Lightroom 4 Tutorial | Color Correction Rules

As we embark on our new journey through the awesome and powerful software of Adobe Lightroom 4, there are a few basic rules to color correction that we should continue to follow. It’s easy to open a new toy and jump right into playing with it; but there are important steps to take even before importing the photos that will improve your color correction quality and efficiency.

This tutorial has been transcribed from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Tutorials on DVD, a 14 hour Lightroom 4 A – Z guide with over 130 tutorials for mastering Lightroom from start to finish. The Digital download can be purchased from SLR Lounge while the physical copy is available through Amazon Prime.

1) Remember that color correction is subjective
This is an opportunity for you to be creative and explore your style. You can turn up the warmth of the photo to make it look like a sunset/dusk type image or you can cool the image to make it look like a winter type scene. You can also make the image black and white. Here is an example of the same image, one color corrected for warmer tones and the other for cooler tones. There certainly isn’t a “correct” version; and it depends entirely on preference and style.

Warmer Version:
lightroom color correction

Cooler Version:
lightroom color correction

2) Make sure you color calibrate your monitor

In order to do this, you would have to buy a color calibrating device. The spider pro and elite devices work great for this purpose but there are several great products on the market. Now color calibrating your monitor once is not a one-time fix-all. For the best results, set up a reminder on your calibrator software to color calibrate your monitor every 30-60 days because your monitor tends to dim and this changes the colors.

3) Use a High Quality, Wide Gammet LCD or Monitor
We recommend using a high quality, wide gamut LCD or monitor when you’re editing. Low quality displays will hinder the quality of your color correcting. We recommend Apple displays or higher end Dell displays as well as Samsung. You can also try purchasing a display from a store that will allow you to return it within 14-30. That way you can calibrate that display and print out a couple of images from it to ensure you’re happy with the results. Make sure you have a wide color gammet and good viewing angles as well.

4) Work in a semi-dark area
Your photos could come out too light or too dark depending on where you edited the photos. We say semi-dark because we recommend that you color correct in a darker room; but not a pitch black room. The main rule of thumb is that no light should directly be falling on your display while you edit. As you color correct in a bright room, the photos tend to come out too bright. You might not be able to tell because everything around you is too bright, especially when there is light falling directly on the screen. When you color correct in a pitch black room, the images might come out too dark because the monitor is very bright in comparison to the dark room.

5) Reconsider the processing order
We want to adjust from large adjustments to small adjustments. For example, correct larger things like exposure before smaller adjustments like shadows and contrast. Lightroom is already designed to work in this order. Just start from the top of the adjustments panel and work your way down.