Here are seven shooting and editing techniques I use for more powerful images.
1. Composition Is Key
At the end of the day, it’s not the camera with which you shot, the lens or the perfect light, but the image itself that tells the story. Slight changes in angle or timing can mean the difference between the shot you intended and one that falls short. As an artist, it’s your eye that will make the final decision. Which of the two images below holds you the most interested?
2. Nail The Exposure
A slightly darker initial exposure may allow for better detail and color recovery in the brighter parts of your images when developing in post production. Your camera’s light meter electronically assesses a scene and determines what it believes to be the average brightness. Depending on the scene, this can lead to blown out (pure white) areas of your image. By darkening your initial exposure, you can retain image detail and color quality. I’ve found in both SLR and phone camera images that much more detail is retained in the shadows than in the highlights. Below you can see how much we were able to recover in the slightly underexposed foreground, bringing the color and detail back in the field of flowers.
3. White Balance
Similar to exposure, your camera will apply an initial white balance to a scene. Often times, such as at sunset and sunrise or in shaded areas, this measurement can be very off. Using the Temperature and Tint adjustments in Lightroom for mobile we are able to more accurately represent the colors of a scene. I test the Temperature (yellow versus blue) and Tint (magenta versus green) of nearly every image by dragging the sliders both directions to get a quick glance at how the scene’s feeling changes.
4. The Basic Adjustments
Entire articles are dedicated to the “Basic” adjustments (as they are referred to in Lightroom CC and Lightroom for mobile), as they will likely be your most-used editing tools. After adjusting Temperature and Tint, the following adjustments relate to the tonal quality of light and the intensity and quality of color. Note: (+) values equal “brighter” or increased amounts of each setting, and (-) values equal “darker” or decreased amounts.
- Exposure. Acts to lighten or darken the entire image equally.
- Contrast. The difference between the darkest and lightest parts of the image.
- Highlights. The highlights slider recovers detail in the brightest parts of an image.
- Shadows. The shadows slider recovers detail in the darkest parts of an image.
- Whites. This slider allows you to set your white point, which is the brightness value at which the brightest part of the image becomes pure white.
- Blacks. This slider allows you to set your black point, which is the brightness value at which the darkest part of the image becomes pure black.
- Clarity. This slider increases or decreases the mid tone contrast. It is similar to the contrast slider above, but does not affect the brightest or darkest parts of the image.
- Vibrance. The vibrance slider allows you to recover some of the subtle color in your image, bringing back some of the ‘pop’ of color.
Below you’ll see the adjustments I used to edit this image. Generally, the order in which I adjust the sliders is Exposure, Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, Clarity, Vibrance. The best thing about all these settings being grouped together is that it is quick and simple to jump between settings and see in real time how they are affecting the entire image. When adjusting your Blacks slider further left, you may need to move your Exposure slider further right.
5. Understanding Luminance
Luminance is defined as “the intensity of light emitted from a surface.” We can use Luminance to create more intensity in our skies. By entering the “Color / B&W” tab, you can adjust each color’s Luminance values. By decreasing (sliding to the left) the Blue Luminance slider, you are decreasing the light intensity of the blues of an image, which often lead to more natural and vibrant skies. Below you can see the effects of sliding the Blue Luminance slider to the left and right.
6. You Can Copy And Paste Adjustments
Often you will end up trying several angles and compositions of a very similar scene. On these occasions it can be helpful to apply a basic set of edits to several images. Instead of manually applying the same edits to each image, the Copy and Paste Settings tool in Lightroom for mobile is very helpful. After editing the first image, tap and hold your screen to bring up the menu shown in the screen shots below. Click “Copy Settings” and a menu will prompt which settings to copy. In this case, we want to copy all settings, so we click “OK”. Tap and hold the screen on the photo to which you want to paste the settings, and the pop-up window will now display “Paste Settings” optioin. All the settings from your first image edit will be applied. Repeat as necessary.
7. Clean Your Image
Inevitably you will come across a scenario where there is something that sneaks into your image that you either missed or cannot control. It could be a tree branch, a dust spot on your lens, or in this case, a distracting marking on the wall of a building. With Photoshop Fix we can quickly and easily remove the distracting element from our scene.
- In Lightroom for mobile, select the “Open In” command (in the upper right corner of the screen). Tap “Edit In” then “Healing in Photoshop Fix”.
- Select “Spot Heal”.
- With your finger, paint over the area you wish to clean up.
- Touch the blue banner at the top of the screen to save and return to Lightroom for mobile.
William Woodward is a lifestyle, travel and adventure photographer currently living on the road full time in his VW Vanagon named “Ruby”. A conscious effort to downsize and simplify has allowed him to focus on art and experiences in the outdoors. For the past year he has been exploring the American West as well as the Canadian Rockies, with side projects in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Dubai and Mexico. See more of his work at wheretowillie.com