Photo Tip of the Week: How To Selectively Adjust Tone in Lightroom
In this step-by-step tutorial James Ostinga shows you how to selectively adjust tone.
While our eyes cope very well with high-contrast scenes, cameras do not. When a scene includes bright and dark areas, a camera will expose for the highlights or the shadows, but not both. Take for example the bridge in the ‘before’ image on this page. I took this shot from the back of a taxi as it raced across Anzac Bridge in Sydney. With the camera set to a shutter speed of 1/1250s to reduce blur I held the camera out the window and fired. I didn’t have a lot of control but the results were kind of interesting.
In the before image you can see that the camera’s meter exposed for the sky and the clouds but left the pylon quite dark. What to do? Of course, I could return at a different time of day in the hope of finding better light, and that would be a pretty good option. Another option would be to lighten the pylon in post-production.
In the following tutorial I’ll show you how to selectively alter exposure (or any of several other variables) in Adobe Lightroom. It’s a simple workflow and it can be adapted to all sorts of projects, including advanced dodging and burning. Keep in mind that one of the advantages of using Lightroom is that the workflow is completely non-destructive. That means your changes can be reversed or revised any time.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that while we have used a JPEG image in this project (to save you time as you download the file), all of these techniques work much better with RAW files. That’s because RAW files contain much more information (and detail) than JPEG files and allow much more latitude when it comes to adjusting variables such as exposure and contrast.
Software: Lightroom 4.0
DOWNLOAD START IMAGE?
Click here to download the free start image. Take note of where the image is saved on your hard drive.
IMPORT IMAGE TO LIGHTROOM
Open Lightroom and in the main menu choose ‘File > Import Photos and Video’. (Note: You need to be in the ‘Library’ module to import images.) In the import workspace locate the image you downloaded in the previous step and click the Import button.
Click the ‘Develop’ module link at the top right of the screen. Before you make any changes click the arrow on the left of the screen to hide the left-hand panel. Now click the ‘Adjustment Brush’ icon near the top of the right panel.
04 BRUSH SIZE
We can use the Brush sliders to change the characteristics of the Adjustment Brush. For this exercise, choose a Size of 5.0 and set the Feather, Flow and Density sliders to 100.
05 INCREASE EXPOSURE
Move your cursor over the image and click and drag over a small section of the bridge pylon. Initially you won’t see any change because you haven’t changed any of the sliders on the right yet. Let’s see what happens if we adjust one of the sliders. Drag the Exposure slider up to 1.35 or so. You can see that the pylon is lighter in the area you painted.
06 PAINT THE PYLON
Move your mouse back over the image and finish masking the entire pylon. If you make a mistake, hold down the Alt/Option key on your keyboard and paint over the offending area. If you want to see the mask you’ve painted press the ‘O’ key (the letter ‘O’, not zero) on your keyboard. Press it again to hide the mask.
07 ANOTHER MASK
Let’s add another mask to the underside of the pylon. Click the ‘New’ link (just below the brush icon) and move the Exposure slider up to a setting of around 0.7. Paint the area under the pylon.
08 GLOBAL CHANGES
We can also make global changes to the image, which will affect both the masked areas and the unmasked areas. To access these changes click the Adjustment Brush icon to bring up the global sliders. In this case you can see I’ve made some changes to the Tone sliders (Contrast +35, Shadows +14, Whites +27, Blacks -8) and Presence sliders (Clarity +11, Vibrance +72, Saturation -36). To see a before and after of the image, press the Y key on your keyboard. Press Y again to return to the normal view.
09 FINE TUNE MASKS
You can edit your masks at any time simply by clicking the Adjustment Brush icon. Click it and move your mouse over the pylon. You can see that there are two white circles on the pylon; these represent our two masks. Click the circle on the underside of the pylon. Reduce the Exposure to 0.60. To fine tune the other mask, simply click the other circle and make changes to the sliders as required.