Most of us who enjoy digital photography, especially DSLR photography, got into it because we wanted greater control over the shots we take. With the increased control a DSLR affords, comes a great responsibility – we MUST process the raw files from our cameras.
For a number of years I would get frustrated that no matter how I processed my raw files, they never looked as rich as JPEGs that came out of one of my “lesser” cameras.
Through all of my adjustment of exposure, saturation, and contrast, my photos never “popped”. Then, just recently I’m shamed to admit, I understood what I believe to be the three most important adjustments for any photo – the adjustments that my “lesser” cameras did automatically while saving JPEGs: camera calibration, lens correction, and sharpening.
How it works
Camera Calibration: Because every camera, or at least every camera model, renders colors differently, it’s paramount that your editing process takes this into account. All of the major photo editing programs allow you to choose a profile to apply to your photos. If you don’t choose a camera profile, your software will choose a default or standard profile that will likely leave your colors muted.
In Adobe Lightroom this is done by going to the Develop Module and scrolling down to the tab entitled Camera Calibration. From there choose the profile you’d like and you should see a noticeable difference in your photo. Adobe’s Camera Raw is almost exactly the same, choose the camera icon on the right side, then choose the profile you’d like to use.
Regardless of the software you use, you should see an immediate change in your image. If, after applying the update, the colors aren’t exactly how you remember them, you can always apply refinements in the same window.
Lens Correction: Lens Correction is a feature that was added to Lightroom in version 3 (2010), but I didn’t learn about it until about a month ago. How did this little feature ever escape me?! I learned the trick from a Lynda.com course called Lightroom CC Essential Training (2015), led by photographer Chris Orwig.
Lens Correction allows you to correct for such things as distortion, chromatic aberration, and vignetting, all without leaving Lightroom or Camera Raw.
Sharpening: I’ve known for years that sharpening could make my photos better, but the controls show up in so many areas of Lightroom and Photoshop, I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and relied only on the output sharpening available on export.
Scott Kelby at KelbyOne and Lightroom Killer Tips covers it really well. But basically, sharpening adds contrast in your images. It helps define the edges between dark and light pixels. Usually the effects are pretty subtle, but if it’s done right your images will surely “pop.”