December 22, 2015
I’ve been working with Lightroom – and sometimes Photoshop – for a couple of years now; I think I’ve made some progress in fits and starts. I’ve been focusing (ha ha, get it?) on my food pictures recently and think I have a method for getting better results. No way am I proficient enough to suggest you follow my methods. I’m writing this more as a way to make note of my adjustments than as a tool for you to apply. But maybe it will give you the impetus to get into LightRoom and play around a bit.
I’m shooting the pictures in manual mode with a speed of 1/125; f8.0 – f12.00; ISO 800; White Balance of about 5700. I use a flash with a diffuser; sometimes on camera and sometimes off.
If you’ve worked in RAW format before you know that your image will not be as lively and vibrant as the associated compressed JPEG. This can be startling in LightRoom upon import; the JPEG image will show up in the panel first then be replaced by a flatter, duller RAW preview. “What happened to that good picture!?” The RAW image gives you a lot to work with but you almost always have to make some changes to have a picture that comes close to real life.
I’ve been working on a technique to bring more depth and life to the images. I’m not saying I’ve found the final answer; but I think I’ve made a few steps toward better photos.
Here is a sample raw image after import.
It’s just flat. I made the following adjustments
- Crop the image to remove counter space on the right and in the front.
- Set the white balance using the dropper on the Basic panel against the White Balance card. In real life I’ll take a photo with the card to register the temperature then remove the card for the real photo.
- Apply the Sony A77 “Standard” camera calibration, overriding the Adobe standard camera calibration. This definitely makes the image “pop” a bit more and giving it more life and more like the pretty JPEG; however, it over saturates the counter making it look too orange. So…
- Adjust the saturation in the HSL / Color / B&W panel. When you use the pinpoint control, I click on the counter and pull down which reduces just the “Yellow” saturation. This is a targeted move and only changes the area(s) that got over (or under) saturated.
- While in the HSL / Color / B&W panel I bumped the green in the water bottle and coconut flakes package and the red in the Quaker Oats box. The numbers don’t matter, I’m just showing the adjustments for this particular image.
- I then went to the Basic panel and pulled down the blacks just until clipping occurred.
- I adjusted the Exposure / Highlights / Whites / Black / Shadow sliders until I had a nice image – very subjective here.
- I bumped clarity – just a bit – too much and the counter gets a little “crunchy”. I only went +2 on this image.
- Pulled down the overall saturation of the image just a tad.
- Adjusted the Tonal Curve using pinpoint control as I did in the HSL panel. This helps boost highlights and deepen shadows.
This is the result
Here are a few before/after showing the original images from my Swedish Meatballs post and the adjustments using the steps outlined above.
BEFORE – The RAW file after import – pretty flat (and probably a little underexposed). It looked great on my camera LCD but just lays there lifeless on the computer monitor.
AFTER – I applied my new adjustment workflow . I think the reds are better here especially. The noodle bag shows its brightness and translucence. This is due largely to the Sony Standard camera profile over the Adobe standard camera profile.
AFTER – Very small change here; but the burger looks a little less gray I think and the beef/pork fat looks more inviting as well. It looks more like the what I saw cooking.
AFTER – the noodles and the salad greens are a little richer and true to life.
These aren’t huge changes; just enough to give them some life. I think I’ve learned something here; hopefully I climbed to a plateau and can explore this area a bit more. There is a lot of information on LightRoom and PhotoShop out there; so much that it’s hard to sort through and find what might help me.