While I try to get as much as possible right in the camera, I also enjoy the creativity of using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS6 to squeeze the last drop of quality out of my RAW images – and ensure the final photograph reflects what I saw on the day.
The amount of time spent in Lightroom obviously varies. At its simplest, work on each image amounts to progressing through the tools in the Develop Module as required. Correcting the white balance, making selective adjustments and tone corrections, adjusting clarity, vibrance and saturation – and tweaking the curves if necessary. I also apply lens profile corrections and remove chromatic aberration, before finally adding appropriate amounts of sharpening.
Other times I use Lightroom more creatively. This may involve significantly altering the crop if necessary (luckily the file size provided by my Canon 5D mk2 provides ample scope for this without affecting image quality noticeably) – and making more significant changes to the colour, contrast and clarity in the photo.
In this image, taken during a shoot at Dorothy Clive Gardens, Staffordshire in April, the photo out of the camera was a little dull, composition could be better – the quality of the light and colour did not accurately reflect what I saw on the day.
I first of all applied the correct lens profile and clicked to remove chromatic aberration. I also started to experiment with cropping. As shown below, I tried a panoramic format, but was not happy with this as there were two trees occupying the centre of the frame – and the bench, which was a focal point, was too far to the right.
To make the colours more vivid I applied Canon’s Camera Landscape profile in Lightroom and boosted Vibrance (which increases the intensity of more muted colours while not changing those that are already well saturated). I also added a graduated filter to the top third of the image and reduced the clarity setting here, to create a softer, more diffused light. I also added a subtle Post Crop Vignette to darken the edges of the image, helping to frame it draw the eye into the shot.
Using Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush I then painted in more areas of low clarity combined with a slight exposure increase to enhance the highlight areas around the bench, again helping to establish that area as a focal point which would draw the eye through the image.
Finally I tweaked the clarity and exposure settings for the whole image, before adding a little Color Noise Reduction and Luminance Smoothing, then adding and fine tuning the sharpening, in this case for the web.
The most important final change was to the crop. I removed some of the bottom of the image, which had few bluebells and flattened leaves (which added nothing to the picture) as well as part of the left side of the photo. I was then able to improve composition by placing the bench at the junction of the upper third horizontal line and the right third vertical. Finally, using Photoshop, I cloned out the green splash of paint on the tree to the left.
Admittedly that’s quite a dramatic example, but I think it improved the image, which now more accurately reflects what I saw that day at Dorothy Clive Gardens, Staffordshire. All thanks to Lightroom.