These days taking an image with a DSLR camera is usually only half the process — the rest of the magic happens in post-processing. It really does not matter what program you use. Camera Raw, Lightroom, Luminar, Affinity Photo and the list goes on.

There are several different things you need to consider tweaking in post. If you shoot in RAW, straight off the bat the images may look a little flat. So here are a few tips for perfecting your post-processing process. This time I am working in Lightroom Classic.

Lens corrections

Most of the editing programs have some method of correcting lens distortion and chromatic aberrations. These are the first two items I look at first.

The lens distortion can correct any known lens distortion for your camera and lens. This works on many well-known brands, makes and models.

The chromatic aberrations, also known as “color fringing” or “purple fringing,” is a common optical problem that occurs when a lens is either unable to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane, and/or when wavelengths of color are focused at different positions in the focal plane. Using the chromatic aberration correction helps remove this from your images.

Clarity and Contrast

I find often when shooting in RAW, some images look a little flat. A great way to boost this back to what we saw in the viewfinder is to boost the clarity. Just a touch though — there’s no need to go way out unless that is the look you are going for. I do the same with contrast — just a touch.

Hue and Saturation

When it comes to Hue and Saturation, some people tend to get a little confused. Hue refers to the amount or quality of your color. For instance, is your red more pink or more burgundy? You can generally tweak the hue of an image and change something that may come out a little different than you were aiming for.

Saturation is the intensity of the color. Is your color strong or washed out? Tweaking both or either of this can totally take you image from drab to fab. Even if you are intentionally going for a desaturated look.

Blacks, Whites, Shadows and Highlights

Most programs will have this as either a tone curve or as sliders. Try adjusting them one at a time — just a subtle tweak is all you need.

Adjusting the blacks and whites can make your image more vivid and striking, while going the other way can make images more subdued. The highlights and shadows, then, can increase or decrease the details seen in the highlights and shadows, effectively increasing or decreasing the dynamic range in your image.

Looks and presets

In Photoshop, Camera Raw, Lightroom and Luminar, you can use, import or create a preset ‘feel’ which you can use over and over. You can, in essence, create a signature look, which you can apply in general to many of your images.

Before you go off and purchase these on the web, have a look at HOW they work. Try using the built-in, default ones and apply them to your image. Then go an explore the actual changes that were applied to your image.

Change, then try and replicate them to get a feel for what subtle changes can do to the feel, look and mood of an image. Try three or four on the same image and see what you like and what you don’t. While one preset may look great applied to a landscape, it may not work for portraits or food.

Practice makes perfect

Like anything creative, practice makes perfect. Perfecting your post-processing process can take time and it is often evolving as does your talent with the craft. Give your self the time to play and experiment. Many happy hours have been lost playing in various different programs creating variations on a single image.

It is only then can you really learn what you like and what works for a particular style or even color palette for your photography.