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Author Topic: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom  (Read 289 times)

gordan

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How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« on: December 06, 2017, 10:02:51 AM »

Hi everyone,

  this is my first posting to this forum - any comments are welcome!

  I have finally decided to print some of my photos and I'm trying to learn how to process them in Lightroom. The first test came out very dark (I'm not focusing on color yet)  so I understand that I need to make them brighter: but there are many options - so which one is the right one? What book/forum would you recommend?

  I so far understand that the following is the high-level process:
1. calibrate display (especially brightness) so that it look similar to a test print
2. adjust photo brightness using curves
3. print
4. go to step 2 until result is ok

  The attached photo is particularly problematic for me as the above process looses detail in the clouds. Am I missing something or I just need to practice more?

  Thank you!

G
« Last Edit: December 06, 2017, 10:43:41 AM by gordan »
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nma

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2017, 11:16:08 AM »

The most important consideration is the exposure used in capturing your image. Optimally, the brightest detail of interest in the scene should be registered by the camera’s sensor as the maximum possible image intensity. When that image is loaded into Lightroom, the brightness may be adjusted with the exposure slider. If the image appears too bright, you can adjust that to taste, without loss of image quality.  If, on the other hand, the image is too dark when loaded into Lightroom, it is underexposed. The brightness can be raised but this is not optimal, as the noise level in the image will be increased relative to that obtained when full exposure is given to the image at capture. Evidence of underexposure is easiest to see in the shadow areas of your image. If you want to read more about proper exposure of digital images you can search under “expose to the right.”  Proper exposure (not underexposed) is of crucial importance to work with m43 type cameras because they tend to have worse noise sensitivity than full frame cameras.
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BobShaw

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2017, 09:42:14 PM »

Well the image is really dark so you can't expect it to print anything other than dark. If you run the Digital Color Meter from a Mac or use the Lightroom readings you can see that.
Using curves is one way to do it if you know how to select which part of the curve. Often the Levels control is easier.
You do have one area of cloud that is fairly bright so you can't just raise the exposure across the board.
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digitaldog

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2017, 10:16:58 PM »

First things first. Output a color reference image exactly as you did the other:
http://www.digitaldog.net/files/2014PrinterTestFileFlat.tif.zip
Is it too dark? Any place you view it.
IF yes, it's something to do with how you've setup printing.
IF no, it may be your image file and could be a display calibration issue.
Until we know the issue for the print problems, it's a lot of speculations going forward.
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luxborealis

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2017, 10:46:03 PM »

Keep these basics in mind:
  • calibration is only useful if you have correct exposure to begin with
  • correct exposure is an interpretive art, but there are a few manipulations you can do to get you close
  • do not adjust any “Brightness” controls in the Print panel. Nail down correct exposure in the Develop module.
  • set your screen brightness high enough to see a full range of greys from pure black to pure white.

In the Develop module...

First, set the canvas background to White by right clicking on the canvas background and selecting White. Since you are printing on white paper, you want to set your eyes to use White as an upper limit. Using grey only causes prints to look dinghy.

Next, toggle on highlight and shadow “clipping” using the J key in the Development module. Clipped highlights will show as red pixels clipped shadows as blue pixels.

Thirdly, do not use Curves. LR frees you from Curves (a hold over from PS). Begin by using the tools under the Basics panel.

LR was designed to be used one adjustment at a time, starting from the top down. “Exposure” adjusts the midtones, but I often find nailing down the White and Black points to be the most helpful first step, as they provide the boundaries within which I can then work. If you envision your photograph as a full-tone image (from pure black to pure white), then let LR help you by Auto-setting the White and Black points: simply hold the Shift key and double click on the word White; then do the same on Black.

With that done, turn your attention to the midtones - they are adjusted with “Exposure”. You could choose to Auto-set Exposure by Shift-double clicking on the word Exposure, but I rarely find it satisfactory for my tastes. Fine tune to visually correct mid-tones by clicking in the number value box (to the right of the sliders and using your cursor keys (up and down) to make adjustments as the slider is lousy for accuracy. Each tap on a cursor key will change the Expisure by 0.10. You can make 0.33 adjustments by holding Shift and tapping the cursor key.

Now for contrast. Once the above three settings are done, Auto-contrast does a pretty good job of fine-tuning Contrast; just hold Shift and double-click on Contrast. Now step back and take a look. Most photographs will snap into shape with these four settings.

Is the photograph beginning to approach what you had hoped or visualized? This is the most difficult part of processing as beginners often don’t have a good feel for what “looks good”. Try going back to “Before” by tapping the backslash key “\”. Tap it again to take you to “After”. How’s it looking?

From here on out, you will be finessing the photo. Start by raising or lowering Shadows and Highlights - again, click into the number value box and use your cursor keys (and Shift-cursor) to increase or decrease values. These will often be subtle changes, so “Before” and “Afters” become more helpful.

The rest is all tweaking and finesse based on a lot of trial and error and really looking at photographs. I found the most helpful book in all of this was the Digital Photographer’s Guide to Lightroom by Scott Kelby. I started with it years (and years!) ago and I found his visual guide to be very easy to follow.

Best of luck!
« Last Edit: December 09, 2017, 10:53:46 PM by luxborealis »
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gordan

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2017, 01:49:31 AM »

Thanks, everyone! Really appreciate the feedback!

Reading it I realize I should specify more precisely where my problems really are:

- I believe I know how to make a picture that is properly exposed using ETTR. I’m of course not saying I’m nailing it every time:)

- I do know how to make the picture look like I want on the screen (on this one I wanted the sky to be dark, the rain I is bright enough, and the details in the clouds are the brightess). BTW, it’s interesting to express my intent in words - until I have just done that, it has been just kind of intuitive and automatic

- Where I really need help is how to transfer this idea to paper: the test I created has dark sky and the sea (ok), details in the cloud (ok), but the rain is much too dark and not visible. Now just like one of the comments said: Since some areas are close to clipping I should not use overall brightness increase (like in Lr print module). Instead, my logic was: do not chnage the brightness on any of the extremes (to avoid clipping on one side and too keep dark areas dark) so I need to somehow - how? - brighten up everything between so that at the end on this picture the rain is just bright enough. And then maybe I should add some twicking, but that’s not my concern yet.

Am I making some sense?
« Last Edit: December 10, 2017, 06:13:53 AM by gordan »
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BobShaw

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2017, 03:59:28 PM »

I'm trying to learn how to process them in Lightroom.
Am I missing something?
Photoshop
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luxborealis

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2017, 04:27:08 PM »

Photoshop

Bob, I respect your penchant for Photoshop, but in this case, it seems to be an unnecessary obfuscation for someone working to perfect their craft in LR. Given what the OP has outlined, PS is much less of a solution. In fact, I would argue that PS, with all it’s unecessary bells and whistles is more distracting.

Having been a rather thorough user of PS since the 1990s, I have yet to meet an image that can’t be processed to the highest of standards using LR.

OP: If you want the “rain” to be brighter, use an Adjustment Brush to “paint in” more Exposure to that region of the image. It doesn’t matter what you start with because after painting the region with the brush, you can tweak all the various values (e.g. Contrast, Clarity, etc.). You may find you need only 0.20 Exposure along with +30 Clarity to help give some local area contrast separation.
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digitaldog

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2017, 04:31:28 PM »

Photoshop is an unnecessary obfuscation for someone working to perfect their craft in LR.
I do agree! Perhaps the comment was supposed to be funny but without a 😀, it’s difficult to know how serious the text was presented.
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BobShaw

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2017, 08:50:21 PM »

Bob, I respect your penchant for Photoshop, but in this case, it seems to be an unnecessary obfuscation for someone working to perfect their craft in LR. Given what the OP has outlined, PS is much less of a solution. In fact, I would argue that PS, with all it’s unecessary bells and whistles is more distracting.

Having been a rather thorough user of PS since the 1990s, I have yet to meet an image that can’t be processed to the highest of standards using LR.

OP: If you want the “rain” to be brighter, use an Adjustment Brush to “paint in” more Exposure to that region of the image. It doesn’t matter what you start with because after painting the region with the brush, you can tweak all the various values (e.g. Contrast, Clarity, etc.). You may find you need only 0.20 Exposure along with +30 Clarity to help give some local area contrast separation.

Firstly, I hate Photoshop.
However it is the tool to edit images and make fine art prints. Lightroom does everything, but I don't regard it as great at any of them.
So "perfecting your craft in Lightroom" to me is like learning to use a hammer to put in a screw. Sure you can brush in an adjustment.

I use Aperture for the same thing as Lightroom and it is great to quickly adjust 30 images and print them out as proofs for a customer.
However every single serious print I do will go through Photoshop.

Nearly everything in this forum is funny to someone. Check out the Coffee Corner.
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BradSmith

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Re: How to adjust photo brightness for printing in Lightroom
« Reply #10 on: Today at 04:53:33 PM »

Here's what I'd do in LR.  I'd mostly work in the main develop panel.  Increase exposure.  Increase highlights further to highest whites just start to clip.  Decrease shadows.  Reduce white out of clipping. Increase clarity.  Then in HSL panel, increase or decrease Luminance and Saturation of blue to taste.

For the rain, if you want further separation, use the adjustment brush and exposure.
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