A Lightroom Tutorial – Martin Short
Seeing an image in one’s mind and bringing it to fruition has always been a bridge too far for many photographers. Adobe’s Lightroom 5 aims to rectify that problem.
As a photographer who’s been shooting weddings for over a decade, I always try to bring in new techniques or push the boundaries. My primary aim is to lessen my post-production time and shoot the image correctly the first time, but this is not always possible. And to make our lives easier, we all know that digital photography and a post-production programme like Lightroom 5 go hand-in-hand.
With time often against me I sometimes don’t have the luxury to wait for the sun to be in a certain position, or to move people out the shot. In situations like these, Lightroom is an invaluable tool to “saving the day.” It has evolved as many photographer’s program of choice, as it retains numerous important and powerful features which can be found in its bigger brother, Photoshop CS/CC.
Lightroom has allowed many photographers to speed up their workflow. batch process hundreds of images in minutes, and catalogue their work with ease. To master the art of Lightroom, then why not enrol for our Mastering Adobe Lightroom course?
The original shot in this example was taken by under-exposing the background and using fill-in flash to give a moody background.
How to produce a professional image from one that has potential but lacks the finer details and punch.
Step 1- The Basics
Once you have imported your image, it will still be in the Library section of Lightroom. On the top right hand corner click the Develop tab – now you are ready to enhance your image. Those of you that have used the RAW suite in Lightroom will recognise the panels on the right hand side.
Step 2 – Basic Colour Fixes
You have a number of options in Lightroom on how to change the White Balance – you can use the White Balance picker, the WB pop-up menu or the WB slider. Beware of the area you sample when using the WB picker. For accurate colour, try and pick a neutral tone such as a light grey. Once the correct tone has been chosen, any colour cast in the image should be rectified.
Step 3 – Exposure
Seeing as there is a fair amount of uneven light scatter coming through the trees, I have reduced the exposure a touch. I’ve also lifted the shadows so as provide a bit more evenness to the overall tonality, but at the same time have kept the blacks the same. This process will obviously depend on the overall contrast and exposure of your original image.
Step 4 – Presence
One way of creating a gritty effect is to increase the clarity of the image. Clarity increases the mid-tone contrast in the scene, but does not affect the darkest shadows or brightest highlights. This helps make an image a bit punchier and enhances detail, especially if it has a lot of texture to begin with. To do this, drag the clarity slider to the right. I’ve pushed it up to 50, which adds tonal contrast and makes the colours more vibrant. Beware of overdoing things in Lightroom as this may result in an unpleasant or artificial looking image.
Step 5 – Spilt toning
Here is the magic touch – by using split toning (even with the colour photos as opposed to only black and white), you can come up with a plethora of options and effects. Split toning allows you to add a subtle colour cast to both the shadows and the highlights. This often serves to give the image a more vintage or moody effect. It can be quite effective to add contrasting colours to both the highlights and shadows, for example you might add a warm tone to the highlights and a cool blue tone to the shadows. In this example I’ve used a beige overtone on my highlights and dark pink hue on the shadows.
Step 6 – Sharpening
Now here is a topic that everyone has their own opinion on… For my images I raise the amount of sharpening to 80 and the radius to 1. I’ve also raised the detail to 75, which leaves the image looking a lot more punchy. The amount of sharpening applied largely depends on the original image size, the quality of the lens used, as well as the subject matter in the scene.
Step 7 – Lens corrections
Lightroom usually picks up what camera and lens combination you’re using. Every lens manufactured has minor flaws which may result in vignetting, chromatic aberration, distortion etc. In Lightroom you can apply automatic corrections to fix this flaws, by ticking the “enable profile corrections” box. I always check for Chromatic Aberration and for this example I’ve added a lens vignette by pulling the slider to -100. This has resulted in a darkening of the corners of the image.
Step 8 – Picture styles
A lot of photographers are starting to experiment with changing the feel of their images by using the camera’s various picture styles. Lightroom has a number of pre-set options under the Camera Calibration menu, under Profile. In this example I’ve used the Landscape mode, but if you find this too contrasty or over-saturated, then try using the Standard or Portrait options.
Step 9 – Spot removal
For many of us the Spot removal tool is used extensively to remove dust spots that appear on the image, resulting from a dirty sensor. I’ve used it in this example to clean out the skin imperfections and dirt marks on the dress. It’s also helped me remove some of the old vegetation in front of the dress.
Step 10 – Graduate filter
A graduate filter allows you to add a colour or exposure gradient to a specific portion of the image. Before adjusting the graduate filter, make sure you set everything back to 0. Once this is done, drop the colour temperature, increase the exposure and the saturation. This will have an opposite effect to the top half of the vignette and will leave you with just the bottom vignette, which in this example helps hide some of the untidy flora.
Step 11 – Adjustment brush
By mastering this tool in Lightroom you may start asking yourself “do I ever need Photoshop CS again?” In this example I’ve used it to highlight the groom’s left leg as well as parts of the bride’s dress. I’ve also used it to bring back detail on a few of the tree trunks. It’s one of those tools I use for nearly every image that’s worth working on.
Step 12 – Saving
To save your image in Lightroom go to FILE and then EXPORT, which will give you a couple of options. Do however, make sure to scroll down to FILE SETTINGS, making sure about your image format and that your limit file size box is not ticked.
Did You Know?
Did you know that you can create your own presets which can make your life a lot easier? By saving a preset (click on the plus icon to the right of preset panel), you do not have to go through a similar exercise with every image, but merely run it like an action in PS and have it apply to all of your images with a few clicks of a mouse.
Not everyone is going to be over the moon with certain techniques and each person has their unique tastes. Try to experiment with four or five different looks (including a black and white option) and concentrate on working with these. By creating your own presets for wedding photography, you will be creating your own individual style and saving yourself a lot of editing time. Something every photographer should strive for!