One Tool, Three Ways: Effects Panel in Lightroom Classic CC
As a photography enthusiast, I must admit I’m partial to tools that provide maximum results with little effort. However, I also know that there’s always more to learn, even about Lightroom’s simplest tools, and there are no better teachers than photographers with a clear vision.
For our final installment of One Tool, Three Ways, we feel it’s fitting to examine the tool that many consider to be a finishing step in the Lightroom workflow — the Effects panel. Used to frame and granulate photos, it’s a quick way to add cohesiveness to a picture, post-crop. However, as our returning guests, Kevin Wong Maddie McGarvey, and Jonpaul Douglass will show us, what this set of sliders can accomplish is as varied as their backgrounds in photography.
Joined again by cityscape specialist Kevin, we sat down to discuss how the Effects panel’s array of tools shapes his work. “I use the Effects panel to guide the audience’s eyes to focus on the most exciting aspects of an image,” he said.
And what does Kevin find most interesting about his subject? The way light interacts with the geometry of the city he calls home.
Kevin uses a breathtaking picture of a sunset to shed some light on how the Effects panel adds the finishing touch. For this particular piece, he works with the Highlight Priority. “The adjustments made create a softer and muted framing of the focal point on the image. This adds depth to the image by darkening the peripheral area while bringing out the main highlight of the image,” he says.
Although the vignette Kevin created fits the photograph perfectly, he stresses that it will not be the only one. Whenever he edits a photo, he’s aware that he needs to craft two vignettes: one for the picture as a standalone, and another to look its best on Instagram. It’s extra work, but the results speak for themselves.
To understand how the functionality of the Effects panel changes in the hands of a photojournalist, we turn our attention to Maddie. Maddie’s desire to construct her edits around her subject and capture their personalities extends to how she uses the Effects Panel. After she’s finessed the light and color of her subject, she uses a vignette to bring it all together.
Although Maddie is generally very conservative with her adjustments, we were surprised to hear she pushes the Effects sliders to their limits. “I personally like to start editing by adding the most drastic amount of vignetting first and then keep dialing it back until it looks right. I do the same with grain as well. I think it’s helpful to see the maximum amount you can do to an image, and then bring it back to a place that looks natural,” she says.
To show us what her editing and thought process looks like in motion, she takes us through the final adjustments of a photo from a recent shoot. “[My subject] is my main focus, and I know I’m not going to be losing any details in the edges of the frame by adding a good amount of vignetting,” she says.
By working in Color Priority, Maddie creates a clear border between the vibrancy of her subject and the background. However, her photo still needs one last touch to truly capture the attitude of her subject. “Since this photo is about her style in a gritty location, I added some grain to give it a more vintage look.”
For our final look at the Effect panel, we take a break from the grandiose and the gritty to meet up with Jonpaul to see how he uses the Effect panel in the creation of his outlandish aesthetic.
As anyone who follows Jonpaul on Instagram knows, much of his photography hearkens back to yesteryear that never entirely came to pass. “Lately, I’ve really been into the look of ads from the ’70s and ’80s. Yet, I’ve always shot digitally, so I find myself ‘degrading’ the ultra-sharp digital image so that it feels more like those ads shot with film,” he says. “My final step in image processing is within the Effects panel. This is where I decide how sharp or analog I want my image to appear.”
Jonpaul goes beyond just explaining by walking us through his edits to a photo of a particularly serendipitous pasta strainer to match his vision on an ’80s macaroni advertisement. “Grain is what I utilize most. Even if it’s only very subtle, I always like to add a bit of grain to finish the image to lessen its digital quality ever so slightly,” he says.
But for Jonpaul, the grain does more than age his photos. It also cleverly hides some of his more extreme edits. “If I’m doing any heavy clean-up with the clone/heal tool, adding grain is the final step that I feel ‘seals’ the image and gives it a less processed and more organic feel.”
A parting thought
The first and last step of any journey is paradoxically the easiest to begin and the hardest to complete. Whether it’s closing the shutter on the perfect shot or closing Lightroom after the perfect edit, the most important thing to remember is that the tools to make something great are right in front of you. All you need to do is explore a little to see what you can accomplish.