Through the previous steps, I have greatly reduced the number of photos that reach this step in my workflow. Only those photos I have rated as 4-5 stars will now be developed using Lightroom's Develop module.
Develop the 4-star rated photos:
Click on the “4-stars” Smart Collection to make these the current photos to be worked on
Work through the Develop process described below.
Develop “5-stars” rated photos:
Click on the “5-stars” Smart Collection to make these the current photos to be worked on
My Typical Develop Process
I will first look at the photo to determine whether or not I need to adjust the White Balance. This need is mostly required when I shoot under artificial light conditions such as at an indoor volleyball or basketball event. Otherwise, I find the camera does a pretty good job of automatically dealing with white balance.
I will next take a look at the histogram. If the photo is significantly under or over exposed, I will make an adjustment to the Exposure slider to correct this.
If a portion of the photo is over exposed in relation to the rest of the photo (e.g., the sky), I will use the Graduated Filter tool to make the necessary adjustments.
WHITE AND BLACK POINTS
Once I am satisfied with the exposure, I will make an adjustment to the White slider and then the Black slider to obtain their optimum levels.
HIGHLIGHTS AND SHADOWS
I will next tackle the Highlights and Shadow portions of the photo. I usually have to reduce the Highlight slider and if there are dark areas in the photo increase the Shadow slider.
For Landscape type photos, I work with the Contrast, Clarity, Texture and Vibrance sliders.
For People type photos, I stay away from Contrast adjustments as they result in too harsh of a treatment. If the skin looks a bit unnatural, I will make small adjustments to the White Balance.
If I find any distracting elements (dust spots, power wires, etc.), I will use the Clone/Heal tool as appropriate. Photoshop is a better tool for this but Lightroom can handle many situations.
In my humble opinion, there is no one tool that can have a greater impact on your photo.
Lightroom has a good database of lenses. They have determined and corrected for the weaknesses of lenses and allow you to make a one click correction. Often times the correction is very subtle and other times it can be quite dramatic.
One may also correct any lens aberration (color fringing) problems with a single click as well.
On a number of my photos that are destined for the Galley of my web site, I will add a vignette... usually the Vignette 1 preset. In my opinion, this is especially dramatic on photos of people.
This is usually my last step.
If the photo is a Landscape type photo, I apply the Sharpen - Scenic preset. If the photo is close-up of a person, I will apply the Sharpen - Faces preset.
I do not always go through every one of the above adjustments just the ones I think will improve the look I am going for.
Special Case Develop Tools
This local adjustment tool is very useful in a number of circumstances. A few examples include: bring attention to the person's eyes by applying additional sharpening, draw the viewer's eye to a portion of a photo by lightening that portion of the photo, softening a portion of the photo that negatively draws the viewer's attention by reducing the sharpening, reducing the exposure on portions of the photo that draw the viewer's eye, etc.
This can be a very powerful tool when used in conjunction with its Range Mask option.
I have never fully comprehended this panel so I rarely if ever use it.
I use this panel if I want particular colors in a photo to "pop" or be subdued.
Proper use of this panel can have a dramatic effect on a photo.
I will only tackle Noise Reduction if the photo was shot at a very high ISO and there was a fair of amount of shadow content to the photo. The majority of my photos are viewed on a computer screen and at that size, noise plays a smaller role.