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Inspiration

The 5 Rules of Color Correction in Lightroom

By Pye Jirsa on June 24th 2013

Introduction

In this video from our Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, we will go over 5 rules that we highly recommend you follow when you are color correcting images in Lightroom 4. Watch the video or continue reading the article below!

Watch the Video

Rule #1: Color Calibrate Your Monitor

The first rule of color correction is to make sure that you have color calibrated your monitor. To do this, you need to buy, rent, or borrow a color calibration device. For our studio at Lin & Jirsa Photography, we use the Spyder Pro and Elite Devices because they work really well from monitor to monitor and give consistent results across all the different model displays we use, from laptops to desktops.

Just because you have calibrated your monitor once does not mean that you are done calibrating it forever, though. Over time, monitors tend to become a little dimmer and colors start to shift. Therefore you should set up a calibration reminder to remind you to recalibrate your monitor every 30-60 days. Color calibrating your monitor will give you the best results for your images. For those of you who are working on uncalibrated machines, you will probably see much cooler results for your images, especially on PC displays. In other words, your images will be much more blue, so when you go to correct it you will go too far in the wrong direction! When we post images to SLR Lounge, people will sometimes say that the original image looks better than the edited version because they like all the yellows in the original. However, what they see on their uncalibrated screen may look good, but in reality, the image will probably come out much more yellow when printed out. So, make sure you calibrate your monitors if you are trying to accurately judge colors for either yourself, or others!

Rule #2: Use a High Quality Wide Gamut LCD or Monitor

Using cheap quality displays will only hinder your ability to color correct images. We recommend sticking with Apple, higher end Dell, or Samsung displays (and other major, reputable brands) when editing images. It is also a good idea to purchase a display from a store that allows you to return the display within a certain time.  You want to calibrate a new display immediately, and print out a couple images to double check and see if you are getting good results from that display. Make sure you have a wide color gamut and good viewing angles on the display as well.

T0 be precise, look for 178 degree viewing angle displays, both horizontal and vertical; otherwise you will notice that your monitor displays shadow and highlight brightness very poorly at different angles.

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Rule #3: Edit Images in a Semi-Dark Area

Specifically, do not work in any area that has light directly falling on your screen. For example, if you are editing in a really bright room, your images have a tendency to be a little too bright since your editing will compensate for the brightness that your eyes feel all around you, not just on your display.

You might not be able to tell how bright those images really are since everything around you is too bright, especially if the light is on your screen.

On the opposite end, if you are editing images in complete blackness, your images will probably come out too dark because your display is so bright compared to everything else in the room.

In short, your eyes need to be comfortable in general, or they will throw you off.  Therefore we recommend that you edit your images in a medium or moderately dim room without any light falling directly on your screen.

It also helps if the temperature (color) of the light bulbs in your room roughly match the color temperature of your display.  Daylight balance light bulbs are becoming more and more common these days, thankfully!

Rule #4: Make Largest Adjustments First

Another important rule of color correction is the order in which you make your adjustments. Adjust images from the largest adjustments down to the smaller adjustments, not the other way around.

For example, let’s say the biggest change we need to make to an image is with exposure. If we adjust Contrast or something else first, it will be difficult to get an accurate result for the remaining adjustments. One very common thing is for people to simply “go down the line”, and start with white balance before they get to exposure for example.  If your image is under-exposed or over-exposed, this is a very impractical way to edit.

When you start with smaller adjustments first, you will end up having to go back and change the other sliders to match the largest adjustment that needed to be made to the image. You can wind up going back and forth two or three times before you arrive at perfection!  A rule of thumb is to just start from the top of the adjustments and work down, with the exception of exposure and white balance. Lightroom 4 has already been designed to work in this processing order, so just stick with this. By following this workflow, you will save a lot of time since you do not have to go back and adjust the adjustments to get your images perfect.

Rule #5: Remember that Color Correction is Subjective

The last thing we need to remember is that color correction is subjective. Sure, there might be a “wrong” way to color correct an image, but there are also several different “right” ways to color correct your images! It’s all about style.

Sometimes we think that there is only one way to do things when editing images, but we need to remember that we can still make our own artistic decisions. Some might make a different artistic decision for one image while others might not make the same changes. However, that does not mean these images are incorrect and need to be fixed. For example, we could take an image and create a moody feel to the image by adjusting Temperature. We could pull Temperature up to create a warm feel to the image, making it look like the image was shot during dusk or sunset. On the other hand, we can bring Temperature down and make the image look much cooler for a “winter” type scene. You can also change an image to black and white. None of these edits mentioned are incorrect, so remember that color correction is somewhat subjective.

As an educational website, our only goal is to give you tools to work more efficiently.  While right and wrong may be subjective, there is always a FAST way to accomplish something, and we are all about saving time in post-production no matter what your style is…

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Conclusion & Learn More!

Our 5 rules include calibrating your monitor, using a high quality wide gamut display, working in a semi-dark area, making large adjustments before small adjustments, and keeping subjectivity in mind. Following these guidelines will help you consistently get the best quality out of your images!

We hope you enjoyed this article and video excerpt from the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD. Stay tuned for our next article and episode!

The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD is a 14 hour video workshop turning any Lightroom novice into a complete master of Lightroom 4 in no time! The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop can be purchased by itself, or within the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection which also contains our award winning and industry standard Lightroom 4 Preset System, as well as the Lightroom 4 Workflow System.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for posting

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