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Light Painting

Lesson 10 of 19

Lightroom: Presence Panel Adjustments

Tim Cooper

Light Painting

Tim Cooper

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Lesson Info

10. Lightroom: Presence Panel Adjustments

Lesson Info

Lightroom: Presence Panel Adjustments

So now that we're done with our Basic panel, we can turn our attention down here to the bottom part, which is the Presence. And notice that it does come afterwards. There is a reason for this. The folks at Adobe are really, really smart, and they put saturation completely at the bottom. For a lotta beginners, they'll go right to the Saturation slider, and they'll just start pulling it up. And it's just the worst look. The only thing worse than that is an over-sharpened image. And the only thing worse than that is an oversaturated and over-sharpened image. So, kid gloves on both of those things, on sharpening and on saturation. So, like I said, Adobe's put it at the bottom in the hopes that you'll go through all of this other stuff first, and then come down and see how this works. And this is a good idea, because saturation is a bit heavy-handed in the way that it's applied. So what we're gonna do is, we're gonna look at what the difference between clarity and contrast is, and then we'l...

l move on to vibrance and saturation. So, when I evaluate images, the way that I like to think of it is that there's three different forms of contrast, or you know what, let me back this up. Let me back this way up. When I'm evaluating images, I look at them in three different ways. I evaluate it for brightness, for contrast, and for color. The overall brightness is kinda what we're dealing with with the Exposure slider. Slightly brighter, slightly darker, kinda getting the image to where we want it to go. So then we move down to contrast. But within contrast, there's three different forms of contrast. There's the overall contrast. There's the mid tone contrast. And then there's something I call micro contrast. That's not a term. I just make it up to help y'all understand what I'm talking about. So, contrast is overall, mid tone, or local, and then micro. And then it comes to color. And within color we have hue, saturation, and brightness, or luminance. So those are all of the things that I evaluate when I'm dealing with adjusting my images in Lightroom, and indeed, Photoshop, afterwards. But a lot of it we've taken care of here. So, exposure. That's our brightness. That's the first on our list. Then it comes to contrast, which we've broken down to overall. The overall contrast is from the deepest black to the brightest white, and we've adjusted that as well, using the Blacks, and Whites, slider. That's gonna set the overall tone, feel. If it has a real wide range of tonalities in it, that's the overall contrast. And typically our images, especially nighttime photography and light painting, should have a deep black and a bright white, making it a good overall contrast. All right. Next comes mid tone contrast. And mid tone contrast is adjusted with your Contrast slider. So if you can kind of divide this area up where exposure is working, take that light gray region that you're seeing, that's roughly where the Contrast slider works as well. But the Contrast slider will take some of the brighter mid tones and darker mid tones, and squeeze them out a little bit. So what the Contrast slider's doing is takin' that histogram and squeezing it out. That's a slightly different effect than grabbing the whites and the blacks and pulling them edge to edge. So that's why we say that that Contrast slider works on our mid tone contrast. All right. So that just leaves us with clarity. And clarity is just what I call micro contrast. It's really just one step above sharpening. So, micro contrast is going to be the difference between very near tonalities. So, we could say, our whites and blacks overall contrast adjust the contrast between the top of the Space Needle here and the deepest black here. The Contrast slider might affect the mid tone contrast from maybe this value to these brighter values up in there, to the water. Close, but a little bit further spread out, both physically and tonally. But then our Clarity slider is for really near tones. So we could say that this level of gray here, and that adjacent tone, they're pretty close together in tonality. That's where that clarity's gonna try to separate them out. The Clarity slider is not going to affect the overall blacks and overall whites quite as much. And the end result is it really looks like a type of sharpening. But you wanna be careful with it. Again, kid gloves. This is one of those things you can crank it up so much that your image just starts to look like some sort of cartoon effect, and it doesn't really work, at least not for me. So, let's see what we can find here for an example of looking at our clarity. See. Do we have anything here? (humming) Okay. Let's take this photograph. Shot this at a Gas Works hill, those arches. And, if we look into this area in here, and we start to increase our clarity, you're gonna notice how this sorta gets a crunchy sort of feeling. And that, to me, is just wholly unappealing, especially when it's viewed image-wide. You crank that up, and it just starts to get this, what I call more of a modern look. Some people are really into this. But the fact that it has the word look after it means it's probably gonna change, right? Think of fashion. It's the new look. Well, it's the new look for now. But, couple years from now, that's gonna go away. So if it's a look, it's probably a temporary thing. So, to me, this is just a little bit heavy-handed and garish, and the reason that I feel that way is because we hafta understand how our eyes look at things. When we see photographs, when we see paintings, even when we walk into a well-decorated room, doesn't much matter, our eyes are drawn to bright areas, and they're drawn to high contrast, and they're drawn to very strong color. Well, if we make the whole entire image all high-contrast, and the whole entire image all saturated, what we're telling our viewers is, I don't know where you're gonna look. Just look everywhere. And that really defeats the purpose of your imagery. Your imagery wants to guide the viewer through the photograph. Look here first, spend some time here, but here's your prize at the end. But when everything is just filled with contrast and filled with color, you look at it, and like I said earlier, it's like the visual equivalent of a sour ball. You're like, oh my God, that's the coolest thing ever, and oh, I am suddenly so sick of it. I'm done, put it away. That's not what we want from our images. We want people to stay involved with them and dig deeper and deeper into them. So, in this case, cranking up the clarity really gives you that pop and that look, but just remember that that's ultimately gonna be a little heavy-handed, and you, as a photographer, can make that artistic decision. But do realize what is going to happen is, as you increase that contrast, you're gonna start to affect that micro contrast in there, and this is a really perfect example of that. We'll look at this area, and zero out our clarity, becomes really super smooth, and add a bit of clarity and it gets a little bit more crunchy. To me, that's a really nice use of clarity without going over the top and being ham-fisted with your sliders. So next we have vibrance and saturation. And vibrance and saturation are similar in that they both increase the intensity of the color. But saturation, the way that it works is it affects all saturated colors equally. So, let's just make up some numbers. Let's say we have a part of an image that's 10 percent saturated, and another part that's 90 percent saturated. If I move my Saturation slider 10 points, this only moves up to 20, which is like almost no change, and this moves from 90 to 100, which is a severe change. So, what would be better, and what the Vibrance slider does, is it will take less saturated colors and increase them more, while the saturated colors only increase a little bit or are left alone. And the way that this works is that vibrance is really geared more towards blues and yellows, no, greens, but it leaves the reds alone. So it's kinda designed to increase the colors without increasing skin tone saturation. But the byproduct is, it ends up just being what I like to call smart saturation, all right. So, if we were to go to an image like this where we might wanna increase the blue, you could take that saturation and increase it a whole ton, and before you know it, you've just started to lose some detail in some of these areas. Whereas, and let's just go back here, you can see the blue is over the top here now, but if we take our vibrance up, it's going to affect the blue far quicker. You can see how saturated this has become. Let me pull this back to zero. All right. Pull that vibrance up. This has become far more intense, but barely touched this red down in here, because this was already saturated to begin with. So, vibrance is like smart saturation, and saturation is good, but usually only in a couple of points. Now, the last thing that I wanna mention here is that when we are dealing with our Basic panel and starting from the beginning, and working our way through, it's good to realize that the Contrast slider itself is going to increase color saturation. So let me just try to find an image that's got some color to it. Let's just say we'll take this one. Watch what happens as I increase the Contrast slider. Nothin' to do with saturation, here, people. I'm just gonna take my Contrast slider and move that up. Notice how much saturated those colors become. So, this is why Adobe is smart to put the Saturation slider at the bottom, because once you've gone through all of this, and you've made your proper adjustments, chances are you're gonna need a lot less saturation than you thought you did before you started. So that's why we leave this to last.

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.