Lightroom Bashing? Lightroom Highlight Percentage Values vs RGB Values: Lessons Learned and Summary « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Lightroom Bashing? Lightroom Highlight Percentage Values vs RGB Values: Lessons Learned and Summary


I spent most of the day yesterday relaxing and not getting much done. Took a late easy swim, mostly kicking as the right shoulder is still a bit sore and stiff :).

This blog post which took about 1 1/2 hours to put together, was published at 8:40am from my home in Indian Lake Estates, FL. Tomorrow: fly to Islip and get ready for the Nickerson Beach IPT. I guess that I need to think about packing….

Lightroom Bashing?

The text below is adapted from a comment that I left in the long, mostly wonderful discussion that followed the “RAW Conversion 101/Step One & More Lightroom Insanity; Can You Help?” blog post here.

Howdy, You might wish to check your attitude at the door; this post was intended to help LR folks…. If you read the comments you will see that that is just what has happened. Many who (again) think or thought or assumed that my intent here was to trash or bash Lightroom. That is not at all true: my intentions were to find a solution to what I saw as a serious problem and to educate others; we have done both. And the next time I run into LR folks who do not know how to go about controlling their WHITEs in the Develop Module, I will know exactly how to help them.

Please understand that inflammatory comments like those the appeared in the “Lightroom/My Take” blog post here and provocative title phrases like “LR Insanity” will get more folks to visit than a boring title :)”

I still do not understand why anyone would use LR but I am fine that they do…. What I’ve always asked is “Aside from cataloguing, what can LR do that Photoshop can’t?” Do remember that PS can do dozens of important things that LR cannot do…. artie

The Comments Paved the Way to Understanding

Thanks to the many who commented and got things headed in the right direction. That group included Belinda, Dieter Schaefer, David Bose, Mike Moore, Jim Thomson :), Ted Thelin, Fabrizio Giudici, John Rowell, Rich LaBella, Kim Biledgaard, Alan Lillich, and Steen Torner. Steen’s comments put Alan Lillich and me on a straight path to the summary that follows immediately. Thanks again to all.

Lightroom Highlight % Values vs RGB Values Lessons Learned and Summary

The following text is adapted from an e-mail sent to me by many, many multiple IPT veteran (along with wife Pat) yesterday. Alan’s comments pretty much matched the conclusions that I had reached but had not committed yet to Word Press :). Thanks Alan.


This turns out to be a deep story with many nuances. Lots of the web comments have bits of truth, most (mine included) oversimplified things in terms of actual working practices. Feel free to rework this, or we can collaborate on something to post. I’ll speak generically below, “you” means anyone, “Artie” means you specifically.

Bottom line: Figure out something that works for your workflow. Do not obsess about using simplistic adaptations of someone else’s workflow. Artie picks a specific white limit in his PS workflow because it works for him. Denise uses a slightly different limit. Someone using LR might do well to start with a simple percentage conversion, but they must go on to understand why artie or denise chose their numbers and decide for themselves what LR percentage works for them.

Comparing two people’s experience is very difficult without understanding exactly what each is doing and exactly what the applications and settings used by each are doing. In other words, lots of little changes in your workflow can change your results, sometimes dramatically. This is why it is very important for each person to use what works best for their specific workflow.

Here are some bits of the deeper story told while trying not to get too intense on the theory or obscure details.

Yes, turning on soft proofing in LR makes it display pixel RGB values as whole numbers from 0 to 255 instead of as percentages. Those pixel values are, however, affected by the soft proofing options. Thus, they only make sense if those options are as close as possible to the intended final output. Or if you are sure that those settings accurately reflect your early stage workflow. Consider that artie’s use of a WHITE limit is dealt with right out of the box as the first step in his workflow (after he has applied the standard recipe specific to each camera at a given ISO). He strives to render his WHITEs as clean bright WHITEs that do not at all approach GRAY while retaining the potential for fine detail. That might be too early to be making decisions based on specific output options, unless you always output the same way – always to the web, always to the same printer/paper/ink, etc.

(Notes: Alan chose the words “potential for” knowing that in many cases the detail in the WHITEs are revealed with either my NIK 50-50 recipe or via a Layer of Linear Burn, both usually with Opacity reduced after the effect is applied. See Digital Basics for complete details.

I make my JPEGs from my optimized TIFFs. I print from the optimized TIFFs that are sized and then sharpened by my right hand man, Jim Litzenberg. artie) My optimized TIFFs, my JPEGs, and my prints all look great at least to my eye. For some folks, folks like me, keeping things very simple works quite well. artie)

Choice of color space can have a big impact on pixel values. As this is part of your workflow, you’re always working on an image in a given color space. When soft-proofing is off, the in-memory RGB values are converted from the working color space to the color space of the monitor for display. This is why calibrating your monitor is important. Turning on soft-proofing adds another step, the working color space values are first converted to the output color space and then to the monitor color space.

LR works on RAW files in a unique manner. It is not different in massive ways from Photoshop or from DPP 4, but the RAW conversion process is different. The working color space in LR is close to but not identical to standard ProPhoto RGB; it uses slightly different gamma values (tone curves). Here is the link to a good article on the topic if you want to learn more:

Unless you really understand what the different gamma values mean, exactly what LR and ACR do, and exactly what ProPhoto RGB means within PS, don’t get obsessed with precise comparisons of LR percentages and RGB pixel values.

As a bit of anecdotal evidence, I photographed an X-Rite Color Checker Passport and then compared LR values as percentages and numbers using soft proofing with PS RGB numbers in a few ways. In summary, the LR percentages were reasonably close to the PS values converted to percent, much closer than the LR numbers using soft proofing. This is not to say Steen’s comments are wrong! Not at all. This says that my workflow and procedures differed from his. Yours are probably differ from both of ours. Here reasonably close means within a few percent. Steen’s example of 90% to 95% is on the edge of what I call reasonably close. Close enough as a starting point for everyone to be able to develop a strategy using the LR percentage values so that they wind up with bright WHITEs with lots of detail.

Hope this helps. Alan


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6 comments to Lightroom Bashing? Lightroom Highlight Percentage Values vs RGB Values: Lessons Learned and Summary

  • avatar Jim Thomson

    Alan,does that mean that the monitor calibration will affect the values you get from the soft proof?

    • avatar Alan Lillich


      It doesn’t. The point about monitor calibration is for the conversion from the working space to the monitor space, or from the output space to the monitor space. With an uncalibrated monitor that conversion can give you inaccurate colors. The process of calibration creates the color profile that is used for the conversion.


  • avatar Alan Lillich


    A correction and clarification.

    “Turning off soft proofing converts the display from the working color space to an output color space.”

    35 years as a software engineer and I never became a decent touch typist – now that I’m retired I have to look at the keyboard more and more. In this sentence I meant to say “turning on” but instead typed “turning of”, which you quite reasonably changed to “turning off”.

    Here is a more elaborate restatement:

    When soft-proofing is off the in-memory RGB values are converted from the working color space to the color space of the monitor for display. This is why calibrating your monitor is important. Turning on soft-proofing adds another step, the working color space values are first converted to the output color space and then to the monitor color space.


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Alan, Thanks for the clarification. I have replaced the offending statement with the more elaborate restatement. Please let me know if it reads OK now.

      Many thanks again for your help with this. Your writing was basically fine. And as much as I write, i am not much of a typist myself 🙂


    • My compliments to Alan for a good, thoughtful explanation. Well done.