This is how I edited this picture of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. Step by step.
Firstly, I had to choose an image. I liked this one which I have not edited before. And thankfully the image was in a bracketed stack of three.
So the first job was to merge two images in Lightroom.
The images I am going to use are the under and over exposed images. I do not need the correctly exposed first image.
The first image was taken at F22, 1/400th second, ISO 400 using a focal length of 28mm on my Canon 17-40mm lens. I used AV mode on my Canon 5D. The second image was 1/100th second, all the rest the same. So one stop over and one stop under.
This is how I edit an image in Lightroom step by step.
Firstly, I select these two images in Lightroom, then press Control H on my keyboard to start the HDR Merge feature in Lightroom.
I will be using and explaining a lot of keyboard shortcuts in Lightroom in my step by step guides to editing images in Lightroom.
I check the preview, which looks good, and select Merge in the dialog box. I keep auto tone checked as I often like the results this setting offers.
Next I add this image, a Dng file, to the existing stack of three images in Lightroom by selecting the four images, right clicking on my mouse and selecting Stacking, Group into Stack. The HDR image is placed at the top of the stack so I can work on it.
I do this to keep my digital files in order.
Ok. To go to the Develop Module in Lightroom I press D on my keyboard.
My first job is white balance.
I need a good starting point to my image processing. I try a few presets, Auto, Daylight and Cloudy, but end up selecting Custom. Next I select the dropper tool, and find a neutral grey part of the photo, which in this case is the bulb on the lamp.
The jed, Green and Blue values are within 1 of each other which is good enough for me. So I click on that point!
White balance done. It isn't that difficult when you know how.
Next stage for me is to sort the alignment of the image.
I decided I wanted the central vertical to be vertical, so I went to the Transform Panel and chose the Guided option. Well first I clicked on Auto to see what that did. Then cancelled that by checking the Off button.
Back to Guided. Next I drew a vertical line up that central vertical element and selected Update. And that is that done.
Sharpness next. Which is the detail panel.
Here I click on the small icon top left in the detail panel which allows me to select part of the image to sharpen. I move my mouse over the image and the box in the detail panel shows a close up zoomed view of that part of the image. Hold down the Alt Key then select the Amount slider and it goes black and white to help set the detail amount, which is usually somewhere between 50 and 100 in Lightroom for me. I keep the radius at 1 – 1.2.
Finally in the detail panel is Masking, where you can tell Lightroom which bits you want to sharpen. This is another visual thing, so I sharpened some of the image but not all of it.
Back in the Basic Panel I just work through the sliders.
- Exposure – no change
- Contrast +25
- Highlights are down at -100. If I move that slider to the right the clouds merge into a white mush.So I leave it.
- Shadows slider I pushed slightly to the right to +84
- Whites are at +15, Blacks are at -15.
I should have said that the HDR Merge gives these four sliders values as part of the Merge Process if you select Auto Tone, which I normally do as it gives me a better starting point.
Hold down the shift key then double click on the whites slider. Do the same for the blacks slider. This is asking Lightroom to work out the white point (+26) and the black point (-22) for you.
- Next is Clarity.
Just slide to the right, I go all the way then come back to the point when it looks ok. No science – what does it look like? I went with an adjustment of +52.
- Vibrancy – I do the same as with Clarity. +10 was all I added.
- Saturation. I never change. Too clumsy.
Nearly done in Lightroom.
Next panel I go to is the HSL/ Colour/ B&W.
Don't worry about what they mean. Just click on HSL, which is code for Hue, Saturation and Luminance. Here you can change specific colours using the Targeted Adjustment Tool. Just check the circle to the left of each word, then move the pointer over the image, left click and drag down to decrease and up to decrease. If you are not sure what to do pick a blue sky, then using the Saturation slider click on the sky and drag down. All the blue has gone!
Double click on the slider pointer to reset.
For this image the blue did not look quite right, so I went with the Hue slider first, and moved the slider to the right until it looked better, in this case +13 did the trick. Only a subtle adjustment.
Next stop is the Saturation panel. The blue in the sky is the dominant colour, and for this image I reduced it by sliding to the left -13.
Next I selected the white panel bottom left in the image, which allowed me to increase the yellow which is the sun reflecting off the site painted metal. +31 did the trick here.
Finally the Luminance slider. Select the sky, drag down, and watch those blues go darker. A secret trick in Lightroom.
I did the same as with the Saturation slider to the tower and darkened down the yellows too.
Yes you can adjust different colours in Lightroom. Awesome.
And now for some localised adjustments using the best tools ever. Dodge and burn.
Just above the word Basic are some tools. The right hand one is the brush tool. Click on that brush tool icon. Well it's a sort of icon of a brush. And look what opens up. Yes all these adjustments can be applied with a brush. I am going to be using dodge and burn. These techniques go back to the days of darkrooms, long before digital photography had been invented. Dodge lightens, burn darkens. The default values are 0.3 plus and minus. That is roughly one third of a stop.
All you do is paint over the area you want to do something with. If you select the Show Selected Mask Overlay check box what you brush will be in red. This is the bit you are changing. I keep Auto Mask on as well so it knows how far to go. Auto Mask knows where the edges are most of the time. I will write separately about dodge and burn as there is lots to know – too much for this post. I use the tool to lighten and darken areas, in this case the bright panels of the tower I darken, the panels in shadow I lighten.
I also painted clarity over the central open area of the image. And you can add anything you want to a brush adjustment. Like I say a subject in its own right.
Next I painted clarity on the light fitting, and also increased the highlights and darkened the shadows which was very effective.
No need to crop this image – I love the composition.
- But a vignette always helps.
Just -17. You can barely see it. And then one more thing in Lightroom. I brightened the exposure by another half a stop.
Another important lesson here in editing digital images. I always view my images on my phone or IPad. These both give a great representation of how an image looks away from the controlled environment of my office.This is where collections in Lightroom really help.
So all done in Lightroom. Now over to Photoshop to remove sensor spots and blemishes. No removal of anything required either.
Control E sends the image to Photoshop. Nice and easy.
Control 1 zooms me in to 100%. Home gets me to the top left hand corner. Then I clean up the images using the healing brush, which I select using the keyboard shortcut J. I vary the brush size using the bracket keys [ and ].
This is a great timesaver.
Page down moves me down the image, then up to the top, scroll down and repeat until done.
Once done I select Control 0, have a final check then hit Control S to save the image back to Lightroom. And it appears next to the image I sent to Photoshop as a Tif file.
I add the Tif file to my target collection and remove the previous image then finally go back to the folder where the images are and stack them with the Tif file on top.
And that is it.
Blimey. Seems like quite a lot when you write it down but don't worry – with practice it does not take as long as it sounds.
I hope that you found my first step by step guide to editing images in Lightroom helpful.
I wrote this on my iPad as I was actually editing the image so it is a real explanation of how I came to this final image.
If you have any questions about editing images in Lightroom just let me know via my website.
Rick McEvoy Photography Blog
Sunday 11th September 2016