don’t overcomplicate things.  Keep it simple!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Sabine

    Very helpful, thank you!
    What about a ‘Lightroom course 2’ – for those who did the basic course already and need some more tips and hints especially about step 3?

    1. Post
      Author
      Gerry

      I like that idea Sabine! Watch this space as we don’t have course but rather a series of workshops in which we will focus on various tips, tricks and other more ‘advanced’ post processing tricks! Will keep you posted!

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