The Sunset I Saw

Often times when we are out taking photos the results we get in our cameras aren’t as vivid as we remember them.  It starts out when we look at the tiny LCD display on the back and seems to get worse when we download the images. It is critical to remember that your eyes have much better dynamic range than any camera yet available.  This is one of the reasons that proper use of HDR can bring out details in the shadows that otherwise are obscured.  This blog is NOT about HDR.  We are going to just examine some of the other things that we can do in Lightroom to make the picture match our memory.

Starting with the Camera Calibration panel, you can set a baseline for how your RAW image is displayed by selecting a Profile appropriate for your image. Your camera is already doing this for you in the viewfinder as it converts your data into a .jpg for display.

Portrait mode helps keep skin tones flatter, while the landscape mode enhances the greens.  Camera Standard actually knows what kind of camera you are shooting and sets it accordingly.  I prefer Adobe standard normally, but for this image the Camera version looked better.

Next, sunrises and sunsets, have lots of shadows. If they are too dark they will not print effectively, so you can adjust the slider to just bring the histogram out of the white triangle range.

Continuing in the Presence panel, the Vibrance and Saturation controls make universal adjustments.  You can make bigger changes to Vibrance as it impacts the midtowns only than you can with the Saturation slider.  It quickly makes your picture appear bandy and weird looking.

Finally, down in the HSL/Color/B&W panel you can carefully target specific colors which you want to enhance or reduce.

The After image looks much more like that lovely setting sun over the Northern Neck of VA.

Creative Lens Corrections

One of the great features introduced back in LR2 was the Camera Correction panel in the Develop module.  Lenses have built in distortions based upon the design of their optics.  You’ve seen the effect when the tall buildings in your pictures seem to either lean way back away from the camera or tilt to one side in part of the picture while appearing vertical elsewhere. Some lenses get “curvey” out towards the outer edges of the images, some cause vignetting (darkness around the corners) based on how light is processed as it passes through the various pieces of glass.  Because these flaws can be modeled and profiled, the Adobe software designers can correct the image to display things as they “should be”.  Here is a perfectly average picture of the U.S. Naval Academy chapel dome (GO NAVY-BEAT ARMY).  I applied a little darkening to the sky and pushed up the blacks to make it a little crisper, but it still remains a really average shot.  Since not all lenses are modeled yet, they included manual controls which permit you to adjust the various characteristics of your image. But what if you don’t want your image to be normal looking?  Well, LR lets you use the Lens Correction controls for evil as well as for good… You can stretch the building vertically

You can stretch it horizontally as well

You can squish it inwards

And you can create your own virtual “fish-eye” lens effect. 

These effects work on people as well, but I don’t recommend stretching it horizontally on a spouse or significant other.  You can combine multiple effects until you find something interesting. Best of all, as with all LR adjustments, all of these are completely reversible.  So straighten out your buildings where you can, but have fun and play around with your images.