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Tighten Up the Loose Ends: Liquify Tool in Photoshop CC 2017

Saturday, July 1st, 2017


Tighten Up the Loose Ends: Liquify Tool in Photoshop CC 2017 with Dustin Lucas

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When you retouch clients, your changes can’t be noticeable. When it’s obvious that an image has been altered from reality, it’s just tacky. The sensitivity of your client should come into play as well. The last thing you want to do is make them look 30 pounds lighter because you think they will be happier with their images. This is a bad move unless your client requests it.

If I haven’t lost you with the title of this article and you think your clients should remain untouched, as they appeared through your lens, think again. Your lens distorts reality. Stop saying your photography is pure, and get up to speed with the industry. This article takes you through the do’s and don’ts of Liquify and how to navigate through the Liquify panel in Photoshop CC.

Reader beware: We are going to thin real clients and show what else this tool can do. Put your feelings aside and consider using these tips for your post-processing.

Start With the Right Workflow

You are probably wondering at what stage in the post-production you should start retouching. Make your life simple and edit from the Raw file that has been merely color-corrected for basic exposure, color and tone adjustments. Consider this workflow even when you have delivered creative edits to your client. Let’s jump into Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and review our settings.

I typically leave Clarity and Vibrance set to zero when retouching images. Another important element is Lens Correction. We want to remove lens distortion altogether before we start slimming the face and body. Checking this box can sometimes be half the battle. For pincushion distortion, it’s going to make the subject wider. Let’s keep moving.

After making our basic color correction adjustments, we need to adjust some Workflow Options before opening our Raw files in Photoshop. Access these by clicking on the text at the very bottom of the ACR screen displaying color space, bit depth, resolution, camera sensor size and PPI. You’ll notice Adobe 1998 is default and is a suitable color space for a working image in Photoshop. I set resolution to 300 when I’m planning to print images. Don’t worry about this—we are not adding or subtracting pixels here. I leave Output Sharpening unchecked because I will manually sharpen in Photoshop later.

As part of the most important feature of Photoshop, there is a checkbox for Open in Photoshop as Smart Objects. Here is a quick breakdown of what this unique file type does for us. Let’s check this box and begin exploring. After your image opens, you’ll notice the size of the document is larger than normal. This doesn’t mean you just won free pixels from Photoshop. These Smart Object-type image files will get rather large; hopefully you have some decent processing power. Check out Adobe’s website for recommended computer hardware.

Start by double-clicking the preview of your image on the base layer, and you are taken directly back into ACR with your settings still saved. This is an awesome feature that allows for a nondestructive edit all the way back to your Raw settings. This is quite different from the Camera Raw filter in that you have to start from scratch since it’s editing without the previous metadata applied.

Remember, with Smart Objects, you are limited to certain pixel manipulation tools like Content Aware Scale. Why would this be a concern? You can use the very simple Transform tool for thinning, quickly accessed by holding Command and the “T” key. While holding the Option key, click on the centered square on the right side of your image and drag slowly toward the center of your image. We instantly can start slimming down your client. That’s pretty easy.

Now we need to extend our edge back to the original image dimensions. Enter the Content Aware Tool by going to the menu bar and clicking Edit. You’ll notice this tool is grayed out. You must rasterize your layer first. This is why working on separate layers is so important. Always duplicate your base or background layer. Click on the layer you want to duplicate and hold Option + Command while striking the “J” key.

You could simply create a layer mask on your transformed Smart Object layer and paint in the base layer. I think this is a little sloppy unless you have a seamless backdrop. Instead, right-click on the layer and choose Rasterize Layer. Now we can access the Content Aware Tool by holding Shift + Option + Command and striking the “C” key. While holding the Option key, you can click on the centered square on the right side of your image and drag slowly toward the edge of your image. Once you drag to the edge, hit Enter. The last step is to right-click on the layer and click Convert to Smart Object. I’ll explain why next.

Masking Made Easy: Bring Out the Brushes

With your newly converted Smart Object layer, hold Option + Commend while striking the “X” key. Now we are ready to explore the Liquify tool. This panel has individual tools on the left, with settings and sliders on the right. Your mask tool has two options, Freeze and Thaw. The Freeze masking feature is accessed by striking the “F” key. This masks out areas you do not want to affect while using the Liquify tools. Hold the Option key to access the Thaw mask feature. Thaw simply removes the mask altogether for refining your masked area.

Now let’s put this tool into action by drawing the desired curve onto the subject’s body. In this pose, we can simply make the dress and her slightly more shapely. Be subtle with this. Don’t shrink the waist or simply enlarge the chest. I strike the “F” key and draw on my mask by starting at her chest and making the ideal curve down her torso to her hip. I tuck in her dress to give a slightly more flattering curve. Fill in this mask to the center of her torso so the Liquify tool does not distort other unmasked areas. You can invert your mask to draw in a realistic mask. If you are planning to do this on both sides, you can essentially paint on a new dress.

Once I am satisfied, I choose the Push Left Tool by striking the “O” key. This tool operates by clicking-and-dragging upward to push pixels to the left and clicking-and-dragging downward to push them to the right. I suggest enlarging your brush to more than double your widest area being pushed, and start at the bottom of your mask. Center the brush on the area and click-and-drag upward. You should not follow the curve of the mask; instead, drag straight up, and that’s it. If you find yourself clicking and refining the Liquify tool, start over and make your brush bigger. This tool should get the job done in one run.

Now we need to turn off the mask. Do not waste time “thawing” it. Click None on the right side under the Mask Options panel. We can now adjust the image more accurately with the Bloat Tool by striking “B.” This tool bloats, or causes a bulging effect, from the center of the brush. I can use it to fix some of the areas where the Push Left tool overworked the torso. By holding the Option key, I can toggle the Pucker tool. This puckers, or shrinks, an area from the center. In the Brush Tools Options panel on the right side, I can lower the rate of this effect to allow more subtle adjustments. A bigger brush works best.

Let’s look at the Reconstruction and Smooth tools. These allow you to brush back in the original image’s pixels. I love this feature because I can fix some of the overly edited areas that now look soft. This tool is accessible by striking “R.” This is important for working on a Smart Object layer. We can apply the Liquify tool by clicking OK and then come back to the original whenever we want. This allows more flexibility than using a duplicated background layer and having to mask areas in or out. It’s a huge upgrade for this tool.

The original Liquify tool is called Forward Warp. This is a free Transform-style tool that allows you to click and push pixels around. This works well for every slimming application. I applied some to the arms of the client and fixed any areas where we pushed in the waist. This tool works really well for reshaping the face to create a slightly slimmer jawline. For an image like this, we would have to do it by hand since the Face tool is not detecting the client’s face.

Move Those Sliders 

Let’s go back to the first image that we edited with the Transform tool and Content Aware Scale. We can twirl, or rotate, the entire face and specific areas with the Twirl tool. By default, this tool rotates clockwise, or counterclockwise by holding Option. I start with the entire face, then work the specific areas to align the face with the shoulders and make the facial positioning more appealing. It is helpful to use a brush sized bigger than the area you want to affect so it looks cohesive. When I move eyes around, I cover the entire eye socket.

Strike the “A” key to access the Face tool. At last we have detected a face to begin processing. As we hover the cursor over each feature of the face, we can start clicking-and-dragging to transform the shape of the face, cheeks, eyes, nose and mouth. This tool does an amazing job of slimming and elongating the face. Just be careful to not alter the essential look of your client’s face. Fix the distortion of the angle and pose rather than reconstruct someone’s face.

We can lengthen or shorten the forehead by clicking at the top and dragging upward and downward. You’ll notice the slider panel following suit. The same goes for the Chin Height found at the bottom of the highlighted face. The Jawline and Face Width can both be adjusted from the sides. You have to be careful when slimming the face because this does not adjust the neck. Adjustments need to be proportionate to other areas of the body. This is where the Forward Warp tool comes back into play: to lengthen the neck and adjust the width for the slimming of the face. Treat the Liquify tool like a scale, and maintain balance.

You can open up the eyes if they’re slightly squinted to bring them closer together. Rotate the eyes with the Twirl tool. I like to balance them as well. Eye Tilt can fine-tune this for you as well. Adjust it by clicking between the eye and the edge of the face and dragging upward or downward. You can do this in the slider panel on the right side of the screen as well. When you adjust the height of the squinted eye to match the other, compare how much larger the iris gets. Use the Bloat tool to increase the iris of the other eye to better balance them.

Perform a nose job for the client with two simple adjustments of width and height. Again, focus on proportion with the rest of the face. This is a similar rule for the mouth except you can dramatize the smile. Let’s exaggerate the smile on another image. This feature drags the corners of the mouth upward. Now we need to increase the size of the lips. Make sure you are happy with the Face Width and Jawline, because we will need to adjust those first. Adjust the neckline with Forward Warp to make the slimming effect more proportional. Click OK, and you are done.

The Results

You can spend a day trying to make a client appear more flattering than the pose and lens captured. Your clients do not need the level of Photoshopping typical of an editorial shoot. Keep it more natural. Remember: The more you warp the client, the more work you create. Liquify can be a dangerous tool. Keep it simple, and you can’t go wrong. Start with the Transform trick, and work your way to the Forward Warp tool.

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ON1 Photo RAW: A New Kind of RAW Processor

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017


ON1 Photo RAW: A New Kind of RAW Processor with Michael Anthony

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June 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.


For professional photographers, a RAW processor is an absolute necessity. But because there’s so little competition, our current options are inefficient at best and completely unacceptable at worst.

After Apple discontinued support for Aperture, Lightroom became the only real option for photographers who are working with large numbers of images. While the robust options of Capture One are great, C1 does not work well for handling large numbers of files, beguiling for wedding or portrait photographers.

In December, On1 Software released its highly anticipated Photo RAW software. On1 has been hyping features of this software for a long time. It’s centered around speed and integration with On1’s already brilliant photo editing software. More importantly, On1 integrated its RAW browser into its develop module, which they say allows for much faster culling and organizing without having to use two separate apps.

First, let’s take a look at the biggest complaints with the current industry standard, Adobe’s Lightroom CC.

  1. Performance


Lightroom CC suffers in its most crucial function, the Develop Module. While rendering 1:1 previews works well with the browsing capabilities of Lightroom, an experienced Lightroom user can edit and manipulate photos much faster than the software can keep up with. Recently, Adobe added the ability to use smart previews to develop images, which was available through unconventional methods before. They also added GPU support, but it’s not full GPU support. Both of these help, but not nearly enough. On standard 20mp to 30mp files, LR experiences significant lag when moving from image to image, when applying presets and when using local adjustments. When processing over a million images a year, that extra one-second lag time adds up.


I process images on a water-cooled, overclocked 4.5GHZ quad core PC with 32gb RAM, a dedicated SSD and 1080 GPU. There is no excuse for why Lightroom cannot make use of this power. Adobe has made Premier Pro capable of using the resources of a powerful PC; it would be nice if they stopped treating Lightroom as their redheaded stepchild (no offense to redheaded stepchildren out there).


  1. Color

Color is my second biggest complaint with Lightroom. Lightroom uses camera calibration profiles that are designed to normalize files photographed with different cameras. While this is a beneficial feature, the embedded camera calibration profiles are not accurate to the JPEG previews that are shown on the back of my camera after I take a photo. If you have ever wondered why a photo’s color changes immediately after importing, it is because LR is applying the “Adobe Standard” color profile to your images. Changing that profile to “Camera Standard” does not give you an accurate rendition of color like it is supposed to. I have found that images on my 1DX Mark II and 5D Mark IV have much more contrast than Canon intended.


  1. Local Adjustments/Process Engine

Adobe’s process engine was revamped in 2012, and has received incremental updates since then. Software today needs to be built and updated as frequently as our camera technology changes. The cameras in 2012 were far less advanced than the ones in 2017, but Adobe has not released a new process engine since then. The local adjustments in Lightroom still require much work to be done in Photoshop (Clone/Heal tool, I am calling you out). If the technology is available, and Adobe obviously has it, why not make it available in Lightroom? Photographers who process a massive number of images should not need to go into Photoshop just to remove a few blemishes from their subjects.


Can Photo RAW (PR) actually be the solution to replace Lightroom? Perhaps it can, but let’s dive into the pros and cons.

First, a disclaimer. I am writing this article in late January 2017, right after ON1 has released a major update. PR is a work in progress, and On1 has made it very clear that it will be releasing new updates over the course of the next year. My initial use of this software has shown major potential, but, as will be discussed in a bit, the program still has a few bugs that are being squashed.


The Interface of PR is quite organized, and resembles On1’s other software. The layout is clean and everything is organized in an easy-to-use way. It offers many different functions, so will take some getting used to until you’re as efficient with it as you are in Lightroom. Do you remember opening Photoshop for the first time? PR doesn’t feel that overwhelming. You can get to where you need to be very quickly.

The software opens in Browse mode. Browse mode is similar to PhotoMechanic’s, which has been our studio’s method of culling for a long time now. PR natively supports color tagging of images in PhotoMechanic and displaying in Photo RAW without the need to adjust settings in PhotoMechanic like you do to get the same functionality out of Lightroom.

The interface is broken into five modules: Browse (similar to Library in LR), Develop, Effects (to make use of On1’s other software), Layers (you heard that right) and Resize. These features are useful for the majority of photographers. It still takes three to five seconds to change between modules, but, since speed is a major focus of this software, I am sure that On1 will address this in future updates.

Getting into the develop module, one thing that I love is that the module doesn’t use LR’s long scrolling method to get to the tools in the interface. Instead, it uses a drawer with different options that you click on when you need them.

The options available as of now are: Black and White, Color Adjustments, Curves, Glow, Noise Reduction, Sharpening, Skin Retouching, Split Tone, Transform and Vignette. All of the usual tools, like cropping and local adjustments, are found on the left-hand edge of the screen, right next to presets.

Keyboard shortcuts are available as well to get you to where you need to be.

Overall, the interface for PR was well thought out, allowing you to work quickly and efficiently.

RAW Conversion

I found RAW Conversion to be very good with PR. I am very happy with the color renditions and the added features, such as highlight/shadow purity, excluding skin tones from vibrance edits and integrated skin retouching.

Dynamic Range was also very impressive. I am pleased with the software’s ability to render colors without the need to embed a proprietary color profile. The automask feature is brilliant, and the ability to work in layers is exceptional. The foundations laid down by PR are exactly what photographers have wanted in a RAW converter for some time.

Contrast handling is very good, and it is clear that On1 spent a lot of time making sure this area of PR worked well. In terms of color adjustments, Capture One is still king, in my opinion, but the features added to PR that are not available in C1 would make this a much better solution for wedding and portrait photographers who are delivering many images.

Structure is PR’s version of clarity. As with LR, structure provides a local contrast that can easily be overdone and cause haloing if not used properly. I prefer LR’s version of this tool (but I seldom use either).

I like On1’s integrated presets and effects panel, which allows you to quickly apply filters to your images if that is your kind of thing.


Performance is make or break for PR. That’s because PR’s only real competitor, Lightroom, suffers dearly in this category. I have to address the first selling point of this software, its speed. On1 had positioned PR to work in the Develop module with little to no lag. I see that as slightly optimistic. Images in Browse mode do in fact load significantly quicker than in Lightroom, but not quite as fast as PhotoMechanic. Images take about a quarter second to load in Browse mode and are easily navigated and tagged.

Improvement can be made in the Develop module. Like Lightroom, PR still takes two to three seconds to load each individual image. This is the largest detriment of the software that I have found. I am sure that On1 is aware of this and is looking into fixing it with future software updates, but right now, I put it on par with Lightroom.

Summing Up

I was optimistic about the launch of PR because improvements need to be made for professional photographers in RAW conversion. It is clear that On1 spent a lot of time developing this software. While the software hasn’t lived up to all the promises made by On1, it is still a work in progress. On1 has released a roadmap of updates to improve performance over the coming years. Now that there is serious competition in the RAW conversion space, I am sure we will see improvements at a rate that will keep up with technology.

Overall, I am pleased with the RAW conversion abilities of this software. I wish PR would have obliterated the performance of Lightroom, but that is likely asking too much from new software. On1 is listening to its users and implementing upgrades quickly. Having skin retouching, the ability to work with layers and a fast browsing solution integrated into one program will make the job of event and portrait photographers easier. It’s just a matter of how quickly On1 will get the speed issues fixed so that we can make the switch from Lightroom.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June 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.

Make Your Photography More Accessible with Lightroom CC Mobile and LR Photo

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017


Make Your Photography More Accessible with Lightroom CC Mobile and LR Photo with Dustin Lucas

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June 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.


Moving to a mobile workflow can seem more daunting than just taking pictures and storing them on your computer. I am constantly changing how I ingest, back up, edit and output files on a weekly basis, as well as the programs I am using. You have to try new things to save more time and get better at what you do. It’s called efficiency. Making your images more accessible is a giant step in the right direction.


Incorporating mobility into your editing workflow is much like using social media to reach potential clients. The ability to edit across multiple devices while providing your clients access to your brand through social media channels is vital to your photography business.


Let’s look at how Lightroom allows you to be more mobile for editing, and why that’s useful. I have a laptop for editing, and I can do it anywhere.


I am talking about your sync-ability between your images when you’re editing with a program like On1 RAW 2017. With Lightroom CC, you can access the nondestructive edits made in your catalog across your mobile devices. The catalogs themselves aren’t syncing; instead, you can edit the images in your browser or on Lightroom Mobile on a phone or tablet. Before we jump into Lightroom Mobile, let’s cover Creative Cloud Libraries.


Get Creative With Cloud Assets


Adobe offers 2GB of free cloud storage on the Photography Plan, not much to write home about. It’s not worth it to store Raw files or as a backup of any sort. It is useful for fully edited JPEGs. This is what Adobe had envisioned for cloud: smaller documents to sync across multiple devices. Now we have Creative Cloud Libraries to browse, sync and manage files. These sync from a desktop folder on your computer and are shared to your online libraries.


From a photographer’s perspective, the Creative Cloud Libraries is most useful when using other Adobe mobile apps, such as Adobe Spark Page and Portfolio. Hundreds of edited JPEGs can be stored here to use for photo web designs. Another addition to these apps is Lightroom mobile, which adds a layer of flexibility to editing that working in catalogs hasn’t offered.


More Mobility on Your Devices

Let’s jump into Lightroom and set up preferences for the mobile app and syncing. In preferences, there is a separate tab for Lightroom mobile where we can review the activity and choose the location for mobile images to store. This is very important when allowing the camera roll on your phone to sync with Lightroom mobile. Your computer HDD will fill up quickly; use an external or NAS drive to store this overflow of files.


Now we can create a Collection to sync images to our Lightroom mobile app. In the Library module, hold Command and strike the “N” key to create a Collection. There is an option to sync with Lightroom mobile; make sure this is checked. Click Create, and you are ready to start selecting images and dragging them into this Collection. When an image is dropped in, the syncing automatically starts. Within a few seconds, you have the Collection loaded to your mobile device with all the metadata and develop settings applied. We are already creating sync-ability within Lightroom like never before.


I love the Lightroom mobile app’s ability on my iPhone to shoot in DNG. Goodbye, Apple camera app—say hello to Adobe Lightroom mobile. Recent updates made this possible for Android users as well. This is nice for taking behind-the-scenes shots at an event or even some stellar quick snaps while the DSLR is tucked away. Pro tip: Choose the option to sync only over Wi-Fi. Otherwise, you will be paying your cellular provider when you go over your data.


Editing features are very similar to those in the Develop panel in Lightroom. I like that the develop settings from an already-edited file in the Lightroom desktop app appear identical in Lightroom mobile. It’s easy to scroll through them like the filmstrip in Lightroom desktop. You can import images previously taken with your phone to sync to your catalog. This provides a great opportunity to organize all those iPhone photos and keep everything in sync. This is useful for social media posts while photographing a client.


Open Images in the Browser


After we have created a collection in Lightroom and synced it with Lightroom mobile, we can make images public or leave them private to access in our web browser. You can edit in your web browser now, and no longer need Lightroom installed on another computer. Select the collection and then right-click. Hover over Lightroom mobile links and choose either Make Collection Public or Private Link: View on Web. If you make it public, you will need to click the link created in the upper right corner of grid mode in Lightroom. This opens the Lightroom browser app in a new tab in your web browser.


This is a huge step for Lightroom’s flexibility. Before, you were limited to an individualized catalog that did not allow for sync-ability or open on NAS hard drives. For team-based workflows, it was inefficient to have to trade catalogs and work one at a time. Now Adobe is taking notes from OnOne RAW’s ability to edit in one location and instantly see these changes on multiple platforms.


In the Lightroom browser app, you have a similar layout as Apple’s photo app. Select an image and choose Edit This Photo in the upper right hand corner, and we are ready to start adjusting. You’ll notice the settings from the desktop app are already applied. You have three categories to edit in: Crop, Presets and Adjust.


In the Crop panel, there is a new feature called Suggested Crop that analyzes the image and auto-crops based on ratio and orientation. It seems simple and useful, with no batching options that I can see, much like auto-straightening at a batch level. Adobe may want to explore this.


In the Presets panel, there is nothing to rant and rave about. The predetermined presets are somewhat limited in their application. It would be nice to see the image previewed in each preset. This feature of OnOne RAW made it stand out.


In the Adjust panel, more commonly known as the Basic panel in the desktop app, the most used tools are White Balance and Light. An interesting upgrade is the Auto feature, which lets you choose between two options for the best image. Adobe is collecting data to make its auto-tone feature even better; the image still needs some work, but it’s a great start.


Sync-ability Between All My Devices


I love Adobe CC’s accessibility and Lightroom’s mobility. I now have instant sync-ability between my computer, phone and tablet. (21) I won’t be editing extensively on my phone or tablet, but I can cull images with ease. Lightroom’s flexibility in my web browser is a helpful feature when I am on the go. All of this is free with your Lightroom subscription. Try it out and see for yourself.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June 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.

Free Your Creativity in Five Minutes with Lightroom & Photoshop

Friday, March 31st, 2017


Free Your Creativity in Five Minutes with Lightroom & Photoshop with Dustin Lucas


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the April 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.


April is here, and we know what that means: weddings, weddings and more weddings. Hopefully you spent your time off focusing on last season’s successes and failures. In our studio, the motto is “Hit a new wall.” Hopefully for some of you traveling these past few months, your experiences have allowed you build your portfolio, sharpen your skillset and free your creativity. What better time of year to let go of what’s safe then now?

Along with freeing up your creativity, you are about to go into survival mode with weddings nearing. While the door hasn’t closed just yet, I am going to show you how to waste less time and design a workflow that actually works.

Plan Ahead: Presets, Actions, Droplets

Planning is the first step to editing, and it’s all about efficiency. And don’t forget creativity and quality—those are a given. Lightroom is where we will import, organize, select, color-correct and send right to Photoshop for more hands-on editing. Refer to my previous articles for extensive import and culling workflows. We need to start building presets for color correction.

Making a preset is simple in Develop mode: Hold Shift and Command while striking the “N” key. (1) Determining what settings get applied is the task at hand. You need to think a few steps ahead. When your instinct is to do as much as possible in Lightroom, remember that you will be processing in Photoshop later. Be easy with tonal adjustments and recovery tools. Photoshop is the wheelhouse for tonal applications. Let’s keep things simple to start.

Our next task is to make an export preset once we have completed our basic color correction. Select the image(s) and hold Shift and Command while striking the “E” key. First we need to set standardized settings like Export Location, File Settings, Image Sizing, Output Sharpening and Post-Processing. If we are going into Photoshop, we do not want to change the file size and we must rasterize the Raw file into a PSD. Choose Adobe 1998 for the color space since we are still editing, and set the DPI to 300 so the image is sized into standard dimensions. (2)

Post-processing is an option that allows you to export from Lightroom and quickly open images into Photoshop while applying an action to them all in one fell swoop. First we need to open Photoshop to create our editing Actions, and then save a Droplet for Lightroom to run during export.

In the Actions panel, we can create new sets like workflow, favorites and retouching to organize our actions based on their function. To do so, click the folder icon in the bottom of the palette. Once you create Actions, highlight one of the sets and click the icon to the right of the folder you previously selected. (3) You are now recording and ready to start adding adjustment layers, duplicating your base layer, adding masks or anything you want to apply to multiple images. Think of this in steps: What do you typically do first? For me, it’s applying skin softening with a mask turned off and separate dodge and burn layers. I would name this action “Step 1 Edit” so I know to apply it to all my images. This leads us to creating a Droplet for Lightroom to use. (4)

To create a Droplet, navigate to the menu bar, click on File, hover over Automate and click Create Droplet. (5) You can choose where this file will save first; make sure it’s in a folder you would not accidentally delete. Then choose the Action set and the Step 1 Process action. The last setting that is important is Destination. The default setting “None” opens the image immediately into Photoshop after applying the action. This is useful only if you are opening 10 or fewer files. I recommend the “Save and Close” option here so your computer doesn’t freeze mid-process when you accidentally export 50 PSDs from Lightroom. (6)

Now we can finish our Lightroom Export preset with this Droplet file saved. With our images selected for export, hold Shift and Command while striking the “E” key. After you have chosen all the previously mentioned settings, drop down to the Post-Processing menu. Click in the box to the right of After Export and choose “Open in Another Application…” Click Choose Below and select the recently saved Droplet title Step 1 Process. Now we are ready to see all the work in action. (7)

Color-Correct for a Creative Edit: Lightroom Only

In Develop mode, the Basic panel will handle 90% of my adjustments for what I need out of Lightroom. I leave white balance, exposure and contrast all set to default values as shot. These are dependent on the lighting, and it would be foolish to adjust these blindly. As for the contrast slider, it’s just not that versatile. Moving down to highlights and shadows, I land somewhere around 25 to 30 for each. Here, I have dropped highlights automatically to a value of –30 and shadows lifted to +30. Instead of contrast, I add white point and drop the black point. This gives me a more controllable contrast boost, and for Lightroom, my goal is to have clean density, meaning my histogram hugs the edges. Like I said, this is a starting point, and is not set in stone. (8)

Presence section is a give and take. For my preset, I leave these zeroed out. These sorts of settings can be globally applied in Library mode as needed.

I skip past all the localized color adjustments to the Details panel. We need some sharpening, and this is important for processing your Raw files. We’ve lost some sharpening along the way, so let’s get it back. Placing the details to 75 is a moderate amount to add in some crispness. I also add a slight bit of noise reduction here and there. This was shot outdoors at a really low ISO, so it shouldn’t have much noise if any at all. I like this subtle softening effect for skin tones coupled with the edge detail of the sharpening setting added. I typically land between 5 and 20 for Luminance in the Noise Reduction section. (9)

Lens Correction is next and almost always applied. I’m generally happy with Adobe’s use of this tool and the range of lenses available at the click of a mouse. Chromatic aberration is a little more tricky to just globalize; I would still apply a subtle amount. (10)

Last but certainly not least, changing the Camera Profile in the Camera Calibration panel is a must. The “before” preview is our Raw file shown in Adobe Standard, and it’s a deceiving preview. We have this muddy lack of true-to-life color image from an amazing camera. Something doesn’t add up here. The default profiles are a huge step in the wrong direction when it comes to skin tones. Steer clear of those altogether. (11ab) We have a choice to make: Spend more money or live with Adobe Standard. I do not accept mediocrity.

X-Rite’s ColorChecker Classic is a totally custom long-term solution. I show you how to use it in my previous article “Color Space Part 2: Getting Control With Your Color.” Another highly recommended option is to check out You can purchase camera-model-specific profiles as an alternative to the Adobe Standard one. I have applied the Standard version for my edit, and you can really see the results. (12)

All these settings are built into my preset. It gets me most of the way there in terms of color correction. All I need to do is adjust some minor color and exposure issues. Her skin is slightly red and underexposed. I can neutralize the tint down to +10 and the exposure needs lifted a quarter stop. That’s it. We’re ready to export. (13)

Masking and Brushwork: Photoshop Only

The first thing I do when editing in Photoshop is to close my eyes, open them and see what’s pulling my attention away from the subject. Typically it starts with the bright areas needing toning down. Burn, baby, burn. Use a semisoft-edged brush and burn that sky and overbearing highlights. (14ab) Remember that we got rid of that pesky lens vignette in Lightroom, which makes burning down the image less artificial. (15ab) My next step is to isolate the highlights to burn down the hot spots even further. The reason is that when you burn, you burn it all, making the image darker. We still get stuck with the distracting hot spots and clipped black tones. (16ab)

After toning down the image, we have to focus on the skin tones. Before we soften, let’s dodge the shadowy tones to even out the subject. Not only do we want to brighten the skin, but we need to bring some definition into the dress. It needs to have shape and not just fall back with other darker areas of the image. (17) Softening the skin here is a great touch to the portrait. Remember to not go too soft; since we have output sharpening to add, we don’t have to be too lenient. Notice how it evens out the highlights on her skin and makes the lighting look even better. (18)

With the local exposure and skin softening adjustments out of the way, we can start our toning application. I have grown very fond of the free Nik Collection. Silver Efex Pro 2 still hails as one of my favorite plugins (19), along with some Color Fill layers and stylized Curves for the matted look. I did not want to strip all the color out of this image, but it is necessary to tone it back. It’s hard not to get lost in the landscape and sky surrounding the subject. Proper editing allows the subject and surroundings to blend well. (20)

Attention to Details: Final touches

It’s all about the details. We have some final work to do that will get this image ready for print. Start with some texture to get the smooth blue sky to blend with the landscape. This is a killer image. I like to add this effect for subtle grit in the image. (21)

During the color correction process in Lightroom, I already added input sharpening to regain some of the sharpness I lost when processing the Raw. Now I need to consider where this image is going and how to prepare output sharpening. For me, it’s High Pass all the way. The only question is how much to account for. For screen, I am content right around 50%. Just know that when I export it, it will look sharper on screen. (22)

I have cropped this image a few ways, trying to push the rule of thirds versus the symmetrical composition it was captured in. I think this looks best with a symmetrical composition. (23ab)

Output Those Files: You’re Done!

We’re done, and in just five minutes. Once I am set up with presets, actions and droplets, it comes down to the brushwork and selecting a toning application. Take this tutorial with a grain of salt in that I didn’t retouch the image.

Creative edits can be simple and executed with efficiency. Stop wasting your time and use the shortcuts here. It’s gonna be a long season ahead if you don’t plan a solid workflow.


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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


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the January 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.


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


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December 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.


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.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the December 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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