Lightroom, as we all should know by now, is a powerful tool that allows you to get the absolute most out of your raw files. For many photographers, it’s an all-in-one solution for their post-processing workflow. For others, it’s just a stepping stone before moving the file across to Photoshop. While there are no hard-and-fast rules as to what you do to your images at this stage, there are a few things to do to every photo in Lightroom that will make your workflow easier and can help to polish your images just a little bit more.
1. Color Profile
The first of the things to do to every photo in Lightroom is to set up the color profile of your image.
Under this tab at the top of the Basic module, you will find several presets (such as Landscape, Portrait, and Neutral) that try to emulate these settings within your camera.
Using these presets can help you to get a good start on your image. They will adjust the colors and contrast in your image to a half-decent starting point for the type of image you have. From there you can fine-tune in any way you want.
Where Color Profile really comes into its own is when you use an external tool to create custom color profiles. Tools such as the ColorChecker Passport from X-Rite allow you to create a custom color profile for any individual scene and lighting set-up. This enables you to attain accurate colors for each individual situation.
To use this feature, you will have to create your custom profile with the external software for the tool you are using. Then you import it into Lightroom, where you will find it under the Color Profile tab’s subsection labeled Profiles.
In the case of the ColorChecker Passport, this task is as easy as creating the profile and restarting Lightroom, where it will be waiting for you.
2. White Balance
With your color profile set up, you can now turn your attention to the White Balance. I like to start each image off with as neutral a white balance as I can attain. You may drastically alter it later, but I feel the whole process is easier with a neutral white balance from the start.
If you are doing this by eye, you can use the Temp and Tint sliders in the Basic module to adjust as you will.
Pay close attention to any whites and grays in your images and try to get them looking as neutral as possible. When doing it this way, I like to zoom in as far as I can on blocks of tone and color (such as skin and backgrounds) to see what effect my adjustments are having.
If you’re using an external tool (such as a grey card) to set your white balance, you can do that instead with your preferred method.
Another of the things to do to every photo in Lightroom is to turn the sharpness setting (under Details) to “0.” The reason for this is that using this feature in Lightroom treats sharpening as a global adjustment that affects the entire image. It also does it at the beginning of your workflow, whereas I prefer to do sharpening at the very end of the post-processing stage.
By turning off the sharpening at this point, you grant yourself far more control over the process. Once you’re in Photoshop, you will be able to sharpen with far more precision than the slider in Lightroom provides you thanks to the various sharpening tools and other features such as Layer Masks.
Also, because the amount of sharpening you use will depend on the output (a large file for print will be sharpened more than a small file for web usage), using the sharpening in Lightroom at the beginning of your workflow may actually set you back.
If you don’t use Photoshop, you can always still set the Sharpness to “0” and when it comes time to export your images for whatever output you require, you can create a virtual copy of your finished image and sharpen that copy accordingly.
Unless the noise in your images is quite bad, the noise reduction tool in Lightroom is rather good.
Under the Details section, these sliders will allow you to reduce the impact of any noise in your images.
As with the other things to do to every photo in Lightroom mentioned in this article, it’s important to do this at the beginning stage of your image as the effect may dramatically alter the way your image looks as well as the approach you have towards it in further post-processing.
5. Lens Corrections
The last of the things that I suggest you do to every photo in Lightroom is to use the tool in the Lens Corrections section.
Checking the Chromatic Aberration box will go a long way to dealing with all but the worst instances of Chromatic Aberration. Lightroom does a very good job of this, and in most cases, you won’t have to do any more than to click this box.
If you do have to go further, the sliders under the Manual section will help you make short work of any Chromatic Aberration present in your images.
Checking the Enable Profile Corrections box is one of the most useful things you can do to do your images from the very start. As long as you are using a lens that has a Lens Profile in Lightroom (you can make one manually if it doesn’t), using this tool will make adjustments to your images that compensate for that individual Lens.
Distortion and vignetting are two of the most prominent things that this tool corrects for, and this can have a dramatic effect on how your images appear.
While this is a simple list, it’s often very easy to overlook some of these steps once you are in Lightroom. The excitement of looking at your images and getting started with the adjustments once you’ve imported them is a hard thing to override.
However, taking the few moments that it takes to implement these steps can help you to achieve more natural and polished results with very little effort at the beginning of your post-processing stage.
In the end, I hope you find these things to do to every photo in Lightroom helpful with your photo editing journey.
If there is a step that you think that I should have included here, please feel free to add it to the comments.