I do all my work in Lightroom 3 (LR3) and Photoshop CS5. My RAW files are imported with LR3 and converted from Nikon NEF to DNG in the process. I also catalog and manage my files and do all my RAW adjustments in LR3. The RAW processor is the same engine as in Photoshop but with a more user friendly interface. I also use LR3 to convert PSD files to JPEG, to export to various SmugMug, Photodex Producer (which I use for making slide shows) sites and programs, and to print. I find this to be most efficient because of built-in and customizable templates and presets. There are also a number of free plugins available online that are very useful. When I select a file to edit, a copy is opened in CS5 and the edited changes are saved back to LR3. And it’s all done seamlessly.
After RAW adjustments and cropping in LR3, ninety percent of the rest of my post processing is done with Nik Software. Rather than detail all of their tools here, I’ll refer you to: Nik Software. You can purchase it for download online at their website, or if you can wait for shipping you can purchase it for substantially less at B&H Photo or Adorama.
(Click on the images for a more detailed view)
Most of the effect that was commented on took place in the last step listed here but I thought it might be instructive to go through the entire process. For this image I started with Nik Raw Presharpener (as I do with every image) with an emphasis on Edge sharpening (this is not the same as output sharpening, which I rarely do). Then I used the Pro Contrast filter within Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0. I normally use the default settings and with one click the contrast and color correction is done to my liking 90% of the time. This resulted in the photo below.
Next up is Nik Tonal Contrast (also in Color Efex Pro 3.0). This filter gives control of contrast in highlight, midtone and shadow tonal ranges individually without affecting the rest of the image. This can bring out hidden detail and make the image “jump off the page”.
I used Nik Viveza’ s control points to lighten the dark areas above the door and darken the old cardboard lying beneath it.
CS5’s Vibrance setting was used to bump up the Blues a little.
For the HDR effect, I used Nik HDR Efex Pro. It does an excellent job with multiple exposures but it has a feature for applying HDR toning effects to a single exposure, as well. I used a preset named Clean City 1 to achieve this effect.
(to see this at SmugMug, click here)
And there you have it. I hope you found that some of this answered your questions.