Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Lightening backgrounds in Lightroom

I was recently asked by photographer Rhonda Pierce to look at an image that she’d taken and to suggest how the background could be lightened to white in Lightroom.

This image raises an interesting question for anyone involved in postproduction and trying to understand when to use Lightroom and when to use Photoshop for editing.

Ultimately, if this image is to be printed at a large size then Lightroom really isn’t the tool for the job. There is too much wispy hair, particularly on the left side of the model’s face just opposite her mouth, which is cumbersome to work with in Lightroom. Selecting around the hair and doing a detailed job really isn’t possible or feasible in Lightroom. Ideally, Photoshop and a good extraction tool such as Vertus Fluid Mask would be the best combination to use.

However, if the image is not going to be printed at a large size and, for example, it’s destined for the web or if it is a preview image for a client where they’ll choose their favorite image from a series, then Lightroom is a good tool for the job. While Lightroom won’t do such a good job, it will do it very fast and, at the resolution we’ll be using the image we probably won’t see any real difference anyway. For this use, we can compromise on quality and harness the superior speed of Lightroom.

Later on, if this is the image the client chooses and if it will be printed at a large size, then we can wind back the Lightroom changes, export the image to Photoshop and do a proper job. We’ll only be spending time fixing those images that the client is actually paying for and that need a quality fix applied.

Lightening the background in Lightroom
So, assuming this image is destined for the web or for client preview purposes, let’s go back to the original question as to how the background can be lightened in Lightroom.

Any solution will require us to isolate the background. It’s not possible to lighten the background in Lightroom without affecting everything else in the image and that will destroy the rest of the image. The Adjustment Brush is the obvious solution.

Step 1
Click the Adjustment Brush in the Develop module and size Brush A so it is big enough to paint over the background. Add a small feather, and for this job, enable Auto mask so Lightroom will do most of the selection work for us. Set Density to 100.

Click and paint over the background with the brush. When you lift the brush you’ll see the Adjustment Pin. Make sure the cross hair in the middle of the brush stays on the background and then the Auto Mask feature will ensure that the brush doesn’t paint over anything but the background.

Step 2
To see the painted area, press the O key and a red overlay will appear. This makes it easier to see where you are working.

Step 3
To get the background behind the very fine hairs you might be tempted to select a very small brush and try to isolate the areas manually. However, to do the job fast, it’s more efficient to size the brush very large so the center can be positioned over an area of the background and the rest of it extends over the wispy hair area. It might help to significantly decrease the density at this point to around 30 so that you only partially select the background in the wispy hair area.

Position the brush over an area of the background so the rest of it extends over the wispy hair area and click once.

Step 4
Return to 100% density and continue to work in the other background areas making sure to avoid the wispy hair.

When the area that you want to effect are selected, press O to hide the mask.

Step 5

Now adjust the settings for the Adjustment Brush. Increase the exposure and brightness until the background is white.

Click Close to close the panel and deselect the Adjustment Brush.

Step 6
Check the wispy hair area and you’ll see that not all the grey has gone but, when viewed in context of the remainder of the image the results are acceptable.

Press the backslash key (\) to see the image before and after the fix.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

How to create an animation in Photoshop CS4

I recently posted a movie I had created in Photoshop CS4 Extended and I mentioned I’d do a post on how it was done. Here is the result. It is a video showing step by step the process of assembling the layered Photoshop file. How to clip the flash to the image, how to move the image using the 3D tools in Photoshop and then how to create the animation and render it as a mov file. It’s a pretty simple process once you know how and if you’ve had experience with making movies or animations before much of it will be familiar to you.

Click to go to Vimeo to view the movie

If you tried to view the video previously this is a replacement – the first version didn’t convert properly when uploaded to Vimeo.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Animations from Photoshop

One of the very cool things about Photoshop CS4 Extended is its 3D and animation features. I’ve been playing around with both and this video incorporates some 3D camera moves, animation techniques and Photoshop effects. The best thing of all is that it is all done in Photoshop – all the way from extracting the photographer, creating the flash, clipping it to the image,animating it and exporting it as a MOV file. I’m putting together a post on how it’s done – just thought I’d tempt you with the final results.

This is a 3D animation created in Photoshop. It is composed of multiple layers including the background photo, the guy taking the photos, his shadow and a faux flash. It’s pretty simple to create and showcases some of the features available in Photoshop CS4 Extended.

Helen Bradley

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

My 5 coolest Lightroom commands


There is so much of Lightroom that’s not apparent when you first begin using it and that takes time to discover and explore. Here are my five cool Lightroom techniques that you might want to add to your Lightroom toolkit.


There are a lot and lots of keystroke shortcuts in Lightroom, and it takes time to learn them all. It’s also harder still to find them so you can learn them all! That is unless you know this one keystroke shortcut. Press Ctrl + / (Command + / on the Mac) to display an overlay of shortcuts over the top of your Lightroom window.

The list is module specific so check it in the Develop module for shortcuts for that module and in the Library for Library shortcuts and so on.

Go solo

If you find that opening panels in Lightroom clutters your screen with lots of open panels why not have Lightroom automatically close each panel as you open a new one. This is called Solo Mode.

To change the panel behaviour, right click on one of the panel names and choose Solo Mode from the small dropdown menu which appears. With this enabled the disclosure triangles change appearance to show as a series of small dots instead of being filled with solid colour. This indicates that the panel is operating in Solo mode.

You can also enable this by Alt + Clicking (Option + Click on the Mac), on the panel name (not the disclosure triangle). The selected panel will open and the mode will toggle between Solo mode being selected and not.

Note that some items like the Navigator and the Histogram are not part of this behaviour so even if you have solo mode operating these panels won’t close down.


Colour your life

If you find the colour labels; Red, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple just a little short of useless, why not customise them to suit your own needs. To do this, redefine what each stands for by switching to the Library mode, choose Metadata > Color Label Set > Edit and edit the colour labels to make them stand for whatever you like.

Type your own description for each colour and from the preset dropdown list, select Save Current Settings as New Preset and give the preset a name.

Alternatively, you can use one of the two other sets provided, Bridge Default, which matches the colour settings used in Adobe Bridge or Review Status, which is another option with preset descriptions for each colour.

When you choose either your own set or one of the other shipped presets and hold your mouse pointer over one of the colour labels you will see the custom description appear making colour coding images way more useful than before.


Faster Ranking

Until I discovered what was happening I used to find ranking photos a bit of a hit or miss affair. Sometimes when I pressed a number 1 to 5, to rank the image as a 1 – 5 star image the image would be ranked and Lightroom would progress to the next image. Other times Lightroom would rank the image but stay with the current image still selected.

The key to controlling this behaviour is to enable AutoAdvance mode. There are multiple ways to do this, and the simplest may be to set the Caps Lock key on. Then when you press a number to rank an image, Lightroom will automatically rank it and progress to the next image. You can also enable this option by selecting Photo > Auto Advance in Library mode.

Of course, it’s also possible to use Shift + one of the numbers 1 to 5 to do this too, but I prefer a single key solutions that do not require me to use two hands.

Before/After alternative

Often when you’re working in the Develop module you’ll want to see the effect of applying a single change to the image. This is most particularly the case when you are sharpening the image, and you want to see the result before and after sharpening.

If you use the backslash key (\) you’ll see the Before and After view where the Before view shows the image as it was when you imported it into Lightroom. If you want to see just the Sharpening effect you can use the On/Off switch at the top left of the Detail panel.

This switch turns Detail panel settings on and off so you can see the results of just removing and reapplying your sharpening with all other changes to the image still in place – even if you applied them before the sharpening.

This gives you additional flexibility in determining whether the edits that you’ve made to the image are those that you want to use.

So, these are my five cool Lightroom techniques and now it’s over to you. If you were to share with someone your favourite (and not so obvious), Lightroom tips or tricks, what would they be?

Helen Bradley

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Create a Lightroom Slide Show


One of the really handy features of Lightroom is its ability to create web slideshows quickly and easily. There are various options you can use and I’ll show you how to use the SimpleViewer slideshow which is good looking and very functional.

Step 1
To get started, prepare all your images and save them as a collection. Use a Collection rather than a Smart Collection so you can arrange the images in the order that you want to see them in the slideshow by dragging them into position using either the grid or the filmstrip.

To create a collection, select the images to use, click the (+) plus symbol to the left of the Collections panel and choose Create Collection. Type a name for it, enable the Include Selected Photos checkbox and click Ok. You can then drag and drop additional images into the collection and order them as desired.


Step 2
In Library view add a caption to each image so you can include the caption in the SimpleViewer slide show. To do this, open the Metadata panel and locate the Caption box. Type a caption for the first image, move to the next image and type a caption for it and so on.


Step 3
Click to open the Web module and, from the Engine options in the top right of the screen, choose Airtight SimpleViewer. This is an attractive and functional slideshow tool. From the options across the bottom of the screen choose All Filmstrip Photos.


step 4
In the Site Info area type the title to use for your slideshow, this is the page title and it appears in the browser title bar. In the Color Palette options, set a background color and border color for your images and a text color. In the Appearance Options select the position of the thumbnails and the number of rows and columns of thumbnail images. You may find that by increasing the number of rows beyond 3 you will lose the captions so it is best to use a smaller number of rows so you have the benefit of including captions.

Step 5
In the Image Info panel select the Caption checkbox and then from the dropdown list, select what you will use as captions. If you followed step 2 and typed caption information in the Metadata then chose Caption for this option.

Step 6
In the Output Settings panel, specify the size of the larger images which is the size of the selected image in the slideshow. You can also specify the quality of that image. The Photo Borders option controls the size of the border around the images, which by default is set to 20, but which you can increase or decrease as desired. The Padding Value controls the offset of the image from the remainder of the page. You can enable or disable the option to allow the viewer to right click to view a photo.

Step 7
In the Upload Settings area select the FTP server dropdown list click Custom Settings > Edit and enter the details for the ftp account for your website. You must type your server name, your user name and password – you can, if desired, include the password in the preset so that you won’t have to type it each time. Include the server path for storing the files and, if necessary, adjust the protocol port and the mode used for data transfer although these defaults should work in most circumstances.

Once you have created your settings, from the Preset dropdown list, select Save current settings as new preset so that these will be available next time you use the program.

Step 8
By selecting a subfolder, you can separate the slideshow and its files from other files on your server. This is a good idea as it will eliminate any possibility that files that you upload will overwrite or conflict with files used elsewhere on your website.

Step 9
Click Preview in Browser in the bottom left of the screen to preview the slideshow or simply click the Upload button and upload the files to your server.

Step 10
When the upload is complete, launch the slideshow by pointing your browser to your website to the folder that you created and to the file index.html.

Step 11
Once you have checked your slideshow and if it is all working correctly you can save the template by clicking the plus sign opposite the Template Browser and create a new template in your User Templates folder. This will automatically give you access to your preferred slideshow setup at any time in the future. All you will need to do is to change the Slide Title and the Folder in which the images should be saved on your server.

Helen Bradley