Saturday, 20 October 2012

Exercise: Managing Tone

The aim of this exercise is to optimise the tone and colour of an image as the first (vital) step in post-processing. The question is simply – is the image as technically good as it can be?


1. Set Black and White Points by adjusting exposure
Lightroom is the chosen vehicle for this exercise, and I have selected an image from my archive, taken at Womadelaide in 2011. I like the slightly dark feel to this image, and want to retain that feel whilst optimizing the image technically.

The image unadjusted (exported straight from the RAW file in LR) is below, accompanied by the histogram. The image looks a bit dark and lacking in ‘oomph’ (must learn a technical term for that…)
RAW File without any processing
RAW File histogram without any processing

I went on to first adjust the exposure, using the slider (increased by about a stop) and tweaked the histogram by squeezing up the whites and highlights a little. The image is displayed below:
Exposure increased

2. Adjust the brightness of the midtones
Next I looked at the brightness of midtones, first I tried adjusting the exposure… I pulled down the shadows and pulled up the highlights but wasn’t sure how else to adjust the brightness of the midtones using exposure (image below):
Midtones adjusted using exposure

I removed these adjustments and then used the vibrance slider which targets the midtones… I pumped it up which certainly increased the brightness of the colours in the background.
Using vibrance to adjust midtones

Then I removed that effect and used the tone curve (medium contrast) with similar effect.
Midtones adjusted using tone curve

I liked the tone curve, so then decided to add a little vibrance (less dramatic than before), combining the two effects to brighten the midtones. This is my go-forward point for the midtones.
Final midtones adjustment

3. Adjust contrast
Next we are instructed to look at contrast. I thought that I’d done that by editing the tone curve in the previous step, so I will try adding the contrast slider, though I think that boosts the contrast of the whole image. The image certainly has more ‘punch’ now (particularly that bright red hat!)
Contrast slider adjusted

4. Make corrections to localised areas
Finally, any choice of local corrections. I’m not sure any are needed. My main subject stands out nicely (white against dark background), even her hat stands out pretty well. The rest of the image is good for ‘scene-setting’ and the colour adds to the festival feeling. I think I will leave it at that and call this image ‘optimized’.
The final image histogram is displayed below:
It shows only one aspect of the optimization - but the dynamic range of the image is important, and this final image has a better range than the starting point.

This has been another useful exercise for me to further develop my understanding both theoretically and practically of what can be done in Lightroom. In addition to reading of various magazines over the last few months, I’ve been watching some Adobe TV ‘how-to’ guides for Lightroom. This has been quite useful for me to learn ‘hands-on’ via the videos what can be done with the basics of LR. I will continue to watch more examples and also check out YouTube to see more examples of workflows and processing techniques.

Adobe (2012), Adobe Lightroom TV [online], Available from:  [Accessed 15/10/12]

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