I have been using ACR (CS3) for a couple years and I do pretty well with the basic features, but I recently was questioning some things that I seem to do pretty instinctively, and wondering if they were crazy. Here are my steps
1) I almost always warm up the image by moving the color temp slider towards yellow.
2) I move the exposure all the way until I have lots of clipping, then work backwards down to where I think the light range is where I want it. Sometimes I will still have clipping where I stop.
3) If needed, I use recovery to bring any clipped highlights back into range. Move brightness up if I think that recovery muddied the image too much.
4) I pump up the black, sometimes substantially.
5) This might seem weird because I just pushed the black point, but now I try applying a small amount of fill light. I go back and forth between black and fill light until I find something I like. Sometimes I will also return to exposure at this point.
6) Push the clarity up 6-15 units
7) pump up vibrance (for people shots) or Saturation. Typically I try both to see which one I like better.
Visit sharpening tab and move from the standard 25% to more like 45% at 1 pixel.
So a few questions:
Is it crazy to use fill light in concert with increasing black point?
Is it contradictory to use recovery with the exposure slider so far up and brightness all at the same time?