When I start out processing a ‘keeper’ photograph into Lightroom 5, I generally start out by trying the following settings:
- Exposure: -1.20
- Contrast: +10
- Highlights: -100
- Shadows: +100
- Clarity: +10
- Vibrance: +45
- Saturation: -10
- Enable Profile Correction: On
- Remove Chromatic Aberration: On
After doing this the photo might seem washed out so then I adjust the black point (Tip: Any time an image looks washed out, go for the black point slider!). The best way to do this is to press Alt on Windows, Option on Mac and then the image will be replaced with a white screen (this shows the clipping – if it is all white, no blacks are being clipped). Slide the black point until the white screen starts to show a tiny amount of black, this means that a small amount of blacks are clipping in the image, which is good because every image needs a little solid black.
Next adjust the white point. Again, press Alt on Windows/Option on Mac and then this time the image will be replaced with a black screen (this again shows the clipping – if it is all black, no whites are being clipped). Slide the white point until the black screen starts to show a tiny amount of white, then back it off until it is once again pure black (this is because you don’t normally want whites clipped in an image).
After this, I usually go back and tweak the adjustments I’ve done a little more to get the exposure right before continuing to process the image.
It might seem odd to start processing images by applying the same settings to them, but I find that for upward of 90 percent of images these settings give me a good starting point to continue with the processing.
Remember, these are just a starting point, and quite possibly not the final settings. The idea here is to dial in some default settings for the raw file to maximize the color and detail available.