Low Tide

Photographing the Florida coast is very different from Texas and Louisiana. The water is crystal clear, warm and inviting and the shoreline is as pristine as I’ve ever seen. My youngest daughter Hanna and her best friend Bridget are enjoying the surf, the sand and the sunshine. I’m enjoying the sweet sound of the gentle tide.

Life is good here and the healing begins…

Low Tide

Low Tide – Lido Key, Florida
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with an iPhone 4 hand held. The exposure was taken at f/2.8 for 1/3000th of a second at ISO 80. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Using PTLens for Distortion Corrections

Columbus Texas

Columbus, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 18mm, f/13 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 using ePaperPress’ PTLens and Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro plug-in filters. Click on the image above for a larger version.

If you enjoy travel, architecture or even urban photography, sooner or later you’ll run across a situation where you take a shot of a beautiful tall building but end up with an image you don’t like due to the complex distortions created by your very expensive wide-angle lens. You could use a very expensive tilt & shift lens like Canon’s new TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II to correct the perspective distortion but what about the barrel or pincushion distortion? Luckily there is a great little tool called PTLens that can handle almost every type of complex distortion correction you’ll ever run into.

Columbus Texas Raw

Raw Image from Camera

Let’s take this image for example. I took this shot of a turn of the century bank building in Columbus, Texas using my EOS 40D and ultra-wide angle 10-22mm lens. This lens is very sharp and provides excellent contrast for most shots, but it does exhibit some pincushion distortion at the far end and like most wide angle lenses, it tends to distort the perspective when tilted up at a subject like this bank building. Correcting the perspective and pincushion distortion exhibited by this image is actually fairly simple using the process outlined below.

My first step is to develop the entire image in Lightroom 2 BEFORE CROPPING. Although this goes against my normal workflow, it’s very important not to crop the image at this point in time.

Basic Develop Settings

Basic Develop Settings

I generally work on the other Basic settings like Exposure, Recovery (very important), Blacks (also very important), Brightness and overall Contrast. I almost always crank up the Clarity (adding mid-tone contrast) and Vibrance (adding mid-tone saturation) and may play with these two settings for 20 or 30 minutes until I find a combination I like.

columbus04

Tone Curve Adjustments

Next I begin tweaking the Tone Curve controls until I obtain the contrast desired in the image. A good rule of thumb I always try to follow is to make sure you have some deep black areas and pure white areas when you’re done adjusting the Tone Curve.

Here’s a quick trick to add some contrast to your sky. Just lower the luminance of the color blue slightly to create a much more dramatic sky without it looking fake.

columbus05

Luminance Adjustments

To enhance the colors and really set the “mood” of the image I’ll generally spend quite some time playing around with the Hue, Saturation and Luminance settings. This is where you let your creative side go wild trying different combinations for each color until you obtain just the right look and feel.

Saturation Adjustments

Saturation Adjustments

The next step is to add Sharpening and depending upon your image, the tools built into Lightroom may or may not be up to the job. In this case, the mid-tone contrast of the bricks in this image is sharp enough that I can use Lightroom to add just a bit more sharpness before exporting the image.

Sharpness Adjustments

Sharpness Adjustments

At this point, my work in Lightroom is complete and my next step is to export the image in Photoshop CS4 and then run the PTLens plug-in filter. Click on the image below to see a larger version.

PTLens in Photoshop CS4

PTLens in Photoshop CS4

The PTLens plug-in reads the EXIF data from the image and automatically corrects the barrel and pincushion distortion caused by my specific lens. To see the effect of this, you can uncheck and recheck the Preview checkbox. To correct Perspective distortion you’ll need to show the Grid and then adjust the Vertical and Horizontal controls until the vertical lines in the image are truly vertical. You’ll need to play around with this for a while until you achieve the desired results.

The next step is to crop the image to remove the black areas cause by the perspective correction as shown here.  As I said earlier in this post, it’s very important to crop your image AFTER using PTLens to correct the distortion.

Cropping in Lightroom

Cropping in Lightroom

My next step is to add some darkening around the edges to highlight the center of the image. Lightroom’s Lens Correction and Post-Crop settings do a very good job of this without adding significant noise to the image. I really like how the Feather and Roundness controls allow very detailed control of the vignetting desired.

Post-Crop Adjustments

Post-Crop Adjustments

Finally a quick trip to Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro to convert the image to black & white and we’re done.

Post Capture Processing in Lightroom 2

I got an email yesterday from a reader asking for a little more detail about my post capture workflow in Lightroom. It’s funny but the actual workflow I use is really determined by the image and the story I want to tell. Some images are converted from Raw to Jpeg in only a few steps (usually to add contrast) and others may take hours of trial and error like this image for example.

Mirror

Mirror – Pedernales Falls State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM tripod-mounted with a Singh-Ray Vari-ND neutral density filter attached. The exposure was taken at 35mm, f/11 for 8 seconds at ISO 100 on Lexar Professional digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Original RAW ImageHere’s what the raw file looked like in Lightroom 2 before any processing was done. As you can see the long exposure (8 seconds) I used with my Singh-Ray Vari-ND neutral density filter overexposed the image significantly in the highlights. Luckily the silky smooth looking water turned out just as I had hoped,  so all in all not a bad place to begin.

My first step is to Crop the image as shown above to eliminate the “clutter” at the top of the frame. The water now runs from the lower right hand corner diagonally to the left and then to right and (hopefully) draws the viewers eye deeper into the scene.

Camera Calibration

Camera Profile Preset

My next step is to select the Camera Profile preset I wish to use. For landscape shots this is usually Camera Landscape or Camera Portrait because of the extra saturation these two presets add.

White Balance

White Balance

Then I set the White Balance directly rather than accepting the default. This usually adds some warmth to the image which most raw landscape images need. If there happens to be any neutral gray in my image I may use the eye-dropper to set a custom WB but most of the time Daylight or Cloudy works well.

Basic Settings

Basic Settings

After setting the White Balance I generally work on the other Basic settings like Exposure, Recovery (very important), Blacks (also very important), Brightness and overall Contrast. I almost always crank up the Clarity (adding mid-tone contrast) and Vibrance (adding mid-tone saturation) and may play with these two settings for 20 or 30 minutes until I find a combination I like.

Tone Curve

Tone Curve

Finally I begin tweaking the Tone Curve controls until I obtain the contrast desired in the image. A good rule of thumb I always try to follow is to make sure you have some deep black areas and pure white areas when you’re done adjusting the Tone Curve. It’s that Ansel Adams “Zone” training coming back to me.

HSL Settings

HSL Settings

To enhance the colors and really set the “mood” of the image I’ll generally spend quite some time playing around with the Hue, Saturation and Luminance settings. This is where you let your creative side go wild trying different combinations for each color until you obtain just the right look and feel.

RAW Sharpness Adjustment

RAW Sharpness Adjustment

The last two steps are the easiest. Every RAW image needs some Sharpening and depending upon your image, the tools built into Lightroom may or may not be up to the job. In this case, the mid-tone contrast of the rocks and water in this image is sharp enough that I can use Lightroom to add just a wee bit more before exporting it.

Post Crop Settings

Post Crop Settings

My final step is to add some darkening around the edges to highlight the center of the image. This is commonly done to emphasize the subject and draw the viewer’s eye into the image. Ligtroom’s Lens Correction and Post-Crop settings do a very good job of this without adding significant noise to the image. I really like how the Feather and Roundness controls allow very detailed control of the vignetting desired.

For an image targeted for the web, I’m done except for exporting the image to a JPEG. For an image that I’m going to print, the workflow is similar but many steps are done in Photoshop CS4 using Nik Software’s plug-in filters like Sharpener Pro, Viveza and Dfine. These Photoshop plug-ins allow me greater control and much faster speed than I can achieve in Lightroom itself.

Folks, like anything else in photography, your mileage may vary when using these techniques. Please keep in mind that each image you take is unique and will require it’s own workflow. I make no claim that this is the “best” workflow and I’m no Matt Kosklowski, Scott Kelby or Dave Cross. Feel free to comment to your heart’s content, but be kind!

My RAW Workflow Explained

I’m taking today off work and heading to Austin, Texas to visit the McKinney Falls State Park, Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park. McKinney Falls is the only waterfalls within 200 miles of Sugar Land, Texas and I’m finally going to have the opportunity to use my Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter to hopefully create some nice images of flowing water. Given the lack of rain we’ve been experiencing the past few years, this wonderful neutral density filter has been gathering dust (figuratively speaking) on my shelf for much too long. Wish me luck!

Seeing that Nik Software has recently made all their plug-in filters compatible with Lightroom, I thought I’d run through my updated workflow to give you an idea of how I process most of my RAW images these days.

Nik Software for Lightroom

This image illustrates how I use the Nik Software products to enhance my images and reduce the amount of time spent in post capture processing.

  • I begin by cropping the image in Lightroom and applying some basic settings in the “Develop” module to correct the white balance, increase the contrast and touch up any spots on my image.
  • Next I export the image to Dfine 2.0 where I analyze and correct any noise present in my image. Dfine does an excellent job of reducing noise without reducing image sharpness and makes it easy to apply the noise reduction only to those areas that need it.
  • Next I export the image to Sharpener Pro 3.0 using the RAW Presharpener settings to selectively sharpen some areas before processing further. This RAW Presharpening is very subtle to detect.
  • Next I export the image to Viveza to selectively enhance the image’s contrast, saturation, warmth, etc. If I do nothing else to an image, Viveza is the one tool that I almost always use.
  • If needed, I next export the image to Color Efex Pro 3.0 or Silver Efex Pro depending upon what effect I’m trying to produce. Both programs contain a wide variety of color or black & white presets to help you obtain just the right look.
  • Finally I export the image to Sharpener Pro 3.0 and apply the required output sharpening, either for print or web. I generally dial down the intensity of this final sharpening to prevent the creation of noise or JPEG artifiacts.
  • Then I export the image from Lightroom in whatever format I need.

All Nik Software Now Lightroom Compatible

Nik Software for Lightroom

Now this is News!

Nik Software announces today that Dfine 2.0, its popular award-winning digital photographic plug-in offering photographers advanced and powerful noise reduction for their digital images, is now available for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3 and higher. Dfine 2.0 provides superior noise reduction while maintaining detail and sharpness throughout an image and providing unprecedented selective control over noise reduction by employing Nik Software’s U Point® technology. The update is available now as a free download to current Dfine 2.0 owners at http://www.niksoftware.com/lightroom.”

“Dfine 2.0 now joins Sharpener Pro 3.0, Viveza, Color Efex Pro 3.0 and Silver Efex Pro and completes the Lightroom update for our entire line of software plug-ins for photographers,” said Michael J. Slater president and CEO of Nik Software. “We are pleased to announce that Dfine 2.0 is now available and this update, like previous Lightroom compatibility releases, is offered to Dfine 2.0 users at no additional cost.”

Nik Software announces today that Sharpener Pro 3.0, its popular digital photographic plug-in offering the most advanced and powerful sharpening solution for photographers, is now available for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3 and higher. Sharpener Pro 3.0 eliminates the guesswork typically required for achieving superior and consistent selective sharpening results. The update is available now as a free download to current owners at http://www.niksoftware.com/lightroom.

“Sharpener Pro 3.0 now joins Viveza, Color Efex Pro 3.0 and Silver Efex Pro for Lightroom, enabling photographers to incorporate the leading sharpening solution into their Lightroom workflow,” said Michael J. Slater president and CEO of Nik Software. “Sharpener Pro has been one of the most anticipated additions for Lightroom compatibility and we are pleased to announce that it is available. This update, like previous Lightroom compatibility releases, is offered to Sharpener Pro 3.0 users at no additional cost.”

Tuesday News – Adobe Releases Lightroom 2.3

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3Adobe released Lightroom 2.3 and Camera Raw 5.3 very quietly today. I suppose the addition of the Nikon D3X only matters to the four people that have actually bought one so far (just kidding Moose). Thanks to the folks manning the Lightroom Journal for posting this announcement.

Software Updates – Lightroom 2.2 and Mac OS X 10.5.6

Apple Mac OS XAdobe Photoshop Lightroom 2Apple released their latest version of Mac OS X 10.5.6 (Leopard) yesterday and Adobe has released their Photoshop Lightroom 2.2 update this morning.

The Lightroom 2.2 update includes support for the new Canon 5D Mark II for those of you lucky enough to have received your 5D MK II already. Let the upgrades begin!

UPDATE: I apologize if you’re using Windows XP or Windows Vista as your operating system. No, I’m not apologizing for not posting the link to the Windows version of the Lightroom update. I just feel sorry for anyone that doesn’t run Lightroom 2 as a 64-bit application under Mac OS X (Leopard). As my kids like to say “Dude, It Rocks!”.