Tag Archives: lightroom

Link Roundup 05-01-2010

Link Roundup 04-03-2010

Link Roundup 03-31-2010

I’m trying something new with the link roundups, so bear with me while I get it all figured out. This post is testing the Postalicious plugin — it basically taps into my Delicious stream and generates a link roundup based on a set of parameters. I bookmark a lot of stuff anyway, but since separating out my Twitter accounts, I’ve been much more active (and collecting many more bookmarks).

Like I said, I’m still figuring out how I want to do all this. If it goes as I hope, I’ll be sharing fewer links more often with less work.

Photo Editing With Histograms: 6 Basic Settings

The image histogram is often viewed as a thing of “extra information” and treated as a “good way to check for clipping”. While it’s true that the histogram provides a good check for highlight and shadow clipping, it also serves a greater purpose in post processing. Our mortal eyes are no match for the mighty histogram when it comes to tricky photos. Understanding the histogram and how your image editing software interacts with it can greatly improve your productivity and quality output.

In a recent article, I went over “How to Read Image Histograms” while providing some visual examples in the realm of brightness and contrast — two very basic concepts when it comes to photography. Now, we explore how the histogram and image are affected by other basic post-processing adjustments. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be looking at the tools available in the “Basic” panel of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw (other packages should have similar tools available).

These tools have unique and specific effects on the image and the image histogram. With the basic tools presented here, you should be able to manipulate your image within 90% of its final stage — further adjustments will come from more advanced tools (which we’ll look at in the next article).

In all of the examples below, I’ve added +50 to the base contrast setting so the effects of the adjustments can be visualized more clearly.

1. EXPOSURE

This adjustment acts much in the same way camera exposure does, by basically shifting the entire histogram to the left or right. This has the effect of brightening or darkening your overall image. The shadows tend to be more anchored than the highlights, and you’ll notice some distortion of the histogram as you move the adjustment to either extreme.

Notice that as you increase the exposure, the contrast tends to increase slightly due to the anchoring of the shadows. And as you lower the exposure, the contrast tends to decrease. This can be seen by the change in the width of the histogram.

For “normal” exposures, you’ll just want to make sure the histogram is somewhere between the edges. If you’re going for a low-key or high-key image, you’ll want to push the exposure accordingly. If you have a well exposed capture, you shouldn’t need to adjust this setting very much.

2. RECOVERY

This adjustment is intended to recover highlights by pulling them back down a bit. Here, the shadows are completely anchored and the increased recovery lowers the tone value of the highlights and upper midtones.

In this example series, I’ve started with an intentionally overexposed image to show the effect. In practice, I rarely need to adjust above a value of 25 or 50. Go much further than that, and you end up pulling your highlights into a gray area, making the image look flat due to lower contrast.

3. FILL LIGHT

This adjustment is the exact opposite of the recovery tool. Here, we pin down the highlights and increase the tonal value of the blacks and lower midtones.

In this example series, I’ve started with an intentionally underexposed image to show the effect. In practice, I rarely need to adjust above 25 or 50. Go much further than that, and you start pushing your blacks into a gray area and losing contrast and tonal depth.

4. BLACKS

This adjustment is sort of an anti-fill light… it brings your shadows down further into the dark region while having less effect on the highlights. This is good to use when you have less than perfect blacks and you need to tug that histogram just a little to the left.

In this example series, I’ve started with an image of slightly higher brightness to better show the effects of this adjustment.

5. BRIGHTNESS

We went over the brightness adjustment in the last article, but I’ll add a few notes here. You’ll notice that it acts very much like the exposure adjustment, pushing the image brighter or darker (and moving the histogram to the right or left). But it does this in a slightly different manner. The exposure control is more directed toward the extremes of the histogram, while the brightness control is more directed toward the center of the histogram (midtones). It still moves your highlights and shadows, but it moves more of your midtones than exposure does.

In this example series, I’ve started with the default image of +50 on the contrast and no further adjustments.

6. CONTRAST

We also went over contrast in the previous article, noting that the wider histogram equates to more contrast. This is a handy adjustment tool to use when your histogram doesn’t quite reach the edges at the blacks and whites, or if your image looks flat due to a heavy midtone concentration.

And again, you can see that the brightness and contrast adjustments are tied together and not completely independent.

HOW IS THIS USEFUL?

Understanding your histogram allows you to process the photo on a technical front rather than on pure aesthetics. Understanding how these basic adjustments affect the image and the histogram will allow you to manipulate it with more confidence.

But don’t get too caught up in watching your histogram — in the end, the only thing that matters is a photo that appeals to your eyes.

60 Second Post-Processing Technique

Dictionary : Time
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kat…

The technique outlined here really just applies to a first round of processing — this might be acceptable for posting to Flickr, but a fine art print would require much more time and effort on your part. Also, I’m not talking about doing black and white conversions, crazy artistic interpretations, creative cropping, etc. We just want to make the photo look more natural at this point.

60 seconds may sound fast to some people, but it may sound like an eternity to others. Sure, it’s way too short for print preparation and it’s way too long for working through hundreds of stock submissions that might have basically the same white balance, exposure, and/or subject matter. But this method is intended to use your time effectively while giving each photo individual attention.

The steps below are for Lightroom or ACR users working with raw digital files.

SHARPEN AND REDUCE NOISE (0 SECONDS)

Article: Save Time with Sharpen and Noise Presets

In most situations, the sharpening and noise reduction settings can be applied in batches for any given camera and ISO range. Just build a sharpening and noise reduction preset and apply it to all the images you’ll be processing further. This can be done before or after any other editing, but I like to get it done up front so I don’t forget.

The exception to this rule of batch processing is when you have photos outside the “normal” camera setting ranges. This means that photos with high ISO or long handheld shutter speeds will typically require some individual attention, but everything else can be processed with presets for typical use.

STRAIGHTEN AND CROP (+10 SECONDS)

Straightening

Not every photo is going to require this step, but let’s just include it as a worst case scenario. The main intent should be straightening anything that’s slightly misaligned from what you want. I’d say keep the creative cropping to a minimum at this point — you can go back during in-depth processing and toy around with it.

To straighten, just use the Straighten tool and drag your horizontal or vertical line. The rotated crop will automatically be applied and you can move on to the next step.

WHITE BALANCE (+15 SECONDS)

White Balance

Cameras aren’t very good at picking white balance, so some adjustment is usually beneficial. By default, your image white balance may be set to As Shot. What I like to do is highlight the pull-down menu and scroll through the auto and predefined settings to see which one gets me the closest. In some cases this will be enough, in other cases you’ll have to make a slight adjustment manually. If you have a good neutral gray source in the photo, you can also use the White Balance Tool to save some time.

I would suggest doing this step before making any basic adjustments because I’ve noticed that different white balances will give different automatic exposure settings in the next step.

BASIC ADJUSTMENTS (+25 SECONDS)

Basic Adjustments

This is an area that you could spend a lot of time messing with, but you can also get a really good result with minimal effort. The first thing I do is hit the Auto and Default adjustment a few times back and forth so I can evaluate which one gives a better starting point.

Once I have my basic starting point, I take a quick look at the histogram to evaluate where things are at (I’ll actually do a separate article for working with histograms). Then I just run down the group of sliders from top to bottom until I get things pretty close.

  1. Modify your Exposure if the image is inherently too dark or bright.
  2. Add Recovery to pull back heavy or clipped highlights.
  3. Add Fill Light to push up heavy or clipped shadows.
  4. Add Blacks if your shadows look dull.
  5. Modify your Brightness to shift the overall brightness or darkness.
  6. Modify your Contrast if the image looks too flat or too punchy.

You could end your processing right there if you punch up the contrast enough, but I like to leave it a little flat for the next step. I also don’t usually apply any Clarity, Vibrance, or Saturation adjustments in this round of editing. You’ll find that a good contrast and tone adjustment will really boost the colors.

TONE ADJUSTMENT (+10 SECONDS)

Tone Curves

I actually find that the Tone Adjustment does a better job at dealing with contrast because it offers more control by splitting the highlights and shadows. Most of the time, I’ll only adjust the Lights and Darks sliders until I see a pleasing contrast level. Many images will only require a slight “S curve” to get you where you need to be.

Now, if you don’t leave the Basic Adjustments slightly flat, you’ll get really exaggerated contrast results after applying Tone Adjustments. Then you’ll have to go back to the other panel and turn things down — which of course takes more time.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Am I way off base here? Am I spending too much time on basic first-round adjustments? Am I not spending enough time per image? What do you do with your images you intend to post or share through informal mediums? Here’s the before with the example photo used above:

Before and After 60 Seconds

Not a huge difference, but quite noticeable at full screen. At any rate, it’s in a more “natural” state and it should be much easier to evaluate and detail process from here.

I would say that the 60 seconds could be reduced to 30 if several things fall into place: straight horizons out of the camera, correct white balance out of the camera, and good exposure out of the camera. A well captured image requires very little post work, but it should require some if it’s a raw image. On the other hand, you could easily require 2 or 3 minutes per photo if you’re doing a lot of corrections due to a poor capture.

Save Time with Sharpen and Noise Presets

beautiful time
Creative Commons License photo credit: I, Timmy

A lot of photographers produce a ton of photos, and those photos usually need some amount of post processing to at least make them look natural. Those who are doing stock photography process a lot of photos, but a lot of us also post a decent amount to blogs or photo sharing websites. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that saving time during post is good.

So in this article, I’m sharing a small tip for using Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw presets for sharpening and noise reduction settings. These are settings that generally don’t change much between photos and they can effectively be applied to batches of photos to save time. I should also note that this tutorial is based on Adobe Camera Raw, and Lightroom should be very similar (though I don’t have the software to confirm that). If you guys see any huge differences, let me know and I’ll update the article.

HOW TO CREATE YOUR PRESET

Here are the basic steps in Adobe Camera Raw (similar to Lightroom) for creating a sharpen and noise reduction preset that can be applied in batches. Screenshots for each step are shown below — click for larger versions.

  1. Pick a good baseline photo — well exposed, somewhere around ISO200-400 (unless you typically shoot somewhere else), a shutter speed of 1/125 seconds or faster (again, unless you typically shoot somewhere else), and with good sharp focus.
  2. Open it up for processing, zoom to 100% or 200% in a sharp area, and go to your “Detail” panel with the sharpening and noise reduction settings. You can see my before and after settings for my baseline photo.
  3. Adjust the sliders until you get a decent result. Don’t over-do it — over-processed photos are much more noticeable than under-processed photos.
  4. Now save the settings in a Preset by going to your preset panel and creating a new one. Uncheck everything except for “Sharpening” and the two “Noise Reduction” boxes.

Create -  Step 1 Create -  Step 2 Create -  Step 3 Create -  Step 4

HOW TO APPLY YOUR PRESET

Now that you have a preset (or set of presets for various cameras and/or ISO settings) you can apply it to many photos at the same time. With Bridge, you can select the photos you want to adjust, right click, go to “Develop Settings”, and choose your preset. Within Adobe Camera Raw, you can select the photos you want to adjust, go to the “Presets” panel, and choose your preset. With Lightroom, you can probably do it either way but it’s been a while since I used Lightroom and I no longer have the software installed — so you Lightroom users will have to correct me if I’m wrong.

Apply with Bridge Apply with Adobe Camera Raw

WHAT ELSE DO YOU PRESET?

You can save pretty much any setting as a preset with Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. So what do you guys have in your list of presets that you use all the time? Lens corrections? Camera calibration? Basic settings? Black and white conversions? Do share!

Link Roundup 10-11-2009

Before we get to the links, just a quick reminder that you can suggest links and articles to me via Google Reader, Twitter, Delicious, and/or StumbleUpon. Google Reader is probably the best method (follow me and I’ll follow back if your shared items don’t suck), but I try to keep up with the others as well (though I’m really bad about following back on Twitter).

Link Roundup 07-26-2009

Epic Styler Contest Winners and Download

Download the Epic Styler Package

I’ve been putting this one off for way too long. If you remember back a few months, I announced the 8th Epic Edits project: “Action and Preset Extravaganza“. The deadline was over a month ago, and we had 6 people contribute 15 different Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets.

Neil Cowley of Make Light Real, sponsored the project and gave out three grand prizes to the best entries. He’s also hosting the package of presets and actions as a free download, so don’t forget to jump over to his site and grab them!

THE WINNERS

  1. Tasha Schalk with her Rock Concert Photoshop Actions.
  2. Martin Kimeldorf with his Photoshop Action for exposure blending.
  3. Phill Price with his monochrome architecture pink Lightroom Preset.

The other entries included a color pop Photoshop Action from Tom Weeks, a Flickr resizer Photoshop Action from me, and a 300 movie style Lightroom Preset from Mike Lao.

THE PRIZES

  • 1ST PLACE: LIGHTSPEED WORKFLOW PACKAGE
    Valued at $290, this prize includes a Nostromo n52 left-hand keypad, “ONE” Lightroom/ACR preset, “ONE” Photoshop Action, and tutorials. This is an awesome package! This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 2ND PLACE: PHOTOSHOP LIGHT REAL VIRTUAL COURSE
    Valued at $250, this prize includes the “ONE ACTION” workflow scripts plus a 4 hour training course covering the workflow scripts and working in LAB color space. This winner will also receive a $39 credit to use toward any additional items from Neil.
  • 3RD PLACE: ONE ACTION AND GOLDEN TOUCH PACKAGES
    Valued at $79 and $49, respectively, this prize includes the “ONE ACTION” scripts and presets for Photoshop and Lightroom, plus extra training materials along with additional Photoshop actions and 30 textures.

A BIG THANK YOU!

First of all, I want to thank all the participants that took the time to post their actions and presets for the greater good of the community. It’s great to see people willing to share their knowledge and their tools with fellow photographers.

I’d also like to thank Neil for sponsoring the project and hosting the final download package. He’s had a very active role in this project, and I look forward to working with him again in the future.

Don’t forget to download the actions and presets from the project entries. And if you’re into free stuff, check out Neil’s other free downloads.

Link Roundup 02-07-2009

Great stuff — check it out!