digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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Using the Basic Sliders in Lightroom and Photoshop – a Comprehensive Tutorial

In this in-depth video tutorial on how to use the basic sliders in Lightroom (or Photoshop ACR) I give away a bunch of little known tricks and some of my best tips. Often in my classroom and workshops I show some quick image processing tips and I've heard the phrase “mind blown”, so hopefully you'll pick up something you didn't know and learn a couple things. Do let me know if you have the mind blown experience though!

Some of the things covered in this video tutorial include:

  • How to set your panel to Solo mode
  • How to undo your last adjustment
  • How to reset one slider only and not everything you've done
  • Using the White Balance eyedropper tool to adjust the color and tint of your image
  • How to adjust different tones in your image by dragging on the histogram
  • The Alt+slider trick to see which areas of your image are clipped and how to use it to adjust for optimal contrast and tone
  • A little trick to automatically set your White and Black points
  • Which sliders you want to adjust first, which to do last, and why
  • How to find and use scrubby sliders
  • Why taking your sliders to extreme is a good way to learn
  • How far is too far and how to avoid that
  • Artistic license and when to “fix” images and when not to? When are blown out highlights okay?

Note: this is a long video but it's full of tons of information and I know you're going to want to watch it all the way to the end and make notes (or follow along and try it on your own images).

Related articles mentioned in the video:

Before and after

Some before and after images to show the adjustments made using only the basic sliders either in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) in Photoshop.

Acr basic sliders 750px 02
Before – this image is a little overexposed.
Acr basic sliders 750px 03
After – has been adjusted using only the White, Black and Highlights sliders and not even touching the Exposure slider.
Acr basic sliders 750px 04
Before – color is a little off and the image lacks contrast and punch.
Acr basic sliders 750px 05
After – watch the video to see how to do this using only basic sliders.
Acr basic sliders 750px 09
Before – a bit underexposed, flat, and the color is dull.
Acr basic sliders 750px 08
After – learn how to adjust the contrast to get more pop in your images like this.

What NOT to do

How do you know you've gone too far? Here are some examples of taking it too far in the post-processing step.

Acr basic sliders 750px 06
What I would to on this image – GOOD example.
Acr basic sliders 750px 07
What NOT to do – this is what I consider taking it too far. There is too much color saturation and the highlight slider has been pulled too far, making her white top gray, almost blue looking. Not a pleasing look for people or in general.
Acr basic sliders 750px 10
GOOD example of how to process an image of people.
Acr basic sliders 750px 11
This is taking it too far. The skin tones are odd, it's not flattering to the people and the shadows have been lifted too far. This is NOT a good look for most people or images in general. You will also get a lot of added noise by processing images to this degree.

Time to practice

Now it's your turn to practice. Open up Lightroom or ACR if you use Photoshop or Elements, and pick some images that needs some help. Find some that are too dark, off color, or just lack punch. Follow the techniques and tips outlined here and see if you can perk them up a bit. If you can “fix” bad images then you will be good to go and be able to do magic on the good ones.

Share your comments and questions below if you have any. In particular tell me if you picked up a tip or trick you didn't already know – if so which one (s)?


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  • Jim Payne

    Darlene, I have been a Lightroom user for a couple of years and just started this video to see your personality. Whoops, I learned far more from you than I anticipated; really great lesson. BTW, nice personality as well.

    • LOL thanks Jim! Glad I could teach you a few tricks too. Tell me which things did you pick up? I’m curious to know what things aren’t obvious to long time users like yourself?

  • Georgette Grossman

    THANKS! Great video! Always looking for another Point of View on how to maximize LR tools. I liked how you illustrated the changes without always starting with Exposure–the Adobe way.

  • Paul Moore

    That’s the first time I’ve heard it explained as well. Well done and thanks

  • Annie G

    Darlene, Really helpful video. Thanks so much.

  • i AM NOT ABLE TO SEE THE VIDEO.wHAT FORMAT IS IT ? Thanks in advance

  • Steve Smith

    Thank you Darlene, you cleared up a lot.. I now feel more confident working with Lightroom…

  • RM

    Can I download this video? I can not watch youtube on this computer. Thanks!

    • Sorry no you cannot download it.

      • RM

        What a pity… Thanks for your reply.

        • Can you try a different device? Most videos on YouTube are not downloadable. This is my business and I teach photography. I provide free articles and videos. But I can’t allow them to be downloaded, sorry.

          • RM

            Too bad for me then…

  • Shane

    Hi Darlene, my question is very simple Light Room or Photoshop?

  • Tim Hudson

    Great video! Very instructive. Thanks for all the work you have done on this one and the others that I have watched. I bought lightroom when it first came out and use it for about 80% of my image processing. I picked up some good tips but the best thing that has happened is that you have blasted me out of a processing rut. You have given me a different way to look at and process my images in lightroom. Thanks agin

  • Cville Eye

    This is indeed one of your best.

  • Jim Davis

    Darlene, I noticed that in most of your image edits you did not address the color channel clipping that was present. Do you normally correct that prior to printing?

    • In the black or white areas? I leave some of the blacks clipping on purpose.

  • The beginners who are not expert yet in editing, must be able to edit their photos by following this tutorial. Its much easier process to apply. Thanks.

  • Vic Prior

    Excellent – very well explained with great examples, thanks very much

  • Excellent post. I like the couple photo too much. The post production work on the photo is amazing.

  • Lisa P

    Im new to learning how to shoot with a DSLR. I also have a monthly subscription to the Creative Cloud. As I’m learning about Shutterspeed, Aperture & ISO, I find that Lightroom can be helpful in correcting my mistakes on my RAW image. But I am a newbie with the Creative Cloud and I do seem to like Lightroom over Photoshop. As i have been using Lightroom i seemed to take forever in making the adjustments and was getting frustrated. Your video above was so very helpful and i love your style of processing your images, your very clear, consistent and much shorter time then I would take :). In the above video you mentioned another video for local adjustments. Can you tell me where that video would be on your sight?

  • Great Tutorial indeed. I don’t really like the part lightroom is separated from photoshop. I mean, the lightroom could be a part of photoshop.

  • Lucia Strougo

    Hi, Darlene, thank you for this video. Very clear! It opened a new window for me.
    If I can ask you something, it would be, what is your workflow inside the Library mode? I am terrified to loose the pictures after using LR. Any articles you would suggest for a total beginner? Many kisses

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