Archive for November, 2012

Lightroom 4 – New Shadow/Highlight and Enhanced Clarity sliders

The new powerful Highlight/Shadow and Clarity features in Lightroom 4 will enable much more information to be extracted from both the Highlights and the Shadows of your images than ever before. The most significant change over and above the exciting new algorithms is that both areas will be worked on independently, a shadow enhancement will not affect highlights and visa versa. The results that are achievable will help you extend the natural dynamic range of the scene and create more compelling images, and will provide an easy way to reach your vision. The two sliders also have a negative as well as a positive value range providing balanced creativity. This image was taken on manual exposure with the Fuji X-Pro1 on an overcast day, the type of day that results in an image with a heavy shadow area and subdued highlights, however knowing that the Fuji has a huge dynamic range would make it possible to recover both areas of the scene.

As you can see in the histogram, there is a little clipping in the shadows but not in the highlights, we just need to extract the full dynamic range, extract the shadow detail and recover any highlights that exist.

The enhanced highlight and shadow sliders are shown below and are used to extract the content from both areas of the scene.

Focusing on the highlights (remembering that we are most likely going to expose for the highlights in the camera). Sliding the highlight slider all of the way to the left will enable the highlights to be extracted.

In the shadows (notice that the original photograph is not showing any shadow information (except in the histogram). If we move the shadow slider all the way to the right, Lightroom 4 is able to extract additional information and recover some of the clipping from the shadow area, and not affect the highlights.

The other control that has been enhanced in Lightroom 4 is the Clarity slider. This slider will control the amount of midtone contrast and can be found under the Presence section of the Basic panel. Moving the clarity slider to the left will reduce the midtone contrast and can create a smooth finish/dreamy effect (shown below, this can be effective on female portrait shots and can smooth out skin), to the right, will increase mid tone contrast and create a mock sharpened image.

Experimenting with the three sliders and by reducing and increasing the values in each may provide the creative effect required, however, Lightroom 4 is also able to enhance the image further.

The Gradient filter and the Local Adjustment brush have been significantly enhanced to include all settings that are available in the Development Module’s Basic panel. i.e. The temperature slider can now be used with the Gradient filter and/or Local Adjustment brush, in this scene to control the temperate of the sky.

Selecting the Gradient filter and dragging it over the image, will reflect the changes in the Gradient panel. In this example the temperature has been reduced to create a blue cast to the sky, the tint slider can also be changed. Notice that the top section of the Eiffel tower has also been affected by the change in temperature, this is easy to revert by using the Local Adjustment brush to override the Gradient filter changes. The Local Adjustment Brush is very effective in changing the settings at a localised level, i.e. in this scene, revert the temperature to before the blue sky was modified with the Gradient filter. Also, the colour of the metal structure of the Eiffel tower can be changed by applying effects using the Local Adjustment brush to paint where appropriate. i.e. to change the structure to be yellow (as shown in the image below).

N.B. When painting on this particular image we don’t want to affect the sky, setting the “Auto Mask”  to on for the brush (will protect the sky (that has already been modified) due to the difference in tone, see image below). Painting is much easier with a Wacom tablet (like the Intuos 5) as Lightroom is pressure sensitive with the Wacom and can be naturally brushed, compared to a mouse or something like an Apple trackpad that is either on or off, where the control of pressure is managed by the panel below and doesn’t feel as natural.

Once the Local Adjustment brush has been selected, click on the image and place an anchor pin. This pin will be a place holder for the mask and effectively apply the changes that are specified in the Local Adjustment brush panel.

The visibility of the pin(s) is controlled by the “Show Edit Pins” selector, the mask that is applied is visible by turning on the Show Selected Mask Overlay, or by pressing the “O” key whilst in the Local Adjustment brush tool (shown in red below). Initially the brush will paint on the mask.

“Auto Mask” is clearly working by detecting the edges on the tower and the tower base. Once the painting has been applied, the adjustment sliders have been modified, and the mask is not visible you can see the adjustments that have been made. If the mask is too much and needs to be re-shaped or altered, pressing the ALT key will turn the tool into a minus sign and will remove the mask by painting out brushed areas.

The final image with Highlight/Shadow/Clarity and the Local Adjustment brush adjustments applied can be seen below.

You can see how in just a few steps we have completely redefined the image and created something new and compelling.

Photoshop CS6 and Real World Adaptive Wide Angle Filter

Recently I have been using the Photoshop CS6 adaptive wide angle on images that i thought were not usable due to the barrel distortion. The new Adaptive Wide Angle filter in Photoshop CS6 has fixed a some old images and been able to transform into images that would otherwise never see the light of day.

Here is a shot that I took recently of the Northern lights in Iceland, however the weather station is suffering from barrel distortion and isn’t straight. Normally I would correct the straightness in the camera and make sure everything is lined up in the frame, unfortunately it was so dark & cold, it was impossible to do so (at the end of this article i will talk about photographing the Northern Lights as well and some in camera settings to capture this phenomenal activity).


To use the Adaptive Wide Angle filter to re-work this image, choose the menu item Filter / Adaptive wide angle .

Firstly the horizon needs to be pinned to the horizontal plane of the scene, otherwise, when the weather station is corrected the image will try to re-position itself and the horizon will move.

The cursor is placed within the black section of the scene, then dragged to the other side of the image to align the horizon (see below)

This will correct any barrel distortion at the base of the image based on the type of camera and lens combination used to take the photograph. To pin this part of the image to the Horizontal (now that the barrel distortion has been corrected), hold the shift key at the same time as clicking the blue correction line, then choose Horizontal.

This will make sure that any other modifications to the image won’t pull the image off the base horizontal plane.

To correct the weather station or any other vertical object/plane, it is best to look for a vertical point of the object, but sometimes not possible. The middle post of the weather station is ideal in this image. Holding the Shift key down and drawing a line from the bottom of the post, all the way to the top will automatically correct the post to the Vertical axis.


(Notice the colour of the line is now different to the previous one, as we have corrected both barrel distortion and the vertical axis). The same thing is performed to the other side of the image ,just to make sure the image is still in perspective once we have finished.

Press OK on this Filter.

Notice that when Photoshop CS6 corrects the image, the canvas is automatically extended, this provides more creative options.  This scene is not to complex, therefore the image does not need to be cropped. Photoshop CS5 introduced a way to create new pixels using the Content Aware Fill technology feature to rebuild the areas of the scene that are empty.

Take the Magic Wand tool and select an empty space, then choose the menu option Select/Similar, Photoshop will select other areas of the scene that are also empty. As we want Photoshop to rebuild pixels, texture and tone we need to give it some more information to work on (remember that Photoshop will use parts of what we have selected to gather information about the missing pixels, so we will expand the selected areas using the menu option Select/ Modify/ Expand and use a value of 2 pixels.

Then choose menu option Edit / Fill / and make sure that Content Aware is selected in the combo box

Press OK.

Sometimes Content Aware Fill can bring in unwanted items into the newly generated areas or can create repeating patterns. One way to remove this unwanted pixel data is to use the Clone tool and clone other pixels in from similar areas of the image.



When taking photographs of the Northern lights here are a few things to consider and experiment with.

1. Find a very dark area with no ambient light sneaking in the sky (between mountains is a good start). Near a road can be interesting as you have front and rear light trails to play with. Also, lakes can be amazing as the lights are caught in the reflections.

2. Use a sturdy tripod, if it’s windy you may need to weigh your tripod down to keep it stable.

3. Choose your lens (wide angle is good as the Lights can be all over the sky). Set the focal length of the lens to where you need it (i used an 18mm (24mm) on the Fuji xPro-1 above). Also, set the F-stop of the lens to as wide as possible to let as much light in a possible in any one second (F4 or below is ideal), then manually set the focus on your lens to infinity (usually represented by the infitinity symbol (to small circles joined in the middle).

4. Set the ISO to 100 or 200.

5. The exposure will be between 30 and 50 seconds, your camera may support Tv (time priority), however you may need to use the BULB setting to go over 30 seconds.

6. I would strongly recommend a locking cable release to start and hold the exposure, or use a 2 second delay with or without mirror lockup mode enabled to reduce the amount of vibration and shake.

7. You may not be able to see anything through the view finder so you will have to guess on what you are shooting (hence why the adaptive angle is a great tool to use in post).

8. Don’t forget to look around the sky, the Northen Lights are very unpredictable, if there is nothing going on in the front of you, there maybe something going on behind you. Also, if the lights are white in the sky (i.e. not very active (maybe a 2 on the activity scale),don’t panic, the camera will see the vivid colours and will record the different appropriately.

9. For a different effect and breaking rules, try hand holding the camera and go for something shaky….



Here in my final image, which I have converted to Black and White as opposed to colour to show the form of the lights.



Photoshop CS6 for Photographers and DSLR Video makers

Today’s Adobe webinar as part of the Create Now series we presented Photoshop CS6 for the Photography Community, where we talked about the new Filters (Blur/Tilt & Shift/Gradient), colour lookup tables as well as the new video feature in the Standard edition and much more. Please find the link to the recording of the session here and we look forward to meeting you again soon.