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5 Reasons to Choose Capture One Over Adobe Lightroom

5 Reasons to Choose Capture One Over Adobe Lightroom

If you’re not a fan of Adobe’s subscription plans or find that editing your photos isn’t quite as quick as you’d like, you might want to consider checking out Capture One. Here are five reasons to make the move and five more reasons to stick with Lightroom.

Justin McDonough of Dunna Did It has put together all of the reasons why he switched from Lightroom to Capture One, and it makes a pretty compelling list. If you’re pondering what the competition is like, keep in mind that you can try Capture One for 30 days, and you don’t need to submit any payment details in order to get started. There’s also Capture One Express, a free version with fewer features designed specifically for use with Fujifilm or Sony cameras.

The ability to create layers in Capture One gives you a lot more power and control, though Lightroom is about to catch up by introducing some layering options of its own in an update that’s due to go live on October 26. Some would argue that this upgrade is long overdue, and it will be interesting to see how Adobe’s new features compare.

Which do you prefer and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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5 Lightroom Tips That Will Improve Your Workflow

5 Lightroom Tips That Will Improve Your Workflow

Lightroom is a place where a lot of photographers spend a ton of time, and any tips you can pick up to speed up your workflow or improve your image quality can pay off quite a bit. This helpful video tutorial will show you five tips that will both make your workflow more efficient and increase your image quality. 

Coming to you from Lucy Martin, this great video tutorial will show you five tips to improve your work in Lightroom. While the ability to copy edits is one the most powerful tools out there to make your editing more efficient and your images more consistent, one way to extend those capabilities is to use the Match Total Exposures feature. This feature allows you to choose an image with an exposure you like or have edited to taste, then automatically adjust all the other selected images to have the same exposure based on their shutter speed, aperture, and ISO all considered together. I use this, for example, when I shoot events and need to smoothe out minor variations in my settings across time, then I copy my edits (minus exposure) across similar subsets of images. Check out the video above for the full rundown form Martin.

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Preview: New masking tools for Lightroom & ACR

A screenshot of Adobe's new masking tool

New versions of Adobe Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and Adobe Camera RAW (Photoshop’s RAW processing engine) are coming on October 26th. Part of the update includes a completely re-engineered suite of masking tools with a new user interface.

For those not familiar, masking is used to select portions of an image to apply localized adjustments. Let’s take a look at what’s changed.

A new panel

A screenshot of Adobe's new masking panel.
The new “Masks” panel in Lightroom. Adobe

Adobe has removed the “Brush,” “Linear Gradient” and “Radial Gradient” local adjustment buttons and replaced them with a single “Masks” button that pulls out a new “Masks” panel. Users can then click “Create New Mask” to select which tool they’d like to use. 

This is now where you’ll find the “Brush,” “Linear Gradient” and “Radial Gradient” options, as well as “Color Range,” “Luminance Range” and “Depth Range.” There are also two new AI-powered options: “Select Subject” and “Select Sky.” More on that below.

AI-powered selections

A screenshot of Adobe's updated masking tool
Users will be able to create a mask of the sky in the new Lightroom/ACR with just a click of their mouse. Adobe

According to Adobe, the reason for the change is to bring Photoshop-like AI and machine learning functionality to Lightroom and ACR. We first saw the “Select Sky” feature this time last year and it was officially added to Photoshop CC in August.

However, because existing masks in Lightroom/ACR were vector-based and the AI selections require bitmap masks, there had to be a total overhaul of the underlying image processing engine—which gave Adobe the opportunity to add a load of new features. 

The two AI-powered masking options, “Select Subject” and “Select Sky” are both pretty self-explanatory. Though it’s worth noting that Adobe claims “Select Subject” works regardless of whether your subject is “a person, animal, or inanimate object”. Click the relevant button and Lightroom creates a best-guess mask. These features are pretty solid in Photoshop (and you can always make adjustments) so we’re optimistic they’ll be really good in Lightroom/ACR. 

Workflow changes

The above video, from Adobe, shows off some of the new masking features coming to Lightroom and ACR on October 26th.

While Adobe likes to trumpet their AI work, the most exciting changes are the basic workflow tweaks. One of those tweaks—the ability to name and organize masks—is a huge deal for Lightroom/ACR users. This means no more hovering over your photo with your cursor looking for the random adjustment pin that corresponds to one of your brush selections. You can now just select it from the panel. 

How the selection tools work together has also been improved with “Mask Groups”. You can now use one tool to create your initial mask then select “Add” or “Subtract” to use another mask to, well, add or subtract from it. This enables you to make incredibly complex selections, as shown in the video above.

Using the example in the video, let’s say you want to darken everything in the image except for the boy and the sky. In the new Lightroom/ACR you can do this by using the “Select Subject” option to create a mask around the boy. You can then invert that selection to have a mask around everything but him. Next, you can use the “Subtract” function and the “Select Sky” feature to remove the sky from the mask. And voila!

Or you could combine a “Brush” selection, a “Luminance” selection, and a “Color Range” selection to only select the colored bokeh in the background of a portrait. 

Masking everywhere

Adobe has also taken the opportunity to make masking a consistent experience across all the Lightroom apps (plus ACR). You now get the exact same options whether you’re using Lightroom on the Web or your iPad, Lightroom Classic on your laptop, or Photoshop on your desktop. 

When can I use the new tools?

The new masking features will be released on the 26th of October. Update your Lightroom and Photoshop apps to install them. 

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Is Photo Mechanic Plus a Lightroom Killer? An In-Depth Fstoppers Review Part 2: The Image Catalog

Is Photo Mechanic Plus a Lightroom Killer? An In-Depth Fstoppers Review Part 2: The Image Catalog

In Part 1 of this In-Depth review, I outlined the core philosophy of Photo Mechanic Plus before going on to summarize and test the ingestion process. Arguably, this is the star in the crown however, Camera Bits have now added an image catalog allowing it to manage your photo archive. Read on to find out how it performs, as well as a comparison with Lightroom’s own catalog.

The ingestion of images into a PC is only half the story when it comes to managing your photo collection. In fact, it’s only a quarter of the story: ingest, catalog, edit, and output. In part 1 I covered the ingestion and output stages. By its own admission, Photo Mechanic Plus isn’t an image editor and there are plenty of sophisticated alternatives on that front. One area where it was lacking was related to stage 2 and the image catalog. This is perhaps a curious omission as Photo Mechanic is famed for its blazing fast speed and if there is one area that would benefit from a speed boost then it’s the catalog

So What Makes It Plus?

With the release of Photo Mechanic 6, Camera Bits produced a Plus version — so what is the difference? Quite simply, the added functionality of an image catalog, allowing Photo Mechanic to do your digital asset management. This is a big change that has been seamlessly integrated into the existing interface through the addition of an Organizer tab on the left column. This allows you to load an image catalog (i.e. database) for multiple drives and folders of both online and offline media, showing image previews and metadata. Like Lightroom, it doesn’t store the original images, just previews, and metadata.

The Catalog is accessed via the Organizer panel; I tested this on Windows and this has been split out from the Navigator/Favorites panel (in case you look at any online tutorials) in the latest update. A default catalog is loaded at startup, but you can create and use as many as want via the Catalog->Manage Catalogs menu. So, you could put all your weddings in one catalog and portraits in another, or separate by client. It’s up to you. And of course, you can also go back and re-scan folders to create new catalogs again from scratch. Talking about creating catalogs, there are a number of ways to do this. You can use the Catalog->Scan To Catalog option which brings up a dialog allowing you to select one, or multiple, folders to add with options to exclude folders and use folder search patterns. You can also specify file extensions to include or exclude. If a contact sheet is already open (see Part 1) then you can select the photos you want to include and then right-click to access the “Include in Catalog” option (or exclude to remove the selection). You can also automatically add photos to a catalog at Ingestion.

There are two options available for a catalog: search and add/modify. Make sure you tick the appropriate option to enable it. Search will let you search a catalog using different tabbed contexts on the left side of the panel. These are Search, Filter, Browse, and Collections. Search is a keyword search that can use boolean operators such as AND and OR (the default option for multiple items is AND). By default, it searches across all fields, but you can restrict it to specific types such as “lens 85” to see all images shot with an 85mm lens (click on the cog next to the search bar to see examples of searches). These searches can be saved for reuse (called snapshots) meaning you can build up complex queries if you want which will automatically pull in new images as your catalog grows. The Filter tab is far more specific, allowing you to hone in on individual fields — for example, an 85mm lens along with a specific keyword — in order to build up filtering criteria. These can likewise be saved as snapshots. The Browse tab can be thought of as a simplified Filter, where you can drill down through your metadata elements to see images that match a specific element you are interested in; for example, images captured on a specific date.

Finally, the Collections tab lets you create groups of photos inside a Catalog. Go to the tab and create a new collection, then search for the photos you are wanting to include; once they are visible on the preview panel, simply select them, then right-click on the Collection you want to add them to and select “Add selected items here.” Collections can be filtered and you can add sub-collections.

What I Liked

Like the image browser, catalogs are fast. Very fast. The strength in adding a catalog to Photo Mechanic is that all the power of rapid ingestion allows you to seamlessly, easily, and quickly build a catalog that then gives you quick access to the photos you want, when you want. The searching is powerful and — once you get your head around the Search, Filter, Browse, and Collections approach — it just works. Period. And if you haven’t done so already, go back and look at Part 1 to get a feel for the power of Ingestion.

What Could Be Improved

As I said in part one of this review, the Windows GUI feels a little dated. If looks matter more than getting the job done, then Photo Mechanic isn’t for you. Perhaps as a result of this, it also feels complicated; sure, you can make it as complex as you want, particularly once you start adding keywords and metadata, but then this is a product for people that shoot lots and value their time.

It’s also worth noting that Lightroom’s image catalog is more than simply keywording and captioning. Lightroom is a non-destructive global(-ish) image editor and the catalog also stores those edits.

Final Thoughts

As part of my review, I asked Mick Orlosky at Camera Bits if there were any plans to expand Photo Mechanic’s feature set to make it as fully featured as Lightroom. He replied:

We would not rule that out in the long term, but there are so many image processors out there that coming up with something better than what is already out there would take serious time, so it is not something we are currently focused on

This perhaps gets to the nub of the issue: software development is expensive and you need to be both competitive and have a deep enough market in order to make it sustainable. Lightroom is so entrenched that focusing upon what it can’t do is where Photo Mechanic’s strength lies. Orlosky notes that adding the image database was a significant task, so the immediate roadmap is refinement to make it more accessible and easier to use. Camera Bits founder Dennis Walker commented that the biggest challenge in adding the database capabilities was not locking the images into a proprietary library:

We wanted to keep the photos as accessible as possible while having the performance that Photo Mechanic was known for

This was, of course, in addition to search working across multiple catalogs.

In terms of high-profile users, Orlosky lists Hannah Foslien and Brad Mangin in sports, Jos and Tree in weddings, and of course Pete Souza. At the extreme end of the processing chain, Walker cites watching Morry Gash (Associated Press) editing photos from the NCAA Final Four solo on his laptop: he goes through about 20,000+ photos per game!

Ingesting huge volumes of photos aside, I asked Walker what the most pressing image processing challenge that faces the photographic industry is today. He was quick to point to cameras producing more than photographers can handle, both in terms of image size and overall volume. Perhaps befitting was his desire to

have a workflow strategy and tools that are efficient enough to handle your most vigorous take

With the push from all the major vendors and manufacturers into the use and application of AI, I was wondering if Photo Mechanic might forge a path in this direction, however, Walker was quick to focus upon empowering photographers, rather than replacing them.

Photo Mechanic serves a niche, but that niche is working pros who have demands when it comes to the sheer volume of work they produce, along with the time they have available. Don’t expect image ingestion and cataloging to get easier. Far from it: expect it to get harder. Photo Mechanic starts from a strong base and has the opportunity to grow into something fully featured.

Note: CameraBits provided a free version of Photo Mechanic Plus for review. However, all of the views and opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom

Don’t toss a photo just because the lighting isn’t the best. You may be able to bring it back alive in post-production. As photographers, we face countless different scenarios and it’s nearly impossible to get the perfect shot 100% of the time.

Understanding what’s possible in post-production can help you still achieve a professional result nonetheless. This is why it’s crucial to learn editing techniques to save imperfect images. In this video, I’ll be walking through how to fix a badly lit portrait in Adobe Lightroom.

Before we dive in, be sure to download the exercise file here and follow along as I edit.

Getting the Image Right In-Camera

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 1

You can check out how the image was taken in a previous video where I discuss why the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 is my favorite lens. Before jumping into post, the very first step is to try your best to get the best shot in-camera given the conditions. You can do that by:

  1. Shoot in RAW format to capture as much information as possible.
  2. Expose properly to preserve as much detail in the shadows and highlights as possible.
  3. Work with the natural lighting.

Step #1: Raise the Exposure

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 2

First, set the exposure for the subject. In the case of imperfect images like this, it’s okay to let the background blow out. The important part is that the subject is properly exposed.

Step #2: Set the White Balance

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 3

Set the white balance using the eyedropper on a white part of the image, in this case, Kiara’s shirt. You’ll notice that the green color cast caused by the surrounding leaves and grass still remains.

Step #3: Base Tone Adjustments

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 4

Use the basic tone adjustments to bring out more detail from the highlights and shadows.

Step #4: Set the Tone Curve

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 5

An S-Curve adds basic contrast. Then, add a matte look by pulling the white point down and black point up. This causes the whites to turn soft light gray and the blacks to turn a matte dark gray.

Step #5: Color Calibration

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 6

Use the color calibration panel to correct for the color casts here. I focused on restoring the proper skin tones.

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 7

Then, tune the white balance more to your liking based on the adjusted colors.

Step #6: HSL Adjustments

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 8

Jump into the HSL panel to further separate the skin tones and eliminate the green tint from the beginning. Here are the final adjustment settings.

Step #7: Split-Tones

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 9

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 10

You can use the “Custom Color” option to select hues already in the image. I picked out a cool area for the shadows and warmer tones for the highlights and mid-tones.

Step #8: Tweak Your Adjustments

Make your final adjustments here. I tweaked the basic adjustments for a touch more contrast.

Step #9: Local Adjustments

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 11

Lastly, I added a subtle radial filter from the Visual Flow Retouching Toolkit to create a subtle vignette.

The Final Image

How to Fix a Badly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom 12

See the huge difference between where we started out and the final image!

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Next time you take a photo in imperfect conditions, rest assured that you can still fix a photo with bad lighting in post. It’s crucial to learn and understand what you can do in post-production in case these situations arise. That being said, always prioritize getting the shot right in-camera when possible.

I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Rest assured knowing that even in imperfect conditions, you can still end up with fantastic photos. That being said, none of it should be a substitute for trying to get the best image in-camera. However, understanding these editing techniques and tools will set you up for success and you’ll be prepared for any obstacle that may come your way during a photoshoot.


P.S. Be sure to check out the Complete Lightroom Tutorial over on SLR Lounge Premium. In addition, check out Visual Flow for the Retouching Toolkit as well as intuitive, lighting based presets.


About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work on Instagram.

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Adobe Lightroom Has a Major Upgrade Coming Next Month

Adobe Lightroom Has a Major Upgrade Coming Next Month

From October the 26th Adobe Lightroom introduces its new update, with some great new masking features.

Lightroom has been the core of editing photographs for many many years now. Updating features on a frequent basis to make our lives easier and to help us produce better-edited images. With its new update, Adobe is introducing some really big changes and especially with the masking tools which were well received in Photoshop with the AI-powered Select Subject and Sky Replacement.

The existing engine in Lightroom wasn’t as compatible with the AI-powered tools so they readdressed the architecture of the engine to allow for more creative use of the masking features. What did their customers want? More control over selective edits and masks. So the Adobe team worked with its customers to reassess how the selections were made in Lightroom. 

So what are the new features of masking? Well, to start with the Brush tool has been replaced with a new masking button and this is where the excitement starts. From here you have the option to Select Subject or Select Sky, but it doesn’t stop there. From here you can create mask groups enabling you to mix and combine any other mask tool including the brush, gradient, luminance, and color range tools. You also have the ability to rename the masks to keep track of your edits.

Check out the video above to see the new masking features in action. Excited to try them? I know I definitely am. Roll on the 26th of October.

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How to Color Grade Your Photos in Lightroom

How to Color Grade Your Photos in Lightroom

It used to be that if you wanted to do serious color grading, you needed to head over to Photoshop, but in recent iterations, Lightroom has gained some easy-to-use and powerful color grading tools that make it easy to accomplish what you need right there. This helpful video tutorial will show you how to use Lightroom’s color grading tools to create better images. 

Coming to you from Aaron Nace with Phlearn, this great video tutorial will show you how to use Lightroom’s color grading tools to style your photos. The new color grading tools in the program make it far easier to intuitively stylize your images. Color grading is often the difference between a good image and a professional image, and it is your chance to really develop a recognizable personal style. The thing to remember, though, is that less is often more when it comes to color grading, and it can be very easy to go overboard. It is often a good idea to just step away from your computer for a minute after you are finished with an edit and to take another look with fresh eyes one more time before you export the image. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Nace. 

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7 Steps for Advanced Black and White Editing in Adobe Lightroom

7 Steps for Advanced Black and White Editing in Adobe Lightroom

Black and white photography moved from a necessity to a decision long ago, but it is still revered and enjoyed today as one of the primary forms to display a photograph. However, editing from color into black and white can take some time to master and create truly memorable results. In this video, go through an advanced seven-step process for turning a basic black and white edit into a masterful one.

I have never been able to fully unpack why I enjoy black and white photography so much. When I started photography I used it how many beginners do: to try to mop up sloppy, forgettable images and shape them into something good. That, of course, never worked. Gradually, over the years, I learned what sort of scenes would work well in black and white and then I experimented with processing techniques to get the most out of them. Now, I see black and white images before I’ve even raised my camera.

That sort of reaction to a scene — knowing it needs to be captured in black and white — is the result of a few key elements. Of course, contrast, light, composition, and all the theory behind good photography ought to be in place. But, equal to that in many ways, you also need to know what is and is not possible in post-production. When you open up that raw file, you should know before touching a slider, just what can be achieved. It’s only then that you can really spot great images that others may miss.

Watch Pye Jirsa as he takes you through his process in seven steps.

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Edit Better Dog Portraits With Lightroom and Photoshop CC

Edit Better Dog Portraits With Lightroom and Photoshop CC

Thanks to a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop, your dog portraits can be drastically improved with a little bit of editing, so follow along.

After spending all that time getting the dog to stand still, pose just right, and balancing your camera settings with focus, you’ve got the perfect shot of your favorite pooch. But the image looks a little washed out, even lackluster. But thanks to the powerful tools sitting inside Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC, you can transform these lowly shots into something magnificent if you follow the right steps. So, let me guide you through this edit I made of my dog, Benji, to see just how easy it can be to go from zero to hero.

Edit Better Dog Portraits With Lightroom and Photoshop CC 13

Edit Better Dog Portraits With Lightroom and Photoshop CC 14

1. Balance the Color

After importing the image into Lightroom Classic, the first step is to change up the white balance. For dog portraits, I prefer a warmer white balance, because to me, it feels more inviting and intimate. I created a custom white balance with the Temp slider at 5,762 and Tint slider at -12. You may want to use a preset such as Shade or Cloudy to enhance warmer tones.

2. Adjust Blacks and Highlights

The highlights on Benji here were a little overexposed, so I turned down the Highlights slider to -34 to regain some detail in those areas. I also wanted the darker areas to appear deeper, so I lowered the Blacks slider to -16. Notice how the tree in the background and the darker patches of fur on Benji’s body are now almost pitch black. This kind of dynamic range will allow the portrait to stand out when among other images in a gallery either online or in person.

3. Remove Distractions

Unfortunately, Benji was on lead for this shot, so we needed to take this out of the picture entirely. With the Spot Removal tool (Q) I first started by removing the lead next to his neck fur because I wanted to accurately line up the fur with another patch on his shoulder. After highlighting the offending area, I moved the sample selection so that the fur seamlessly continued up the side of his neck.

I then set about removing the rest of the lead and the hand in the shot by selecting the rest of it and letting Lightroom intelligently make its own sample selection to blend in with the background. It did a pretty good job, as you can see here, but the top of the grass on the left-hand side of the image has been cropped off at the top. That’s okay, though, because we can fix this when working in Photoshop CC later.

One last piece of lead was visible through the grass, so I zoomed in and delicately drew around this section and again let Lightroom make its own sample suggestion. The entire lead was now removed from view and focus was put on Benji in the middle of the frame, so let’s get started editing him.

4. Desaturate Shadows

A restrictive color palette is often quite attractive in portraits. A simplification of color helps us concentrate on specific aspects of portraits, even dog portraits. Noticing that the shadows on the camera-right of Benji were deep blue, I decided to use an Adjustment Brush (K) to brush over only the shaded areas of fur, such as the body, legs, and side of his face — anywhere there was gray fur — and then set the Saturation slider to -73. That meant a little bit of color stayed in the fur, but the blue tone was vastly reduced.

5. Enhance Fur Texture

The main aim with this dog portrait edit is to have the dog isolated from the backdrop. This was done while taking the photo by using a wide aperture on a long telephoto lens to help reduce the depth of field, but now, we can use some editing techniques to enhance this further.

With the same Adjustment Brush, I then boosted the Whites and Clarity sliders to provide a little more texture to the fur, setting Benji apart from the creamy bokeh backdrop.

6. Mask Dog Fur

I then wanted to make an overall edit with more Clarity punch-up and some boost in Highlights, so with a new Adjustment Brush, I painted over the entire body and face to keep the edits local to Benji. To find where the mask lies, you can press O on the keyboard or tick the Show Selected Mask Overlay button in the bottom left of the window to reveal the mask in red. Use the Alt key to turn the brush into a subtractive brush to then erase parts of the mask that spilled over onto the background.

7. It’s All in the Eyes

The eyes truly are the window to the soul, and I wanted Benji’s eyes to sparkle. Unfortunately, the one eye I have in shot here falls in shade, so it isn’t particularly bright or sparkly. To counteract this problem, I used the Adjustment Brush and painted the white highlights at the top of his eye and desaturated them from a blue to a near-white. I took a second brush and painted around the brown iris and then boosted the Saturation to 55. In order to tease out more detail in the eye, I also bumped the Texture and Clarity slider up significantly. This boost in localized contrast made Benji’s eyes shine. Pay attention not to overdo things at this stage, though, or it’ll look unnatural.

8. Warm Up the Foreground

Zooming back out, I noticed that the foreground grass at the bottom of the frame was also quite blue because it sat in the shade of a large tree. The slither of light that shone against Benji was very warm and yellow by comparison, so I wanted the grass to match. With the Adjustment Brush, I painted along the grass in the bottom of the frame and shifted the Temp slider up so that it contained more yellow, before also raising the Tint slider, slightly adding some magenta. I then set about raising the Saturation to 29 to give it a little more prominence in the shot.

9. Take It Into Photoshop

Once done, I exported the image to Photoshop CC, which you can do by right-clicking and heading to Edit In>Edit In Adobe Photoshop CC 2021. Top tip: if you’re having issues with running Photoshop and Lightroom simultaneously, then close down Lightroom once you’ve opened the image in Photoshop.

From here, I wanted to add a little light flare camera-left to mimic natural sunlight billowing through the trees. I duplicated the layer (Ctrl + J or CMD + J on a Mac) and then used the Object Selection tool (W) to highlight Benji. Photoshop made quick work of making a selection around him, and then, I hit the Add Layer Mask button.

The next step was to create a new layer (Ctrl, Shift + N, or CMD, Shift + N on a Mac) and placed it in-between the two existing layers in the layers palette. I used the Gradient tool (G) to draw out a yellow/orange radial gradient coming from the left of the image, spreading to the right. This was the basis for the sunlight. I changed the layer blending mode to Screen and then tweaked the layer opacity until it was around 30% so that it didn’t overpower.

10. Patch the Grass

Remember those pieces of grass that got cut off with the Spot Removal tool back in Lightroom? Well, we’re going to fix that now. With the bottom original layer selected, I used the Patch tool (J) to draw around the affected tips of grass and moved the selection over some long grass on the left side of the frame. The tool took this sample area and drew in the grass tips for me, giving more realistic-looking grass.

11. Draw Attention to the Center

My final edit was to create a dark vignette around the edge of the photo. I made a slight crop before doing this so that Benj was placed more off-center to the right-hand side. Then, I took the Elliptical Marquee tool (M) and drew from a space in the top left of the frame to the bottom right to create an oval that didn’t quite fill the image.

Next, I right-clicked, went to Select and Mask, and then boosted the Feather slider to over 300 px to make the selection’s edges soft. I clicked OK and then inverted the selection with Ctrl, Shift + I (CMD, Shift + I on a Mac) and got the Paint Bucket tool (G), set my foreground color to black (D), and filled in the color. To allow the vignette to blend even better, set the layer blending mode to Soft Light and reduce the opacity to 30% or so. The center of the frame should now be the brightest part of the image, with the eye naturally drawing to Benji in the middle.

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Use Lightroom to Breathe New Life Into Wildlife Photos

Use Lightroom to Breathe New Life Into Wildlife Photos

Wildlife photography can be incredibly rewarding when things go right, but it’s incredibly difficult to master. That’s why when you have a good photo that’s let down by a few of the camera settings, you should use Lightroom to transform that drab shot into something much more beautiful.

When you have a nice, sharp wildlife image it’s worth spending some time in post-production to perfect things further. A good (perhaps read: sharp) wildlife shot is really quite tricky as there’s a careful interplay between camera settings, subject position, and luck. So I prefer not to bin a shot if it has all the bones of a great photograph without the finishing touches that make it a stand-out.

In this example, I’m going to show you how to enhance a wildlife shot using both global and selective adjustments in Lightroom Classic. My photo is of a honeybee in flight, you can even see it’s sticking its tongue out right towards the camera (because it was taking nectar from the Russian blue sage also pictured, not because it’s being cheeky). But the same techniques will work well with any wildlife shot, especially if it’s been captured outside in daylight. So have a look at the before and after below to see the kind of results you’re likely to achieve, and let’s get started.

Use Lightroom to Breathe New Life Into Wildlife Photos 15

Use Lightroom to Breathe New Life Into Wildlife Photos 16

Start With Lens Corrections

Nearly all modern cameras and lenses have their own EXIF data that Lightroom can pull from its library. The EXIF data can make adjustments to visual characteristics in photos based on which lens you’re using. Each lens differs and can affect things like sharpness, vignetting, chromatic aberration, and distortion. We can use this to remove unwanted visuals from our photos.

Lightroom intelligently applies the appropriate lens profile correction when you tick the Enable Profile Corrections box in the Lens Corrections panel. If it cannot detect the right lens then you can also choose it manually from the Make, Model, and Profile drop-down menus. There are also sliders for controlling distortion and vignetting amount but I have left those as default in this example.

Correct the White Balance

Once the lens corrections have been made we can clearly see what the image looks like before we edit further. I like to move onto white balance next because this will inform the rest of the edit decisions I make when it comes to color. In the white balance section of the Basic panel you can choose from white balance presets from the drop-down menu or customize your own white balance with the sliders.

In this image I’ve opted for the preset Flash, despite being shot outside in full sun without the use of flash. My reason for this is that I actually prefer the neutral tones of the Flash preset over the slightly warmer Daylight option which adds +10 on the green/magenta slider. I find that keeping things as neutral as possible, although seemingly clinical initially, actually helps me shape color more accurately down the line.

Lift the Shadows

In this image, shot in full sun, we have a flying honey being sidelit from camera-right. That means there are a lot of harsh shadows camera-left on anything in the frame, including the bee. In an attempt to tease out some more detail on this side of the honey bee (and the flowers behind) I decided to push the Shadows slider to +62. This wasn’t quite enough to make the bee really stand out from the flowers though, so I’ll make some local adjustments in a moment.

I also wanted to enhance some of the subtler tones in the frame so I used the Vibrance slider to do that. I pushed it up to +42 so that the gentler blues and purples, as well as some of the muddier, shaded oranges in the honeybee, were enhanced.

Make Local Adjustments to the Subject

I felt like the honeybee was the real show of this wildlife shot and I wanted it to stand out. So I selected the Adjustment Brush (K) and brushed over the bee before upping the Saturation slider to 23. This provided a much more lustrous golden orange color to the bee’s fur and helped isolate it from the cooler purple backdrop.

Reveal Close-up Detail

With another Adjustment Brush added (click New in the top-right corner of the Adjustment Brush panel) I painted over only the shaded areas of the bee and its face. I then lifted the shadows further by boosting it to 28 so that I could show yet more details specifically in the bee, without brightening the shadows of anything else in the frame.

Simplify the Backdrop

Though the aperture of my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G was set relatively wide at f/6.3, it was still narrow enough to produce sharper tones in the flowers at the back of the frame. I ideally would have liked to shoot this wider at say, f/2.8 or f/1.4 but due to the complexities of chasing a bee around the garden armed with nothing more than a nifty fifty, I opted for the narrower f/6.3 to maximize both the depth of field and my chances of getting a clear shot of a bee in flight.

So in order to smooth out the backdrop I decided to use a combination of techniques. Using the Adjustment Brush again I now selected everything in the backdrop, being mindful not to overlap the bee or closest flowers that were rendered sharp. You can see the mask overlay here in red where I’ve painted the backdrop. I then set about turning down the Texture slider (-91) and Clarity slider (-81) to reduce midtone contrast in the background and force a smoother effect. I also boosted the Saturation slider to 24 to give the flowers a little more zing to compensate for the lack of detail.

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