Lightroom Tutorial 1: Hotel Lobby (Hotel Alfonso XIII, Sevilla, Spain)

In this tutorial I will show you how I transformed the image below.

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This photograph was taken in the lobby of the Hotel Alfonso XIII, a five star hotel in Sevilla. No, we weren't staying here - we'd wandered in for brief respite from the 38 degree heat outside. The image was taken resting my camera on a table in the hotel lobby. It was taken at ISO 100 (always use the lowest ISO possible when shooting on a flat surface or tripod), with a 0.6 second exposure at f/11. The chosen aperture ensured the depth of field was as great as possible without the problems of diffraction associated with higher apertures.

Changes on import

No matter what I'm shooting I always make certain changes on import. These include Enable Profile Corrections, Remove Chromatic Aberration and Constrain Crop in the Lens Correction panel of the Develop module, and selecting Camera Standard from the Camera Calibration panel. You can set these Develop module settings as a preset on import, saving you time.

Step One: Composition

It's important to get composition as correct as possible in camera. Having said that, the possibility to crop your images, especially with a large megapixel sensor, means that you have some creative control after the shot. For this image, I chose a 16:9 crop, removing some of the tiled flooring at the bottom of the image. I also used Lightroom's Straighten tool to make sure the image was level.

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Step Two: Basic Adjustments

I tend to work with the basic adjustments panel first.

White balance - shooting in RAW allows you to completely change the white balance in post-processing. As such I always shoot with AUTO white balance, and tweak this as necessary later. Remember to play with the Tint slider as well as the Temperature one - this can add some nice magenta to a sunset, for example. Here I made few changes.

Exposure - I start by setting the exposure of the whole image. Again this is something that should be done as much as possible when you take the photo, but with RAW files I'd be very comfortable adding up to plus or minus 1.5 stops of exposure. Here I have boosted the exposure by 0.75.

Highlights and shadows - I almost always increase shadows and decrease highlights - this has the effect of 'recovering' any lost detail in those areas. The extent to which I do this depends upon the effect I want. With a landscape scene I will rarely push both to 100, as this can lead to an unrealistic, HDR-style effect. However with an indoor scene like this I'm happy to take the sliders all the way to plus and minus 100. This may look unnatural to begin with, but you are going to 'restore' some natural feel to the image in the next stage, by defining the white and black points.

Whites and blacks - There is little creativity in this next step - I simply hold down the ALT key and move the black slider down until a small amount of details appear in black. I do the same with the white slider, but am slightly more conservative - you want a few details to be black in the image, but you don't want anything to be 100% white, i.e. clipping the right side of the histogram.

Contrast Next, a few tweaks to global contrast. I normally set Contrast to +5 and Clarity to at least +15, however here I have left Clarity low at just +5. I tend to increase Vibrance by around 10-15 and decrease Saturation by 5 - this does a good job of increasing the vibrance of colours while not making them look too artificial.

For this image  I didn't feel the need to tweak the colours in the HSL panel, nor add any Dual Toning.

Step Three: Local Adjustments

The difference between a good and a great image can be the local adjustments. By local I mean any adjustments that affect just part of the image, rather than the whole. These can be found below the Histogram and above the Basics panel - the most commonly used tools for me are the Graduated Filter, Radial Filter and Adjustment Brush. The Graduated Filter is great for adding exposure tweaks to outdoor images - I'll cover this in another tutorial. The Adjustment Brush allows the most creative control in terms of selecting the areas you want to change - for example, in a portrait shot. However my favourite tool at the moment is the Radial Filter, which makes it really easy to add natural and evenly distributed changes to parts of the image. Here I have added two radial filters to the lights in the shot. For each I these I 'Inverted Mask', meaning the effects will apply within the circle not outside of it. I increased the exposure by 0.5 and decreased the clarity by -30 to increase the soft glow of the lights. I also decreased the exposure of the outdoor area on the left of the image with the adjustment brush.

Step Four: Finishing Off

I tend to sharpen and add a vignette if necessary at the end of my post-processing. Here I have added a very slight vignette to the image of -5 (Highlight Priority). I am not that keen on Sharpening, and prefer an unsharpened image to an oversharpened one, so I only add a slight amount - here an Amount of 40 and Masking of 90. To use Masking, hold down the ALT key and move the slider to the right - the area that the sharpening will be applied to is gradually decreased.