lightroom

3 August 2015

Increasing clarity of night skies with Dehaze slider in Lightroom

Posted in: landscape, lightroom, Tatra|

Another short tip today, this time for Lightroom (or at least ACR) users.

As you might know, in one of the recent software updates, Adobe added new slider to Lightroom 6/CC – Dehaze. It’s main purpose is to restore some contrast and colour in foggy or hazy shots. I used it for a few of my shots already and I must say that I’m quite impressed. It really works as advertised and can be a life saver in cases where you can’t revisit a location and have to shoot in very poor weather conditions. However, it turns out it has one more great use – bringing back detail and clarity to starry skies.

You can see this slider in action below on one of my night photos from Zakopane in Polish Tatra Mountains. “Before” image is before applying Dehaze, and “After” – after moving it to +64. Other settings are exactly the same.

In this case Dehaze restored a lot of detail in the sky, which was quite hazy on that night, and generally made the sky much more clear and natural looking. Some stars which were faint became much more visible after applying it.

20 July 2015

Photo Editing Apps Comparison: Gimp, Lightroom, Photoshop

Posted in: lightroom, photoshop, tutorial|

comparison2There are numerous photo editing apps – Adobe Lightroom, different flavors of Photoshop (Elements, CC), PaintShop Pro from Corel, Affinity Photo, Gimp just to name a few more popular ones. Then there are also specialized apps like Photomatix Pro, Oloneo (both to create HDR images), PTGui (panoramas) or Helicon Focus (focus stacking). And also plug-ins to other apps, like Topaz collection or Nik Collection.

Such broad choice might become a problem for photographers starting their adventure with photo editing. Which one do I need? Which will be sufficient for me? are the questions they might ask. And it’s quite difficult to find an answer.

In this article I’ll pick a few of the more popular photo editing apps and will try to provide short characterization of each of them, mentioning their strengths and weaknesses. I’ll focus on the photo editing apps this time, so will leave products like Photomatix or Topaz aside. But maybe will write on them in a separate article.

Here are the apps that I’ll describe today:

  • Gimp,
  • Lightroom,
  • Photoshop Elements,
  • Photoshop CC.

Adobe Lightroom

screen_lightroomAdobe Lightroom isn’t just normal photo editing app. It’s something more. It’s main focus is in fact to organize your photos and it’s the only app on this list that offers functionality like that. It doesn’t do the same thing as Picasa or Adobe Bridge for instance, i.e. it isn’t a simple photo browser where you have list of folders and files inside them. It’s more a photo database – it doesn’t include your source photos, it holds reference to them. It allows you to quickly search through your photos based on whatever criteria you can think of. You can even find photos taken on a given day using specific lens and aperture of f/4. This might seem useless but it’s really great that you can use so many different criteria!

Apart from organizing photos, Lightroom offers a lot of traditional photo editing features. With each release more and more editing tools are added. The result is that I tend to do most of the editing in Lightroom 6, which is the most recent version, now. I only use Photoshop CC if I have to do more serious editing. Lightroom 6 allows you to change exposure of the image, contrast, colours, apply lens corrections. You can also apply some adjustments locally, using a brush, graduated filter or radial filter. You can also remove noise or increase sharpness of your image. And most of that tools work really great.

And what’s great at any time you can go back to your original photo, or even have same photo with multiple edits (but without using additional disk space!), as edits aren’t done on the image itself – they are kept separately from the image until you decide to export it (save to another file).

And if that’s not enough, you can install numerous plug-ins inside Lightroom, like Topaz or Nik, which will make Lightroom even more powerful.

Lightroom has some flaws, however. For me the user inteface is very unintuitive. I had problems when I started using it because it seemed so complicated! Even today, after several years of using it almost everyday, I sometimes have difficulties finding particular options because they are hidden somewhere in some awkward manner.

Another big problem for me is Lightroom’s speed. Despite supposed improvements in this regard in version 6, it still runs very slowly for me – from importing photos, to browsing the library to doing some editing – everything seems so slow!

BTW you can read my review of Adobe Lightroom here: http://hdr-photographer.com/2015/04/lightroom-6-review/

Price: boxed version available for 149 USD or monthly subscription – 9.99 USD

Pros:

  • Great for organizing photo library
  • Has powerful RAW converter built-in
  • Allows easy editing of photo

Cons:

  • Complicated unintuitive user interface
  • Slow

Adobe Photoshop Elements

screen_elementsFor years Adobe Photoshop Elements, smaller brother to Photoshop CC, was a little crippled. It was limited to 32-bit version and 16-bit editing was fairly limited. Things are changing, however. Most recent version, Elements 13, now runs in 64-bit mode and thanks to that you can use full processing power of your computer and work with very large images.

Unfortunately working with 16-bit images is still very limited. For instance you cannot use Adjustment Layers and you can’t apply certain filters (fortunately most of the photography related ones, like blurs or sharpening works fine). It means that you can only work destructively with your images in 16-bit mode.

Also Photoshop Elements doesn’t have some more advanced tools you can find in CC version, like merging to panorama or focus stacking.

Other than that Photoshop Elements is powerful photo editor app that offers a lot of features present in Lightroom and Photoshop CC (e.g. it uses same RAW converter, offers Adjustment Layers).

There is one more interesting thing about it, especially for beginners. You can work in a number of “views” depending on your experience level (in “less-experienced views” some tools will be hidden).

Price: 99.99 USD

Pros:

  • Powerful photo editor offering a lot of features from it bigger brother, Photoshop CC

Cons:

  • 16-bit editing is still very limited
  • Still missing some photography tools present in Photoshop CC

Adobe Photoshop CC

screen_photoshopEveryone knows Photoshop. It’s the most powerful and popular photo editing app on the planet. And I could stop here. But the problem is, Photoshop isn’t for everyone. It’s so huge and complex that you will probably never use most of its features. And due to its complexity it might be overwhelming at the beginning. Or even after some time. Photoshop isn’t tool created just for photographers – it’s a tool used by painters, designers, illustrators, and yeah photographers too. However, such broad audience means there are a lot of tools that will never be of interest to you.

However, great thing with Photoshop is that at the beginning you might be using only some basic functions. But as your knowledge and experience grow, you don’t need to switch to another app – all features are already there. Maybe hidden from your eyes but you can get access to them easily. And that’s like that all the time. Even I, after several years in Photoshop, am still learning, still discovering exciting features to make my photos even better.

Price: monthly subscription – 9.99 USD

Pros:

  • You can do almost everything you imagine with it
  • If there is something you can’t do in Photoshop, there are plug-in that allow to do that
  • Very nice clean UI

Cons:

  • Might be a little overwhelming at the beginning

Gimp

If you are on a budget Gimp might be a great option because it’s the only software on this list that is completely free! Yes – and if you’re a developer there is more – it comes with complete source code (so you can learn quite a lot from it).

Another great thing about it is that it’s multi-platform. It will work not only on Windows and OS X but also on many Linux distributions where there aren’t that many photo editing apps to choose from. So if you’re on Linux that might be your best option.

As for photography editing it offers all basic adjustments you can think of (colour saturation, levels, curves, etc.) and a lot of photography filters. There are also a lot of plugins enhancing capabilities of this software even further. I even remember a plugin that allowed using Photoshop plugins (like Topaz) and a lot of them actually worked!

Unfortunately, for me there are two big issues with Gimp (and they are the reason why I switched to Photoshop several years ago). The first is lack of built-in RAW converted. If you want to open RAW images you need to download separate program (UFRaw is quite popular for that), convert your RAWs with it and then open the image in Gimp. Some might argue that in Photoshop, Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) is also separate program but it’s slightly different, especially as both photoshop and ACR are developed by the same company.

Anyway RAW conversion is something that you might overcome but there is one bigger issue for me – lack of Adjustment Layers. This term might be cryptic to you so let me explain. In Photoshop you have ability to work non-destructively – you can apply contrast, saturation or even filters like blur and see their effect but at the same time you have access to original pixels of your image and can change them at any time. Why this might be useful? Imagine making a lot of adjustments, changing colour and contrast for about an hour. And after that time you could realize that in fact adjustment that you did at the very beginning was unnecessary and that image would look better without it. Thanks to Adjustment Layers you can do that – you just need to disable this very adjustment and you’re fine. In Gimp you don’t have such option as you have to modify pixels in the image whenever you’re adjusting your image. In worst case you would need to start your editing process from the very beginning. Of course Adjustment Layers are something that you can live without… until you try them. Then there is no coming back.

If you aren’t sure whether this app is worth your time, let me tell you something – I started with it and was pretty satisfied. At that time the main issue was a little awkward user interface but from what I can see, it’s much better now. So Gimp might be a good starting point but probably sooner or later you will decide to switch as it might limit you a little too much.

Price: Free

Pros:

  • Free
  • Supports numerous platforms including Linux
  • A lot of basic photography tools and filters

Cons:

  • Gimp is missing a few important features (like adjustment layers)
  • No RAW support built-in
  • A bit old school UI

What apps do I use?

Right now I’m using two apps from the above list: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC. Recently I try to do as much editing as possible directly in Lightroom – to save myself some time and also to make my workflow simpler, and it works quite often. If I need to make specific adjustments (e.g. local adjustments to contrast or colour) or I want to make my image perfect I open my photo in Photoshop and continue from there. However, to make things more complicated I’d like to mention that I’m currently slowly switching from Lightroom to Capture One 8. My first impressions are that it offers much better image quality. At this stage I cannot recommend it though because I’m still learning it so I’ll probably update this post in a month or two.

So what would I recommend right now? If you’re on budget, you can give Gimp a try – even with some limitations I mentioned it’s still very powerful photo editing app that should be sufficient for you for quite some time. If you can afford it, I would recommend Photography subscription plan from Adobe – this way you’ll get both Lightroom and Photoshop CC for 9.99 USD per month what isn’t much given how great both apps are. This way you would have not only 2 very powerful photo editors but also a tool to organize and browse through your photos. With ever growing collection of images this might become really important at some stage.

Please note that I don’t recommend Photoshop Elements. Even though it’s getting more and more powerful there are still certain things that you can’t do in it. Also for some reasons I never liked it, found it too basic.

10 July 2015

Automatic Whites & Blacks in Lightroom

Posted in: landscape, lightroom, long-exposure, Lulworth Cove, tutorial|

Automatic Whites & Blacks in Lightroom

Today I’d like to share a quick and useful Lightroom tip with you. Did you know that you can determine optimal value of Whites and Blacks sliders with just a single click? Without trying to guess it?

To do that you just have to hold Shift key and double click on the given slider. This works for following sliders:

  • Whites,
  • Blacks,
  • Exposure,
  • Contrast

But it doesn’t work neither for Highlights nor Shadows sliders.

This might seem like a small almost useless feature but in fact it can be really helpful – by automatically determining Whites and Blacks you will have a nice starting point to adjust exposure of your image further. White and Blacks work similarly to Levels adjustment in Photoshop so by adjusting them correctly you can expand dynamic range of your image to make it pop.

Featured photo – Green Hills in Dorset

Today photo is another one taken in the Lulworth Cove area, Dorset, England. I think it’s quite a nice image with all those vibrant green and blue colours. Once again it’s a single long exposure image, edited almost entirely in Lightroom (apart from some cloning described below). The edits involved mainly increasing vibrance, adding gradient filter for the sky to make it slightly darker and adding a little bit of vignette.

You might wonder why did I use long exposure here. Well, first of all I like movement it creates making the scenes more dynamic (which create a nice contrast for otherwise idyllic scene) but there was one more important reason in this case. There were plenty of people travelling this road up and down and I would probably never manage to get decent photo. By using long exposure they became blurred – like ghosts – so they became much less visible. To completely get rid of them I just had to use a tiny bit of cloning in Photoshop.

Tip: So remember – if you have plenty of walking tourists the easiest way to get rid of them is to use long exposure. The longer the exposure, the less visible the people will be.

Green hills
(more…)

11 June 2015

HDR in Lightroom CC – my opinion

Posted in: hdr, landscape, lightroom, thailand|

Sunset in Thailand

For this image I initially wanted to use Lightroom HDR for testing purposes. Unfortunately I couldn’t get deghosting right (it turned out boats in the distance moved slightly between the frames what caused troubles) so I used Photomatix instead. But apart from these issues, Lightroom produced quite nice results in this case.

Adobe Lightroom 6 aka CC was released almost 2 months ago and although I already wrote its review some time ago (you can read it here), I haven’t yet shared my opinion on one of its most exciting features – built-in merge to HDR module. The reason it took me so long is that as a developer of Photomatix Pro I might be a little biased so I wanted to do more thorough testing to give you better arguments. And here are my thoughts.

Please note that it’s my personal opinion. I know a few photographers who hate this new feature, and I know a few who completely love it. As you’ll see I’m somewhere in the middle 🙂

The Good

The most obvious thing is that whole workflow becomes more streamlined with this new feature. You just hit CTRL + H (or Command + H on Mac) with your bracketed images selected to view preview of HDR image. Then you adjust just a few settings, like alignment and deghosting, you click Ok button and after short wait you get DNG file – with all benefits of this file format (you can change white balance whenever you wish, apply lens corrections etc.). Basically this means that your workflow might be a little more effective – you don’t have to switch to another program to create HDR images.

Another good thing is that generally speaking Lightroom’s tone-mapper is quite powerful and produces very realistic results. It might be difficult though to create more artistic results with it so it’s definitely not for everyone.

Finally this HDR modules does a pretty decent job in a few cases: especially when there is no ghosts in the scene and if the scene has relatively low dynamic range (like when shooting interiors without windows).

The Bad

Lightroom HDR auto-tone feature often results in flat looking images.

Lightroom HDR auto-tone feature often results in flat looking images.

Unfortunately for me there are quite a lot of problems with Lightroom HDR module:

1. Lightroom HDR offers Auto-tone setting that let’s tone-mapper guess optimal settings to use for tone-mapping. As exciting as it might sound, this is a huge disappointment because 99% of time it guesses completely wrong and the resulting image is looking either grungy or very flat. So I never use it.

2. Sliders range for exposure settings (Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, etc.) is often too limited to restore enough highlights and/or shadows. Even dragging highlights to -100 doesn’t always restore all of them. Of course you can still use old trick of drawing gradient filter and reduce exposure further but it’s a bit cumbersome.

3. Ghost removal doesn’t work most of the time. Even if there is just slight movement (like foliage, small ripples or some people in the distance) it introduces artifacts and deghosted areas are often very noisy and Lightroom’s noise removal tool have problems fixing that. But there is even worse thing – if you have ghosts in your HDR image but decide not to deghost them to avoid mentioned problems, your tone-mapped image will have weird pink artifacts in the ghosted regions. It looks terrible and reminded me of some issues I had with Photomatix Pro… 3 which was released many many years ago (current version is 5).

4. Speed isn’t impressive – generating preview and then producing final HDR image takes a lot of time. During preview generation you can’t do any other tasks.  On the other hand doing tone-mapping is really fast (I mean dragging sliders like Exposure, Highlights). Also if you don’t need to preview your HDR you can skip preview generation step to save you a few seconds (by using CTRL + SHIFT + H on Win or Option + SHIFT + H on Mac).

5. I also found a few cases where tone-mapper couldn’t produce good quality images (they contained some artifacts) no matter what tone-mapping settings I used and this mostly involved scenes with very wide dynamic range like some sunset images which were also showing rocks in foreground. Unfortunately I shoot HDR mainly to deal with such cases so that’s a bit disappointing.

6. Control over HDR generation is very limited. Basically you can just turn on/off alignment and deghosting… and that’s all! There are also no presets for HDR.

7. Image is 16-bit – not 32-bit – as according to Adobe it would take to much disk space. That might explain why certain wide dynamic range images aren’t looking particularly good.

Verdict

For me Lightroom HDR module isn’t really impressive. It is definitely a step in a right direction from Adobe as HDR is everywhere nowadays – even some smartphones offer built-in HDR mode – but I expected more from them. I feel like Adobe just added it, because it knew that it’s a must-have feature nowadays and was requested for a long time. But didn’t want to spend too much time working on it. So having said that it isn’t suprising that I will stick to Photomatix Pro & Merge to 32-bit Lightroom Plugin. I will probably occassionally use this HDR module when I don’t care about image quality that much (for some holiday snapshots for instance which I don’t intend to share anywhere).

I have similar feelings about Merge to Panorama – although it’s a nice and useful addition I often still prefer to use PTGui which gives me better results, more control and is much faster than Lightroom’s panorama module.

23 April 2015

Lightroom 6 Review

Posted in: lightroom, review|

Lightroom 6 splash screen
It took Adobe almost 2 years to update Lightroom – one of the most popular photography-oriented software available out there. There was a lot of rumours and a lot of hype surrounding the release with leaked information about upcoming features making everyone super excited. In the photography world it looked a bit similar to Apple releasing their new i-family products.

Editions & pricing

After months of waiting new Lightroom was officially released on 21st April 2015 in two editions:

  • Lightroom 6 – boxed version available for 149$ and
  • Lightroom CC – subscription based for 9.99$ / month in photography subscription model.

As you may guess the difference isn’t only in the name and pricing model. Lightroom CC gives you some additional benefits related to the cloud like file-syncing, free access to mobile, web & desktop versions of Lightroom (including iPad version which I myself really like). And for 9.99$ you get access to Photoshop CC as well what is a huge benefit and a really small price for this amazing software.

What’s new?

After nearly 2 years in development expectations for new features are very high, especially as the competition like Capture One made huge progress during that time (many think that it is currently the best RAW converter), so let’s start with new features list:

  • Performance improvements,
  • Merging to panorama and HDR directly inside Lightroom,
  • Face recognition,
  • Ability to modify local adjustments using a brush

There are other changes and improvements like improved slideshows, back-end improvements to map module to increase its stability and performance or new HTML5 web galleries and of course support for newer cameras and lenses. But these are minor things and I won’t focus on them in this review.

Performance improvements

Lightroom is a really great tool but one of its biggest weaknesses has always been its speed. Lightroom 5 was sooo terribly slow. I have quite a powerful PC yet it slows down from time to time significantly.

So for version 6 Adobe promised some significant improvements here. Unfortunately I don’t see much of them. Lightroom 6 is advertised to use GPU to speed up computing. It turns out, however, that this feature is only used for settings found in Develop module (tip: make sure you update your GPU drivers, otherwise your GPU might not get properly detected by Lightroom). I heard that Exposure slider is now a dozen or so times faster than it was in Lightroom 5. Sounds incredible, right? The only problem is that for me it already did work very fast. Same for distortion correction. If something took fraction of a second to do, if it’s 10 times fast faster – I won’t notice. But if you’re using very large resolution screens (like 4K or 5K) the improvement might be significant (I’m still on Full HD screen). What I would notice is speed improvements in accessing photos, moving between them, scrolling through large collection of images, syncing setting in Develop module, exporting, etc. But these operations are as slow as previously. And it looks Lightroom gets slower, the longer the editing session is so I have to kill it every few hours and start again (LR 6 already crashed a few times for me).

I would be unfair if I would say that there is no improvement at all – quite big thing for me is that local adjustments (gradients, brushes, radial filters) work really fast now! I tend to use them more and more recently and in version 5 they could become painfully slow after adding several local adjustments to one image. This time, however, even after adding around 10 of different adjustments, editing was still close to real time – GPU computing at its full glory 🙂 Good job on that Adobe!

Merging to panorama & HDR

Lightroom 6 merge to panorama toolTwo big missing features that were already present in Photoshop for years – merging to panorama & merging to HDR – made finally its way into Lightroom. And I must say that it’s very convenient. You simply select photos you want to merge, click CLTR + M for panoramas or CTRL + H for HDR and you get preview of merged photo with just a few options. For panoramas it will be projection, for HDR – alignment and deghosting strength. After that you click ok and final merged image is created in the background (meaning that you can edit other photos at the same time for instance). Once the image is created it appears in your catalogue and you can fine-tune it. Workflow is very easy in such case.

BTW I intend to review HDR module in depth in coming days as HDR is my primary interest.

However, both tools are overly simplified for me, for instance there are only 3 types of projection for panoramas and no option to adjust control points like in PTGui. And PTGui is so much faster! Similarly there are much more options in Photomatix or Oloneo for HDRs (like deghosting options, numerous tone-mapping sliders). And so far I prefer the output from Photomatix. So although these tools are a great addition, for serious photography work I will probably still use dedicated software as it’s simply better at it. Even for noise reduction, clarity improvements or sharpening I prefer to use 3rd party dedicated plug-ins because they tend to give better results.

Also I’m not happy with GUI of those two new tools which look like taken from different software – their look is not consistent with the rest of GUI!

Face detection

Lightroom 6 face detectionFace detection was another of the big missing features in Lightroom for a few years and Adobe finally decided to add it to this version. You might find it useful if you’re sport photographer to tag athletes, portait photographer to tag models or simply tag your beloved ones and find photos of them easily. After tagging all your photos, you might then easily find all photos on which a given person is.

I already ran the process of face detection through my whole catalogue (excluding RAW images) and the process took around 15 hours! Most of the time it did a really great job detecting (and properly recognizing) even difficult to detect faces (eg. very small, low-resolution, very low-contrast, partially covered). BTW if Lightroom detects a face it recognizes, it suggests a name for it saving you a lot of time as you can easily confirm its guess by clicking on the tick icon. But there’s a catch. Unfortunately Lightroom quite often detects face when there isn’t one at all, eg. it thinks that tree, bush, detail in architecture is a face. And even suggests who it might be (why on Earth it was me most of the time?!). Funny 🙂 but it happens a bit too often and becomes irritating after a while. I guess Adobe just needs to fine-tune their algorithms and it will work almost perfect.

Ability to modify local adjustments using a brush

This is a cool addition. It allows you to modify gradient or radial filter by masking it using a brush tool. It’s extremely useful if there is an object that you would like to exclude from gradient (like a tree, house in landscape photo that stands against the sky you want to modify, etc.). Basically it removes biggest issue in gradient filters which is affecting objects standing out against the sky.

Unfortunately it is the only new feature as far as editing images is concerned.

Summary

Summing up, it’s a really good update with a lot of new features and improvements over last edition.

New features are very welcome, even if they came a little bit late to the party, they will make workflow much easier. However, I will probably stick with PTGui for panoramas and Photomatix for HDRs as both tools just have more options which are really useful in case of serious photography work and if you really want to control what is going on with your images. Lightroom counterparts are very nice but limited at the moment and so I will probably use them only in case of quick edits.

Also I’m disappointed with overall speed. After reading all leaked information I had really high hopes here, but these expectations weren’t met. Also there seem to be some stability issues for me as I already got several crashes, something that didn’t happen with Lightroom 5 for at least few months. Hopefully this will get quickly fixed in a patch. While talking about performance I must say that GPU computing works fantastic in case of local adjustments – previously adding them resulted in very slow performance but now there is no performance loss at all.

Moreover, I’m a little disappointed that apart from ability to mask local adjustments with a brush there are no other changes to imaging features. Image quality won’t become any better with this update and I feel that Lightroom started to fall behind Capture One which nowadays probably offers best RAW conversion available on the market.

26 August 2014

Saturation vs Vibrance – what’s the difference?

Posted in: lightroom, tutorial|

When I started using Adobe Lightroom a few years ago, one of the things that caused my biggest confusion was what had been the difference between Saturation and Vibrance sliders. They both seemed to affect saturation and vividness of colours but the results they gave weren’t identical. And that is true – although both sliders boost saturation of colours, they do this in a slightly different manner. Here’s an example.Below you can see original image I took on Lanzarote islands, Canary Islands. The image showing volcanones has pretty low saturation so I decided to improve it:

Original image

And below you can see how the image looks after changing both Vibrance and Saturation. Before image (image on the left) is result of increasing Vibrance to +50, while After image shows the result of increasing Saturation – also to +50.

The difference is quite striking. The sky is slightly more vivid in the first image. On the other hand the sand and rock is much more saturated in the second image.

Ok, so now let’s take a closer look at what both sliders really do and that should explain the difference we’re seeing above.

Saturation

What Saturation does is very simple – it applies same amount of boost to all colours. Period. If you increase saturation by +20, every pixel in your image will get +20 to its colour saturation.

That’s why whole image above became much more saturated after increasing Saturation to +50. No matter it was rock, sand or sky.

Vibrance

Vibrance on the other hand doesn’t apply same amount of boost to every pixel – it applies more boost to colours that are least saturated (like blue in the sky for instance), and less boost to colours that are already saturated (like skin tones).

For that reason, vibrance doesn’t increase saturation of oranges and yellows what makes it really useful in case of images containing people (because when increasing vibrance skin tones will be preserved). Also as it tends to boost blues and greens more than other colours, it becomes useful in case of landscape photography featuring sky or grass.

How to use Saturation and Vibrance

Now the we know what is what, one question still remains unanswered – when to use Saturation and when to use Vibrance.
What I often do is to first increase Saturation slightly to make the saturated colours even more vivid, and then I increase Vibrance to boost the vividness of sky and foliage.
However, there are some special cases:
  • I already mentioned that it’s a good idea to use Vibrance alone if you want to improve vividness of colours in photos containing people because it will preserve skin tones. So street scenes, portraits, fashion work will be always good candidates for using Vibrance.
  • If you want to create black & white image – make sure to use Saturation slider as dragging Vibrance to -100 doesn’t guarantee to remove all colours from the image.
8 April 2014

Adobe Lightroom Mobile first impressions

Posted in: lightroom|

Adobe Lightroom Mobile

Today I was surprised to read the news that Adobe released Lightroom Mobile – project they announced quite some time ago – which is iPad version of Lightroom (I read somewhere that they’re working on Android version too).

Without much thinking I downloaded it onto my iPad to test it out. First surprise – you need Creative Cloud subscription to use it for free. I have so it wasn’t big deal but for those of you who haven’t – it might be because as far as I know you won’t be able to use this app without valid CC subscription – you simply can’t buy it as a separate product! You also need desktop version of Lightroom installed on your computer because mobile version syncs with it.

It might sound like a step in wrong direction from Adobe but… do you remember all the hassle when Creative Cloud was initially announced? Many photographers, who use only Lightroom, claimed that for them this model is very unfair as it doesn’t offer them as much as it offers eg. designers. Now – this changed. There is another product in Adobe’s portfolio targeted towards photographers. And only them.

Impressions

Now let’s go to some details. User interface is very simple, nice and in fact more intuitive than in desktop version. You can easily edit your photos in just a few clicks. The application is also much simpler than desktop version so it’s easier to learn.

Lightroom Mobile lets you edit images that you either have already on your iPad or which you get from your desktop by syncing Lightroom Mobile with Lightroom desktop version. To do this you need to download just released Adobe Lightroom 5.4, create collection in it and set it as “synchronizeable”. When you connect iPad to your computer, all images from this collection will be transferred onto iPad.

Once you have your photos imported, you can see them as a grid or you can edit them in some equivalent of desktop version’s Develop module.

In this develop-like module you can not only flag your photos (Pick/Reject) but you can also adjust all basic settings like White Balance, Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Saturation or Clarity. You just click on the name of the setting and slider appears to allow you make adjustments. You can also Crop your image.

Not surprisingly not all features from Lightroom desktop made it to mobile version (iPad probably is too slow and has too few memory to support some of them). Unfortunately you cannot edit colours in the image as freely as in desktop version of Lightroom (you can change Vibrance or Saturation but you cannot increase eg. saturation of yellows only). Lightroom Mobile also misses sharpening, denoising and selective adjustments.

Once you finish editing you can share your image (at least in theory because when I tried the app crashed in my case) or what is more useful you can sync your changes with Desktop version, so all edits will appear there as well allowing you to finish editing photos on your main computer.

Summary

So time for a short summary. In my opinion Lightroom Mobile is a great tool that will be very useful for many photographers. It’s true that iPad version misses a lot of features from Desktop version (for me it’s especially selective adjustments and ability to change colours in the image) but still the ability to make some basic editing will be invaluable for many – you will be able to show first version of your images to the client. Also the fact you can quickly pick your best photos and reject the worst on location will save you some time back at home. And yes, you don’t need to pay for it more.

24 October 2013

Autumn Lightroom presets collections

Posted in: download, landscape, lightroom, presets|

Autumn photo from Tatra Mountains
Above photo, taken in Tatra mountains, was processed using presets from this post.

Today I would like to share with you my new presets collection for Adobe Lightroom – this time presets for post-processing autumn landscape photos. Make the colours of autumn pop!

You can download my autumn presets below:

Also if you like them, I would greatly appreciate your feedback and shares of this post amongst your friends. It will motivate me to create & share even more free presets. Let me know your favourite ones too! And make sure to give links to photos processed with these presets in the comments below – I’d be very happy and interested to see them.

BTW you can find more presets created by me here. They include Adobe Lightroom, Topaz Adjust and Photomatix Pro presets. And they are all free!

To import presets into Adobe Lightroom:

  1. Extract downloaded presets, remembering the location where you did extract the files.
  2. Go to Develop module in Lightroom.
  3. Expand Presets panel (it’s on the left side just below Navigator).
  4. Right-click on the folder of your choice (eg. User Presets) and select Import…
  5. Navigate to the location where you extracted presets, select all of them and click on the Open button.

There are 6 categories of presets that are described below but each of the presets comes in a few variations what gives a total of 17 autumn presets!

Here is base unprocessed photo:

And below you will find presets in action with a short description of best use:

It might be too saturated for other cases though.2

Preset preview Preset name Description & best use case Number of variants
Dramatic contrast Preset which works great for creating very dramatic images. Works very well for dramatic mountain photos and for forest scenes. 1
Vibrant Preset with very vibrant colours. Works very well on foggy or rainy autumn days to add pop to otherwise lifeless and colourless images. 2
Monochrome Monochrome preset with large contrast for creating very moody images. 2
Natural Preset producing very natural colours. Works best for well exposed photos with good light. Good for typical landscape photos.

Might be too flat for foggy or rainy days.

4
Painterly Preset with very warm palette and specific look adding a bit painterly look&feel to autumn images.

This preset works best for photos with relatively low dynamic range.

6
Red orange leaves Preset adding extra pop to red and yellows and decreasing saturation of other tones.

Works best if there are many colourful leaves in the frame.

2