I've been watching a bunch of kelby & lynda courses on Lab color and I'm just kind of curious how
many intermediate/advanced PS users actually know Lab and/or spend significant time in that space doing work.
Certainly looks very flexible and powerful but can blow your foot off w/o much effort too
I use it on every single photograph I process. It's simple, accurate with colors, brings out color without jacking up the saturation, if you watch it, and allows you the ultimate ability to isolate and target your efforts.
My work flow is based on a simple action that converts the image to LAB, sets up three curves adjustment layers, one each for Luminance, A and B color spaces, then additional layers for levels, brightness/contrast, color balance, hue and saturation (I rarely use any but the curves layers). Sometimes I point process areas for brightness using Viveza's control points because I often just do a straight convert to TIFF in View NX without going to NX if there's not much adjusting to do (which I strive for in my exposures). My L curve is set for a fairly aggressive S curve contrast, but then knocked back to 20% opacity. Likewise the the A and B curves are preset in the action for fairly aggressive straight line adjustments then also knocked back to 20% opacity. My processing is usually just simple adjusting of the opacities, occaisionally some Viveza, once in while some Shadow and Highlights, though usually like using the Viveza U points for more contral.
The key to me is having each LAB adjustment on its own curves layers for fine control, including opacity. That's how you avoid "blowing your foot off", but truthfully LAB is no more likely to be over the top than any other processing, and messing with saturation in RGB always screws up something because it's such a blunt tool. Some of my pictures where there are already strong colors may get not much, if any of the A and B adjustments -- maybe 5% opacity for a very subltle pop, or non at all and just contrast and sharpening.
Final step is sharpening with Focus Magic, almost always with 1 pixel, now that I am using the D3X -- it doesn't need much and sometimes I skip sharpening altogether. Usually, I'll crop before converting to LAB so I'm not cropping a sharpened picture.
This is a very powerful and flexible process that's really quick and simple. For the life of me I can't figure out why more people don't use LAB. It's very gentle on the colors, very quick and easy. The only downside is you really have to work your way through Photoshop Lab Color by Dan Margulis (the Canyon Conundrum Book), but it's well worth it.
Don't hesitate to use it. You will bring much more life out of your pictures, epecially subtle color that's really there in more monochromatic or flat lighting. You can make your shots look like the scene did without over doing it. I tend to shoot a lot right after the sun has set when you get that beautiful, subtle reflected low light. LAB is really well suited for that sort of image.
YMMV, but it's free and you really won't hurt your images or your foot!
David in Phoenix