Let’s talk about one of the greatest inventions in photography, Adobe’s Lightroom Software. Adobe came up with a solution that had the normal Photography Workflow as its spirit, and even when it is separated from the Creative Suite solutions, is highly demanded software by photographers.
The great thing about the way Lightroom works through the images is that it does it in a non-destructive form. This means that whatever development setting you apply to your image (especially RAW files, although you can do it to JPEGs as well) can be easily reverted when opened again in Lightroom.
The latest version of Adobe Lightroom includes powerful image correction tools, but the earliest versions of Lightroom perform a powerful image development as well.
Raw Development is the other “50%” of the workflow after shooting the pictures. Just like the old days when photographers captured images in their emulsions, and after that they needed to develop them through standard chemical processes, Lightroom lets you develop your RAW image file, in its rawest state.
Even if you shoot in RAW format, every camera apply certain amount of settings to that RAW file, but you can decide to open RAW files without any setting applied in Lightroom dialogue. Edit > Preferences > Presets (leave all boxes blank in order to have RAW files with zeros in all its sliders but White Balance). Why you need to do this? Simple, because you need to do this in order to get the maximum amount of control over your files. The development process of your images will be guided by your own style, and having such control give you more creative freedom in applying your own vision to your images.
Images can be enhanced just by correcting its White Balance in order to get your desired mood. Cold tones give a different mood from warm tones. In movie making standards, this process is commonly known as color correction, and is usually performed by an editor. Thanks to Lightroom you can do this easily since it is the first part of the overall development workflow.
I see Lightroom in two perspectives. The first one is the macro workflow, which includes the small micro workflows of Library (which offers a great way of cataloguing your images prior development), Develop (here is where the magic happens, and we’ll dedicate specific posts to explain each part of this stage), Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web. The great thing about working with a standard workflow is that you can do good things, with consistency; which is the prime secret of quality.
It all starts with the Histogram, which tells you about the way your image was exposed to light while taken. After that, you'll begin to work things in the "Basic" panel, and then you'll navigate to the "Tone Curve" which helps to correct tones through Highlights, Lights, Darks and Shadows (this is the formula for better exposed images, and even HDR good looking images, not those HDR with unreal effects on them).
After working with these tools you'll be almost done, but Lightroom offers a great color tweaking tool in its HSL/B&W Panel. This panel works color through the following criteria: "Hue", "Saturation" and "Luminance". These don’t apply to B&W even though some people prefer to work them first in color version and from here applies the monochrome conversion by hitting the key "V". After this work has been applied, you can work split toning, and lens corrections as well.
Adobe Lightroom also offers powerful editing tools for localized corrections thanks to its brush tool, and graduated and circular graduated filters too. All these tools can be found in the histogram panel, and they do localized development settings of the above mentioned development logics.
Lightroom has been a great companion for squeezing the best out of time. Many images that you take on a session or a trip, will have similar light situations, and thanks to presets (Develop > New Preset) you can apply the same development parameters to a whole batch of images.
Working with these self-crafted presets will give you traceability, which allows you to go back to your previously developed files, and know what you did that time to your image.
Whatever you define as your photography workflow, Lightroom will give you a generous amount of help when performing it. Eventually you'll set up the entire application in accordance to your needs. Personally, I work always with Lightroom; and just when the image requires a precise correction, I work it on Adobe's Photoshop after that.