Hello David, welcome to the community! Thank you for your comments about my work and my trip to Alaska/BC - it was a campy approach on youtube, still learning how to video ourselves and present but it was for certain ‘real’. You will love it up there! OK, processing. Yikes, that’s a rabbit hole we could go down deep. I will make an attempt to be brief here yet thorough. First, processing your images is not only just about it being technically correct as per the histogram, etc., but also so much about ‘FEEL’ - the feeling or mood you want to create - or recreate from the scene. Lightroom has set up its develop panels in a rather logical order for good reason. You want to start by choosing a profile that gives you something close to what you want. Profiles such as Camera Standard, or Adobe Color, are good ones, if you are not creating custom profiles (another deep topic!) If I don’t have a profile built for my camera (or even if I do) I run down the list of my favorites and see which one gets me closer to the starting point for then rest of development. Then there’s the BASIC panel. First up, White balance. I often find I am making adjustments to that. I tend to photograph using Daylight so I get what the colors were of the light, and go from there. Auto WB is fine, but sometimes it removes some of the cooler or super-warm cast that I wanted…old film shooter, I am. Next up the basic sliders exposure, contrast, etc. I tend to expose to the right in the field so I get the most detail out of the shadow areas, so I always bring my exposure back down to where it looks right in the histogram. Then it’s a matter of moving through the slides to get the look I want on the image, while paying close attention to not clip highlights or blacks, unless very very small details. It’s all about how the image looks, so it’s a great idea to be on a calibrated monitor that is giving you realistic tones/contrast and not some punched up monitor for gaming…
I almost always use some clarity, and some vibrance. Texture depends on the scene/subject, and dehaze, while great at doing its job, can be overdone so I use that sparingly, again depending on the scene/subject. I don’t do much with addinging saturation, sometimes I am desaturating some things, to bring a better balance to the hues in the scene. But nothing is hard/fast - I go by look and feel for that, too! Then there is the tonal curve, and that one is trickier to explain here, but usually it ends up being a gentle S curve, with darks brought down a teensy bit and mid tones and/or highlights pushed up a tad.
The rest of the develop tools are a deeper dive than I can write about here. Color mixer sliders can help you bring our different hues, by saturating, or luminance; color grading, a new tool, can do wonders, too, but they require more understanding of how they all work. David Kingham (owner of NPN) has some webinars for sale on their site Exploringexposure.com that may be helpful for those deeper areas of control, and Michael Frye has some excellent books and webinars on processing in Lightroom as well. There are dozens of resources out there that can take you further!
One thing I will mention is that I created a Develop Preset that I use when importing my images, a “nature default” preset, that sets the exposure down 1 stop, reduces contrast slider about 23-30 points, adds about +20 in the black slider, and has about 10 in clarity. I find that it gives me a better start to making adjustments, but that is based on the way I photograph with exposing to the right in most cases. If you make those adjustments on any image, then create a preset using those, you can apply that every time you import and it’s been helpful for me.
I hope this helps! Of course you could also hit the auto button in the Basic Panel, it will make what it thinks are good adjustments and you can evaluate those and make tweaks according to visual taste. I admit I haven’t done that, but I know others have and it gives them a good starting point. Best of luck to you and use this community for input - many critiques include suggestions on adjustments for this or that to improve the image.