Viewing Lightroom

From Edit to Export: On1 RAW or Lightroom?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017


From Edit to Export: On1 RAW or Lightroom? with Dustin Lucas


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As we get further into 2017, more and more updates are getting pushed out. Based on the feedback from users, ON1 is stepping up its game. In last month’s article, I focused on where ON1 excels over Lightroom CC. For Round 2, let’s get down to business. From edit to export, what program produces the best results?

In this article, my focus starts with shot out of camera (SOOC) to export before any Develop settings are applied. I want to break down the range of color and tonality as well as detail and sharpness. Then, we can compare the editability by looking at the results with the recovery tool. Skin tones are going to be a major factor here because when it’s all said and done, do your clients look good? This business is all about the little things, and we cannot stop short on the details. Sharpness from input to output ties everything together in your image. After developing the image, we are finally ready to export to see the results.

SOOC to Export Comparison

After opening the images in each program, I noticed a default level of sharpening is applied automatically. Not to worry—this was easily turned off before exporting the SOOC image, but ON1 RAW won’t allow me to turn off its export sharpening feature, so I had to match it in Lightroom to make an honest comparison. I also use Photoshop to review the images since I’d normally process the images further in there. I contemplated whether we should be viewing these images as a PSD or JPEG and what color space to choose. To make this simple, I chose file type JPEG and color space sRGB. These are the more common export settings. (1ab)

Now, let’s dive in. At first glance, the ON1 image is brighter and more vibrant, clearly winning the color range category because of its true-to-life vibrant blue sky and balanced skin tones. (2) Even the dead grass in the foreground looks better. (3) Mind you, this is not white balanced in either program; we are dealing with straight from capture. Plain and simple, the exposure is brighter and the tonality is wider in the ON1 image. Although the black point in the Lightroom file seems more dense, it is limited in overall tonality. (4) This may have to do with the camera profile automatically being assigned; unfortunately, after testing, the other default profiles in Lightroom couldn’t match the ON1 image. So far, ON1 is in the lead.

Results With Recovery

Moving into the recovery section, I am focusing on highlights, shadows, white and black point. Looking at the histogram alone, each of these programs is measuring the scene differently. (5) We have to recover the sky and lighten the face equally in this image. (6) This will be a great example to showcase the recovery skills in each program. I start by selecting Auto Tone to see where we get. Both of these are useless for this image, but it looks like Lightroom does a better job adjusting for the histogram. Also in Lightroom, this tool adjusts the black and white point sliders to give the image solid density. (7)

Both programs have the right idea by lifting the exposure for the face and dropping highlights for the sky. We need some serious dehazing or black point recovery as well. After editing the images to where I would be comfortable in Develop, I think they are evenly matched for highlights in the sky tones. (8) Each program does a decent job fixing the clipped white tones. The major tell for the difference is how Lightroom recovers the hair with little to no color detail present. (9) On1 handles the surrounding areas well; it’s when you get to a blank white patch where the images lose quality in recovery. (10)

Shadows are problematic for ON1 as well. Lightroom does a better job at rendering these underexposed tones, and has better density with black point. (11) It appears the ON1 RAW became limited in the range of dark tones from lighter shadows to absolute black point. These areas tend to be blocked up and lose detail. (12)

The takeaway from this is that the image is difficult to start with, but Lightroom does a better job fixing what seems unfixable.

Saving the Skin Tones

I found an image that looks quite different in how each program renders a close-up portrait shot. ON1 renders brighter skin tones with a loss of density in the dark tones. (13) On the contrary, Lightroom goes for a darker look. (14) Adjusting the image in Lightroom to +0.8 exposure, we have two similar images. That must be due to the automated software in ON1, something I have no control over when opening an image. Nonetheless, they have a distinct difference.

After examining each of the images at 100%, they look pretty evenly matched. (15) ON1 has a little more definition in the midtones, especially around the lips. The less contrast and density in the recovery analysis has a better look and feel on the skin tones, especially for the eyes and eyelashes. (16) In Lightroom, the hot spots on the face seem to be minimized and a subtle gray tone is present. Another advantage is the defined black point, giving the eyes a bit more pop. (17)

White balance is another mystery between these programs. In On1, the background graffiti has a cyan tint to it; in Lightroom, it’s more neutral white. (18) This is a quick fix in ON1 by using the Purity section, although the skin tones become gray and unflattering. (19) We must go to Color Adjustments to desaturate the blues. After warming both images, they look pretty close in terms of skin tones. (20)

One huge upgrade to editing in a nondestructive environment is the skin retouching capabilities in ON1. I will explore this in a later article.

Let’s move on to developing the details and sharpening.

Developing the Details

It’s all about the little details and how we can salvage even the slightly soft images we want to show. Sorry, Sal—I’m not trying to throw you under the bus. Every lens has edge sharpness issues and difficulty trying to focus on the subject when they fall outside the AF range. Not to worry, we can bring her back into focus selectively. (21)

Starting with clarity or structure, we can start to add more midtone contrast and some high pass sharpening effect. I leave these alone for female portrait shoots, which makes the skin rather gritty. (22) Moving into the Sharpening panels is where we can get some great results. I have to admit I liked the less-is-more approach with Lightroom. I have four sliders for sharpening: amount, radius, detail, masking. Now, before I start messing with anything, I have to zoom in at 1:1 pixels, or 100%. This is a must during sharpening and noise reduction as well.

After some tweaking, I am set on the following settings for optimal sharpness for my slightly soft subject. For my subject, I wanted to crank up the details slider to 100 and slowly lift the amount slider until too much digital noise appeared. I could add the masking slider into the mix to remove some of the noise or even noise reduction. For now, let’s compare the results with ON1. (23)

As a default, when applying sharpening in the ON1 Develop, the High Pass tool is used. I like this for in-focus images with a lot of edges needing heightened details. For this particular image, we need something less intense but still able to bring out details in the soft subject. The three predetermined settings—fix focus, screen, and print—all show promise as well for a quick option. Screen has a more subtle approach, and even when moving the amount and detail sliders to 100, we still aren’t able to compete with the Lightroom edit. (24)

My final option is the Unsharp Mask to offer a better rendering of this soft image. Starting with the default settings, it’s radically worse. (25) We have to drop Threshold to zero to get any workable results. After dropping the Halo slider, I can begin lifting the Amount to the 300 range. (26) These are similar settings I’d use in Photoshop for input sharpening. I can immediately see the difference between Lightroom and ON1. This is by far a better recovery of the details, and it saved this image. Even with this highly sharpened image, I don’t need to do much else.

There you have it: ON1 shows up Lightroom for input sharpening. (27)

Edit to Export

Taking this same slightly soft image, we are now ready to compare the exported JPEGs. Starting with the unedited file, we have a soft, seemingly usable image. (28) Moving to the Lightroom edit, this is certainly a sizable upgrade from the shot out of camera. (29) Without comparison, I would be happy with these results. Now for the next level of detail and sharpness comes the Unsharp Mask tool in ON1. (30) Another addition is the refining of the shadow tones to give more detail versus the blocked-up dark tones in the Lightroom image. (31)

The Results

So that’s our side-by-side comparison of ON1 RAW and Lightroom CC. The results are interesting to say the least. It seems Lightroom won in the recovery area for a backlit and rather arduously exposed image. ON1 won out in all the other areas, but I am not totally convinced to convert workflows just yet. Lightroom still provides faster performance for hundreds of images. I may have to keep ON1 as my single image Raw processor.

Stay tuned for more workflow articles on these two programs and how to maximize efficiency with some added quality.


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5 Reasons to Use On1 Photo RAW 2017 Over Lightroom CC

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


5 Reasons to Use On1 Photo RAW 2017 Over Lightroom CC with Dustin Lucas

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As a long-time Lightroom user, I am always looking for a program to handle my Raw files better. It’s not that I have a bunch of complaints against Lightroom—I just want the best quality for my images. After taking a test drive with On1’s new and improved RAW 2017 software, I am blown away. It’s time for a change.

Working in On1 RAW 2017 is faster from start to finish—no more cataloging or rendering Raw previews. This helps me to get going quickly on selection, but more importantly to start editing my creatives. With the nondestructiveness and syncability between images, I can navigate from adjusting Develop settings to applying stylistic Effects. This has layers for Develop settings, layers for Effects, and an entire editing panel dedicated to editing with Photoshop-like Layers. We can build up our creativity and don’t have to rely on Photoshop for our end-all program. There are new Develop panel adjustment tools that expand the quality of Raw files. The versatility of Masking across all panels is a massive upgrade.

Faster From Start to Finish

Let’s start by opening the program and accessing my images instantly. Wait, don’t I have to import the images and make a catalog? Say goodbye to waiting for and building previews for what seems like days. On1 developed its Browse software to essentially treat your images like actual previews rather than having to wait for the Raws to render. I can access all my images instantaneously.

I can search in the left panel, but I have so many drop-down folders. Instead, let’s hold Command and strike the “B” key. My handy Finder window pops up, and I am ready to search my folder of files. After selecting the folder and clicking Open, we are ready to start working. The first thing I notice about each image I view is that there are 1:1 previews instantly built. This is the same time it takes for Lightroom to make a Standard preview. You’ll notice the difference when zooming at 100% and waiting for Lightroom to load for a few seconds. No more waiting with On1 RAW.

Rating images is virtually the same in Lightroom, except they added purple to the color labels, which you can access by striking “0.” You can unstar-rate an image by striking the “`” key. I use “Lights Out” mode for Lightroom when selecting, but I couldn’t find the equivalent option in On1. I am not too worried about that. Photo Mechanic still ranks as the best for culling. Better yet, these star ratings and color labels will read from the XMPs saved in Photo Mechanic as well.

Nondestructiveness and Syncability

Nondestructive editing is a must when working with your Raw files. There’s nothing more annoying than having to render PSDs just to start your creative edits. This brings up an important point for choosing the right Preference settings right out of the gate. Go to Preference by holding Command and the comma key. I like keyboard shortcuts for everything. Go to the Files tab and, under the Sidecar Options, check the box below. Similar to XMP files from Adobe, these proprietary sidecar files save your metadata outside the program.

This is even more useful for sharing files between computers and seeing the edits immediately. Yes, I said that right, sharing files between computers allows you to instantly share metadata on the fly. No more saving metadata to files and reading metadata when working in a different catalog. This was and is a huge workflow for Lightroom when working on multiple machines and backing up catalogs, saving metadata, importing metadata, etc. Say no to inefficiency and yes to On1 RAW 2017.

Working in a cloud-based system would be the ideal way to do this. In the Browse panel to the left, you can choose to use Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive folders. These local folders continually sync to your cloud storage and allow for machine-to-machine syncability. You may be worried that your Internet is too slow and this would not be efficient for you. Well, that is why you are accessing your Raw files from a local folder that syncs changes to your cloud storage app.

So why isn’t it slow? With the option to autosave ON1’s proprietary metadata files we selected earlier, these are the only files that are changing and syncing. That means we aren’t having to save image files with every editing change; it’s completely nondestructive. These total in size form 10 to 100 kilobytes, which is nothing. Try it out for yourself. This is huge for photo teams accessing networked drives and sharing files across the network. All in all, I am very happy with the speed and quick access I have to the images to start editing. Now, on to the other panels listed on the right-hand side: Develop, Effects, Layers and Resize.

Extensive Develop Panel Adjustments

As soon as I start working on my image, I notice the Overall or basic settings are a bit out of order and my image is much sharper. Not to worry: On1 is thinking about how we edit. I wouldn’t mess with white balance before I get my exposure and tone settings dialed in. Just like Lightroom, sharpening is automatically applied. We can get into that setting later.

I do, however, utilize the before-and-after previews when editing. It seems I have only a split-down-the-middle option for now, and I hope this will be updated soon. For now, I can strike the “\” key to toggle my shot out of camera and On1 edit. I am also missing my filmstrip, which allows me to quickly cycle between images; strike the “F” key to bring this back.

Now that I am feeling a bit more familiar with On1 Develop, let’s dive in. Starting with the Tone section, we have the usual suspects from Exposure to Black Point, along with the ability to auto-tone the image. Wait, ON1 dropped the Clarity slider and replaced it with Structure? What’s that? I’ve used this before in Nik Silver Effects Pro 2, and I think it does a much better job with skin tones. This boosts the midtones and works with contrast more locally. I like it better.

Moving down to the Color section, we see similar settings from Temp and Tint, to Saturation and Vibrance. They added a Reduce Vibrance on Skin feature that works quite well. Originally, Vibrance was designed to do this, but it still turns the skin orange and the suits and dress blue. Now you have the ability to remove this without dropping all the orange or blue tones with HSL. This new feature in the Purity section allows you to desaturate your image in the highlights and shadow tones separately. It’s great for fixing these issues.

Clicking the Show More button, we have so many new options that make this program worth having. They added the ability to retouch skin with sliders. Skin Retouching is an intuitive adjustment that allows you to select the skin tone and a range of other tones. It gives you control of blemish removal, skin smoothing, shine and tint evenness. This tool serves my beauty edit workflow well.

ON1’s Sharpening panel had quite an overhaul as well, as adding an opacity slider to allow you to reduce this effect on the entire image. You can choose predetermined settings for output to automate your slider settings. They added different processes to sharpen images, including High Pass, Progressive and UnSharp Mask. (15) There is a new section dedicated to protecting certain tones like shadows, highlights and skin. The program is focused on protecting skin tones—I am too.

A couple of missing features are lens correction and camera profile settings. After researching these settings, it appears that lens correction is auto-applied and can be manually adjusted in the Transform panel. In terms of camera profile, the image untouched looks better than Adobe Standard in Lightroom. I assume On1 is automatically controlling this profile, which looks similar to Adobe’s Camera Neutral.

Layers, Layers, Layers

Jumping into On1 Develop local adjustments, I can edit with brushes and layer my adjustments. To do this, strike the “K” key at any time while in On1 Develop. Yes, you heard me right, I can layer these adjustments. It’s way less clunky than the edit pin system in Lightroom. Your adjustments are pretty straightforward, with some added predetermined settings.

The brush settings are similar to Lightroom, and the Perfect brush has been added as well. This is called Automask in Lightroom. It works pretty similarly in that you can paint over hard edges, and it separates these for you. Hold Command and the “R” key to turn this on and off.

There are a lot of keyboard shortcuts for making your brush work so much faster. To toggle the Paint In and Paint Out brush setting on your mask, strike the “X” key or hold Option while clicking and dragging the cursor over an area. I find the Option + click and drag method to be much faster. Changing the brush size is easy: To increase it, strike the “]” key; to reduce the size, hit “[.” To change the feather, hold Shift and the “[“ “]” keys to increase or decrease. The same goes for brush opacity, except you hold the Option key. Striking the “O” key allows you to view the mask overlay with your image.

Moving into On1 Effects, we can layer filters in the same way as Local adjustments. Using Textures on my creative edits has always forced me to open my exported images into Photoshop. Now I can do this all in a single program without exporting anything. (20) With textures, I have to mask out the skin, so this effect doesn’t make the client look bad. All I have to do is strike “B” and toggle the mode to Paint Out. Another great feature is that I can import my textures, even the ones loaded to Photoshop. This is a must for my creative workflow.

Other useful filters include Color Enhancer, Dynamic Contrast and Skin Retouching, which gives you more control over your images. All of these allow more localized adjustments because they all have paintable masks. Let’s move into the world of masking.

The Versatility of Masking

As if On1 RAW doesn’t already give your images more flexibility in color correction and creative processing, they have brought an effective masking solution to each Effects filter, along with opacity sliders. Much like Local Adjustments, you can stack or layer these effects and paint the effects in or out as you see fit.

These masks are adjustable after you close the program, and you can always reset to start over. I find that inverting the mask (Command + “I”) and painting in the effect is quicker when working with smaller areas. You can also quickly copy and paste the mask created to other filters. This is a huge advantage over Lightroom.

The Results

On1 is giving Lightroom and other Raw processors a run for their money. This program is starting to look like a one-stop shop for photographers. From instantly browsing images in your cloud storage to editing beyond basic settings, with On1 Develop, you can do quite a bit in the first five minutes after opening your image. You can add creative effects with masking capabilities, sync them to other images and save metadata between computers.

The only question remains: Are you going to try out this software for yourself? Grab it now while it’s on sale.

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Organize Your Photographic Chaos in Lightroom CC

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


Organize Your Photographic Chaos in Lightroom CC

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Working in photography can be chaotic without a certain level of organization. Once the shoots are all over for the week and you are ready to start feeding your images into your computer system, you have to make the decision to be organized. Trust me, the struggle is real. I just want to plug in the card reader, copy the images to the computer, and start culling and editing. Having to worry about storage and backup is not a priority, right? Or it’s just too much of a hassle to deal with—your clients need their images like yesterday! Well, if you don’t have a solid plan and are beyond unorganized, those clients might not get these images because you either lost or accidentally deleted the only copy of them. Get out of your own way and design an easy plan for your files.

Lightroom is a great program for organization, and even a lot of post-production. So stop using Abobe Bridge. Are you still using Photoshop CS1 as well? Stay away from operating system file applications like File Explorer (PC) and Finder (Mac) to copy/move files or build folder trees to organize. Learn to love Lightroom—it’s your friend! By understanding some fundamental components of Lightroom, you will be able to create a plan that works for you.

Import Into Lightroom

Whether you just bought Lightroom and are opening it for the first time, or have used it in the past, we have to start with a catalog. Creating a master catalog is a great way to organize everything into one organized archival space. Let’s do that: Create a catalog and start from there. For current Lightroom users, you may have a file lingering in your Pictures user folder named Lightroom Catalog.lrcat already; if you do, copy that file to a new location and rename it. Name this file “Master Catalog” and open it.

Now we have an empty catalog with which to begin building our organizational plan for the thousands of files scattered across multiple hard drives and memory cards. Take a deep breath. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s simple to execute.

The easiest way to import images into Lightroom is to drag and drop the device or folder from your operating system’s file application, File Explorer or Finder, into the Lightroom Catalog. This quickly allows Lightroom to automatically locate those files. You can even add other folders to the import. By holding CTRL or CMD and clicking on folders under the File section listed in the Source panel on the left-hand side of the Import module, you can add content to import.

I recommend doing this for memory cards as well to enable the ability to import from multiple cards; if you have only one memory card, choose the card under the Devices section in the Source panel. Once the files are selected, we are ready to examine the types of import options available.

Copying Files

At the top of the Import module, we must choose type of import. These options include Copy and DNG, Copy, Move and Add (6). The Copy options are necessary when we need to pull data from one source and store to another.

Ingesting your memory cards is a perfect scenario. There’s a big decision to make: create a DNG or copy the Raw? I avoid creating DNGs because I want the proprietary camera Raw copied so I can work from it, which saves a step and makes my workflow more efficient. I could argue until I am blue in the face with the post-production gurus out there about DNG versus Raw. DNG files embed metadata rather than using a sidecar file like Raws do (called an XMP file). DNGs are recognizable in older versions of Adobe Camera Raw, whereas Raws are less flexible. Read up on it if you want to use DNGs—don’t just take my word for it.

Copying requires you to choose a location or destination for these files. In the right side panels, the Destination section automatically expands. Let the file organization begin! We can create a new subfolder, choose to organize by capture date folders or choose a preexisting folder on the destination source drive.

I have my storage drive setup for clients with a folder tree of Year < Type of Event < Client Name. I create subfolders as follows: Originals, Export and Working. I generally don’t veer from this folder tree organization. For personal work, it’s a whole other monster, partially because my wife and I import images of our son separately. Unless it’s a special event like his first Christmas or yearly progression, I organize by date in a subfolder called “Raw Originals.” We keep things simple for the tens of thousands of images we have so far.

Move is the next option in the Import module; this is available only for folders listed under the Files section of the Source panel. The Destination panel opens and requires you to choose a location for the file transfer. This option is useful when you have imported files to a temporary location on site at a shoot or if you are archiving files to another storage device. The options for the Destination panel are the same as Copy import.

Building Raw Previews

Add is the only option for simply adding files to your catalog without copying or moving them from the source. As you noticed, the Destination panel disappears and you are left with only the File Handling and Apply During Import panels. Under File Handling, you can choose to build Previews. Understanding how Lightroom renders previews for your files is important. Minimal is the best option for a quick import to begin editing; you will notice that each file you click on has to load in order to view or edit it. Zooming into an image can take even longer; we will get into that in a bit . The next option is Embedded and Sidecar, which work similarly to how Photo Mechanic works. These load quickly but do not render the previews good enough to even cull images seamlessly.

Standard previews are the way to go when you want to begin culling images in the fit-to-screen view within minutes of the files being imported. These load quite quickly and actually automatically generate when develop changes are made to your images. Remember that previews in Lightroom are generated based on settings in Lightroom with the Raw file linked. If you edit an image, Lightroom must rebuild a Standard preview.

The same goes for 1:1 previews. These allow you to zoom in at 100%, which is important when culling images to check sharpness. Building these larger 1:1 previews can take 10 images about a minute to load. That is a long time when you shoot thousands of images for a wedding. Are you on a tight deadline to get the work out the door? If so, build Standard Previews first and, by changing some of your catalog settings in preferences, you can cut a lot of time out preparing your catalog to cull. Lower the Standard preview size and quality so rendering takes even less time. Then you can build 1:1 previews for the selected files and walk away from the computer for an hour.

We haven’t even mentioned Smart Previews, and these are awesome. You have the ability to build these at import as well. This is a whole other type of preview generated in Lightroom. Smart Previews are actually low-resolution DNG files saved within the .lrdata file to allow you to work offline. No, I don’t mean without Internet; I mean without the original files connected. This makes Lightroom lightning fast and more versatile for mobility or working on multiple machines.

Nonetheless, you still need to build Standard previews like any other image file. Also, the old routine was to unlink the Raws by either disconnecting the drive or relinking to a folder not containing the Raws, so the Smart Previews would kick in. Now, Lightroom finally gave users the performance option to choose how Lightroom uses these previews over the originals.

Thank you, Adobe, for finally doing something about the lag in Lightroom CC. You Lightroom 5 users upset about CC know what I am talking about.

Adding to Collections

This is my least used option at import, mostly because I import large groups of images at once. You can create Collections and Collection sets as well as add images to your current ones. This groups the images together into a virtual sorting option that only reads in Lightroom. This is unlike applying attributes like star ratings, color labels and flags that can be saved with the other metadata of the file.

Backup at Import

Now you have a hidden option in the Import module to back up files to a second source location as well; this feature is so important. It’s listed under the File Handling panel. Check the box and click the file path below to choose the backup location. Not every ingest software has this capability—before Lightroom, I would use Apple’s Image Capture until realizing Nikon Transfer that came with my camera was the way to go. Forget all of that—I can back up in Lightroom along with copying, moving and adding files as I go. There’s no reason not to back up; it’s common sense.

Applying IPTS Metadata and Keywords

IPTS metadata includes copyright, studio name, URL (website), job name, keywords, location and date. This is an overlooked process when ingesting photos into your computer. Copyright, for instance, is a big topic for many of us. Adding copyright information after capture saves your contact information for permissions and usage. Keeping your guard up with digital images becomes difficult when you post them online or deliver thumb drives to your clients. You should get into the habit of adding this information at import.

Post Import File Management

You should never move imported files outside Lightroom. This causes chaos for your catalog. Move, rename and remove files in the Library module of Lightroom. Moving and creating new folder trees on your hard drive can be done in the Library module on the left-hand side under the Folders panel. Click the “+” button to create new folders or subfolders.

Select the appropriate parent folder; access this by right-clicking on the current folder displayed and choose Show Parent Folder. Now click the “+” button and choose Add Folder or Add Subfolder. You can preselect files to move for a fast transfer, or simply drag and drop selected files into the new folder created. It’s very simple, and should be done only in Lightroom.

Collections can be very versatile for organizing files beyond attributes, keywords, dates, etc. Adding these is as simple as moving files in the Folders panel. Click the “+” button in the Collections panel to start making Collections and Collection sets. Think of these as smart folders that exist only in Lightroom. They do not tamper with your file structure outside the catalog. They can be very handy when you need to refine your currently organized folders. I created some for my son’s first year. We add images to Collections each month to make them easy to sort, rather than using the Library filter by date and all the drop-down folders. That is a nightmare.

Quick Culling Process

There are so many ways to cull images in Lightroom. I could write an article explaining how each one benefits the user. I am going to make this short and sweet. Part of organizing your images is to cull out the losers. Flags are the easiest way to keep track of images you want. They also provide a way to signify you have already reviewed these images by giving them a rejected flag. This is brilliant and can remove added work to your already stressful workload.

When culling, I start in Library module. I double-click an image and tap the “L” key twice. It’s lights-out mode for selecting, also known as Loupe mode. I can then add flags by using “x” for rejected flag, “p” for keeper flag and “u” for unflag. Hold CTRL or CMD and arrow down to add a rejected flag or up to add the keeper flag (37). I find it easiest to not have to hold down a button the entire time. To cull, I select out the bad ones only and strike the “x” key. If I make a mistake, I hit the “u” key. Then I choose the Library filter “Flag,” select unflagged, select all and strike the “p” key.

Things to Keep in Mind

Staying organized with Lightroom can mean the difference between causing chaos and controlling it. Beyond the simple time-saving factor involved in managing your files, you can rest easy when it’s all said and done.

I get it: You jump on the computer and you just want to cull/edit already. Starting at import, you set the tone for your entire file management structure. Just remember to make an organization plan that fits your schedule and workflow.

These are simple tips I have developed for myself. They are not meant for every photographer. Any way you do it, get organized to get out of your own way.


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Tips for Skin Tones – Do’s and Don’ts for Pre and Post

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


Tips for Skin Tones – Do’s and Don’ts for Pre and Post


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Getting the correct skin tones can be one of the toughest things for a wedding photographer. It’s a huge issue when comparing cameras and camera brands. One photographer likes the skin tones that come out of a Nikon, while another prefers Canon. Here in New Jersey, I deal with a wide variety of skin tones—everything from super-pale to African American, and everything in between, including the all-too-famous Jersey fake bake.


To be frank, I don’t think I’ve perfected the art of getting the exact same skin tone in every shot, or at least the tone I want. My goal is to achieve a tone that accurately represents my client in the most flattering way in every shot. But at a wedding, I don’t have as much control over the light as I would like. Ceremonies are often in dark churches with red carpets, stained glass and no flash allowed.


But there are some things we can do pre and post to make sure we are getting the best possible light and skin tones.


If you’re photographing your clients outside in a grassy field, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume the natural light provides a good color. The light that’s reflecting off the ground and hitting the client’s face is absorbing the color from the surrounding area. If you’re just allowing the reflective light to hit your client, then you’re allowing green light from the grass to hit them, which is bad. The same thing goes for pretty much any other place you photograph. Whatever surface the light is reflecting off, that color will reflect back on your client’s face and skin tones, altering them in a way neither of you will like.


The solution is either a reflector or a light source. I prefer reflectors because they’re easy. Using the white side or silver side of the reflector ensures I am bouncing light back onto my client that is colorless rather than tinted green. It’s the easiest and fastest method as long as you have an assistant. You can see what you’re doing because you can see the light on the client’s face. Alternatively, you can place the reflector, black side up, on the ground in front of the subject to help block some of the green reflection on the face.


When I use my own light source, such as off-camera flash, I go for the Profoto B1 or B2 because of their power and portability. I bring one of each to every wedding. I use the B1 if I’m in a place where I can position it on a light stand without fear of it falling over or being carried away by the wind. I use a B2 for a more run-and-gun scenario, where I’m short on time, have to move quickly or can’t trust that the wind won’t pull a Mary Poppins on my umbrella.


I always recommend using a light shaper of some kind. My go-to is the umbrella, preferably deep white, depending on the situation, with a baffle over it that softens light and makes it look a little more natural. Ideally, I want a softbox or beauty dish, but the umbrella is much faster to set up in a pinch. I lean toward that unless I have time to set up my portable beauty dish.


Even when you do your best to get it right in camera, sometimes you just don’t capture the exact skin tone you want. That’s where post-production comes into play. You’ll see later in the video in this article exactly how I treat skin tones in post-production. Lightroom is where I do most of the work, because I can quickly control the saturation and luminance of specific colors. I look to control red, orange for darker skin tones or tanned skin, and orange and yellow for more fair skin. Depending on the client’s actual skin tone, you can also brighten mid-tones and whites to brighten the skin a little.


Skin tones are subjective, especially in the mind of your clients. Many of my clients spend a lot of time and money tanning, whether it’s spray tanning, bed tanning or real tanning. If I make their skin too pale and completely absent of that tan, they’re going to be upset. At the same time, if I let them see what their tan looks like straight out of camera, they might be concerned that they would give Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas a run for their money.


It is a fine line. Keep in mind exactly how much saturation to leave in their skin color. I edit this in only my favorite photos from a wedding day because those are the photos that end up in my online portfolio. We don’t edit our proofs in house because it would be too costly to have my editors do skin tone corrections to each image. I send those out for processing.


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Tips for Tethering: 5 Things You Should Know with Vanessa Joy

Thursday, December 1st, 2016


Tips for Tethering: 5 Things You Should Know with Vanessa Joy


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It’s fairly easy to connect your camera to your computer via USB and start tethering to Lightroom. You can even use your camera’s native software if Lightroom isn’t your thing. With tethering, there are a lot of tricks that can make the process easier, faster and more stable. Tethering properly can boost your marketing and SEO with very little effort if you know how to do it right. This month, we look at five ways to maximize tethering.

Tip 1: Use keywords via metadata during import.


The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a metadata preset in Lightroom based on the type of work you’re photographing. For example, if I’m importing pictures that are for my wedding photography business into Lightroom, I’ll have a wedding photography metadata preset that includes keywords like “New Jersey wedding photographer,” “luxury weddings” and “best NJ photographer.” If you’re a headshot photographer, include keywords like “corporate business photos,” “LinkedIn pictures” and “headshots.” After you set the metadata presets, those keywords will be embedded in all the images you are importing and exporting through Lightroom.
When you have keywords like these attached to your photos and you upload them online, Google sees them and recognizes your imagery as search results for those keywords, helping boost your SEO and marketing. In the same settings, you can also apply a copyright so all your photos have your copyright information listed in the metadata.


After you’ve set up the metadata present, you need to tell Lightroom to apply the metadata automatically to all the images that are coming in. To do this, go to your import settings and select that metadata preset to be part of the import process. It will automatically apply your metadata preset to the images. You can change this depending on what kind of shoot you are doing. I recommend having a few different presets based on the pictures you typically shoot so that the appropriate keywords are assigned to them.
Tip 2: Apply lens profile corrections.


Lenses have different profiles based on their make, model and focal length. When you apply lens correction settings, you are allowing Lightroom to automatically correct for distortion, vignetting, perspective and the like. The develop module is where you’ll create a preset that applies the lens corrections, which will automatically recognize the lens that you are using and apply the right profile based on the manufacturer’s corrective settings.


To do this, select any photo in the development module and apply the lens corrections, which are toward the bottom of the settings and to the right. Save those settings as a preset in the presets tab on the left by clicking the “+” sign. Go into your import settings and apply the presets to the auto import just as you did the metadata.
Tip 3: Make sure all your connections are secure.


This is a threefold tip. Having a handle on your cords and gear helps minimize liability and allows you to shoot without a mess of cables everywhere. Additionally, you want to prevent any of your equipment from being accidentally damaged, and you need to make sure you have a secure connection from your camera to your computer. Seems like a no-brainer, but without that kind of stability and ease-of-use surrounding your gear, the connection for tethering can end up causing a whole bunch of problems and interruptions during your session.


I like using jerk stoppers and other fine products from Tether Tools. To see what gear I use, go to the Gear We Love section of (Note the cup holder attachment for the Tether Table, a favorite of mine.)
Tip 4: Use your camera’s software.


Most people know that you can tether your camera using Lightroom. What is less known is being able to incorporate your camera’s software as well, like Canon EOS Utility. This gives you more control over your camera from the computer, including adjusting focus, exposure settings and white balance. Another perk is being able to tether while using live view, which is great if your camera is in a position where you can’t see through the viewfinder. You can run Canon EOS Utility and Lightroom simultaneously while tethering, giving you a ton of control while Lightroom ingests the photos.
Tip 5: Memory cards matter.


Finally, you want to make sure you are shooting on the fastest possible memory card. At a minimum, I use a SanDisk 160mb/s compact flash card. Shoot on a single memory card if your camera has dual slots. If you don’t have a fast memory card, you’re going to bog down the speed at which your images tether through Lightroom. The camera first likes to write the image to the card and then import it into Lightroom (though you can change that to not write to the card at all), so having a slow card lags the entire process.


If you have two cards in your camera, it slows it down even more because then it has to write to two cards before tethering, which can cause everything to freeze up. That’s not the kind of thing you want to happen on a shoot in front of clients.


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Retouching Underwater Images: What You Need to Know with Kristina Sherk

Thursday, December 1st, 2016


Retouching Underwater Images: What You Need to Know with Kristina Sherk

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I recently got into underwater photography. While working on one of my images, it occurred to me that retouching and post-production for underwater imagery pose some unique challenges and differ from images taken in regular situations. It’s a completely different atmosphere, so there’s a lot to think about when retouching underwater shots.


Some atmospheric qualities don’t hold true in water. What you see isn’t always what you get. An example is the lack of gravity and air, but there are many layers to this onion.


Photographers and retouchers must study color and learn how it works on a fundamental level. I obsess over it at times. If you’ve ever taken a photo underwater, you noticed that the images have a greenish/bluish tint. Here’s why, and please forgive the geek-speak below.


Each color in the spectrum has a different wavelength. Reds have long wavelengths (around 700nm), while blue and violet wavelengths are short (blue is 500nm and indigo is 400nm). Since water is 800 times denser than air, it’s harder for the wavelengths of some colors to travel through water. Think of it as the longer/faster wavelengths exerting more energy and getting tired faster. We’ve all heard that “slow and steady wins the race.” The colors with the shorter/slower wavelengths travel farther down into deeper water. The reds, oranges and yellows get absorbed in shallow water, and the greens, blues, indigos and violets penetrate deeper into the water.


When I tone an underwater image, I apply default tweaks to the hues and saturations of all the different colors. Since the warmer colors of the spectrum disappear at much shallower depths, I give them a little help by increasing their saturations, and tweak their hues to make the warmer colors more vivid. Here are screen-grabs of the default color treatments I apply to hue and saturation in Lightroom.


Although I like to think I know a fair amount about retouching, I found out quickly that retouching underwater shots presents a whole new set of obstacles.


After color changes, one of the biggest problems with underwater photography is particulates in the water that are immediately illuminated as soon as you fire your flash. It’s like how an image would look if you left your camera body sensor side up, without the body cap on, and left it in a woodworking workshop for a year. That’s what the photos can look like if captured in bad “vis” (as scuba divers say, short for “visibility”).


One of the best techniques for globally fixing this type of problem is to use the Filter > Noise > Dust and Scratches command. This algorithm looks for small circles or lines that would resemble dust on a negative back in the film days. I run this command on a duplicate layer of the background and then erase the dust and scratches layer from the model by hiding the layer behind a black mask. Usually a radius of about 3 works for eliminating most of the particulate.


Here’s an image where the particulate in the water won the battle. I love this shot, but as the model was performing her contortion moves, she kicked up a big cloud of sand, ruining the shot. We have plans to replicate this image on our next Mermaid Portfolio Workshop in the Bahamas, so all is not lost.


The advantage of shooting in water that’s shallow enough to stand in is that it conserves energy for you and your model. If you’re freediving (holding your breath while shooting), exerting energy leads to a faster heart rate and more oxygen in your blood. This decreases the time you have to take your images, because you’ll constantly be coming up for air. The disadvantage of shooting in shallow water is that you increase the particulate in the water and decrease the vis with every kick you and your model make.


At our Mermaid Portfolio Workshops, we tell the models to be cognizant of how much sand they are kicking up. This is much easier said than done when the models are not only modeling underwater, but also wearing a 30-pound mermaid tail that, as you can imagine, can kick up quite a bit of sand.


Another important thing when shooting underwater images is a feature that is somewhat new in Lightroom. It’s called the Dehaze slider, and it’s located in the Effects portion of the right-hand menu in the Develop Module. This slider does a fantastic job of increasing the localized contrast in an image.


My last tip deals more with models than post-production. Since most of my experience with underwater photography—prior to me picking up a housing and camera—was in modeling, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a few tips about choosing your models carefully.


Modeling in a weightless atmosphere is very different from a regular photoshoot. You’ll want to work with a model with underwater experience. There is a steep learning curve. If you aren’t lucky enough to find someone with that experience near you, you might look to dancers or gymnasts. Both of these skills translate well to modeling underwater since being aware of the placement of one’s extremities is important in both gymnastics and dance. Another little-known fact is that singers have excellent breath-holds because of the constant diaphragm training they practice.


It’s important as you progress in your photography career to learn about how your shooting conditions and environment affect your photographs. Extreme cold and heat can also affect how your camera sees light/color. I challenge you to define your most frequent shooting conditions and see how you can improve your images by learning how to shoot in different environmental conditions.


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Kicking Ass with the Canon 5D Mark IV in Lightroom CC with Dustin Lucas

Thursday, December 1st, 2016


Kicking Ass with the Canon 5D Mark IV in Lightroom CC with Dustin Lucas


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Whether you are a photo enthusiast or a professional photographer, you are continually being sold on the fact that you need new gear and features like new and improved image sensors, low-light capabilities, better autofocus, 4K video, movable display screen and touchscreen, just to touch on a few. Yes, it’s that time of year when camera vendors are shoveling out their new and improved, latest and greatest updates to their flagship camera bodies. There is nothing simple about the update to the Canon 5D series. Welcome the fourth model, the 5D Mark IV, to the industry.

Now, you may be saying it’s a meek comparison to the Canon 1DX series, and you are right in some regards. The 1DX Mark II has fewer pixels, meaning they are individually larger, hailing in low-light sensitivity. It has a completely built-in-grip body, better battery life, etc. Being a Nikon guy myself, please save the boos for after the article; it says a lot about the fact that the Canon 5D cameras are used by the majority of wedding photographers. This is not just a coincidence or a marketing scheme. It’s pure and simple: The Canon 5D Mark series is the professional standard.

Reader disclaimer: I will not be covering the trademarked Dual Pixel feature of the Canon 5D Mark IV for now due to Adobe’s lack of support. You never know when they will release it when their response is “We’re working on it.” Remember the change from Adobe Lightroom 5 to CC, and how slow it ran? It took until version 2015.7 to resurface Smart Preview to the performance panel. Not to mention the video performance upgrade that made things even worse. With the newest update, you can actually open your Canon 5D Mark IV Raw files—no more converting to DNGs.

ISO and Dynamic Range

After we import our Raws and build 1:1 previews, we are ready to start examining the ISO sensitivity and pushing the advertised 13.6 Evs, or exposure values. I am not going to get into a scientific debate; you can get all that data from DXO’s website,, if you are interested in how this compares with other camera bodies. I am more interested in how this camera performs while photographing clients. We will be looking mostly at dynamic range and what Lightroom processing allows us to get before a heavy amount of noise is introduced. We will discuss noise reduction later.

Here we are looking at a silhouette shot at ISO 50 in front of a hotel room window. (1) Based on our camera settings at capture, the shutter speed was 1/1,000 of a second; with an aperture of f4.0, we are about 1/3 stop brighter for exposure than the “sunny 16 rule” would calculate. Sunny 16 is a fundamental rule when photographing in bright daylight: When shooting at f16, our ISO and shutter speed should match. In this case, the shutter speed would be at 1/800 of a second, but details are everything, from the bright blue sky to the shadows on the bride’s back. (2) This image is staged to be a silhouette, but as you can see, by lifting the exposure 1.5 stops, we begin to add in just enough shadow detail. (3) To add even more, we can lift the shadows, but remember that you are flattening the contrast. (4) This is not always an appealing tactic.

Dropping our highlights down to –100, we start to get our sky back to “shot out of camera,” or SOOC. (5) I am not advocating for a high-dynamic-range, or HDR, stylized edit for this image; I just want to show you the capabilities with this Raw exposure. We have the most dynamic range at this lowest ISO setting. The idea here is to attempt to edit this image closer to how this looked in person. (6)

Resolution and Details

Moving away from exposure values and dynamic range, we now want to examine the 1:1 pixel perspective along with the details of the image. (7) This is why we built 1:1 previews and are linked with the Raw file instead of Smart Previews. (8A) This camera’s 4480×6720 resolution can be utilized to its fullest potential here. (8B) Remember that we are viewing a Raw image prior to it being rasterized and actual pixels assigned. We are able to view the native resolution and essentialy get the most flexibility out of the image at this stage.

Starting at the bottom of the frame, we can see the softness in the carpet due to the wider aperture used. (9) With wider-angle focal lengths, the depth of field is greater from the start versus a longer focal length. F4.0 is the lowest aperture available, and it allows the entire dress and subject to be tack-sharp. (10) You wouldn’t want the city to be as sharp as the bride here—emphasis on your subject. (11)

Moving down to the Details panel in Lightroom, we are tempted to fix the sharpness based on the falloff of the lens and the anti-aliasing filter. At first glance, this image is really sharp in the details of the dress, but with all the shadow recovery, we added some noise and could use some sharpness at the edge of the frame.

First, let’s add some luminance to soften the skin. Make sure to remove any color noise. Since this image was shot as a very low ISO, we shouldn’t have any noise, right? Remember that when lifting the dark tones, especially with shadow recovery, you are introducing noise to add detail in an underexposed area. (12) Lower ISO settings greatly help, but you still have noise. Once we have those settings dialed in, we can balance out the softened effect by adding some sharpening. (13a, 13b)

In Lightroom, under the Sharpening panel, the setting is defaulted to 25. By adding roughly 50 to 60 points, we can start to see the difference before the image looks artificially sharp. (14) When you hold Option or the Alt key while adjusting this slider, the image changes to grayscale. You can focus in on the details without the color tones getting in the way. (15) This panel is comparable to working in Photoshop and what is known as Input Sharpening.

Refer to my previous article, “Attention to Details: Better Results With Sharpening,” for more on this topic. Lightroom’s inability to adjust lens sharpness falloff is an issue. Maybe another article about Capture One is needed.

Using Camera Profiles

In the Camera Calibration panel settings, you can adjust the standard profile provided by Adobe to the emulated Canon manufacturer profiles. These are designed to emulate the Canon profiles. You will get different results with the Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software. Typically I use Camera Standard or Neutral, depending on the initial results; both of these provide a greater range of contrast, as you can see after changing from Adobe Standard. In this case, Camera Portrait suits this image, and we have to do some adjusting since the shadows are blocked up, meaning a bit darker. Apply your Camera Profile first, and then adjust in the Basic panel for future reference. (16)

The Results

As we tinker around in the newest update to Lightroom, the Canon 5D Mark IV Raw files are finally editable with the same tools as in the previous camera models. With the increase in resolution, dynamic range and low-light sensitivity, we are able to zoom in farther with 1:1 previews and pull more details into the underexposed areas without adding too much noise.

This camera is hard to pass up. It might not be wise to wait on the next improved model. The only feature missing for Adobe is the Canon Dual Pixel adjustment tool, which is found only in Canon DPP software at the moment.

Check out my next articles when this update drops for a rundown of the Canon Dual Pixel tool as well as how other Raw processors compare to Adobe Camera Raw, or ACR.


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From Capture to Black and White with Dustin Lucas

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


From Capture to Black and White with Dustin Lucas


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When I began doing photography in school, I was using a manual 35mm camera with black-and-white film. Nothing out of the ordinary for most students taking their first photography class: You are fixed focus with a 50mm lens and have to process your own film.

Over the past decade, the transition from analog to digital has made a significant impact. It made perfect sense to buy a digital SLR, and I did not resist the change. I loved shooting black-and-white film, and have always been interested in recreating that grainy, rich-toned print in my digital images. With Lightroom CC and the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin, I can get back some of that analog black and white.

Making a great black-and-white image isn’t always about post-processing. You need to shoot for it. Most DSLR cameras allow users to shoot in Raw + JPEG mode, and you can set the JPEG file to record in black and white so you can review in camera how the tonality compares.

If you have a spare DSLR lying around, you can always send it off to get the image sensor converted to infrared. IR conversions are popular with low-end backup cameras. It allows you to get in-camera monochromatic or hyper-stylized color imagery. Otherwise, you can always wish for a Leica monochromatic camera, though most of us don’t have 7K to blow. For now, we can stick with a color Raw file and import it into Lightroom CC to see what Adobe has to offer.

Converting to Black and White

After opening the image in the Develop module, we can convert to black and white a few different ways. My first instinct is to strike the “V” key to instantly convert the image and start working in the Basic Panel for exposure, contrast and recovery.

When converting your image, you can use the black-and-white mixing adjustments in the HSL panel. (Image 1) You are basically narrowing down this panel to Luminance or Black and White Mix. This tool gives you a lot of flexibility in customizing the color tones in the image and adjusting the light and darkness for these values. (Image 2) It’s a much better option than dropping your Saturation slider to –100; you can see the difference. (Image 3) It also allows you to choose parts of the image to affect with the target adjustment tool. It is as easy as clicking on a specific area and dragging your cursor up or down to adjust. (Image 4)

Another quick way to convert your images to black and white is to change your camera profile to Camera Monochrome. (Image 5) Typically, this is set to Adobe Standard, and changing it can alter the appearance of your image. For color portraits, I use Camera Neutral and build up my contrast. Applying Camera Monochrome turns off the Black and White Mix panel, so if you are interested in a quicker global option to convert your images, this is a great option. This profile mimics how your camera would photograph in monochrome in camera. As you can see, this is camera-manufacturer specific. Canon does not offer this profile, so we will stick with the other methods.

To make converting even more efficient, and to develop settings custom-adjusted per image, we can build a preset to apply before we even start editing this image. When saving a Develop Preset, check the Auto Black and White Mix option and Auto Tone to convert; this gets the image already looking pretty good. (Image 6) In order to view these options in the New Develop Preset dialog box, you must be working on an image that was already converted to black and white. Once the preset is saved, you can apply it globally to any color or black-and-white images. (Image 7)

Black-and-White Density and Toning

In black-and-white photography, it’s all about the toning. As we have seen with just simply converting our digital color images to monochrome, they are in need of some work. Let’s start by talking about density of your images’ tonal range. This relates to film in that the more density in your negative the better, meaning good contrast from the blackest point to the dark and light midtones as well as clean whites. The term flat negative means a more limited range of density, requiring a lot of additional work in the darkroom with contrast filters.

So what does this have to do with Lightroom and making black-and-white images? Well, the wider range of contrast is directly related to your histogram and applies the same way. (Image 8) Density can be measured by where the edges of your histogram end. The left side is absolute black and the right is for white tones. You can quickly adjust this by holding Shift while double-clicking “whites” and “blacks” in the Basic panel. (Image 9) Remember that when making this adjustment, it accounts for the total image, not just your subject’s skin tones. The best practice for using these sliders in determining your tonal range is to first adjust exposure for your subject, then apply the black-and-white point slider for density. That is pretty simple. (Image 10)

Lightroom has other great settings to choose from. Clarity is a fantastic tool to add contrast to your midtones. (Image 11) This is huge for black-and-white photography. Take into account the effect it will have on your subject; adding this may make your landscape look epic, but it will darken the contours on the face and can look unflattering for the skin. A good rule of thumb is to leave the black-and-white point sliders at zero while adjusting things like clarity, contrast and tone curve. (Image 12)

The Contrast slider is a simple tool but is not very flexible in how it adjusts the image tonally. What I mean by tonally is that you have four areas of tone in Lightroom: highlights, lights, darks and shadows. These can all be adjusted in the Tone Curve panel—take advantage of this. (Image 13) You have the ability to apply the default S-curve contrast effect in two forms: mediums and strong. Click on Point Curve, and the dropdown options appear. (Image 14) Custom Point Curve is an option that’s quite popular with film presets, allowing black-and-white point adjustments to be combined with the tonal sliders mentioned above. (Image 15)

A great process to start with is desaturating your image by pulling the Saturation slider to –100 and applying the Strong Contrast Point Curve in the Tone Curves panel. (Image 16ab) Adding some grain in the Effects panel can start to make the image look more like a conventional black-and-white image. (Image 17) To go further in this direction, use the Nik plugin Silver Efex Pro 2 to take a great shot to the next level.

Silver Efex Pro 2 Plugin

For those of you who have not ventured into Lightroom CC plugins, I highly recommend doing so. This integration of Lightroom and the Nik software is a great option for users, especially now that Nik offers its full suite completely free. (Image 18)

Let’s open our edited image in Silver EP2. Select you image in Develop mode, navigate to the menu bar and choose Photo < Edit in < Silver EP2. You immediately get a dialog box asking you to save a copy. Keep the image at default settings, but change Resolution to 300. If you plan to edit this image further in Photoshop, you can choose Color Space: Adobe 1998, but it’s just as easy to edit entirely in Photoshop if you want to go that route. Bit Depth can be changed to 8 bits if your computer is lacking in hardware to speed up the process. (Image 19)

Click Edit. Immediately your image is converted to black and white and looks pretty neutral. (Image 20) In my March 2016 article, “Google That Sh*t – Working With Nik Collection in Photoshop,” I go more in depth into how this program is laid out. Check it out to get a better understanding of how to use Silver EP2. For now, I am going to use my custom preset Dustin B&W I to quickly show off the abilities of this software. (Image 21)

I spend the majority of my time fine-tuning in the Global Adjustments panel with Brightness, Contrast and Structure. Brightness allows you to adjust for highlights, midtones and shadows. It helps to have the histogram preset for adjusting this and contrast. As you can see, there is a gap between the right edge showing the white point is not to the edge of the clipping, meaning the image is slightly dull in the whites. Take some time to dial in these adjustments, and then let’s move on to Structure. (Image 22)

Similar to Clarity in Lightroom, Structure can have a negative impact on your subject’s skin. Zoom in to review before saving your image. Unfortunately, this is a destructive edit, so no going back after it’s done. As we slide the Structure slider into the positives, you can see the sharpening and midtone contrast boost, similar to Clarity. The contours of the couple become well-defined, and removing this effect makes our image softer. (Image 22ab) This adjustment can add a crisp look to your overall midtones and provide some tonal definition to your subject. Just be aware of the grittiness of your subject’s skin—brides don’t enjoy looking at the highly defined flaws in their skin.

For the rest of the adjustments, I tend not to add any film emulation or color filters. On occasion, I add some lens fall-off to create a quick vignette effect. This is for quick proofing, and for when I am not custom dodging and burning later. (Image 23)

The Results

We have converted our color image to black and white, and now have numerous options to dial in our toning and overall style. It all starts with a great shot, preferably one with high contrast. Then we can convert the image, and it won’t need as much work tonally. However, density is key, and dialing this in can make your black-and-white images pop.

Remember that a lot of these tools look great for the scene, but don’t always favor the subject. It’s all about their skin. Whether you are using automated presets or editing each image in Silver EP2, play around with the tools and develop your own style.


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Creating Black-and-White Landscapes in Adobe Lightroom with Kristina Sherk

Friday, September 2nd, 2016


Creating Black-and-White Landscapes in Adobe Lightroom with Kristina Sherk


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I’ve always loved black-and-white photography. It’s such a beautiful medium, ranging from bold and full of contrast to quiet and soft. Most things look good in black and white, especially landscapes. I love the calm I feel when looking at a black-and-white image. This month, I share with you how to create stunning B&W landscapes in Adobe Lightroom.


Creating a black-and-white landscape lets you get artistic with all the control you have over every facet of the photograph. That’s why we have all chosen this profession—the artistic fun side. It’s always good to take a step out of our routines and photograph things we love. It’s a great reboot for the creative eye. I love to travel and photograph landscapes, urban and rural. The world has so much to offer, and every environment is unique.


A lot of vibrant colors can be distracting in an image. Have you ever found yourself photographing the landscape in front of you because you absolutely love the texture of the rocks and movement of the water, but when you look at the image on your monitor, they feel like afterthoughts to all of the color in the shot? Convert your image to black and white and make a few minor tweaks, and suddenly the most important part of your image isn’t the colors in it, but the shapes and textures.


Here is an image where, in the color version, your eyes are drawn to the blue sky and water in the background, then to the moss on the rocks. Then, when you look at the B&W version, your eyes are drawn to the water’s movement between the rocks, the texture of the rocks and shapes of the mountains against the dark of the sky. The photo has become about the texture, shapes and forms, and not about the colors at all.


When you are creating a black-and-white image in Lightroom, it’s important to make the transition using the Black & White color mode and not just drag the Saturation slider to –100. You can do this in the Basic Tab by choosing Black & White as the Treatment, or you can use the HSL/Color/B&W Tab and choose B&W. The reason behind this is that you want to have control of how light or dark a specific color in your image is after you turn it black and white. When you convert to black and white using the Treatment or Black & White Mix, you still have complete control over the luminance of each of the colors within the original file.


Once you are familiar with converting the image to B&W, you can start to play around with the luminance sliders. Here is where it gets fun. The possibilities are never-ending. You can create limitless versions of one image, and each one will look different. You can adjust the luminosity of the colors within the image and take it to a light and bright place or give it a dark and moody appearance. Below, you’ll see the original shot plus the two black-and-white versions with their different luminance color value settings.


The versatility of B&W and B&W-toned images is wonderful. What do we mean by toned? Those are images that have colored overlay, such as sepia and cyanotype. Sometimes I find that I love an image that I have taken, but the colors are too distracting.


I know what you’re thinking: Convert the image to B&W to remove the distraction of the colors. That usually gets me started in the right direction. But sometimes you come across an image that, even after being converted to B&W, still doesn’t have that certain flavor. The colors are no longer distracting, but the image is missing that pizzazz I’m looking for. In that case, I might use a color overlay to get the image to sing.


In this image of the adult zebra and foal, the colors were a bit distracting, so I turned it black and white. It was still missing the right mood, so I added some warmth to the shot, and that’s when the image began to shine. I created the warming effect by adding the same color to both the highlights and the shadows in the Split Toning tab, and used the settings below.


Not every image will look good in black and white. An image that is monochromatic or doesn’t have a lot of contrast may not look as good as an image with a lot of different colors, especially complementary colors (colors on opposing sides of the color wheel, like blue and orange or red and green).


If you find yourself in a predicament with a monochromatic image that you really love, there are tools you can use in Lightroom to spruce it up. Say you have a photograph with a bright sky—using a graduated filter, you can darken the sky and add contrast to bring out details in the clouds.


Split toning is a great tool. Some images look marvelous with a bit of subtle color added to create color contrast between the image’s brighter and darker tones. In your Split Toning tab, you can quickly add two colors over your image to “colorize” it. You choose a color to add to the highlights, and another color to add to the shadows. Split toning usually uses two complementary colors, but you should play around with it and see what you can come up with. This is why split toning works well for black-and-white photography.


This shot of a lone giraffe has great potential for black and white, but the sky is a little bright. My solution was to use one of my Sharkpixel Globe Trotter Presets ( The nice thing about these travel presets is they incorporate graduated filters that can take your landscape imagery to incredible new places.


I went through the presets and applied them to the color version of the image until I found one with the right look, then switched it from color to B&W. The split toning from my preset stayed on the shot, giving it just the right amount of color. The last thing I did was go to my HSL/Color/B&W tab to tweak the luminance, and customize the preset to the shot. I decreased the red and yellow values to darken the sky, and increased the orange values to lighten the grass. Then I was left with a great shot that showed off the stark contrast between the sky and earth.


As you can see, B&W landscapes are extremely versatile. You can have fun playing with the settings to tweak the image and get the look you are going for.


The masters of B&W photography, like Ansel Adams, have taught us that B&W photography is all about tone, contrast and shape. It’s important to think in those terms when photographing a landscape, whether or not you are thinking about converting to B&W.


“You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” Adams once said. That was true in his day, and will continue to be true as long as photographers are photographing.


There is beauty to be captured everywhere in the world, and B&W photography is making its comeback as photographers remember the value and artistic side of B&W imagery. I hope next time you’re looking at a landscape in your Lightroom Catalog, you convert to B&W. You never know what you might come up with. The possibilities are endless.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the September issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


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