The New Manual DSLR Project

Hi, and welcome to my blog. The Manual DSLR Project was started March 30, 2010 with the intent of devoting one year to learning how to use my Nikon D300 in manual mode. I invited you to join me as I took this journey. You celebrated with me as my fingers began to remember which wheel adjusts the shutter speed and which controls the aperture settings. I was brutally honest in sharing my mistakes.

A year passed quickly...and I achieved my goal of demystifying the manual operation of my camera.

While the Manual DSLR Project was intended to be bound by time (one year), I am eager to keep the conversation going. So look for additional posts on anything related to photography. And interact. Let me know if you are reading the blog and find it useful.

All the best...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Workflow Using Lightroom 3 - part 2

Okay, if you read the previous post (part 1) you know that we have imported our photos, backed them up on an external hard drive, did preliminary ratings, and are now ready to begin to edit in Lightroom 3. I will now share the workflow that I use to get to the finished product. I must say that I have not always been consistent on this process. In fact, part of the purpose for writing these posts is that I will remind myself of my workflow and commit it to (subconscious) memory in the same way that my fingers have learned how to increase shutter speed and change aperture settings without really thinking about it. In addition, there is no perfect way to do post processing. By this time next year I may change my methods considerably. The biggest point is this...

I have a method. It's almost like having a budget. Sometimes you stray from your budget, but without one you would constantly be straying. Think of a post-processing methodology in the same way.

Let's use this photo as an example. It is decidedly not one of my best images. I was drizzling rain, foggy, and cold. But we were determined to see the sights of coastal Oregon on this day and we went out to take some photos.

So here it is...Let's see what we can do with it.

White Balance - I first look at white balance to see if what I shot looks right for the scene. The eyedropper tool is a great place to start. If the color temperature does not look right, simply hover over a white or gray area of the scene to see if the color temperature needs to be changed. If so, click on it to adjust. Though this is not a practical part of your workflow, it is not a bad idea to slide the color temperature slider from one extreme to the other to see the effect of color temperature on your image. Again, not part of workflow, but a good exercise in seeing the extremes of color temperature. Once you see these extremes in your image you are more likely to recognize them in future images. Based on the color of her jacket and hat, I think the white balance on this one is correct as shot.

Exposure - Next I will look at exposure and tweak this where needed. Thanks to the Manual DSLR Project I typically nail the exposure I am looking for, although the image may be purposefully under- or over-exposed. If adjustments are needed, however, they may be made here. More times than not I will add a bit of fill light to bring out detail in a properly exposed image. In this case, we will leave the exposure as shot.

Sharpening - I have made it a habit to NOT apply sharpening at this step. Rather, I use sharpening presets when I export. I learned the hard way that if you sharpen a little here and sharpen a little on export you can get some really cruddy looking images. For that reason, I make it a point to turn down the sharpening here, which I have done for this image.

Composition/Layout - Next I look at the composition and layout. Do I need to straighten the scene or crop? If so, this is when I do this. I should note that I rarely crop in this step except to straighten or to remove a distracting element. I usually wait until I upload into my ROES program to send them to my printer. On this image, I will do neither.

Noise Reduction or Grain - Here I may choose to add noise reduction or grain to the image, depending on the image and its future use. I have done neither to this image.

Creative Tweaking - We are almost at the last step in the process. This is where I add any creative effects to the photo. Here is a short list of (many) possibilities:
  • Develop Presets (my favorite) 
  • Saturation or Color Tools
  • Vignettes
  • Spot removal
  • Graduated Filter Application
On this image I added a preset called Boost by Sarah-Ji Presets. Once I did this I realized that it might look a little better if I crop the image and then add the preset. So a couple of Command Zs later, a crop and the application of the Boost preset, here's what we have.

Again, not one of my favorites, but it's a decent photo to portray what we were doing on this rainy day in Oregon.

To recap, here is my post-processing workflow:
  1. White Balance
  2. Exposure
  3. Sharpening
  4. Composition/Layout
  5. Noise Reduction/Grain
  6. Creative Tweaking
The perfect workflow? No!!! A good guide for my work? I think so. So weigh in... Let me hear about your workflow in Lightroom. Look for part 3 to learn about how I export files from Lightroom.

From the Great White North (Alabama)... MK

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