Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Photoshop Lightroom 2: For Nature Photographers
The new version of the popular Adobe software melds traditional darkroom controls with the digital world
There are many new features in Lightroom 2, but to me, the biggest is nondestructive dodging and burning. You can work just like Ansel Adams used to work in his darkroom, controlling the brightness and darkness of different parts of a photo, but now in the computer and with color.
The programmers at Adobe have created two new tools for this purpose: the Graduated Filter and the Adjustment Brush. Both appear in a new toolbar on the right-side panel in the Develop module of Lightroom. They offer a variety of controls within their adjustment space: Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Clarity, Sharpness and a Color Overlay.
The Graduated Filter control acts like a graduated filter used over your lens, but it includes more controls. After you select the type of control to be applied (Exposure, Brightness, etc.), simply click and drag on the photo and the effect immediately appears. Move your cursor farther away from your original point and the gradient gets larger, and rotate your movement of the cursor and the gradient also rotates.
This is an incredible feature. You’re not guessing what to use—you choose the control and see exactly what happens. And you don’t need to understand layers or layer masks. Plus, nothing is permanent! White control points appear to show you where an adjustment begins (hover over the point and you’ll see where the adjustment actually occurs in the photo). You can revise your adjustments as much as needed, plus you can add or delete them without any effect on the quality of the image. You can even set up multiple gradients across the photo to adjust all sorts of specific areas.
The Adjustment Brush uses the same controls as the Graduated Filter, but you literally brush the effects onto the picture rather than dragging a gradient across it. This is a fun tool to use. You can go over your picture and darken bright spots, brighten dark spots, give a line more contrast, paint in a bit of color and more. You set it up similarly to the Graduated Filter, although some additional parameters can be set. You can apply as many adjustment brush points as you need.
Exposure. Exposure works very well for lightening a photograph and sometimes for darkening.
Brightness. My preference is to use Brightness for darkening. I like its effect because, for me, it better mimics the traditional darkroom technique of burning in. I use Exposure and Brightness constantly in photos now.
Contrast. Contrast allows you to increase or decrease contrast in specific areas.
Saturation. This control allows you to selectively change saturation within a photo. Often, that’s the best way to deal with color, rather than making a change overall, especially with the overall saturation adjustment (which is heavy-handed).
Clarity. Clarity is like a refined contrast adjustment and allows you to both enhance and reduce contrasts around fine detail in restricted areas.
Sharpness. Sharpness is exactly what it seems to be, a control that allows you to increase or decrease sharpness in specific areas based on the gradient.
Color. You can add color to an area or intensify a weak color with a gradient based on a specific Color Overlay, for example, building up the blue in a sky that recorded weakly.
There are many things you can do with these adjustments as you paint or drag them across your photo. One thing to look for in working on local adjustments is the balance within a picture. Often, the photograph isn’t captured by the camera in a balanced way. Look for some of these elements to adjust:
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