After processing

Let There be Lightroom

Oh, yes, I was a great retoucher. A retoucher is an aesthetic surgeon ! – Man Ray

I am more and more amazed by the powerful tools of  Lightroom 4. Not only can they really help you save some of your shots, but they are very easy to use. So don’t be too quick to delete the shots that don’t look promising at the first look. Lightroom can be your savior.

I took this photo on a rocky boat ride to Martha’s Vineyard, MA. In normal circumstances I would use fill-in flash for a shot like this. However, I didn’t have my flash with me and my camera doesn’t have a built-in flash. I loved my friend’s hair blowing in the wind while she could barely stand up due to the bumpy ride. After I took the picture, I looked at the LCD screen and I was disappointed. I really hoped that Lightroom could help save this shot. And it did.

Here are the 5 easy steps that saved this shot:

Step 1 – Tonal Adjustments

For most of my shots, I typically start with the white balance. I didn’t feel like this was necessary for this particular photo, so I moved directly to the tone section. I only changed the contrast, shadows and blacks. I tried bringing back as much shadow detail as possible, without overexposing the background.

Step 2 – Adjustment Brush

This is my favorite tool in Lightroom because it allows you to make selective adjustments. You can even adjust the white balance which I think is pretty cool. I used two different brushes. One for the face, to adjust the white balance and bring back the shadows a little more, and one to smooth out the skin on the arms and face. To add a second brush, just click the New button.  The easiest way to show the selected area in red is to press the “O” key on your keyboard.

Step 3 – Presence Adjustments

In this step I started with adjusting the vibrance and saturation. Careful to not overdo it, especially when dealing with skin tones. It is easy to turn the skin into a bright orange or deep red, which can easily ruin the shot. I also adjusted the clarity quite a bit in this shot. It helped separate the subject from the background.

Step 4 – Color Adjustments

Notice that, in the initial picture, the sky was a little washed out and it also lacked contrast. Adjusting the luminance and saturation of the blue helped make the sky stand out and clouds become more visible. I typically don’t touch the hue because it can create unnatural looking effects. You can also adjust other colors as well, but most of time I use this just for adjusting the sky or water.

Step 5 – Final Touches

In this last step, I sharpened the picture and reduced the digital noise a bit. In my opinion, this step is required for all the photos if you shoot raw (and I hope you do). Most of the time I also adjust the lens profile, even thought it doesn’t make a big difference.

And that’s it. Not complicated at all, is it? One more thing. I mentioned in one of my older posts how much I dislike crooked horizons. It doesn’t bother me in this photo because we were on a boat with high winds and waves and I think it actually helps emphasizing the motion.

For more photography tips and ideas, check out my latest photography book, Picture (Im)perfect Photographynow available at Amazon.

What post-processing software do you use? What is your favorite thing about it?

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