Category Archives: Tutorial

Lightroom: Vibrance and Saturation

If you use Lightroom you’ve probably noticed an adjustment called Vibrance in the Develop module. You may have wondered what the purpose was of this adjustment. I know I wondered about it for quite some time before finally doing some research.

The Vibrance adjustment is a part of the Basic panel, located between the Clarity and Saturation sliders (see first image, below). If you happen to have played around with it you might have found that it boosts or decreases the vividness or intensity of color, similar to what the Saturation setting does. For a long time I would, and still often do, use Vibrance rather than Saturation because I like the more subtle color boost it gives compared to Saturation. But what exactly is it that Vibrance is doing differently than Saturation? Why would I want to use one over the other?

Vibrance and Saturation controls in Lightroom 5

Vibrance and Saturation controls in Lightroom 5

The primary difference is actually quite simple but an important one. Whereas Saturation tends to boost the color intensity or vividness across the color spectrum, Vibrance makes little or no change to already highly saturated colors or to the skin tone colors, the reds, yellows, and oranges. This is useful for portraits or photos of people where you might want to enhance the saturation of the image without turning everyone’s face into a Sunkist orange.

Below are some examples that illustrate the difference in these settings. The first example is the original, un-edited image. The second is with the Saturation adjustment set at +35. As you might expect, the colors throughout the image have been boosted and are significantly more vibrant. The third image is with the Vibrance set at +35 (with Saturation at 0). Notice that many of the colors are now a bit more vivid but not to the extent as Saturation at the same setting. Notice also that the skin tones have largely been unchanged. Now, this image may not have been the best example to use because in this case the skin tones really could use some warming, but it gives you the general idea. In most cases with images of people, I tend to avoid Saturation, or to only use it minimally, especially with darker skin tones.

Original Image - No Vibrance or Saturation adjustment

Original Image – No Vibrance or Saturation adjustment

Saturation set at +35

Saturation set at +35

Vibrance set at +35

Vibrance set at +35

Also posted in Lighroom, Photography

Lightroom Tip of the Week: Control Your Highlights

Adobe’s Lightroom is a great program for managing your photo library, editing your photos, and presenting them in various ways, from printing to creating books. I’ve been using Lightroom for a number of years now, beginning with Lightroom 2 all the way to the current version. Lightroom 5. Whereas Photoshop is really more of a graphic design program with tools covering a broad range of uses, Lightroom was built from the ground up with photographers and their workflow in mind, from image import and file management to printing and output. I use Lightroom for the majority of my image editing needs, rarely venturing into Photoshop (although Photoshop does have some specific uses and one of my goals for the year is to become more adept at using it).

I don’t how many of my regular followers are Lightroom users but I plan to make Lightroom tips a regular feature of this blog. Part of the reason for this is personal; while I consider myself to be a relatively proficient Lightroom user, I’m aware that there’s a lot I don’t know and this will encourage me to delve deeper. And I hope that some of you find this information useful, also. Although I titled this post Lightroom Tip of the Week, I would interpret the week part rather loosely as I have other topics I hope to cover as well.

While not an exactly new, the highlights adjustment tool has been greatly improved with recent versions of the program. This tool, located in the Basic panel of the Develop module (see Figure 1), allows you to recover detail that may be otherwise lost in areas that are extremely bright or blown out. Of course, this only works if there is detail available in your file to recover. If the highlights are completely blown out, there will simply be no data available for Lightroom to work with you’re just out of luck. This works best if you shoot in RAW, which I highly recommend you do all the time.

Highlights control slider in the Develop module

Figure 1: Highlights control slider in the Develop module

The histogram in the upper right corner of the Develop Module will tell you if you have highlights that are being clipped, or lost, although it won’t necessarily indicate whether all of these are recoverable. The histogram curve will be pushed up against the right side and a white triangle will appear on the upper right side of the histogram box (see Figure 2). Move the highlights slider in the Basic panel back and forth and watch as the histogram shifts. Move the slider to the left to reduce highlights, to the right to increase them.

Figure 2: Highlights clipping indicator

Figure 2: Highlights clipping indicator

If you hover your cursor over the white triangle, you’ll see any areas with clipped highlights appear as red shading in your image (see Figure 3). You can toggle the shading on and off by clicking the triangle. When it’s toggled on, a white box will appear around the triangle. By leaving this toggled on, you can watch the red areas disappear as you move the slider to the left (Figure 4). Notice however that even with a setting of -45 used for this image there are still some clipped highlights somewhere in the image, as indicated by the illuminated Highlights clipping triangle.

Figure 3: Clipped highlights shaded in red

Figure 3: Clipped highlights shaded in red

Figure 4: Red shading gone with Highlights set at -45

Figure 4: Red shading gone with Highlights set at -45

One of the ‘problems’ I find with making highlights adjustment using the controls in the Basic panel is that Lightroom is making a blanket adjustment across the image. Sometimes this is fine, but quite often the area needing adjustment is only in one small part of the image and I don’t necessarily want highlights reduced elsewhere. However, I find that using the Adjustment Brush is often a better option. Using the Adjustment Brush with the highlights setting selected (Figure 5) will allow you to paint the adjustment only over the area needing fixing.

Figure 5: Adjustment Brush

Figure 5: Adjustment Brush

Figure 6: Final histogram

Figure 6: Final histogram

For the final image below, I opted for a slightly different method and chose to reduce the exposure on the sky using the Graduated Filter (which I can cover in a future post). This left only small areas of clipped highlights which I recovered using the Adjustment Brush.

Villa de Zaachila, Mexico

Final Image: Villa de Zaachila, Mexico

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. And if you know anyone who might find this tutorial useful, please feel free to share it.

Also posted in Lighroom, Photography Tagged , |

Capturing the Journey

I’m happy to announce my new and first ebook: Capturing the Journey – A Beginner’s Guide to the Basics of Travel Photography.

Capturing the Journey - Cover

Capturing the Journey ebook - Cover

There are a lot of ebooks and other resources out there for anyone who wants to learn more about photography. Most of those are geared toward those who have dSLRs or are interested in photography as a hobby. But what if you are going on a vacation or planning some long-term travel and you just want to take better pictures? What if you don’t care about ISOs and f-stops?

I believe anyone can learn to take better pictures. Having a dSLR and learning about all your camera settings can certainly give you a lot more creative control over your pictures, and that’s great, but you can do a lot to improve your photos regardless of the camera you have just by learning some compositional techniques and by paying attention to a few other photographic elements and details. This ebook is over 50 pages of tips, tricks and suggestions to help you start taking better pictures, all illustrated with gorgeous photographs that help to demonstrate the described techniques.

You can read more about it here! Or purchase the ebook today.

Only USD
Buy Now
But WAIT! Use the code JOURNEY01 when you check out and get Capturing the Journey for only $12. This code expires at midnight August 15, 2011.

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Also posted in eBook, Photography Tagged , , |

The Power of Black and White

Craft & Vision is out with their latest eBook, The Power of Black and White – In Adobe Lightroom and Beyond, by Piet Van den Eynde. Coming in at a healthy 100 pages, this is their largest eBook to date.

The world of digital photography has largely been dominated by color. However, black and white has a special place for many photographers and art lovers for its minimalist look and ability to convey emotion without the use of color. Although I would argue that black and white photography never really went away, until relatively recently the technology and tools we had were never quite able to replicate the subtle nuances and tonal gradations of film. Diehard film buffs may still make that argument – and they may be correct – but we are certainly a lot closer now than at any time in the past.

In The Power of Black and White, den Eynde walks us through the post-processing of black and white images, primarily in Adobe Lightroom. Using a number of beautiful photographic examples as case studies, he shows not just the how, but also the why. As with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom often provides more than one way to complete a particular task. In particular for black and white conversion, there are several methods that can be used, one of which was new to me. He also discusses the use of the Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush, in addition to the many other tools that can be used to bring out the most from your black and white images. Some suggestions for work flow and the use of presets as time-saving tools are also touched upon.

As powerful as Lightroom is, it does have its limitations. In addition to the tools available in Lightroom itself, den Eynde also discusses using Photoshop to complete some tasks, as well as some of the third-party Lightroom plugins that are either specific to black and white processing or useful for it, including Silver Efex Pro 2 by Nik Software and several different HDR processors, among others.

I certainly learned a few things from this book. Although I wouldn’t have gone so far as to call myself a power user, until reading this eBook I did consider myself to be fairly proficient at Adobe Lightroom, at least within the Library and Develop modules. I could still probably say that I’m proficient, but reading The Power of Black and White showed me how much I don’t know and how much there is still to learn about Lightroom in general, and black and white processing in particular.

If you are a Lightroom user and enjoy the art of black and white photography, you may find this eBook useful. At only $5 it’s hard to beat. But wait! For the first five days only, if you use the promotional code BWLIGHT4 when you checkout, you can have the PDF version of The Power of Black & White in Adobe Lightroom & Beyond for only $4 OR use the code BWLIGHT20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes expire at 11:59pm PST April 16, 2011.

Today’s Photo

Seashell in Black and White

Seashell in Black and White

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Also posted in Black and White, Lighroom, Photography Tagged , , , |

Light Painting on the Steps


At the beginning of the year, I had a strange feeling that this year would prove to be an interesting one. So far, it seems, my intuition has proven correct. Catastrophic floods in Australia, unrest in the Middle East, a devastating earthquake in New Zealand, and now the potential for a triple tragedy in Japan of the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history followed by a devastating tsunami, and the possibility of TWO nuclear plant meltdowns. Jeesh, and it’s only March. Of course every year has its share of natural disasters and crazy political events so it’s entirely possible I’m over-dramatizing. I guess we’ll find out as we see how the rest of the year plays out.

Today’s Photo

Speaking of drama, an interesting technique for adding some excitement and drama to your nighttime photos is known as light painting. This technique uses long exposures and a secondary light source, such as a flashlight, to ‘paint’ light onto objects or to create trails of light through an image. You can use different color gels to create colorful effects. Exposures can range anywhere from seconds to several minutes, with longer exposures allowing for more creative lighting. In this example, I used a hand-held flash to add light to the specific areas of the photo which I wanted to highlight. I ran around manually firing the flash several times during the 30 second exposure. In the end, 30 seconds was more than enough time for what I did here, although it took a bit of trial and error to find the right balance of flash power and the number of times to pop the flash in order to evenly light the scene the way I wanted. But that’s part of the fun.

Beyond the Steps

Sydney as seen from Bradley's Head.

I intended to include a ‘before’ image with this to show how the light painting improved the image but internet issues are preventing me from doing so.

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Also posted in Landscape, Photography, Sydney Tagged , , , , |