Lightroom’s Adjustment Tools – Quick Tip

Hi Folks:

The impetus for this post came from one done by Matt Kloskowski over at Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Killer Tips.  I have a different photography style than he does and so I won’t likely incorporate the ‘super edgy style’ that he did, but it led me to consider how else the idea might be used.

Of the two images below, the image on the left shows a photo made with my cell phone camera (a Samsung Galaxy S i9000), and the image on the right is the same image after being pushed around a bit in Lightroom.  Cell phone images don’t have a lot of structure so you can’t push them very far without them dissolving into a goo of pixels.

Flowers Flowers

The image isn’t bad as is, but I knew I could do a little more with it.

Now the primary reason for using Lightroom’s Adjustment tools (the Graduated Filter and the Adjustment Brush) is to make adjustments to only a selected part of an image.  However, you can use those same tools to adjust the entire image.  Why would you want to use these tools to affect the entire image when you could simply use the sliders in the Basic Panel?  Well, there are several reasons, but here are a few to start with.  One, with the Basic panel one can set the sliders to one extreme or the other, but that’s it; it’s impossible to go beyond that.  With the Adjustment tools one can ‘stack’ adjustments one on top of the other, adding to an effect.  In a way this is the opposite of the post I wrote on ‘Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush: Flow and Density‘.  Second, there are some effects, such as ‘negative Sharpness’ (Blur) that aren’t available from the Basic panel.  Third, one can apply an effect to the entire image, then select a new brush with an opposite setting and ‘paint out’ a part of the effect.

In the image below, for example, I used a large brush to darken the entire image, then a second brush to lighten the area around Marcia.  This level of control is not possible using the vignetting tools.

Beach Walker

Back to the flowers.  Now, with the Graduated Filter tool there are three zones for each filter.  One zone is the area outside the lines on one side where the full effect of the filter is shown.  The second zone is the space between the lines where there is a transition from the full effect of the filter down to zero, and the third zone is the area outside the lines on the other side where no effect is shown.  One can start a graduated filter at the edge of the frame or anywhere within the frame, but here’s a quick tip for you (you knew there had to be one in here somewhere).  Place the cursor on the edge of the frame, hold down the Shift key and drag away from the frame.  This will apply the full effect of the filter to the entire frame.  In the image below I’ve added two graduated filters.  One has a Sharpness setting of -100 and the second has a Sharpness setting of -34.

Graduated Filter

Since that blurred the entire image, I added two Adjustment Brushes to target just the flowers.  For the first brush I set both Clarity and Sharpness to 100, and I also increased Exposure by 1/2 a stop.  For the second brush I set Sharpness to 100.

Adjustment Brushes

The final image is below.  The combined effects yield an image that seems to have a very shallow depth of field, focusing primarily on the flower blossoms.  Not bad for a cell phone camera…


Okay, that’s it!  Not quite as short or as ‘quick’ as I had intended, but I trust it will be of some use to you.  Now go out and make some photographs!


P.S. You can find more of our posts on photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find links to over 200 other sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.

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