Saturday, May 18, 2013

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Lightroom Tutorial - Depth of Field Enhancements

Today's tutorial will demonstrate how I use adjustment brushes in Lightroom 4 to enhance the depth of field in an image. This can also be used for images that were captured with far smaller apertures than the more expensive F/2.8 lens over the more inexpensive F/3.5-F/5.6 lenses. Even in figure 1, I may have used my 100mm F/2.8 macro lens, but I shot it at F/5 so I could get more of my central subject in focus.

Figure 1: Before and After. ISO 100, 1/80 sec, F/5
I choose to enhance an image afterwards because I want to either enhance the depth of field and bring more focus to my central subject in focus. The effect is usually pretty subtle, but just enough to draw the eye in.

Figure 2. Baseline adjustments
Often I choose to use vignette to help draw the eye centrally, but by using the adjustment brush I can better control an effect and with more control. Lightroom 5 will be introducing some interesting ways to enhance images with the new radial gradients, but painting the effect in the right areas is still going to get more favourable results.

Before I begin to paint my effect, I adjust my image initially to give me the most favourable conditions for this technique.

I generally start by dropping my exposure and contrast and recover that back with the highlight, shadows, whites and blacks. I increase the clarity and also the sharpening settings to taste before I apply the adjustment brush. Be aware that you might be coming back into these settings later to do further tweaking for the effect. You might find that some further adjustments are made with the contrast of your image.

Figure 3. Adjustment Brush and Settings
The adjustment brush is found in the tool palette just above your basic adjustment tools. This tool is often under utilized, but a very powerful tool in Lightroom 4. I do warn people that it is a little processor intensive, so if you have a slow computer it might slow things down. This is normal on slower computers so be aware nothing is broken on your system. 

Select the brush and before painting the areas you want to apply the effect, adjust your settings for the brush. I generally move the exposure down and turn the contrast right down to -100 for starters. I then crank the highlight settings all the way over to 100. This will deliberately over expose the area I paint the effect on, simulating to a degree, bokeh. The shadow adjustment is completely subjective. You can either adjust it up or down depending on your image. In this example I actually decided to darken it a little. Next I reduce the midtone contrast in the Clarity settings. Be cautious not to overdo this setting. You can certainly crank it way over and it starts to look more like a bad hazy lens, but just a small adjustment is recommended. Another subjective choice is to desaturate the area. Since you'll be painting likely the background for the effect and preserving the foreground, this gives you the opportunity to desaturate the background a touch. Lastly, I crank the sharpen settings down to -100, and increase both the noise and moire adjustments to +100. Increasing noise reduction gives me a little more blur, as does moire. Both are very subtle in this case and if you have a noisy image to begin with, you might be cautious how far you make the adjustment in the noise reduction slider.

As far as brush settings. make sure you have a pretty large feather setting for it. You can turn on or off Auto Mask (most times I find it in the way). I usually keep it off as it sometimes creates undesirable masked areas that don't show a nice smooth transition.

Figure 4. Mask display modes
hitting 'O' key will toggle
Before or as you paint have your mask display mode turned on. This is found in the bottom left corner of the preview. As you use the brush, the computer will slow down and having the mask overlay on will slow it further. Remember the 'O' key shortcut to toggle this on and off. Not only does this show where you'll be painting, but it is much easier to see the effect when you turn it off.

Figure 5.
Painting the area with Mask Overlay on.
Begin to paint the areas that you want to de-emphasize or the background area where the effect will take place. In Figure 5, take care not to paint over the sharp edges. In this example you can see that one of leaves I painted over the edge because it is already part of a shallower depth of field. Much of the painting becomes subjective for you and I often find myself erasing areas as well. Holding the alt key will swap to the erase function and you might need to increase the size of the brush and adjust the feather settings to match. You might also find the 'pin' is distracting (especially if you have more than one mask), you can just hide it by hitting the 'H' key.

Your end results might need some minor adjustments, but what you should end up with is something that brings that foreground element more in focus while subtly blurring the background further.

Lightroom Tutorial - Depth of Field Enhancement 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Lightroom Tutorial - Tonal Recovery

There's many ways to fix exposure issues in Lightroom, but I'm going to talk about one of the techniques that I employ and teach in my classroom.

Before and after tonal correction.
One of the more common mistakes in Lightroom 4 is to use the shadow slider to recover tone alone. Some other tutorials also suggest adjusting the exposure and even to some extent the tone curves. All of these techniques work, but they often introduce a lot of noise issues where they often suggest to remove with the noise reduction settings (look at figure 1).

Figure 1: Common practice of tonal recovery often introduces lots of noise problems.
First a little explanation about how tonal recovery in Lightroom works. Shadow and Highlights are actually subsets of contrast while Whites and Blacks are subsets of Brightness. In Lightroom 4, these were introduced as alternatives to the older 'Recovery' setting which gave far more detailed control over the various contrast settings.

It is also important to know that Clarity is also a subset of contrast as well. This affects the mid tonal ranges which also affects micro contrast and sharpness.

Figure 2
When Adobe introduced the new approach though, many people immediately gravitated to using the shadow and highlights to compress the tones in each of the ranges. Which is precisely what it did. It either took the tones found in that range and either stretched it out or compressed it. Digital files are not kind to this kind of treatment and the amplification causes an enhancement of that noise detail.

What I suggest to my students is a better approach which basically respects the data within the file, and allows the user to exploit the features of Lightroom with minimal noise.

In Figure 2, the first thing I do is turn down contrast. Because Shadows and Highlights are subsets of contrast, I know I can bring up my contrast details through those sliders.

By dropping the contrast, I also comfortably increased my exposure setting. You can see I went up by almost 2 stops. When you first do this, the image looks a little dull or flat, but don't worry, this is normal.

Now that my contrast has been turned down I will recover some of that. Both my shadows and highlights are adjusted to taste, but also I adjusted both the whites and blacks. This brought back some of the punch that was lost by reducing the contrast.

Lastly bump up your clarity setting to bring a little contrast to your midtones.

Using my technique vs other methods of tonal recovery.

Depending on how much you adjust, you'll still have some noise to contend with so I would still adjust your noise settings to taste, however by following this technique for tonal recovery, you should see a pretty dramatic improvement over other methods.

Tone Recovery Tutorial BHL On Black

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Doing another Workshop.... Introduction to Lightroom.

If you're in Victoria, BC mid June, you might want to consider taking my next workshop.

I'm also hoping to do more of these over the summer as I go on break from the college and sharing my knowledge in these more intimate sessions with people.

If you're interested in me coming to your city to conduct a workshop, maybe check into your local photography group and have them organize and contact me to conduct a workshop.

This upcoming workshop will be focused on the basics of Lightroom and digital workflow.

You can find more information at my sponsoring host at Kerrisdale Cameras and their event web page: