Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Choosing images using Survey view in Lightroom

Lightroom’s Survey view is a tool that makes choosing one image from a group of images a simpler process. In this post I’ll show you how to use Survey View and some tricks for working with it.

Step 1

To see it at work, in the Library module, select a series of images on the filmstrip by clicking on one and Shift + Click on the last. Alternatively hold the Control key (Command on the Mac) as you click on each image that you want to make a choice from.

Step 2

To enter Survey View, choose View > Survey, click the Survey button on the toolbar or press the letter N.

Once in Survey view, you will see only the images that you had selected. You can add more images by Control + Clicking (Command + Clicking) on them to select them in the Filmstrip.

Step 3

In Survey View, you can rate your images with a star rating, flag them and label them or simply use the view to narrow down your choices to a single image.

To rate an image, click the star value beneath the image – this appears when your mouse hovers the image.

You can pick an image by selecting it and press P to flag it, U to unpick or remove the  flag setting from it and X to reject it.

Click the label indicator under the far right of the image to select a label to apply to the image.

Step 4

Press Shift + Tab to hide all the panels to maximize the viewing area. When an image is selected notice the X in its bottom right corner. Click that and the image will be removed from Survey View. Note that it is only removed from this view not from Lightroom and not from your disk – Survey View is simply a method you use to pick the best image from a sequence and has no other purpose.

Start removing those images you do not want by clicking their X buttons or Control + Click (Command + Click on the Mac) to remove them.

Step 5

Provided you are working with a Folder of images or a Collection (but not a Smart Collection, All Photographs or Previous Import), you can reorder images in Survey View. To do this, drag and drop an image into the position you want it to appear in the group.

Files in a Smart Collection, All Photographs and Previous Imports can be selected and viewed in Survey View but you cannot reorder your images if they are selected from any of these collections..

Step 6

At any time you can exit Survey View by clicking G for Grid or E for Loupe.

The advantage of using Survey Mode is that you can quickly identify the image that you want from a series of images eliminating all the other images from the view as you do so.

You can open Survey View in a separate window if desired. Press F11 to open the new window and select Survey as what should display in this window.

Using this secondary display window you can move Survey View to a second screen if you’re using two monitors or position Survey View in one area of your screen and work on one of the images in, for example, the Develop module at the same time.

Step 7

When you have only the image or images you want to use remaining selected, press E or G to exit Survey View. These images will remain selected so you can now do something with them such as adding them to a collection, export them or take them to Photoshop for editing.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Cropping in Lightroom

Ok, so it’s pretty easy to crop an image in Lightroom- just click the Develop module and click crop. But try to crop to 6 x 4 – there’s a 4 x 6 size but that’s not the same as 6 x 4 as you’ll soon find out.

Here is a link to a video tutorial that shows how to crop in Lightroom, including how to crop to that 6 x 4 and how to display handy crop overlays.

Watch the Video – how to crop in Lightroom.

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

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Faux panos in Lightroom

Lightroom finished panorama of Cam River Cambridge, Uk

Ok, so I am using Lightroom for this but seriously you can do this in Photoshop or any application you like. It’s a faux panorama and you do it with one image by simply cropping the image to a long width and a small depth. You need the right image – it needs to have plenty of data across the middle of the image but it does have so much punch that it can turn a ho hum snapshot into something that looks so much more.

Lightroom crop to create a panorama

So, in Lightroom, select your image, move to the Develop module, crop the image to as wide as you can and a small height/depth and then Export it. This one I framed in the Lightroom Print module before printing to a file and posting it. All too simple really and everyone will think you’ve been snapping panos instead of infusing your images with a little creativity.

Oh, and for a tip in a tip, press Control + ‘  (Command + ‘ on the Mac) to make a virtual copy before cropping so you still have your original visible in Lightroom.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Simple Lightroom image fixing workflow

Whether it’s a photograph of mom that you’re sending to her or an image that you’re preparing to print, most photos can use some fixing before they’re ready to be shared or used.

Here’s a quick and easy Lightroom workflow that I apply to most every day images before sending them to family and friends, posting them to Flickr or my blog or printing them for a paper based photography project.

If you’re new to photo editing or to Lightroom, this step by step process should get you on the way to fixing your images.

Step 1
The first step to fixing an image is typically to straighten and crop it so that you remove any areas that you don’t want to include in the final image.

To help you apply the rule of thirds to your crop, in Lightroom the crop grid, by default, shows a ‘rule of thirds’ grid over your photo.

Place an object of interest in the photograph over the intersection between the gridlines or place the horizon or another strong horizontal line along one of the horizontal lines to achieve a pleasing composition.

Here I’ve cropped and sized the image to place the waterline along the top line of the grid.

Step 2
Adjust the Exposure by dragging on the Exposure slider. This image is a little underexposed and the histogram falls well short of reaching the far right of the chart area. Increasing the Exposure fixes this.

Step 3
To test to see if you need to use the Recovery slider to recover blown highlights, hold the Alt key (Option on the Mac) as you click on the Recovery slider handle. If you see light areas on the image, drag to the right to recover them.

Here I artificially increased the Exposure before doing this to show you what the image will look like if you need to use the Recovery slider. If you see something like this on your image and if it is nicely exposed, drag the Recovery slider to the right to remove/reduce these areas.

Step 4
Hold the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and drag the Black slider to the right until you see the smallest hint of black appearing in the image. You use this slider to ensure that your image has some blacks in it.

By now the histogram should extend to the very left and right of the chart area ensuring that your image has a good tonal range.

Step 5
If you have some areas that are clipped you will see white arrows in the histogram area. You can hold your mouse over these to see the clipped areas on the image. If areas are clipped you will have blown out highlights or plugged shadows which are generally undesirable.

Here I have over adjusted the Black Clipping slider so there are some plugged shadows that you can see colored blue on the image.

Step 6
You can use the White Balance tools to adjust the white balance in the image. Drag the Temp slider to the right to add warmth to the image or to the left to make it colder. Dragging to the right warms the image by adding peach/orange tones to it and dragging to the left cools the image by adding blue tones.

If you’re shooting in RAW or DNG then there will be a range of options available from the White Balance dropdown list.

Here I’ve added a lot of warmth to the image to show what is possible.

Step 7
You can also adjust Brightness and Contrast although I prefer to skip these adjustments and add some Clarity to adjust and sharpen the midtones and some Vibrance to boost the color in the undersatuated areas in the image.

From here I would sharpen the image and it’s ready to go.

In a future post I’ll explain the basics of sharpening in Lightroom.

Helen Bradley

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Lightroom: Print with colored backgrounds

One issue with Lightroom is that all the images that you print from the print module print with white backgrounds.

While Lightroom does not offer color backgrounds for images, there is a workaround that you can use to print with any color background you like.

Here’s how to do this:

Start in Photoshop or another bitmap editor that lets you create and save JPG images. Create a new image the size of the page that you want to print.

For convenience, I’d create images for all the paper sizes you plan to use all at once. This means you may want one for 5 x 7″ paper, one for 4 x 6″ and one for Letter paper for example. Whatever size you print at, create a new image that size and at around 96 pixels per inch if you’re using a solid color background.

Fill the document that you have created with the color background that you want to use. For example, if you want a black background, fill the documents with black and for another color background, fill the document with that color.

If you typically use an Identity Plate to print your name or other details on the image in Lightroom then you’ll need to know that what you’re doing right now is creating something that will replace the Identity Plate in Lightroom so you can’t use both a background and a text identity plate.

However, if you know this ahead of time you can add the same details you add to your identity plate to this image as text.

If you plan to do this, you’ll will need separate documents for each paper size in each of the two orientations: Landscape and Portrait. If you’re just using plain backgrounds you won’t need to create one in each orientation as you can rotate the images later on – you just won’t want to rotate something that has text in it. You will probably want the images to be a better size for printing so 1500 x 1000 pixels will print on 6 x 4 paper at 250 dpi so the text will look crisp and neat.

Once you’ve created all your documents, save each with a name that indicates its size and color and, if relevant, its orientation. I suggest you save it somewhere that will make it easy to find and so they are safe from being removed accidentally.

Return to Lightroom and switch to the Print module. Set up your image or images to print. You can use a Contact Sheet/Grid layout or a Picture Package.

To add your background locate the Overlays panel on the right and click the Identity Plate checkbox. Click on the Identity Plate to display the menu and select Edit. When the Identity Plate Editor dialog opens, click the Use a graphical identity plate option and click Locate File.

Select the image that you created for this paper size (and orientation, if applicable), and click Choose. Click Ok to add the image as the Identity Plate.

When the image appears in the document set the scale to 100 so it fills the page layout and drag it into position.

You might notice that you cannot make the image any bigger than the page itself and you can’t drag it out of its original aspect ratio – this is why you need to create multiple versions of the image one for each paper size as the ratios 8:10, 5:7 and 4:6 are all different.

Once you’ve dragged the background over the entire page, click the Render Behind Image option in the Overlays area.

This moves the solid color image behind the pictures on the page.

You can now change the stroke border if desired to, for example, add a white or gray stroke if you’re using a black or dark gray background.

Then go ahead and print your image.

You might realize by now that any image can be used as a print background.

So, for example, you can crop an image in Lightroom to the size that you need for the background, export it to disk as a JPG and then reimport it as an Identity Plate to use as a background for your printed images.

You could do this with a black and white version of an image or a color version. The Overlays > Identity Plate area also provides an Opacity slider allowing you to make the image partially opaque to lighten it so it doesn’t overwhelm the images you are printing.

When you are done, save your Identity Plate by clicking on the Identity Plate option, choose Edit and then from the custom dropdown list, choose Save As and save it so that it can be easily accessed next time.

Helen Bradley

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Lightroom – 10 objects you didn’t know could be dragged, clicked or opened

If you’re new to Lightroom, there are a lot of interface options that you may not realize hide must know and handy program features. In this post, I’ll show you some of the buttons, icons, samplers and switches that a knowledge of Photoshop (at least versions prior to CS4) won’t help you identify or locate.

1 Navigator
In the top left corner of the Library and Develop modules you’ll see the Navigator. Beside it are the Fit, Fill, 1:1 and 3:1 options. Click these to resize the image in the current window to various sizes including fitting in the space, filling it and 1:1 and 3:1 resizing options. Other sizing ratios are available from the dropdown list.

The 1:1 ratio is particularly useful when you’re sharpening an image. You may already know that, when you hold the Alt key as you drag on the sharpening sliders the small preview image turns to a grayscale mask showing you the impact of the slider on the image.

If you are in 1:1 preview, the entire image acts as the preview, allowing you to focus in on a much larger area of the image and see the sharpening effect. 3:1 and other larger sizes also work but 1:1 is the minimum size

2 Switches
Switches in Lightroom appear in areas such as the Develop module where they can be used to enable or disable a setting such as the Tone Curve. Switch the switch to the up position to turn it on and to the down position to turn it off.

When using the Adjustments Brush the switch works from left to right to select to work with one fix at a time (Effect Buttons) or to work with multiple adjustments at once (Effect Sliders).

3 Arrows
In the Library > Keyword list panel, you can click the arrow to the right of a keyword to view images that have that keyword associated with them.

These arrows only appear when you are hovering over a keyword in the list.

4 Expand/Collapse Triangles
Throughout the Develop panel, for example, are small triangles beside the various options that you can click on to display or hide that option. For example, when Detail is not visible click its triangle and the detail panel will display.

There is another triangle directly below the Detail triangle which appears only when it is expanded. Click this to display and hide the sharpening preview dialog.

Watch out for these triangles – sometimes they aren’t light gray and are, instead, almost black and difficult to see.

5 Area Picker
Also in the Detail area of the Develop module is a small square icon with lines radiating from it that you can click on and then click on an area of the image to determine what shows in the preview panel for the sharpening process. This icon has a visible tooltip which helps identify what it does – most do not.

6 Eyedropper
In the Develop panel’s Basic module is a white balance selector icon. Click it and click on an area of the image which should be white.

This adjusts the white balance of the image based on that selection. It also displays a small 25 x 25 pixel grid showing the pixels in the general area so that you can be more accurate in your selection.

7 Adjustment Markers
When you use the Adjustment Brush or the Graduated Filter, you will see a marker on the image which, when you click on it turns into a black circle surrounded by a lighter circle.

This marks the adjustment or the filter and you need to click this to select it before you can make alterations to the adjustment or to the filter.

8 Invisible clickable rotation options
In the Print module, watch out for items that don’t even look like they are selectable.

For example, in the Overlays > Identity Plate area when you have the identity plate enabled there is a small indicator to the right of it showing the current rotation in degrees.

If you click it you will see a popup menu offering other rotation options.

9 Way big buttons
Watch out for panels at the top of dialogs which can contain selectable options. For example, a dialog that has a large area like that shown in this image is often selectable offering different options but because it doesn’t look like a typical selectable option, it’s easy to overlook.

10 Direct Adjustment tool
In some areas such as the Tone Curve and Hue/Saturation Lightness in the Develop module you’ll see a small adjustment indicator in the top left of the panel area.

Click it and then drag on the image to change the image at that point.

While in Photoshop CS3 you would drag left to right to alter the sliders, in Lightroom you’ll typically drag up and down with this tool.

While these aren’t all the unusual buttons that you’ll find in Lightroom, it should help you understand that a lot of the features in Lightroom are hidden behind icons and buttons for which even a program like Photoshop is no adequate preparation for locating, understanding and using.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Highlight Color effect in Lightroom

One effect many people like to use with their photos is to remove all the color from the image and leave it in only one place in the image. For example, in a wedding shot you might turn the entire image into black and white leaving just the bride’s bouquet in color.

Here’s how to achieve this effect in Lightroom using the Adjustment Brush.

Start with the image selected in Lightroom and switch to the Develop module.

Click on the Adjustment Brush and make sure you have it set to Show Effect Sliders so that you can adjust multiple sliders at once. Drag the Saturation to -100.

Click the letter O so that you can see as you paint and with a large size hard paintbrush click on the image in an area you want converted to black and white and then paint over the image in all places that it should be turned to black and white.

It will be quicker if you set the feather to a low value, the brush to a large size and disable the Auto Mask option for now.

To work close around the edges of the area that you want to leave in color, set the brush size smaller and work slowly around the edges.

If you go too far, press the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and paint out the overlay color. The Eraser uses a different brush so make sure it too is set to have Auto Mask disabled and a low Feather value.

To zoom in click Z and to move the image, press the Spacebar as you drag on it.

Once you have the area selected that you want to convert to black and white, disable the overlay color by pressing the O key.

This leaves the selected area in black and white and the unselected area in color.

You can now tidy up the edges if necessary by using the Adjustment Brush tool – just make sure that you click on the marker for the Adjustment before you start painting – it should show a black center – if not, you’re making a new adjustment and not editing the existing one.

You can adjust the other sliders, if desired, to improve the black and white portion of the image. For example you can boost the Contrast and Clarity if desired. When you’re done, click the Close option at the foot of the panel to finish.

In this example I added another adjustment using the Adjustment Brush over the top of this one to reduce the exposure and brightness in the sky to add back some of the cloud detail lost in the conversion of the image to black and white.

Helen Bradley

Friday, October 9th, 2009

How to select and compose a Triptych in Lightroom

In a recent article, I explained how to create a triptych in Lightroom. The solution covered the mechanics of setting up a triptych template in Lightroom.

In this post, I’m going to address the issue of selecting images to use in the triptych. I’ll explain some rules of composition and show how I make a selection of suitable triptych photos.

There are some basic rules of design that will help you layout a triptych and I like best the four rules Robin Williams explained in her wonderful book: The Non-Designer’s Design Book. In it she describes the rules of Alignment, Proximity, Repetition and Contrast and these form the basics of any good design and can be applied to our triptych.

In our template design we already have alignment covered – the photos are positioned so the top and bottom of each image is on the same horizontal line and the spacing between all the images is equal.

We’ve also got proximity covered – the photos are positioned close together rather than scattered in different places on the printed page. The template itself is providing us with some strong design elements and that is, in part, why a triptych looks so good.

As a rule, our eyes like odd numbers of elements so a single image or a triptych often look better than a diptych – two simply is not so pleasing a number of elements to look at.

When selecting images for a triptych, you want three images that relate to each other in some way such as location, people, genre and so on.

I like to start by selecting a five or six images which I think will work well together and then try them out. I assemble a collection of these images (make a collection, not a smart collection) so that I can work with them in the print module and not have other images in my way.

Select three of the images to use to start with. The order that the images appear in the photo strip is the order that they appear in the triptych. If the order isn’t right, drag the images into a different position in the photo strip and the images will be rearranged in the triptych too.

One way to create a safe design is to ensure that the horizons in the images (or each subject’s eyes) are roughly level across the triptych and, when combining different images, look for images all shot at about the same zoom. This doesn’t mean you can’t mix image sizes, it just means that its sometimes easier to get them to look good if they are the same size.

If you have elements that have a strong sense of direction such as the carousel animals in this triptych, place the animals so they face inwards rather than outwards from the design.

If they point outwards the viewer’s eye will follow them straight off the page. If you direct them into the triptych your viewer’s eye will stay there longer.

While this sequence of birds look alright the directions in which they are facing and the fact that the three images are so similar is actually a little distracting.

In this version, I moved the images around and replaced one with an image of two birds which adds some variety to the mix. The result looks better to my eye.

This triptych combining two streetscape images and a door, while all from a similar location, look unbalanced to me. The door doesn’t co-ordinate well with the street images and it is facing out of the image. In addition the door is a little too colorful for the other two images and it doesn’t enhance them. I like the arrangement better when a different image is used and one which is more in keeping with the others like this image:

Developing an eye for what looks balanced and what doesn’t will take time. I highly recommend Robyn Williams’ book as a starting point for understanding basic design and this video may help to understand some of the principles at play:

If you found this useful, here is the original post on how to create a triptych in Lightroom.

Helen Bradley

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