Archive for March, 2014

#CreativeFriday – A practical use of Lightroom 5’s Radial Filter.

Whilst on a recent Photography trip to India, a good friend of mine Frank Smith showed me how he uses the Lightroom 5 radial filter to edit his photographs, with Frank’s permission, I wanted to share this technique with you.

The original image is a simple scene with a street tea seller in Gujarat. To get this image in to shape there are a few elements I would like to  fix (this is pretty much the standard procedure for most of my images within Lightroom), here are the items that need fixing :-

  • The lens that I used for this image does have a small amount of pin cushioning and may include some vignetting which is typical for most lenses in the market.
  • The image isn’t square to the frame (notice the post on the right hand side).
  • The arm on the right hand side is a little distracting. I’m planning to crop the image using the the original aspect ratio. This crop will also reduce the gap between the top of the tea makers head and the top edge of the frame (I’ll just need to be careful not to crop this to tight). It will also allow area of emptiness on the top right to be reduced as well. I have decided to keep the gap on the left, as I quite like the gap, it helps orient the viewer and gives them more information to where this scene might be (but not too much to distract from the main image). The rest of the scene is of secondary importance , but gives the viewer more information of the work area of the tea seller.
  • The histogram is a little into the shadows, so I’ll just need to re-balance the image.


The lens that i used for this image does have a small amount of pin cushioning and possibly some vignetting.

This problem can be fixed quickly, by using the “Lens Corrections” panel in Lightroom. Under the Basic tab, i’ll turn on the “Enable Profile Corrections” check box. This retrieves the camera and lens combination from the images meta data and applies the correct corrections to the image (within the Red box below). Adobe work with the Camera and Lens manufacturers and profile the lens/body combinations.

The image isn’t square to the frame (notice the post on the left hand side).

To fix the verticals and horizontals I try to just use the AUTO button on the upright tab (within the Red box below). The AUTO button fixes most items, but you may need to experiment with a little. The results will be highly dependent on the contents of the image that you are working with. The Upright technology is helped by a having the “Enable profile corrections turned on”, as this will make sure that any pin cushioning is corrected, but is not mandatory or dependent on this being enabled. Don’t forget that if you need to, you can also fine tune the corrections to the Upright adjustments by using the manual distortion sliders on the manual tab.

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You can see that in the following example, the profile corrections and the upright feature have completely fixed the areas of concern (without any additional work).


The crop tool is available under the histogram (marked Red below), it’s attributes are available within the Yellow marked area.

I tend to use the crop overlay when cropping, I find it helps me position the elements in the right place within the scene for maximum impact and strength. This particular view option suggests that elements on the curve will be in the best position to drive the eye in the scene and if done well will keep the viewer in the frame. There are other options that you can select (i.e. rule of thirds), by choosing the menu item Tools / Crop Guide Overlay or by pressing the O key (shift and O will rotate the overlay).

For this image, my crop will keep the bright area of the scene intact (reducing this area places the image off balance). I just place the right hand side of the crop just to the start of the arm and am careful not to crop into the head and to keep the fingers in the frame.

I have selected the “As shot” aspect ratio and turned the lock on, this ensures that the aspect ratio is kept during the cropping process.

N.B. The upright adjustment will reset the crop, so perform the crop after the Upright adjustments have been made.

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I find hands and fingers particularly important, in this case they are hidden behind the bench, the crop i am employing will show the viewer this is happening, but I’ll try to never intentionally crop into the hand or fingers, if they are in the frame (It’s become a habit after having had so many portfolio reviews with one of my teachers John Isaac (you can see some of John’s work here, )).

The histogram is a little into the shadows, so I’ll just need to re-balance the image.

The image below is exposed correctly for the scene. However, If the image is too dark and underexposed i’ll use the exposure slider.

The Highlights slider is used below to reduce the amount of highlights in the image, or to reconstruct any highlight values that have been partially clipped in the original shot. In this particular image, the bright area may even be to distracting. I feel that once the viewers eye recognises the bright area, all the viewer will see is the bright light. To overcome this, I might use the highlights attribute on the gradient filter to darken it, otherwise, if there isn’t any data left in the white area, I may re-adjust the crop decision.

The shadows slider is used to open up and reveal more shadow detail in the image. In this image, the upper right hand side of the scene has more details to show, these details can be used to give the viewer more information about the environment.

In this image, the white point is almost at the edge of clipping to pure white. I’ll move the white point to the right, and set it to just before the clipping indicators appear in the image. The clipping indicators are turned on by enabling the highlight and shadow clipping on the histogram (marked in red). These can be enabled individually by clicking on the appropriate one (shadows – left, highlights – right) or by pressing the ‘J’ key within the Development module. Once the whites slider is moved to the right, any clipping areas (i.e. pure white has been reached and there is no data to display), will be shown using a red mask. I’ll try not to have any pure white areas in the scene, as it can be quite distracting.

The blacks are a different story, i’ll always clip to pure black, this will add contrast to the image and can be used to keep the viewer into the frame. I will be extra careful to keep additional details unclipped, if it’s needed to provide the viewer with more information about the scene. I’ll use the blacks to keep the viewer in the frame, in this case it’s like an edge burn that will stop the viewer from slipping out of the image. If the crop overlay is anything to go by, the eye will come in from the bottom left, then will come in to the image, and the black area in the top right, will help guide the viewers eye around to the tea seller. Once the viewer’s eye has left the seller, the eye will come around the to dark areas and back to the seller (well that’s the theory anyway 😉 ).

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There are many ways Ligthroom can be used to darken the area of brightness. In this example I’ll use the Gradient tool (marked Red below), and bring it in from outside of the frame to the cover the area that needs fixing, then add a slight tilt to the filter so that it’ll be  harder to see by the viewer once the image has been published. In this instance the the exposure slider on the gradient filter won’t have any effect as there is no data to modify in the brightest highlight area. However, using the highlights slider will enable me to recover the highlights (utilising the other RGB channels) and allow me to darken the area naturally (within the yellow area).

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.23.29

The light on the persons shirt is good, but maybe need a little more exposure. However, the face is a little dark on both sides (even though the contrast difference between the left and right side is ok).

I could use the adjustment brush, but actually a faster method (and the way that Frank approaches the problem) is to use the radial filter and use an inverted mask.

I select the radial filter (marked Yellow below). and I just draw it over the persons face (marked Red), i’ve then rotated the filter to allow it to cover the area properly. Then adjust the Shadows slider to recover and open up the shadows (it’s not as heavy handed as the exposure adjustment). By default the adjustment will be made outside of the radial filter, by clicking on the “Invert Mask” (Marked green). This will make the changes inside the radial filter, and effect the face only. I also have the feather command to blend the fix into the area.

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I can also see the before and after effect, by turning off the effect using the switch within the area marked purple (this applies to any panel, expect the Basic panel).

I can apply the same process to the person shirt and adjust the exposure slightly.

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(You can turn off the shadown/highlight clipping by pressing the ‘J’ key, or by clicking on the highlight shadow indicators within the histogram).

You can now see the before and after images by clicking the Y/Y button (Before/After Left/Right selected from the drop down arrow).

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This (depending on the split selection) will show the two images. I have reduced the brightness of the hud around the images, but pressing the L key once. Pressing the ‘L’ key once more, will hide the hud of Lightroom completely, pressed once more with reveal the hud. It’s a very slight change, but enough to show the tea maker and inform the viewer of what’s happening.

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You can see the final result in Lightroom by pressing the ‘F’ key


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Create Now – New Creatives Meet Up


Tonight Adobe will be hosting the first in a series of Creative Meet Ups. It’s looking to be an event not to be missed. You can watch the teaser below and watch the Live Stream here.



#CreativeFriday – Notes from the field, editing and travelling with Lightroom 5

This weeks post is just a short one, as I am still on a Photographic Trip in the fast paced city of Mumbai. I have just completed a two week photographic trip of India’s colour festival known as Holi as well as Tribal villages in Gujarat. I think there is some great stuff and will be posting images and how to edit’s when I return back to the UK, Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC updates are really going to make the images look super.

This is the first real photographic trip I have been on since we released Lightroom 5 and the new features. There have been two features in Lightroom 5 that have really stood out on this trip, when it comes to working and reviewing images when away from the studio and in transit and I wanted to share them with you, just in case you are not aware or using them.

Photographic trips are pretty intense and usually require a lot of time in vehicles(of one type or another) or tents, when not shooting :-

  • The ability to add images and keyword on a daily basis.
  • Inclusion of GPS tracking data on image import.
  • Full Screen in Lightroom 5
  • Smart Previews
  • Back to the Studio planning

The ability to add images and keyword on a daily basis.

Ok this is standard stuff. However, every day there is a shoot going on and depending on the location could take a few hours or more to get there, there isn’t typically a lot of time in front of the computer to work on images. However, between getting back to the hotel and before heading out for dinner, there is usually a quick 10 minutes of upload and back up time. It turns out that actually moving to a smaller system has reduced my number of shots on a daily basis to around 450 rather than the 1500 that I used to shoot on a DSLR, primarily because I am manually focusing, setting the aperture (mostly under F4) and thinking about framing and exposure much more as part of the capture. Which results in card only taking 10 minutes or so and allows a little more time to include some keywords on the images as part of the bulk import into Lightroom.

Inclusion of GPS tracking data on image import.

I used to always struggle with names of villages in remote places around the globe and tracking locations (even the guides don’t always know the names sometimes), as well as being very disorientated when moving quickly from place to place. This could be an import part of a story that will help orient the viewer/reader, so I have found that accuracy of places names and spelling is an important data element. I decided to invest in a GPS module for this and future trips, and take the guess work out of the equation, and no longer have to guess these village names that are visited in a day and type them into Lightroom as part of an import mechanism (Love GPS data (well they say that it’s all about Location, Location, Location!)), (To have this feature working, you will need an internet connection and enable the Reverse Geocoding options, available in the Catalog settings dialog box).

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 16.38.00

(You may want to turn off the Export check box to keep the location safe).

Having the ability to include the GPS coordinates for each image really takes the guess work out in Lightroom, and even with a dodgy internet connection in Indian hotels, I can see immediately where the shots where taken, and include this data on the keyword meta data of the appropriate data.

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Due to these workflow changes my upload and keywording for around 450 images now takes under 10 minutes ! This makes for a very happy travel photographer ! Time for Dinner.

Smart Previews

Whilst I am at dinner and the batteries are charging for the next day shoot, i’ll usually make use of the additional time and build Smart Previews for the images from within the Lightroom import module, or if i forget from within the Library module (explained below)

When you import in Lightroom there is a “File Handling” drop down option, positioned on the left hand side of the screen. Under here the “Build Smart Previews” can be found.

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There is of course another way of creating Smart Previews, just in case you forget, or would like to create the Smart Previews on more than just this import, or even on selection of images. From within the Library module under the menu item, select Library / Previews / Build Smart Previews (there is also a discard Smart Previews as well, that will clear out any Smart Previews that you have built).

I get asked a lot of the time “When is the best time to use the Smart Previews option” ? Smart previews were designed to allow working on an image when the full version is not available (i.e. if the disk is powered down etc). I tend not to use Smart Previews at the studio as my drives will be turned on and everything is available. Also, the Smart Previews take up physical space, which is more than a standard preview and are stored next to the catalog  (Once of my folders is 27.5GB on the disk and 1.1GB as Smart Previews), In this case I would rather use the original image. This isn’t to say that i won’t use Smart Previews in the studio, but it will be a selective edit for when the images are not available.

NB. You will need to manage the Smart Previews manually and discard them from the menu item under the Library module – Library / Previews / Discard Smart Previews. Lightroom will not automatically clean up the smart previews after a designed amount of time as it will for standard previews.

I will however, use Smart Previews all of the time when I am travelling or showing work to clients back home. Disk space on the computer is limited and don’t want to have 10GB+ of images just sat there, I also don’t want to have to plug in and carry additional hard drives with me all of the time. So Smart previews for me were the best thing in Lightroom 5. I am now able to Pick/Unpick, Rank, Quick Edits in Development mode, Full screen etc whilst on the go (planes, trains, cars and boats), and not risk the integrity of my images (or external drive due to a collision with an air hostess’s trolley for example).

Full Screen in Lightroom 5

Now that a Smart Preview of the image is available to me all of the time, even when the external drive is not, I can regulary review when ever the chance appears and not have to worry about plugging drives in, getting set up etc. Smart Previews are not full width and full resolution, infact they are highly lossy portable files, but give me an amazing representation when the original images when they are not available. I will typically use the new Full Screen mode ‘F’ key to Pick/Unpick and rank the images when on the go.

I personally find it liberating to be able to work on any image at any time when the external drive is not attached, however, if any work is done on any image then it’s import to make sure that you tell the external drive about it.

As an additional item, i’ll always make sure that the travel catalog as well as my master catalog in the studio has the Write XMP data to the side card file. This setting can be found under the Lightroom / Catalog Settings / Metadata tab – Automically write changes into XMP file (see below). This file is very important and would strongly suggest that it is turned on in all of your catalogs. It will ensure that any changes in Lightroom (keywords, development settings etc) are stored against the original image as well as in the Lightroom catalog. If anything was every to happen to the Lightroom catalog and you didn’t back it up, then this way will ensure that you keep any edits or changes. Lightroom will ensure that this file is up to date all of the time when the images are available (they may be disconnected, as in this post).

My workflow uses the DNG format as well as propriety RAW formats. For propriety RAW formats like Canon’s CR2 file or Fuji’s RAF format, the XMP file will sit next to the original file with the same name and a .XMP extension. As the DNG file is a container format, it works differently from the propriety file. It contains similar information, but can also contain other information as well (including original RAW file, meta data (XMP) files, plus others). The XMP file will be embedded into the DNG file and not along side it, this makes it easier for portability later, as only one file needs to move and not two.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 16.01.32

Once the External drive is next plugged into the computer (typically at the end of the shoot the next day), i’ll take the images that I have worked on (just by selecting either the root folder or the individual folder, depending on what’s been have changed, then selecting all of the images (modified or not), using CMD (Mac)/CTRL (PC) and A, then pressing CMD(Mac)/CTRL(PC)+S to save the metadata changes to the external disk.

You may have noticed that I have “Day2” on the meta data panel for the folder name. Whilst  away, I tend to use a simple Day 1, Day 2 system and at home a RAW 1, RAW2, which allows me to store the files from all of the cameras that I have shot with and keep track of which day I am on, but also fits into the main structure of my main catalog  with a simple folder rename.

(My master structure may look a little odd as nothing relates back to where I have been, the shoot or anything back to the physical world. My Lightroom and folder system relies on a commitment to key wording so it’s import for me to have this strict process within my workflow upon Import as well as additional key words once the images have been imported). More details can be found about this approach in the great book “The DAM Book, Digital Asset Management for Photographers – by Peter Krogh”.

Back to the Studio

Eventually when I get back to the studio, transfer of the data from my external drive to my master catalog is relatively simple. I just need to rename the folders to fit into the master folder structure, then copy everything from the external drive that was with me on the trip to the main drive. Then inside Lightroom I will either import the new folders using the import mechanism inside Lightroom or just synchronise the catalog to make sure that Lightroom has all of the changes.


“Getting ready to be painted at Holi.”





Photography Show 2014 Feedback

The Adobe UK Digital Imaging Team would like to thank everyone that came to The Photography Show 2014 and especially the people that came to our stand and seminars that we hosted. For us to improve our presence at future events and make the experience even better, we would like to ask you for a few minutes of your time, too complete a very short questionnaire that would help us improve all aspects of what we are Adobe are trying to do.

The online form can be accessed here and is completely anonymous.

Thank you

Adobe UK Digital Imaging Team.



#CreativeFriday – Transform a selection in Photoshop CC

A colleague yesterday asked me if there is a way to transform a selection once it has been created. Unlike drawing a regular shape there is no transform tool. However, there is a menu option –  Select / Transform Selection.

Take this image below, it may be that I would like to extract the text “Gamzen” from the scene as well as the surrounding paintwork. But the workers head and turban is in the way.

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To demonstrate this feature, i’ll start with a rectangular marquee.

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But, i’ve made an initial mistake and the selection is not large enough. I can choose the menu option Select / Transform Selection. Now I have access to the transformation handles.

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Once the selection has been enlarged and rotated, it now runs over even more parts of the scene that I don’t want to be selected. To modify the selection further,  i’ll choose the free transform mode (marked in Red below).


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I am now able to move the handles to exactly the shape needed to complete this task

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To get better/faster access to this menu item, you can add a new or existing keyboard shortcut. You can access the keyboard shortcuts and menu dialog using the Menu option / Edit / Keyboard shortcuts.

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