There are a lot of instructional books on how to use Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and the like. They provide a comprehensive and in-depth review of the various adjustments and filters available in these powerful tools. And as such they serve as excellent references. I own many of these fine books.
Now, a lot of workflows are built around the concept of seeing what needs to be fixed next and fixing it. I advocate a more structured approach; namely, fix the tonality first, then the hue and finally the saturation. See my recent post on Workflow. But I often hear the statement, “I look at my photograph and just don’t know what to do.” Many people often don’t know where to begin.
So I want to take a different approach. I want to look at an image and identify what it needs and then talk about the various techniques for achieving it. In other words, I want to start with the question, “What makes a compelling photograph?” and go from there. It doesn’t help to know all of the tools and tricks available in Lightroom and Photoshop if you don’t know when to use them.
We’ll start with this image. It is photographed in the Mesquite Flats Dunes of Death Valley. The dunes provide an inspiring variety of compositions and ligh. (You can click on this and all other images in this post to enlarge it.)
Let’s start by examining the images tonality and see what improvements can be made.
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Tags: Adobe, black point, Blacks, brightness, contrast, Curves, dynamic range, exposure, Levels, Lightroom, luminance, PhotoShop, Photoshop Elements, phtograph, tonality, white point, Workshops
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There are about as many definitions of “fine art photography” as there are people who call themselves “fine art photographers.” For many of us, fine art photography is an expression of our view of the world. Much of what we see in the world is captured in the images we capture in the field. But that’s not the whole story. Why? Because the true expressive quality of our photographs comes to life in the post processing – the digital darkroom if you will.
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Tags: brightness, color, contrast, exposure, fine art, hue, Lightroom, luminance, photography, Post processing, saturation, tonality, workflow, Workshops
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The post I wrote on Expose to the Right about a year ago is one of the most popular on this blog. I wrote it after a workshop when I suggested this technique and one of the participants complained the photographs looked horrible. I still use this technique but my workflow in Lightroom continues to evolve.
Recall that Expose to the Right means to overexpose your image so that the histogram shifts toward the right edge. It is important not to overexpose so much that you introduce highlight clipping. I like to have a histogram that is positioned a little to the right of center as seen here. When you expose to the right you can end up with an image that is overexposed by anywhere from 1/3 to a stop or two, depending on the situation.
In the first post I suggested that you can ‘normalize’ the exposure in Lightroom with the Exposure adjustment. If you overexposed by a stop you can start by decreasing Exposure adjustment in Lightroom by one stop. This will have the effect of moving the histogram back toward the center or even to the left of center. This gives you an exposure closer to what the camera’s light meter selected.
From there you can continue with your regular workflow. Here’s an example of some additional adjustments: Blacks to set a black point, Contrast to add interest (contrast is always more interesting than flat) and Brightness to liven it up a little. There are many adjustments you might perform but these few simple ones serve to illustrate the point.
But another technique would be to take the opposite approach. Instead of normalizing the exposure, start by setting the black point with the Blacks adjustment. This has a different effect on the histogram. Instead of the entire histogram sliding towards the left, the shadow tail is extended without much change in the mid-tones or highlights. This technique expands the dynamic range of the photograph.
You can further expand the dynamic range by adding contrast. With both shadow and highlight areas to work on the Contrast adjustment both brightens and further darkens the image.
In practice you can try both techniques. Just create two virtual images from the original file and apply one technique to one and the other technique to the other. Often the first few adjustments you make on an image have an influence on the finished photograph. So compare the two and decide which one you want to continue with.
This is not about whether one technique is better than the other but rather to give you more options when working with the photographs that you have exposed to the right.
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Tags: expose to the right, exposure, Lightroom
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Last night I ran across an example of why we shoot in RAW (not in the RAW – puhleeeze).
Digital SLR cameras and a few point and shoot camera support the RAW file format for our images. RAW is essentially what the sensor captured – unprocessed, uncompressed, unadulterated. It takes a bit to get used to but once you do you’ll not go back to JPEG, the other file format.
One of the benefits of RAW is it gives you a lot more flexibility including recovering from poorly exposed images, especially over exposed. Now, if you’ve read any of my histogram posts (search this blog for Histograms to find them), you know that the single most important thing to avoid as far as exposure is concerned is highlight clipping. But with RAW you have a chance to recover an overexposed image and turn it into something very acceptable. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it does.
OK, so I was scanning images in Lightroom last night and ran across this one. It’s washed out except for the foreground and there is a tremendous amount of highlight clipping in the upper right hand corner. (I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading hear and said, “There’s no way he can do anything with that image. It’s a mess.” Which it is. But humor me and read on.)
By the way, you can click on the images to see them in a larger format.
Continue reading “Lightroom Tutorial – Shooting RAW” » (1367)
Tags: Adobe, exposure, highlight clipping, Lightroom, overexposed, RAW
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It all started with kneeling in the mud.
I was with David Muench, Jerry Dodrill and twelve other eager photographers on a Mountain Light Gallery workshop in May. We lined up along the bank of the pond just outside Bishop, California and aimed our cameras at magnificent Mt Tom, the dominant peak in the Eastern Sierra crest in this area.
I’d like to take you through the process of making a photograph from the images I captured that morning.
Continue reading “The Making of a Photograph – Pond, Owens Valley 2011” » (1297)
Tags: California, Eastern Sierra, Lightroom, photography, photography workshops, PhotoShop, tutorial
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In this series of articles we’ve been exploring the histogram. In the first two articles we discussed what it is. Now we’re looking at different types of histograms and exploring how to work with them both in the field and during the post processing. If you want to review or catch up, here are the links to the preceding three posts.
Mastering Exposure – Histograms Part 1: Introduction
Mastering Exposure – Histograms Part 2: A Closer Look
Mastering Exposure – Histograms Part 3: The Rocky Mountain Histogram
In this article I want to discuss my favorite histogram, the Mole Hill histogram. I like this one because so much can be done with it in the post processing. Subtle colors and tonalities can be revealed in soft radiant light. It lends itself to some of the most creative and expressive images.
Read on and we’ll look at what it is, the conditions in which it occurs, how to photograph it and how to work with it in the post processing to reveal the scene in all of its hidden glory.
Continue reading “Mastering Exposure–Histograms Part 4” » (4089)
Tags: dynamic range, exposure, histogram, landscape photography, Lightroom, PhotoShop
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I was working on a photograph last night that turned out rather well. It was taken during a recent photography workshop in Zion National Park in Utah. I took the group to the famous bridge to photograph the Virgin River and the Watchman Tower at sunset. It’s a must photograph. It seems every photographer in Zion with a tripod is there. But we also returned for sunrise and had the bridge to ourselves.
There is a time of day when exposure becomes very tricky. This is during twilight when the sun is a little below the horizon so the earth is dark but the sky is very bright. You end up with what I call the “Grand Canyon” histogram – there’s a huge spike at the shadow end and a similar spike at the highlight end with a large gap in between. This is a challenging situation that, if you master, can provide some spectacular images. In this blog I’d like to walk you through the process.
Continue reading “The Making of a Photograph–Watchman Tower” » (1506)
Tags: histogram, Lightroom, photography, PhotoShop, Workshops
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Sometimes I create a post just to document and remember a learning process I’ve just gone through. This is such a time.
I just spent an hour or so recalibrating my laptop monitor. I calibrated it recently and it didn’t seem to come out right so I decided to recalibrate it again this morning.
Calibrating your monitor is a critical first step in the whole color management process (an area of study that hundreds of pages have been written on and that I won’t go into here – maybe later).
There are two settings you need to set in the calibration software – gamma and color temperature. I made some guesses as to what these were and guessed wrong. That’s why things like colors and tonalities didn’t look right. A little digging into Lightroom help provided the answer (when all else fails, read the documentation – yea, I know). So here it is. Hopefully it will save you some time in the future.
Color Temperature: 6500K
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Tags: color management, Lightroom
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