And the answer is, sometimes (depending upon your grasp of the controls)! Let’s look at a few more examples. First, if you used earlier versions of Lightroom or Camera Raw, you’ve probably noticed that there’s no longer a dedicated Recovery control, and no single control replaced it. In the new version, Adobe’s highlight recovery algorithm is being applied by three controls. Whene
ver you move Exposure, Highlights or Whites to the left, highlight recovery is taking place. And they can work together.
Finally, there’s the question of when you might use negative Shadows settings. If you remember, when you use Highlights or Shadows in the expected direction—meaning, for highlight or shadow recovery—then the new controls are adding that edge enhancement that we talked about above, which is like Clarity. Essentially, when you use Shadows in the positive direction, you not only get lighter shadows, but also slightly greater shadow contrast. Just like Clarity, when you pull Shadows in the other direction, Lightroom’s edge awareness gives you a slightly softer edge contrast.
This means, when you need deeper shadows, you have a choice! You can always use Blacks in the “normal” direction—which is to say, to clip—which gives you a large boost in contrast, or you can use Shadows in the same direction, which gives you slightly less shadow contrast. Don’t get me wrong—negative settings for Shadows still result in darker shadows. Shadows just does it in a much more gentle manner, without giving you the huge increase in contrast that Blacks would give you.
In general, I most frequently use positive Shadows settings (moving to the right) and negative Highlights settings (to the left) to recover blocked-up shadows or burned-out highlights, respectively
With an initial Highlights and Whites correction on the photo of the monk in Fig. 7, I’ve very nearly achieved my desired correction. But I feel that the shadows are still muddy and could use just a tiny bit more contrast. The photo definitely has a solid black, so I don’t want to change the clipping point by using the Blacks control. This is where you might use Shadows in the counter direction, to deepen the shadows, without really adding the contrast that you would get with Blacks. My final correction on the monk is -75 Highlights, +40 Whites and -30 Shadows (Fig. 8 and Fig. 8a).
The idea of using negative Highlights with positive Whites might seem counterintuitive at first. In this case, I need the tone that the Highlights correction is giving me, but I need that tone to have more contrast. So the positive move on the Whites brings contrast back to the highlights in exactly the same way we brought contrast back to the shadows using Blacks in the photo of the man in the walkway from Fig. 3.
George Jardine’s blog is at mulita.com. You can see his extensive articles on image processing, as well as find his tutorials on Lightroom 4.