Perhaps things could have been done better…

Perhaps things could have been done better….

I have had a love hate relationship with Adobe Lightroom ever since it started way back in 2007. The hate came in after V2, love came back around V3 and got hooked into the Cloud last year with V4. It is no secret that Lightroom is a memory hungry , it’s “bloated” program that needs a rewrite and hate is coming back once again.

Lightroom has never quite gone smoothly for me, I went through a period when from time to time it actually corrupted some of my RAW images, fortunately it only corrupted Adobe’s version of it, it was OK when viewed on Canons’ DPP program and I had a massive problem last year with a catalogue problem, which was only cured when I purchased a new computer.

Anyway, I have been spending some time recently watching a number of training videos on Lynda.com (I can recommend them) and one in particular, Color Correction in Adobe Camera Raw by Taz Tally, who used Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw instead of Adobe Lightroom and this started to plant doubts in my mind about Lightroom. For preference, I’ll abbreviate them to ACR and LR for convenience.

RAW conversion
The RAW conversion engine in LR is the same in ACR, that is true, the sliders are the same but not the bells and whistles. Admittedly LR is great for organising and meta tagging photos but as I have discovered it has limitations as far as colour correction goes and colour correction is important to me.
The other thing is that ACR and LR are supposed to have a top to bottom workflow, that is you start at the top with the Temperature, Tint, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks before finishing with the Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation.
I have been following this workflow for a while, after all it made sense and then came the day that I watched that fateful Lynda video, when the established workflow was called into question, perhaps things could be done better…

The clue was in the Histogram at the top of the page. It was so obvious that when you hover the mouse cursor over the Histogram to see the magic words, Blacks, Shadows, Exposure, Highlights and Whites and the equivalent zone was slightly highlighted. These zones are based on the tonal values; the darkest tones are your Blacks, the next set is called the three-quarters tones, these are your Shadows, the mid-tones are the Exposure, the quarter tones are the Highlights and lastly the brightest tones are the Whites.

So all this time I have been using the Exposure slider in totally the wrong way, it is not for adjusting the overall image exposure, it is for adjusting the image mid-tones instead. No wonder the histogram would start compacting and crashing upwards when it neared the right hand side of the Histogram and no wonder I was losing image contrast!

The New Workflow
The new workflow is to crop first, no use in editing parts of the picture that you will never see, then to deal with the high tones first by adjusting the Whites, followed by the low tones by adjusting the Blacks. Holding down the Alt key, while adjusting the sliders will allow you to see where the clipped tones are. Of course you will have to decide, what is acceptable as a spectral highlight and what is acceptable is a clipped highlight. So long as they are not too large then Spectral Highlights are left alone. With that done, you can address mid-tones by adjusting the Exposure slider and the Shadows and Highlights to suit.
Contrast, Clarity and Vibrance adjustments are a matter of personal taste.

So perhaps things can be done better and to that end I am going to try using Adobe Bridge and ACR to do the RAW conversions although I will have to import into LR and assign metatags and keywords as they believe it or not are also important.

So going back to Monday nights night shoot…

I reworked the final four light trails, applying the new workflow with some colour correction and  noise reduction, to come up with this image.

The reworked departures light trail picture

The reworked departures light trail picture

It is much better than the original,

Edinburgh light trails

Edinburgh light trails

You will notice that I have also cropped it better, more or less following my notes for a future night shoot from the same location. The cars’ light trail at the bottom, were cloned out as they were a distracting element. I’m more happy with it now although to be really honest, the magenta cast at the top of the picture kind of spoils the overall picture. Unfortunately but none of my dirty Photoshop tricks could do much to negate this.

Something for next time
If you cast your mind back to the earlier blog post, you will recall what the secret of light trail photography is – movement, so looking closely you will see two distinctive phases of the take off. The initial get into the air stage and a climbing turn as they come over the Forth.
Perhaps getting down to the river and concentrating on the area between Cramond and Inchcolm Island may be an idea for a future night shoot, although I will have to find a location that masks out the lights of the Braefoot terminal.

That gives me an idea….. but there’s one thing for sure….

Mair tae come

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