This is the third, and final, article covering what I consider to be essential post processing steps for all digital photographs. I cover steps 8-10 in this post. You can read about steps 1-3 here and 4-7 here. The series should provide a good reference for anyone just beginning their entry into digital photography.
Crop & Straighten
Find a true vertical or horizontal reference point. Crop for a good composition.
Correct any aberrations or distortion created by the lens.
Set color tone, temperature and white balance
Adjust highlights (consider reducing them)
Increase contrast (digital images are usually too flat looking without this)
Use the histogram while adjust whites and blacks to eliminate any clipping.
Adjust clarity and/or texture settings to help define edges or reduce them.
Adjust vibrance for adding or reducing color. Then use saturation if needed.
Check for any digital or color noise.
Sharpening should always be the last step.
8. Color Amount
Up to this point, you have already adjust color somewhat by setting the tone, temperature, or white balance in step 3. Setting the temperature first, helps you achieve the correct colors throughout the image. In step 8, you are adjusting vibrance, luminance, and saturation. In Lightroom, I use the adjustments in that order. Vibrance is the goto for boosting color as it is not as harsh as saturation. Luminance adjustments change the lightness or darkness of a color.
Steps 9 and 10 go hand in hand. You may see that as you work with one setting it affects the other. I typically adjust noise with the luminance slider in Lightroom. This is found in the Details panel in the Develop mode. Careful not to remove too much noise as this can also remove image details.
This should be the very last step. My starting settings for sharpening with Lightroom are Amount: 50, Radius: 1; Detail: 50. Zooming in, you can adjust the sliders until you are happy with the results. Then, I hold the Alt/Option key while dragging the Masking slider to ensure that specific parts of the image are being sharpened.
After correcting the technical aspects of the photo, I then begin looking at its impact. What feeling does it evoke? For this shot of the fort at San Cristobal, I wanted to convey the sense of its role in providing a lookout point for protecting the island. To do this, I cropped the image in a couple of different ways. I think I prefer the last image best as you can see just a slight bit of the ocean, which provides some context for the main subject.