Step up Your Lightroom Game – Part 7: Life After Lightroom with Dustin Lucas
We are now in the final stretch of delivering our files, and almost ready to close out this wedding. It’s definitely a good feeling to be done, but there are some additional tasks we’ve gotta tackle first. Now, assuming you’ve already had the IPS or posted the images as an online reveal, your client has selected images for products, and you need to edit them beyond a proof-level color correction. Soft-proofing in Lightroom provides a great option to review edits before sending them into Photoshop. Along with this, you can prep files for print directly from Lightroom to keep things simple.
We’ve discussed moving from Lightroom to Photoshop in previous articles, but now let’s look at how to apply basic retouching in Lightroom, open in Photoshop, and save back into Lightroom. We do not need to design a complete Lightroom-to-Photoshop workflow for this level of editing—we’ll use the Edit In feature. Once this is completed, we will prep for the digital file delivery by automatically applying actions in Photoshop. I like to apply additional sharpening along with a slight skin-softening effect globally to polish my files. Once I have loaded all digitals to a personalized thumb drive for shipping or posted online for my clients to access, it’s time to archive files. Where do your images go when you are done? I will discuss a simple and effective way to store and find later.
Let’s jump into Soft-Proofing & Printing in Lightroom to get started.
SOFT-PROOFING & PRINTING IN LIGHTROOM
There are a few things to consider when proofing onscreen for prints. First, you need to refer to your lab or personal printer settings. This is crucial. No need to waste time and energy creating settings out of thin air if your lab has them posted on its website.
Also, calibrate your monitor at the very least—this is vital. If you are printing yourself, look into a calibration system for your monitor and printer. If you are venturing in this direction, do some research on color spectrometers. These devices can lessen the gap between what is on the screen versus what is printed. If you are looking for an entry-level system, check out the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo device. It’s fast and user-friendly.
Color management can be daunting. This term refers to the collaboration between your camera, monitor and printer. Aren’t they all supposed to be in sRGB? What’s the big deal? The acronym sRGB refers to the color space. This is the most widely accepted color gamut, and it’s all about output. Like I said earlier, start by figuring out where you want to print. For a more in-depth look at color space, check out my article “Color Space and Your Photography” from the June 2014 issue of Shutter Magazine.
From capture, this image had a native color space, meaning it hadn’t been converted yet. After the RAW files were edited and exported as JPEGs, color space was assigned. Knowing that I was going to further edit the images, I converted them to Adobe 1998 and chose file type TIFF. I processed in Photoshop, flattened layers, and saved as a JPEG. This is my normal workflow. Normally, I’d print in Photoshop, since I was already there, but I want to keep everything in my Lightroom Catalog for organization purposes.
Once the RAW or JPEG files are prepped, we are ready to begin soft-proofing. Soft-proofing can be performed in the Develop Module by striking the “S” key. (2) As you see, the default settings are set to Profile: sRGB, and Intent: Perceptual. From here, we need to make a virtual copy by holding Command and striking the apostrophe key; or just clicking Create Proof Copy. This allows us to edit the image for the paper media we want to print onto. We also need to install some paper profiles.
If you own a photo printer, go to your paper media’s website and download the ICC profiles according to the printer model. I went to Canon’s website and downloaded a few of my favorites. Once they are downloaded and unpackaged, we need to install them. Mac users need to navigate to Library > ColorSync > Profiles and save all the ICC profiles here. Then, close and reopen your Lightroom catalog.
When you click on the current sRGB profile, a list will appear; choose Other. From here, you can select all the profiles you want to use while proofing. Now, we can jump into soft-proofing.
After changing the profile to Other Fine-Art Photo 1, and checking the Simulate Paper & Ink box, you can see a real difference in the tonality of the image. Remember, we are looking at a soft proof on a calibrated monitor—this is not an actual representation of what will be seen in print. This should give you an idea of the flatter tones, and you can adjust accordingly. Fortunately for this image, the fine-art toning lends itself to the matte finish.
Gamut Warning is a common tool for proofing an image. With it, we can review what colors are out of range, so to speak. To view the Destination Gamut Warning, hold Shift and strike the “S” key. The problematic areas will highlight in red. As you can see in this image, we have very few areas to be concerned about. I can drop the exposure and black point a touch, while lifting the white point. For this image, I am not too concerned with these issues.
When reviewing the image in Proof Preview, I like to reveal only the right panel. Viewing the Proof Matte Color as Paper White along with checking the option Simulate Paper & Ink gives you an idea of how the print will look. If you are viewing on a non-calibrated monitor, your print will usually be much darker, because the screen brightness is hiked up. Photo paper is also a lot less luminous than your backlit screen. To compare the Master and Proof Previews, strike the “/” key.
The Print Module is also user-friendly. Start in the lower left panel with Page Setup to adjust the orientation of the paper and image. Then, you can select the specific printer settings for quality and paper type. In the right-hand panel, the category Print Job allows you to fine-tune your image with Print Resolution, Sharpening, and Color Management.
I usually resize my images at 300 ppi and leave the print resolution the same. Print sharpening is a preset-driven version of output sharpening, with options for amount and media type. I usually turn this off, because I work with input and output sharpening in Photoshop. Under Color Management, you can select the profile used for soft-proofing. This ICC profile controls the color gamut for your print and paper. Select this instead of allowing the printer to manage color. That’s it—you’re ready to print!
RETOUCHING FROM LIGHTROOM TO PHOTOSHOP
For me, this process has to be fast, and I really take to the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to get the image within 90-percent done. I typically apply one of the many stored preset Effects and start painting. Auto Mask really makes my job easy, helping to keep the lips and eyes masked out of the skin-softening effect. Once I paint on the area, I can check my work by streaking the “O” key to see where the effect is painted, shown in the green overlay color. Once my Mask and Effect settings are to my liking, I am ready to dive into the Spot Removal tool by striking the “Q” key.
This tool offers the Clone and Heal options, which you may recognize from Photoshop A really great way to see blemishes and dust spots on the camera’s sensor is to turn on Visualize Spots. Then, we can select Heal and size up the brush to click on each area we want to manipulate. This is really fast, and it keeps us from having to go into Photoshop, which is a huge plus. As always, we have a great, non-destructive way to Retouch an image to a really solid place. Toggle back on the soft-proofing module, and we can edit specifically for print. That is a massive feature for wrapping up a final edit.
Of course, if we need the power of Photoshop, we can use the Edit In feature to save a copy as a PSD or TIFF. Quickly apply any actions and soften those shadows a bit further to really take this image to the next level. Once we are finished, we can save the edit without flattening layers; these can be saved as well. Once we close Photoshop, our newly edited TIFF is added to the catalog automatically. It’s all about efficiency with Lightroom and Photoshop at this point. Now, let’s move into automation in Photoshop.
AUTOMATION IN PHOTOSHOP
In the past, we have used droplets when exporting files from Lightroom to apply actions in Photoshop automatically. If you haven’t done this and have already exported your files out of Lightroom, you can still apply an action to all of them quickly. Applying an action for effects like skin-softening, sharpening, tonal curve, resolution/image size, b&w filters, etc. can be done as an Automated Batch in Photoshop. Keep in mind, this means that the files will be overwritten versus saving a copy. For instance, many photographers may want to apply a light skin-smoothing to all files so that they are consistent in the end. They do not care to have two versions in the end, just the softening ones. Here is how you can do this in Photoshop.
Open the application, and without opening any files, you can go to the top menu bar, select File>Automate, and choose Batch. In the Play section, you can choose the Action Set and specific action you want to apply. The Source option is for choosing your folder of files. If you want to do this to an open set of images, you can choose this as well. Additional options can be selected to reduce errors stopping the batch, as well as to include subfolders. Destination is important, because if you leave it at the default setting None, all the files will open in Photoshop and crash your computer. Instead, choose Save and Close, or Folder if you want a copy stored. For making copies with different output settings, I tend to use Image Processor.
Just as when batching images, go to the top menu bar, select File>Script, and choose Image Processor. In this window, we choose which images to use, where to save the copies, the file type we want saved, converting to sRGB, and running an action. This is the option I choose when batching creative edits to JPEG or TIFF. It’s a great way to apply a flatten action and save a TIFF for printing so you have the non-destructive versus with layers saved separately. If you use batching with a flatten action, it will overwrite the layered versus. This is massively important to remember.
ARCHIVAL & THE RESULTS
Archiving your files at the end, much like storing files in the beginning, is likely the most neglected part of a photographer’s workflow. I worry about data integrity, so from my perspective, it’s one of the most important parts. Once a session is moved from active to closed, I store all the renamed selection of RAWs and JPEGs on a local hard-drive for a year. After a year, I dump the RAWs and keep only the renamed JPEGs, moving them to cloud storage for my archival process. It’s up for debate whether to dump or save all the unselected and unedited images. I recommend storing RAWs for a year and purging after. Then, I will export them as Medium JPEGs, so if your clients wants additional images of a deceased relative, you have it on hand at any point in the future. This is completely up to you—some photographers keep RAWs forever, since local storage is cheap.
Now that everything has been edited, delivered and archived, it’s time to do it all over again on the next session. From soft-proofing to printing to using Photoshop for final touches and automation, we’ve successfully completed a wedding. This concludes my seven-part series on how to step up your Lightroom game. It’s been a long journey for me to develop a solid practice primarily using Lightroom. There are always ways to improve speed and quality, and I challenge you to find the same. Figure out what works best for you, and make it a routine so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every wedding season. Keeping your head above water in October when it comes to post-production doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.