What Makes Lightroom Photo Edits Go Wrong

Have you ever taken a photo you knew had great potential from the moment you saw it on the back of your camera, come home to edit it, then spent an hour in Lightroom, only to look at the result and feel strangely let down? This great video examines why Lightroom edits sometimes go awry. 

Coming to you from James Popsys, this video examines how good photos can go bad in the midst of working with them in Lightroom (though the ideas apply equally to Photoshop or whatever you're using). At its core, I think the video makes a great point about sliders being seen as obligations rather than available tools. This comes down to a problem of how you approach a photo when you sit down to edit: for some reason, it's easy to look at post-processing as moving through the various sliders in the Develop module and adjusting each of them, rather than analyzing the photo and what one wants to say with it, then choosing the appropriate sliders and tools to accomplish that vision. In the end, I think it's important to remember that just because one has a tool, it doesn't mean it has to be used. 

[via James Popsys]

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Grant Schwingle's picture

So if all my photos are at 100 Clarity, are you saying that's a problem?

Matt Loughrey's picture

I always found it was smart to leave the screen alone intermittently. Disappear for a few minutes and get on with a task that would let your eyes rest, fix a meal, forget about image you were working on. When you get back to the screen you'd see your editing mistakes far easier.

Grant Schwingle's picture

I watch 12 minutes of planet earth to reset.

Joe Hogan's picture

I have a few standard workflow points that I think help me. First, unless there is ugency to get the photos out, I never look at my photos until the day after the shoot. My fist view is not to cull, rather than to refresh my view and mindset. Then I cull and select. Once I am in the process of editing and processing I find I follow Matt's advice (above), from time to time I get up and leve the room and try to disconnect for a while. I also keep in mind what William Blake said back in 1790, in his book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”

Graham Marley's picture

He’s right as far as people cranking adjustments thoughtlessly, but he seems to miss the point of having three different approaches (Contrast slider, shadow/highlight etc, curves) to contrast control and how they relate to each other. They bring different behaviors and can each stand alone or work together for pretty powerful results.

Sam David's picture

I find that when I go back six months later to the RAW files of a session I thought I had worked through, I find many images that deserved more thought and work, and when I look at the "Selections" file of that same session I wonder "why did I do that one?" We're all too used to instant -- and good photography, and most good things, actually don't work that way.

Matthew Saville's picture

Both on the back of my camera, and in Lightroom (though more and more I'm in Capture One these days, honestly) ...I've begun actually leaving almost EVERY slider alone, dialing my contrast and clarity to -10 or so, ...and then just massaging the curves a tiny bit. I've been loving the results.

I have post-produced at least 1M NEF and 1M CR2 files over the last 10+ years, because I was a full-time post-producer for a large wedding studio as well as a die-hard timelapse photographer. Plus, I've critiqued a lot of other people's photos in general over the years, both portraits and landscapes.

Maybe it is just the sheer volume of work that has left me very jaded, but 90% of the time when I look at an image, all I see is "whoa, -100 Highlights and +100 Shadows, ehh there buddy?" Especially in Adobe's Camera Raw engine, it's just gotten so bad lately. When I look at a beautiful image, all I can see is the telltale signs of Adobe processing. It's almost like the photos are turning into CGI.

This is partly why I've been using Capture One Pro more and more; I never thought I'd say it but, (I always laughed at the "hipsters" who went back to film for "that look") ...I'm actually liking Capture One Pro's colors and tones because they actually look REAL, and even have a faint hint of film capture, not digital.

But, to each their own...

Tim R's picture

His images don't have nearly enough contrast or shadow recovery.

aaronbratkovics's picture

I can't landscape. I go full retard.