10 Things I Would Tell a New Lightroom User: #9

Happy Monday everybody! I’m back from sneaking off to Portland, Oregon this weekend for a Valentine’s Day getaway with our friends Moose and Sharon Peterson, but now I’m back (OK, I got back really late), with #9 in my series.

Before I get to that, first I just want to thank everybody for the great feedback and ideas we got after launching “The Lightroom Show” last Friday. Glad to get that first one under our belts and we’ve got some fun stuff planned for upcoming episodes (the next will be here on Friday). Anyway, just thanks for your support, very kind words, and suggestions.

OK, now we can get to #9:


#9: Don’t Turn Your Amp All The Way Up To 10!

By that, I mean: when you’re editing your images in the Develop Module, it’s easy to get carried away with things like Clarity, Vibrance, Contrast, Sharpening and Shadows. They’re all very powerful features and you’ll definitely want to use them, but it’s easy to push these sliders too far, and the more you do it, the more immune you become to how far you’re pushing them. After a very short time, you get desensitized to their “look” and you start dragging them farther and farther to the right, and pretty soon you’ve started to trash your images without even realizing it. I see it all the time.

My advice to you would be this: If you’re going to make a mistake, and your choices are:

(a) you’re going to add a lot of sharpening to the image, or

(b) you’re afraid you might under-sharpen the image…

always go with “b,” the “under” choice.

Nobody will ever call you out for not sharpening quite enough, but if you over-sharpen an image it stands out like a sore thumb. Same with Clarity. Same with the Shadow slider. Same with all of it. If you’re going to make a mistake one way or the other, go a little under and your images will look better for it.

By the way, nobody likes your amp up on 10 but you. Ever. (especially the other guys in the band). 😉

One more thing: 
Just a quick shout out to Lyle Stavast who has been really helpful in the comments section here. He’s usually one of the first folks to jump in with helpful comments (he knows his stuff), and I just wanted him to know I’m grateful and glad to have him as part of our community. High-five Lyle. 🙂

Hope you all have an awesome Monday!





  1. David Campbell 11 March, 2015 at 17:22 Reply

    A great tip that applies to many things in life other than Lightroom sliders.

    However, and for the record, there are very few things more glorious than the sound of a vintage Marshall cranked up to patent pending.

  2. Glo 22 February, 2015 at 13:55 Reply

    My personal rule is to adjust the clarity/sharpness/whatever to where I think it looks terrific. Then back it off half that amount. Amazing how many times my “terrific” images looks even better after that.

  3. Jordan 19 February, 2015 at 14:57 Reply

    Remember the ‘\’ key (or Mac equivalent)!

    Sometimes it’s not until you view the ‘before’ state that you realise just how much you’ve tweaked it. Sometimes I think I’ve done hardly anything to an image – and I consider myself a very conservative PPer – but that \ key reminds me just how far I’ve come/

  4. Philipp 19 February, 2015 at 13:52 Reply

    I’m not very experienced with LR and photography yet. But I basically apply the principles I was using while mixing music in the studio.

    1. While working on a photo and at some point I’m happy with how it looks, I just reduce my editings a bit, say slightly reduce contrast, or decrease exposure by a few cents or the other way around if I was decreasing to get a good result.

    2. In the studio I always listened to the song on several different speakers. So I’ll export and also check the photo on a tablet, a phone, a non calibrated notebook screen etc.

    3. Walk away from the song to get fresh ears. So I walk away from the photos and check them again the next day if I still like my editings.

  5. Eduardo Cassus 17 February, 2015 at 16:55 Reply

    After watching mr. Peterson’s class on B&W landscape photography on KelbyOne, I decided to try my hand on Silver Efex to process an infrared image I’ve made. I got really carried away by the Structure slider and the results were so crazy that people started asking me if I had used a dip pen to draw the image. Well, since we don’t normally see in infrared, I decided to leave the exaggerated effect on purpose as an abstraction for all my infrared images, but on my visible light images, I tend to follow advice #9.

  6. Carl Aylman 16 February, 2015 at 13:46 Reply

    Long time follower but relatively new to LR. Can you do a post or a show on how to load lens corrections into LRCC? When I do lens distortion corrections, the lens that I use does not show up in the listings in the develop module and I have to do manual corrections.

  7. Paul C 16 February, 2015 at 12:05 Reply

    Moose Peterson once did a really good guide to sharpening at each of the post-processing stages… it is a bit detailed now as it was mostly Photoshop, but it gave a nice feeling for when it was too much and the effect of accumulated sharpening. Not sure if it is still on his site.

    Saturation is so easy to overdo – I try using the “proof copy” facility to show me where I’ve gone wrong (Like Pete Collins, I’m colourblind, too, so red poppies in green fields are invisible to me until they are so overblown they hide the grass!).

    Great post, great podcast, great forum. You & RC work really well together… reminds me of you & Matt on D-Town

  8. Brian Wilson 16 February, 2015 at 10:38 Reply

    Scott, as an audio engineer, my staff would overdo the audio equivalent by using too much reverb, compression or delay. My rule was, if you can hear the effect, it’s too much. Once the effect is obvious, back it off ten percent. Reverb is like soy sauce, by the time you put in enough to taste it, there’s a big puddle of it in the bottom of the bowl (or mix)…

  9. Jimmy B 16 February, 2015 at 09:17 Reply

    Insert plug for Real World Image Sharpening by Bruce Fraser, et. al. here. Teaches the fundamentals and theory enough that you understand what is good sharpening and what is bad sharpening.

  10. Egidio Leitao 16 February, 2015 at 07:20 Reply

    So, here’s a question: how do you tell someone he/she is sharpening too much? People tend to become very protective of their photos and the post-processing reasons they use. Some friends of mine tend to sharpen too much or saturate their shots a lot. I think there is a high level of subjectivity to each person’s choices. Perhaps the way I post-process some of my photos appears to be too much for someone, but is fine with me. The same applies to those people.

      • Cody A 16 February, 2015 at 11:38 Reply

        Ha! Nice Scott! Yes, only if they asked you for critique. One way of keeping the sharpening to a pleasing level is to use the masking feature. Hold alt/opt on the masking slider and as you slide right you see white and black. The white portions are the only parts of the image being sharpened. This will help with keeping skin/water/sky from being sharpened too much while at the same time really making hard edges like eyes/lips or edges of bldgs to be super sharp. It’s a win win. Just play with the slider until you see the elements you want sharp appear in white.

  11. Lars 16 February, 2015 at 06:22 Reply

    I agree and I suggest to wait just for one day before you publish a processed picture. Sometimes you’ve gone too far with processing or you missed something to correct, because if you spend a lot of time for one picture your view adapts.

    • Peter Heuchert 16 February, 2015 at 09:03 Reply

      Waiting some time and reviewing the picture is important. I was using Topaz Detail to sharpen a nice shot. I was really impressed about the crisp details. Later on I compared it with the original version and noticed that the impressive sharpness was not good for the picture.
      I did sharpen the picture because I could do it and not while the picture was too soft. Next time I try to use those tools only if I really notice that the picture need it.

      • Michael 11 March, 2015 at 14:21 Reply

        I find it useful to make virtual copies during the editing process. That way I can compare images, using the survey mode, with more subtle adjustment changes.

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