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Light Painting

Lesson 12 of 19

Lightroom: Local Adjustments

Tim Cooper

Light Painting

Tim Cooper

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Lesson Info

12. Lightroom: Local Adjustments

Lesson Info

Lightroom: Local Adjustments

Lens corrections. This isn't something I do I whole lot of in night photography, but it can be important. In the lens correction panel one of the most important things is removing chromatic aberration. So if you're looking in here, you can see check, remove chromatic aberration. And you could check that box and never see anything happen to your image. But what it's doing is very important. If you're shooting a lot with wider angle lenses which we tend to do for you know astrophotography, for shooting star trails and star points and things like that then we're very likely to encounter something called chromatic aberration. And chromatic aberration is when the colors don't all line up on the same point of your sensor, from where they entered on the lens Meaning that when light comes through a piece of, through the lens, it's gonna break up into separate colors and they should all line directly on a point on our sensor. And if they're off a little bit, it's gonna be miss registered. And t...

hat's going to produce like a magenta or a green haloing around our image. And you may not see it, as you're looking at it here and you may not see it at one-to-one, but if you take that image and make a fairly large print of it, say 16 by 20 or something that might start to come through. And gosh you don't wanna spend the money on that kind of printer, sending it off to an ad agency or something like that and have these little artifacts showing through. So this is a part of my normal workflow that I apply just about every single image I ever do. But, the other part is something called enable profile corrections. And when you check that, this should have popped up for Canon, there we go. When you check that box what's gonna happen, is it's going to alter the shape of the image. And what it's doing is it's accounting for the light fall-off that happens on the lens edges and it's also affecting or taking into account the way that the image is shaped, the way that the glass is altered that, not really a perspective but a distortion thing. So you can check enable profile corrections. Sometimes I like the look of that, sometimes I don't. If I'm shooting architectural photography, without a doubt I check that every time. But if I'm doing general landscape photography and general night photography I might not go there because sometimes that wide-angle look is what I'm shooting for, and by checking that I'm actually ruining that look. Now, in Lightroom CC, what they've done or maybe it's Lightroom CS6, I can't recall, but they've separated out lens corrections and our transform controls. And our transform controls is the reason I've come to this. Cause as you can see, it was dark out and I didn't get quite the perfect alignment on the building so I wanna be straight on, right there's the North Star directly above this steeple, I'm sure that was not by accident by the builders of this church, but we can see that the building is not quite square. So we have here, under our transform panel a way to fix that. There's a couple ways, number one, I could do it manually by clicking and you know the rotate and rotating my image left and right until it's squared up. If I wasn't perfectly aligned with the building straight on I could use my horizontal left and right and that's going to square up the building in that way. And you can get it more squared that way. Also if you're looking up the building, you may get a look that looks like something like that and so you can fix it with the vertical distortion until it becomes nice and straight. So now kind of looking at these lines, making sure they're straight. And you can definitely do all that. But, alright, I'll click double transform here, double click transform, reset everything. What you can also do is use these and these can be really great you guys. Click on Auto and boom, look at that. It's just completely aligned my building and made it wonderfully straight. Awesome tool, super handy especially when you're shooting straight lines. Okay, so next up um, we've got our local adjustments. So at this point you, guys I'm going to assume that as we're working through an image, we're beginning in our basic panel, dealing with our white balance. We're going through and adjusting exposure, whites and blacks, shadows and highlights, that's gonna get our good contrast. Perhaps even a little vibrance and saturation. Next up HSL for fine-tuning some of those colors and then if we really need to, we've got our lens corrections to deal with. Certainly enabling, I'm sorry certainly fixing chromatic aberration that's super important and then if need be you can go in and do enable profile corrections. But that's only gonna get us so far. That's only gonna get us so far. That's our basic global overall adjustments. Ultimately, in almost every single image I've ever made I'm gonna go in and do some local work, all right? So, to do our local adjustments, what we need to do is go to our develop module, and look to the bar just below the histogram. Here of course is our crop, here we've got our spot removal tool, red eye tool. But these tools right here are our local adjustment tools. And the first one we're gonna talk about is the graduated filter. Now, the way this works is that when I click on this, out pops a whole bunch of sliders. Do you realize however this looks suspiciously familiar, similar to this down here? This is my basic panel, notice I've got this black panel up in here when I click on that, it almost looks exactly the same. So don't get confused here, a lot of times you'll start adjusting things in here and not seeing it happen on your image and ask yourself why. Just realize you might actually be on the brush itself. Now the only indication that we have, is when you're not on the brush none of these are highlighted. When I click on that, it becomes highlighted. I personally think that is not quite enough indication, I'd like to see a little bit more, maybe bright yellow or red or something, some big change. But that's our indication. Alright now, once I click on my local, my graduated tool these sliders pop out. And nothing has happened yet, I haven't made any changes. And the way we're going to proceed is we're going to draw out a mask or an overlay. And at that point, whatever is inside of that overlay, will be influenced by these sliders here. So lemme just double click the word effect here to reset all those sliders, alright. Now, I'm gonna click and drag out my gradient and nothing has happened to the image. Simply because I've made no change here. So, let me delete this and start it again. If I came here and made a change first and the change by the way you guys, is I wanna darken this down. Notice how bright this is up in here and it gets darker as we go here, I want it to be darker and get lighter as we go out. So I want to darken down this whole area. And now that I look at it, these highlights are blown out too. Before we go any further, I think I need to deal with those. Lemme pull those highlights back down, there we go. That's looking a little better. Alright, so we go up to our graduated tool, I can just take my exposure and crank it down but again nothing happens because my overlay isn't drawn out. So whether you go to this slider first and then draw out your overlay or whether you draw your overlay first and then go to your sliders it makes no difference. I usually start though, by going to the area that I think I need to, in this case I'm gonna darken it down. So I'll pull that down, and then I'm gonna click and drag over. And what I want you guys to realize is this is where I clicked, and that's where I unclicked. So from here over gets 100% of this adjustment. From this line to this line is the gradient from 100% down to zero and then this whole area of the image gets none of this adjustment here. So what we're drawing out is basically the gradient itself. And you can make that gradient really small, alright lemme just adjust this so you can see, now we've got a small gradient, now get a bigger, bigger, bigger. And in this way you can really adjust where that, exactly where and how much of this adjustment is gonna come through. Now that we've drawn this gradient, I'll just double-click on my word exposure here and think about this for a second. Is that a highlighter mid-tones? Probably a little bit of highlights, a little bit of mid-tone. I'll start with my highlights first. Alright, that's good. That's darkened it down. Now I'll take my exposure and then darken it down a little bit. And also lower my contrast because what's gonna happen is if this area was truly not as lit as well, then the contrast would be lower than it should be out here. So now, when we darken that area down just a touch, we can look at the before and after. And if you go down to the bottom of the panel here, see this little black and white box. And that when you click on it is gonna give you the before and after. And now you can start seeing that we're getting a little bit more darkness in here and brighter in here and that's tending to lead us into the photograph. But I still feel like this area in here could be a little bit brighter. So, what we could then do is turn to the next local adjustment tool and that's the radial tool. And the radial tool is going to work pretty similar. All of these tools work by drawing out an overlay and then making an adjustment to what's gonna to happen within the overlay. So click on my radial tool and in this case I wanna brighten, so I'll double-click highlights and let's see, what is that gonna be? I wanna lighten the shadows in here because I don't wanna necessarily brighten these highlights too much. I'll just move those down. So we go to our radial tool and I will lift my shadows up a little bit. Now when I draw out my radial tool I'm just gonna click, and drag outwards. And you can seem, it comes right from the center where I started and I drag out and I can change the shape any way I want. Don't try to make this exact, just from the beginning. It's like the graduated filter, it doesn't have to be exact because you can always grab this and move it around and make adjustments. Now, you can see what's happening is even though I drew the circle this way, what it's actually dealing with is the outside of that circle. So what I can do is come down here and invert that mask. Now, it's going to, any change that happens over here is going to occur within that circle. So, I will take my shadows in this case and brighten those up a little bit. There we go. And now we've got this area being a little bit brighter, this area being a little bit darker with our graduated filter and overall, when we go to the before-and-after view, we should see a significant change. Notice here you're drawn into this area where in this image you're drawn past the dark area and you go right out to the whites. So this is what I'm talking about when I say you wanna lead your viewer through the photograph to the areas that you want them to see, rather than making the whole entire image all saturated or all contrasty, we wanna really fine-tune and craft each and every image. And this is of course is exactly what we're doing when we're out light painting. We're doing that to the extreme. So, let's take off our Y/Y view here, we'll go back to our loop view and return to our library module. And let's see, ah yes! Here's another image from oh, you know what, lemme show you this first, before we go on though. (clears throat) You're not just limited to one gradient, one radial tool or one adjustment brush on an image. You could do multiple. So like here for example, that's a little selfie in bruges. this area of the sidewalk is, well it's just brighter and that's just the natural light of the scene, there's not a lot I can do about that. But I wanna darken it down, so I grab my graduated neutral density filter. I know I want it darkened so I'll start with exposure, then I click and drag upwards, and again don't worry about whether you unclick and it's not exact because you can always grab this in the center and move it, you can always grab and extend out your your gradient and do whatever you want there. And so let's get that to about there, and then we're just going to re-adjust this until it looks good. And at this point, I feel like that looks pretty good but there's still this corner down here that's a little bit too bright. So what I'm gonna do is actually go over here to the word new, click on that word and now I'm starting a new gradient. Notice now that I see this gray pen. That gray pen indicates the previous overlay that I just created. When it's gray, it tells me it's inactive. The moment that I draw another overlay, so I'll just click and drag here and make that the second one, so you go there. Now notice this pin is black in the center. That's telling me it's the active one, so whatever I do there is gonna happen within that gradient. So in this case I wanna darken it down and just try to even that out with the rest of that image. Maybe even slightly darker. And maybe even pull that up just a little bit. Alright. Now we've got two pins on here but only one can be active. So if I'm on this pin, I can make adjustments. But if I want to go to the other pin, what I'm going to do is actually click on that one and now that's the active pin. And I can re-adjust that and overall darken or lighten to get that anywhere I want it to be. And so through the use of two different gradient tools, I was able to very naturally make this light, this corner a little bit darker but without having that hard break that the light itself caused. So you can use more than one overlay on any given image. Let's talk about our local adjustment brush. So our local adjustment brush is again, when we click on it it's gonna be very similar to every other local adjustment that we've just used. The only difference is, is we've got a brush now and we're painting an overlay versus just drawing it out by clicking and dragging a radial or clicking and dragging a graduated tool. So let's explore first what this brush can do. Alright, number one I'll just crank up my exposure here and what I'm gonna do is make my feather really small, okay. When we pull our mouse out it initially gives us a cursor. And wherever you click on that cursor and drag, you're basically drawing your gradient. So you can see this is a pretty hard edge, what I've done right here. If I take that feather and move it all the way to the right, what we're gonna get is a much softer edge, so here we have a hard edge, here we have a soft edge. Sometimes you need one that's soft, sometimes you need one that's hard, it really is image dependent, but it gives us the option. So lemme just go back in time by hitting command+Z, get rid of both of those. The idea is is we're gonna paint out a mask. And once we paint that out, we can then have the ability to come over here and make changes; brighten, darken, whatever you wanna do. So that's the crux of it. To get rid of that you guys, that nonsense I just did, I'll hit reset, okay. So that's the crux of it. Now, what comes next is the edges, do we want a soft edge, do we want a hard edge? And this is where the adjustment brush can be pretty cool. There's a thing called Auto Mask here. And Auto mask is gonna to try to keep the paint that you lay down, which is creating our overlay it's gonna try to keep that within the edges itself. So my goal here is I don't, I feel that I over painted this pipe a little bit too much and it got really quite bright. So what I wanna do is I wanna paint that in and then come up here and lower my highlight value, to kinda bring this more in line with the rest of the image. So, what I'll do is, lower my highlights a little bit. And now I'm gonna move my cursor over the image and I'm gonna take my size slider and move it down a little bit. But I gotta be honest with you, if you're over here, going all the way over here to change your size sliders, a real drag. So folks, you can use your track pad, bring that up and down the scroll, we're on the scroll wheel on your mouse, bring that up and down. You can use your right bracket key to make a bigger, left bracket key to make it smaller. There's lots of ways that you can alter the size of the brush, I'm just using my track pad. And now as I paint, what I should be doing, is painting in the area that I wanna darken down. So lemme just continue to paint in here and ultimately you can see it's darkening and changing color a little bit, it's turning into a green. But ultimately my issue is, I don't wanna go outside the lines. So if I paint this and I go outside the lines, it's gonna start affecting the other parts of the image, and that's going to be problematic. We don't want to see this sort of thing in our photograph. So that's where we can turn to something called our Auto Mask and that Auto Mask will try to keep it within the line. So now, as I paint, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna turn on my show selected mask overlay. And that, as I paint will show me, where I'm actually painting. I can't go down that big. So I'm going to click in here and notice I'm getting that red value. And even though my brush is outside of the pipe, it's only painting within that area of the pipe that the crosshair touches. So in this way, if I just stay within that, if I keep that crosshair within the pipe boundaries, then what's happening is, it won't go outside of there and I can create a very accurate mask. Now this isn't as great as what Photoshop can do but it's pretty darn awesome. So, once I've painted the overlay in here, and I've kept within the bounds, I'll just uncheck this so I don't see red anymore. And now I can come back and re-adjust my highlights, to whatever I think is appropriate. So I can drag this and pull my highlights down just a touch. And maybe that brings it a little bit more in line with the rest of this. Now, also feels like that pipes a little on the yellow side. Remember, once you've drawn in or once you've painted in a mask, you have all of these options. So if I feel that this is just a little too yellow, I could push this more towards blue. That neutralizes it. I can push it more towards magenta or more towards green. And I can start altering the color balance of this in addition to brighten and darkening. So that's the neat thing, we don't have to feel overall that we're just brightening and darkening with this tool. But we've got all of these other options. Alright, let's do one last example here. This local adjustment brush. And here's an image we saw earlier in one of the keynote presentations. And this full moon light is really hitting here at my feet and kind of causing a somewhat neutral color cast to the image and then as I mentioned earlier, I put a blue gel over my flashlight, and I painted in this area as you can see. So that's the look I'm looking for and then I got a blue sky. But I want that sort of spooky, scary look to this image. So where that starts to fall apart here is this kind of neutral coloring in the bottom of the frame. And, it's also quite a bit brighter. So remember, our eyes are drawn to bright things areas of high contrast and high color saturation. So the first thing I hit here, as I'm looking at this photograph is this bright area. Of course yes, I see that bright area and I wanna go back to it, but I'm stumbling. I'm stumbling over this bright area. So what I wanna do is I wanna darken that down and I want to add some blue into it, so the whole image feels more blue. So let's go about that then. I'm just going to double-click effect, that resets everything. And I think I'll just begin by lowering my highlights and lowering my exposure a little bit. Now, remember I could just go right to exposure but by lowering my highlights first and lowering my contrast a little bit, I'll darken my bright mid-tones and mid-tones faster than my shadows. If I just cranked my exposure down, I'll make these blacks unnecessarily deep black, and still barely dent the mid-tones. So I always find it a better way to go to decrease your highlights and contrast a little bit and then a little bit less on the exposure itself. Now, when I go in here and paint, you can see that that auto mask is kind of working against me in some cases here so I'm actually gonna take that off. Because I just want this to paint a big old swath. No regard whatsoever for edges. That's how we're gonna roll here, alright. Now that's way too much, so let's take our highlights down a little bit and that lack of contrast actually hurt us in that case. So this actually needs more contrast, and I'm seeing that now because this area back in here is contrasty. and when this looks flat it tends to look false. So something more like that feels more realistic. Okay, I'm good with that. But, it still feels neutral in color and the rest of the image feels really super blue. So what we can do, A, we can come down here and just change our white balance, that's one thing we can certainly do. But we also have the option of adding a color across an image. So you can click on this box here, and if I click on blue, you can see how the whole bottom of the frame is changing depending on where I choose my color. Now, if you wanna choose a precise color, like if I wanted this blue to match that blue out there, what I could do is click inside the box, hold down my click, drag out, put it over that color blue and then unclick. And that should match that blue exactly to that blue. And then you have your saturation down here. So if I go here, no color is being applied, if I go across, a lot of colors being applied. So there's two different ways you can add color, either through your white balance or through adding the exact color as an overlay. In this case I think I liked the, I like the white balance a little better, so I'm gonna click on here and drag this box down to the white that neutralizes it when I see an X here, that's telling me there's nothing left in the color there. And I'm gonna go up and change my white balance in this case, just make that a little bit cooler, something like that. And I think the real issue is, is that I need that color also back out in here, here, here and here. So in this case, it doesn't work to apply it within that same mask, so I'm just gonna reset my tint, let this be darker and then create a new mask and lower that temperature in tint. And now at this point I'm gonna paint in this whole entire image. And of course you can see I'm being a little sloppy, I got the bottom of that tree, we'll come and address that in a second. But I'm gonna paint all this stuff in. Now what I'm doing is I'm really giving this whole image a blue feel to it, to make it a little bit more spooky like, what I'm shooting for, alright. Now in this case, when I started to get into the tree, it started to look a little false and that would mean I'd have to go up paint the whole bleeding tree, to get that look. And I don't wanna do that, it's too much work, especially at this moment. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go in and erase some of that blue and you can do that on your adjustment brush by clicking on the erase function. And, you have flow. So if I erase here at 100%, it will completely remove any color that I've put in there. If however, I put it at 50%, it will just erase a little bit 50% of that at a time, which I think in this case is not gonna be enough. So I am gonna have to go up to 100% here and we'll just get rid of any blue that's residual in that tree there and those tree branches and that's starting to look a little bit more natural. Lemme just zoom in here. I think that blue must be from the other mask you guys so let's check that out. I'm gonna go to this, no it's not. Maybe that's just natural in the image, hmm. Notice what I'm doing by just clicking on the pin here, it shows me where that mask is and I could better see if I've missed some painting. And if you wanna put it on full, you just click on here and now you can see it. I need to add some in here, so I click my A button. And we'll just paint some in, we can do that. That's looking good. And then we hit our erase button, it'll take some of that off the tree, there we go. And then I can take that off and then basically re-adjust. But, the other thing is that got a lot of blue into this area, I think. Did I? No, I think that might be the natural blue from the skylight, which is actually okay. No, I did. So I'm gonna remove some of that and this is where I'm gonna take my flow and go down a little bit. So I'm not erasing 100% at a shot there. So it's gonna leave some of that color in there. And overall now that we've changed the blue value down here, and darkened this in, I think that we're gonna end up with a much spookier looking image that's more effective and more conducive to the overall feel that I'm shooting for. Okay, so that's your basic local adjustments you guys. We talked about our graduated tool, we've talked about our radial tool, and ended up with our local adjustment brush. And these are all fine-tuning your images. So just to step back a little bit, we began this whole talk of course inside of our basic panel. So remember, everything in the basic panel and then coming down to HSL, lens corrections, camera calibration, those are all global adjustments and we wanna do as many, as much global adjusting as we can inside of Lightroom. Now, next up if we need to fine-tune a little bit we can turn to our radial tool, our graduated tool and our local adjustment brush to fine-tune in localized adjustments. But really, where the power actually lies is in Photoshop. You guys, I do a lot of work in Lightroom, but as you can see, it's a little bit tedious doing some of this painting and so on and so forth. Photoshop makes that a lot easier. So global adjustments occur in Lightroom, some fine-tuning local adjustments in Lightroom as well, but if you really need the power you're gonna move to Photoshop. So next up, I'm gonna take some of these images some that we've worked on, some we haven't into Photoshop and show you some really cool techniques, that's super common for me when I'm working up with light painting.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Shooting at night can create dynamic landscapes or portraits through long exposures. By using a wide range of tools, you can add light to your night photographs to create dynamic highlights or unique shapes. Painting with light opens a door into night photography that will keep you out until the wee hours of the morning. Tim Cooper is the author of The Magic of Painting with Light and in this course, you’ll learn:

  • The basics of light painting from accessories to camera considerations 
  • How to use test shots to capture your focus and exposure in the dark 
  • How to post-process your night images in Lightroom 
  • How to use layer stacking in Photoshop to build up light in your photographs  

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tim's Lightroom Presets

Tim's Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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DiDi Hendley

The BEST class ever! Learned so much--Tim is a great instructor. I highly recommend to the creative photog looking to expand his/her arsenal of tools, talents and products. Appreciated the patience and thoroughness that Tim offered students. Great pacing and information. I can see how I can very easily take his instruction out at night and produce something. I also appreciate that this session demonstrated images that weren't created in total darkness.

Gene Chamberlin

Tim is an outstanding teacher - I love his style, thorough and basic without being too elementary or condescending. I will be looking for other classes by Tim in the future. I'm am excited to apply the things I have learned from Tim and create my own style from the tools he has given. I never would have give much thought to light painting in the past. I have already notice a change in the way I scout my shots, now that I have added light painting into my tool box. Thanks for sharing your experience with the world Tim. Gene

Andrew Gow

Really enjoyable course. Clear instruction and surprisingly easy to put what I learnt into practice, which I did for the first time last night. This is also my first exposure to Photoshop, which initially put me off buying the course. However, Tim is a great instructor and explains his approach very clearly, so as well as an introduction to light painting it's a great introduction to what Photoshop can do.