Inspired by a question during a recent judging session for a local camera club, I have written a new article on my website Learning Page. I try to explain how to use the histogram in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw to help you decide how to process a raw image.
The article outlines the tonal representation of the histogram relative to your raw capture and how to use it to manage black points and white points and avoid clipping and excessive contrast. The histogram is a simple graphical display of the distribution of tones in your raw file. It is different than the histogram of the jpg you saw on the camera preview screen which was processed by the camera software.
The various sliders in the processor modify the tones, not only in their brightness range, but in the overall contrast of the image. Different sliders modify tones differently and often in ways you might not expect. Initially, it might appear that more than one slider has a similar affect on the image, but closer examination reveals the reason why each slider needs to be understood to best process the raw capture.
An increase in contrast can be made overall, affecting both highlights and shadows, or an increase can be made by darkening the shadows without changing the highlights. Knowing which tool to use to get the desired result is the intent of the article.
I also added a short piece explaining keyboard shortcuts for navigating Photoshop layers. These are particularly valuable for creating actions as they can avoid certain changes from happening on the wrong active layer. Making sure that the correct layer is active before initializing a modification will help you avoid unwanted results. This is also important in the event that you want to share an action with someone. Something you may do by default may not be what the other person does before using the action.
I always encourage feedback on these articles. It is especially important for me to hear from you if there is a piece of information missing or unclear that I might improve upon.