In this exercise we are to take an image, and by using the available options during optimisation, make the very best image possible. These would include the main sliders in the RAW converter so that it would leave very little or no further adjustments necessary. This would of course preclude cloning, layers etc.
For this exercise I took an interesting but rather flat holiday picture, the original of which is shown below. It was a sunny day, with a lot of light reflecting off the water. The image was shot with AWB, ISO 100 at f/5.6, 1/125 sec exposure. The image has a slight bit of over exposure on the lower right hand side, but not too much. It does however have very little in terms of darker areas and contrast as shown in the following histogram.
The first change I made was to change the white balance to sunny. This gave slightly more contrast to the image and a greater colour depth. Overall colour cast looks acceptable, so I left the temperature and tint sliders as is.
Exposure of the image is fine except for the small amount of clipping which I removed using the recovery slider. To increase the shadows I increased the blacks slider to +12, just as shadow clipping was starting.
Brightness looks good, but the image still lacks contrast so I adjusted this slider so that it appeared to my eye more acceptable. Finally, I increased the saturation and vibrance sliders slightly to boost the image's colours in the water and the red's in the huts, this has also helped to increase the contrast a little. Finally the image was sharpened at an amount of 52 radius 1.0 px leaving the following image with a histogram spread distributed to the limits.