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Author Topic: Develop Sequence and how to Set Contrast Before Whites and Blacks  (Read 6839 times)
gruhl28
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« on: August 26, 2013, 10:59:19 AM »
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Hi All,

This is my first post. I searched first and found a prior discussion that touched on this topic (Auto Tone vs LR4 Develop Module Adapted Workflow Sequence), but it focused on Auto Tone and my question is really more about manually developing.

My question is about the sequence in which one should use the sliders in Develop. Jeff and Michael state quite clearly in the LuLa Lightroom video that Thomas recommends updating the sliders in order, i.e., Exposure, then Contrast, etc. My question is, how can you have any idea how to set the Contrast slider before setting the White and Black points, because setting Whites and Blacks drastically changes the contrast?

I've been playing around with Auto Tone a bit lately (I'd never liked what I saw from it) and noticed that it usually makes large adjustments in Whites and Blacks and very little adjustment in the Contrast slider. In fact, it often decreases the Contrast slider, but the actual contrast increases dramatically because of the Whites and Blacks adjustments. I'm not suggesting that Auto Tone should necessarily be our guide, but I found that often if I adjust Exposure after Auto Tone the result is pretty good (sometimes it's awful, but sometimes it's a big improvement). One would think that the programming for Auto Tone would in some way take into account Thomas' philosophy on developing, but there is no way one would get to the Auto Tone results if you edited the Contrast first and the Whites and Blacks last, without having to go back and completely re-do the Contrast setting. I understand that some back and forth tweaking is always going to be necessary, but if you set Contrast first you're likely to set a significant increase, and then when you use Whites and Blacks to set the white and black points (this is assuming a photo where you want a full range from dark to light) the contrast will be way too high and you'll have to go back and totally change the Contrast setting.

Can anyone clear this up for me?

Thanks
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jrsforums
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2013, 11:39:01 AM »
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If you really want to get some insight into the workings of the different sliders and tone controls to adjust bightness and contrast, I would suggest George Jardine's "Image Correction Master Class"

http://mulita.com/blog/?page_id=5852

Only $30.
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John
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2013, 03:12:09 AM »
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Here is a link to George's free video that should help you.

http://mulita.com/training/hns-r/
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gruhl28
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 02:43:17 PM »
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Here is a link to George's free video that should help you.

http://mulita.com/training/hns-r/

Thanks, interesting video. Good info about Highlights and Shadows vs. Whites and Blacks, but he doesn't touch the Contrast (with one exception), which seems to reinforce my notion that you can't set the Contrast before setting the four sliders beneath it. I realize this video is specifically on Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks, and that he may use Contrast in a different video, but I'm still confused about how one could possibly know where to set Contrast if you're then going to go on and adjust the next four controls.
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Rand47
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2013, 02:49:25 PM »
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Thanks, interesting video. Good info about Highlights and Shadows vs. Whites and Blacks, but he doesn't touch the Contrast (with one exception), which seems to reinforce my notion that you can't set the Contrast before setting the four sliders beneath it. I realize this video is specifically on Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks, and that he may use Contrast in a different video, but I'm still confused about how one could possibly know where to set Contrast if you're then going to go on and adjust the next four controls.

A couple of things...  even though in the LuLa tutorials there is the "recommendation" that sliders go in order, there is also the caveat that regardless of order used, LR will optimize the actual processing (my inept wording).

Second thing... the reason, IMO, that in that GJ video he doesn't talk about the contrast slider is that in other of his Master Class videos he talks at length about using the tone curve module as opposed to the contrast slider and gives examples of when "which" of the two does the better job.  My impression and experience is that about 80%+ of the time contrast is better handled using the tone curve to steepen that portion of the curve that needs contrast enhancement, rather than using the contrast slider in the development module.  GJ's Master Class videos are worth the time and money, IMO.  When combined with the LuLa videos I find that I get the "what" and the "why" that really helps me understand the paradigm of Lightroom.

Rand
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Simon Garrett
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2013, 03:40:39 PM »
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As Rand47 says, the result (to the image) should be the same whichever order you alter sliders.  LR renders the adjustments in its own order, irrespective of your order. 

Since LR4 and "Process 2012", I'm sure I've read that the Process 2012 basic panel generally makes a better job of tone adjustment than tone curves.  I can't say I've done enough tests to prove that myself, but I have found that since Process 2012, I've rarely needed to use tone curves. 
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jrsforums
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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2013, 03:51:51 PM »
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As Rand47 says, the result (to the image) should be the same whichever order you alter sliders.  LR renders the adjustments in its own order, irrespective of your order. 

Since LR4 and "Process 2012", I'm sure I've read that the Process 2012 basic panel generally makes a better job of tone adjustment than tone curves.  I can't say I've done enough tests to prove that myself, but I have found that since Process 2012, I've rarely needed to use tone curves. 

Adobe has done a great job with the sliders.  However, 'Better job" is relative and diffeent for each image.  The tone curves provide subtle differences to the sliders and may (or may not) provide a different look that cannot be obtained with the sliders.
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2013, 04:49:13 PM »
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I might be wrong on this, but my understanding is that Contrast spreads out the middle tones (adding contrast to the middle) whereas Blacks and Whites deal with the extreme lower and upper tones and leave the middle tones less affected.

As a quick and easy test - I uploaded a 21 step wedge to LR5 (21step_.jpg)

I then adjusted Blacks to -50 and Whites to +50. Note the significant change in the ends of the step wedge with a slight change in the mid-tones (21step_B-50_W+50.jpg)

Then, I reset all values and adjusted Contrast to +50 - note the increase in contrast in the mid-tone values, but only a slight change to the lower and upper ends (21step_Contrast+50.jpg)

You can see the difference more markedly if you download the three of them and open the three together in Quick View (Mac or Win equivalent) and use your cursor keys to navigate between the three.

Thanks to inksupply.com for the original (albeit 8bit) image.
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elied
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« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2013, 05:03:47 AM »
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To summarize the points made in several posts above:
Exposure for midtone density (lightness/darkness).
Contrast for midtone contrast - it applies a symmetric S-curve that does not affect black point and white point.
Highlights and Shadows to taste, primarily for making detail more visible.
Whites and Blacks for white point and black point.
Curve Editor because it allows you to make a non-symmetric curve.

Generally, but not engraved in stone, I start with Auto-Tone and then override it. Exposure almost always needs revision, Contrast only occasionally, Highlights and Shadows to taste and very dependent on the photo, Whites clips slightly - I reduce it so that my brightest highlight is 248-250 in soft proof, Blacks is usually pretty good - inspecting with Alt I want to see a few black specks.  Finally the Curve Editor to counter the flatness that can be caused by Highlights or Shadows in their respective zones and the shape of the curve is therefore connected to how much of them I have set.
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JRSmit
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« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2013, 05:33:38 AM »
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Thanks, interesting video. Good info about Highlights and Shadows vs. Whites and Blacks, but he doesn't touch the Contrast (with one exception), which seems to reinforce my notion that you can't set the Contrast before setting the four sliders beneath it. I realize this video is specifically on Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks, and that he may use Contrast in a different video, but I'm still confused about how one could possibly know where to set Contrast if you're then going to go on and adjust the next four controls.
In addition to other posts: whatever you do to change the tonality it impacts the contrast, the order in which you change the sliders in LR is immaterial for the endresult. When exporting/printing somehow your original into an baked RGB result that includes your development settings, the sliders are processed in a fixed order, optimised for the result as determined by Adobe.
As a rule of thumb: The contrast slider (just belwo exposure) works within the set black and white points, whereas the tone-curve from 0 to 100% regardless of the black and white settings. This can be used in your advantage, but requires experience.
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gruhl28
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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2013, 04:45:15 PM »
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I might be wrong on this, but my understanding is that Contrast spreads out the middle tones (adding contrast to the middle) whereas Blacks and Whites deal with the extreme lower and upper tones and leave the middle tones less affected.

As a quick and easy test - I uploaded a 21 step wedge to LR5 (21step_.jpg)

I then adjusted Blacks to -50 and Whites to +50. Note the significant change in the ends of the step wedge with a slight change in the mid-tones (21step_B-50_W+50.jpg)

Then, I reset all values and adjusted Contrast to +50 - note the increase in contrast in the mid-tone values, but only a slight change to the lower and upper ends (21step_Contrast+50.jpg)

You can see the difference more markedly if you download the three of them and open the three together in Quick View (Mac or Win equivalent) and use your cursor keys to navigate between the three.

Thanks to inksupply.com for the original (albeit 8bit) image.

I suspected that Contrast worked more on the midtones, but your example really illustrates it nicely, thanks. I still think I would have an easier time deciding on how I want to set Contrast after working with the sliders below it, but I'll have to practice more now that I know to look mostly at the midtone contrast while adjusting this slider.
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gruhl28
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« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2013, 04:49:10 PM »
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To summarize the points made in several posts above:
Exposure for midtone density (lightness/darkness).
Contrast for midtone contrast - it applies a symmetric S-curve that does not affect black point and white point.
Highlights and Shadows to taste, primarily for making detail more visible.
Whites and Blacks for white point and black point.
Curve Editor because it allows you to make a non-symmetric curve.

Generally, but not engraved in stone, I start with Auto-Tone and then override it. Exposure almost always needs revision, Contrast only occasionally, Highlights and Shadows to taste and very dependent on the photo, Whites clips slightly - I reduce it so that my brightest highlight is 248-250 in soft proof, Blacks is usually pretty good - inspecting with Alt I want to see a few black specks.  Finally the Curve Editor to counter the flatness that can be caused by Highlights or Shadows in their respective zones and the shape of the curve is therefore connected to how much of them I have set.

Nice summary, thanks.

I like your flow starting with Auto-Tone. What I've seen since starting to play with Auto-Tone is very similar, exposure usually needs revision, and white clips a bit so I change that, the rest I tweak depending on the photo.
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stamper
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« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2013, 03:24:25 AM »
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Auto-Tone. Possibly the worst slider in LR. Why use it and then have to undo the "damage". It is the photographers image and he/she should be making the decisions. 
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Dan Glynhampton
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« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2013, 03:43:14 AM »
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Auto-Tone. Possibly the worst slider in LR. Why use it and then have to undo the "damage". It is the photographers image and he/she should be making the decisions. 

I think it a matter of finding a starting point to adjust the image sometimes, I confess to hitting auto tone myself occasionally.  Now and then I look at an image and I'm not sure which way to go, after pressing auto tone I usually think things like "Wow, that exposure setting is way off", and it's easier to adjust the image from there rather than the defaults.

I still think I'm making the decisions about the final appearance of the image, it's just that sometimes auto tone helps me grope my way to a result I'm happy with.
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Simon Garrett
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2013, 04:12:01 AM »
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Auto-Tone. Possibly the worst slider in LR. Why use it and then have to undo the "damage". It is the photographers image and he/she should be making the decisions. 
I frequently try auto-tone.  Often I then do control-z to undo it, but it gives me an alternative view of how the image might look that I might otherwise have missed. 

On my D800, with "Camera Standard" it frequently over-exposes, but on "Camera Portrait" I'd say it improves >80% of images.  Always needs further tweaking, but often a good start. 

One thing Auto-tone frequently does well (in my experience) is to set blacks and whites.  Exposure may be off, and highlights and shadows may be more a matter of personal judgement for each particular shot, but (unless you're looking for high key or low key) blacks and whites can reasonably be set automatically, at least approximately.
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stamper
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« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2013, 04:12:51 AM »
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The starting point should be the defaults and what is in the photographer's head with regards to vision. The defaults are already "auto toned" and if you use that slider then that is twice the auto tone has been invoked. The defaults can de made "neutral" but not completely flat which is undesirable in Adobe's thinking. 
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Simon Garrett
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« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2013, 06:17:25 AM »
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The starting point should be the defaults and what is in the photographer's head with regards to vision. The defaults are already "auto toned" and if you use that slider then that is twice the auto tone has been invoked. The defaults can de made "neutral" but not completely flat which is undesirable in Adobe's thinking. 

But which defaults should be the starting point?  I mean, the Adobe Standard defaults, one of the "Camera..."  profile defaults, a personal profile?   My starting point is one of the "Camera..." profiles - whichever one I reckon will suit the image best. 

Even the LR default settings are image-specific (some of the default processing depends on image content).  Auto-tone is highly image-specific.  For that reason, I don't apply auto-tone automatically, but I frequently try it and see what it does. 

There's no such thing as a "neutral" setting with any raw convertor, so any starting point is arbitrary.   
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2013, 09:02:54 AM »
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Character of light in the original scene should be a major influence in editing decisions. You don't want high contrast in a scene that is clearly lit by overcast or diffused light. Local contrast should have a smoother taper along edges. Contrast role off of detail merging into black should follow the same smooth taper or else it will stick out like a sore thumb in the overall appearance.

All this should be instinctive though because often you won't have the original scene to compare against unless working tethered in a studio setup
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Schewe
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« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2013, 03:16:20 PM »
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My question is about the sequence in which one should use the sliders in Develop. Jeff and Michael state quite clearly in the LuLa Lightroom video that Thomas recommends updating the sliders in order, i.e., Exposure, then Contrast, etc. My question is, how can you have any idea how to set the Contrast slider before setting the White and Black points, because setting Whites and Blacks drastically changes the contrast?

First off, you need to quit being so literal. The whole purpose of the Basic panel is to get the "basic" tone adjustments made...and in order to do that, Thomas (and Mike and I) suggests a top down approach...but in reality, it'll be a top down back to the top and back to the bottom approach then arguably over to the Curves panel for tweaks...there ain't no right or wrong way to get your image to be as optimized as you can get it.

However, adjusting the contrast before whites and blacks is logical if you understand what the logic is behind the controls. If your scene is already high contrast, you should reduce contrast a bit while knowing full well that won't really be the end of the adjustments. If your scene is low contrast, then increase the contrast a bit. The way that highlights and shadows and then whites and blacks work are in fine tuning the results of exposure and contrast. Depending on the image contrast and what you are trying to accomplish, ALL of the controls may come into play...it really all depends on what your image looks like to start and where you want your image to look when you are done...

Bottom line if the scene is low contrast, start by increasing contrast...if the scene is high contrast, start by lowering...then adjust the rest of the sliders to taste. Or, ignore the basic panel and simply use the curve editor :~)
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madmanchan
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« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2013, 03:16:29 PM »
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You can also use auto tone in parts.  For example, shift-double-click on Exposure just for auto exposure, but leave the other Basic controls as they are (and then fine-tune manually).
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