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Adjustment Brush in Lightroom

Lesson 25 from: Travel Photography: The Complete Guide

Ben Willmore

Adjustment Brush in Lightroom

Lesson 25 from: Travel Photography: The Complete Guide

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

25. Adjustment Brush in Lightroom


Class Trailer



Course Introduction


Camera Gear for Travel


What Camera Gear Should You Buy?


Gear Bags for Travel Photography


Location Research and Pre-Trip Planning


Importing and Naming Conventions in Lightroom


Processing Images with Presets in Lightroom


Lesson Info

Adjustment Brush in Lightroom

There's only so much we can do if all we do is use the sliders that are in Lightroom for adjustment. Oftentimes I need to work on isolated areas. If I look at an image like this one, you see how dark that guy is? Well, I do have a slider called shadows which would brighten up the shadows. Problem is, that's gonna brighten up the shadows down here, too. And the dark area down here. And I don't care to show the detail in those areas. I only want this to be brighter. So using those sliders won't quite do it. But if I go to the upper right, we have this little brush, the adjustment brush. And if I click on it, it will give me a limited set of sliders to choose from. And I can paint an adjustment into the image. Now I if I just move one of these sliders right now, it's not gonna affect the image yet because I haven't painted anywhere to tell it where to affect it. So I might just start by guessing at what slider I would like to use and so... Let me actually get out of this for a second and ...

open my histogram. If you ever see a lightning bolt near your histogram, up here, even the collapsed histogram can show it over here. Or if it's expanded, it'll show up down here. What that means is this particular image was adjusted with an old version of Lightroom. A version of Lightroom that doesn't offer the modern kind of sliders that we use for adjusting our pictures today. And therefore, it's gonna offer you the old legacy adjustment sliders, as if you had a really old version of Lightroom installed. Because it thinks, this might be, let's say, an image you've made prints of before, and you need to make prints that still look the same, so it doesn't wanna force you to update it. So if you ever see that little lightning bolt over there and you want to use the modern sliders, just click on it. And that'll update it. It might change the appearance slightly though, but it will update it. I just noticed when I grabbed the adjustment brush that there were nowhere near as many sliders as there usually are, and I'm like, what's going on? And it's because it was processed with an old version. So now I'm gonna move one of these sliders and when I do so, you're not gonna see the image changed because I haven't painted anywhere yet. But I'm gonna bring up the shadow slider. I might bring up the exposure a little bit. I'm just guessing at what would look good when I paint. And just from experience, I have a pretty good idea of what might look good. So I just guessed. Now I'm gonna move my mouse on top of the image, and I'm gonna paint. As I paint, usually you won't see a green overlay, but there's a checkbox down at the bottom and if you turn that on, you would see an overlay. That just means the last time I used this I left that checkbox on. Usually, instead, you'll see your picture changing. And you can paint this in right where you need it. And then you can come back and fine tune your sliders. So the sliders I put in before were just a guess. And now I can actually see and decide which ones actually help. And get it in there. Now with the adjustment brushes, a few things to think about. And I actually wanna switch to a different picture to show you this. Alright, we're gonna work on this guy. I think he's a bit too dark, especially his hand that's sticking out. And I wanna change that. So I'm gonna grab my adjustment brush. And first off, wanna get into it, it remembers the last settings I applied. So these settings were from the last picture. And oftentimes, I wanna reset what's in here to start fresh. But... I can double click on any adjustment slider to reset it to its default. That's standard in Lightroom, with any slider you see in general, if you double-click on it, it means put it to default. I'm not sure if you're aware of it, if you double-click on the heading for that set of sliders, it will reset all of the sliders at once that are underneath it. So if I double-click on the word effect here, you see all the sliders reset. Then... You can also click, right here where it says effect, to the right it says custom right now, but if I click... You can come in here and make presets. So if you ever load up your brush with, something you seem to do a lot. You work with people that work for a coffee company and their teeth are all brown-- (audience laughing) cause they love coffee. Well, you're constantly going in, brighten teeth, lower saturation, that kind of thing. Why not make a preset that loads up your brush with those sliders? So all you need to do is once you figure out settings that you use quite frequently, get the slider set where you need them, then go right up to where it said effect and to the right of it, you click, and right there you can choose, save current settings as new preset. And then when you type in a name, it will be in here. So I have a few in here, I haven't gone nuts with this or anything, but I have teeth whiteners, skin smoothers, stuff for eyes. I have stuff where I de-blue the shadows, meaning sometimes the shadows within an image get too blue, they're lit by the blue sky above, they're not lit by the sun so they look bluer. That kinda stuff, but... Just wanna make sure you knew that's there, cause it's, a lot of people just don't ever notice it, there's so many sliders to begin with and it's hard to notice. I'm not gonna use a preset though, for now. And let's take a look at some of our options. To brighten him up, I'm gonna bring up this shadow slider. And before I paint though, I'll show you what would happen if I just came in here and clicked, and started to paint. You can see that it would brighten him up, right? But the problem is, I would have to come over here and be precise about it, because if I go over here, it's gonna affect the rest. Well if I come in, and right now I'm gonna try to see if I can zoom in a little less, but. No, that's more. I want one even lower. But what I'm gonna do is on the right side, there's some options, one of which is called auto mask. If I turn on auto mask, now what it's going to do is you see that little plus sign in the middle, that little center area? Well, it's gonna look at what color is underneath that and when I click, it's gonna try to only put this change on top of things of that color. And if it is dramatically different than that color, then it's going to prevent it from applying, it's not perfect. Be sure you're zoomed in because oftentimes, you're gonna end up with little artifacts around the edge. As I can see, when I look on this left edge, can you see a little hint of, I don't know if I call it a halo, but something weird? So you can use that setting, works great for images you post on the web, because for the web, things are so tiny that nobody ever notices that kind of stuff. But if you're doing it for print or for other uses where it's high-res, be very careful with using auto mask and look at your end result to see does it need to be tweaked? In this particular case, I might end up turning the auto mask off and adjusting my settings, get a semi-soft brush. There's a choice called erase to remove your adjustment. And I might have to come in and just fix that area right there. Right now I'm erasing the adjustment and I just might need to, where it helped me on a large portion of the image, but right here on that edge, I'm gonna have to go in manually and just touch that up. So it doesn't mean that I never use auto mask, it means that I'm always critical of auto mask, and I double check my end results. I might need to come in and either take away from my adjustment by choosing a choice called erase in touching it up, or add a little bit more manually. The place I might need to add some might be right up here where it might not have gotten into the darkest area, that kind of thing. Whenever you use the adjustment brush, wherever you first painted will be a pin, a little circle. And if you hover over that pin without clicking it, usually you'll see an overlay and it'll show you which portions of the image this is affecting. So I can see, if there's overspray, and I can see quite a bit of overspray. If you wanna keep that overlay on your image, usually it only shows up when you're on top of the pin, there's a checkbox at the bottom, the one I forgot to turn off the last time I used this, called show selected mask overlay. So then if I have this set to erase, I can come over here and clean up what's in the background. You don't have to get rid of all of the problem areas, but you do need to be critical of all those problem areas. To make sure that by having that overspray, it's not visually obvious. It doesn't mean that this half will look perfect cause no one else is ever gonna see that green overlay. If you use this a lot, you can just type the letter O for overlay to toggle it on and off. So I use the adjustment brush quite a bit to adjust isolated areas. And I just wanna mention a few of the uses for it. I'm not gonna extensively use it here just cause it takes a lot of time to talk about. So... The first thing I use the adjustment brush for is I find that there are certain settings that work on the majority of a picture, like 80% of the entire picture will look better with these particular adjustments. Let's say, it is a picture of a waterfall with an overcast sky above it. The overcast sky will often look like it's almost solid white, very little detail showing up, so you take the highlight slider and you say, hey, let's darken up highlights, and in doing so, you start seeing detail in your overcast sky. And the rest of the image looks just about fine. But then if you think about it, the waterfall. When you did that, the waterfall has highlights in it, which probably also got darker. And that's the part that started looking dull. So I just come in here and I load up my brush with the highlight slider turned up. And I might turn it up where it's the exact opposite of what's being applied to the rest of the image. If highlights is set to minus 20 to make the sky look good, I load up my brush with highlights plus and paint it over the waterfall. Now what happened? If the entire image had negative and I just painted in plus 20 in one spot, I just got zero there. I canceled out the amount being applied to the whole image. I'll also load up a brush with clarity, and I'll put it in a negative number, minus 10? And paint it on people's faces. It smooths out their faces. But let's just look at a few examples of where the adjustment brush was used, so you can see the difference, so you can get an idea of maybe how extensively I might use it in some cases. I'm just gonna click on an image. I'll go to the development module with it and then I'll go to my adjustment brush. And with the adjustment brush down near the bottom of all its settings, is a little light switch right there. And if I click that light switch, it will show me what it would look like if I had never used the adjustment brush, it disables the things that the adjustment brush did to my picture. So let's turn that off and see if we can see a difference in this image. Ah, the bottom part of the image. K? Then let's switch to another image. Go to the adjustment brush, and turn it off. I'm not seeing it so much in there, it has been applied but I think it's in the darkest portion so you can't tell as much. This one. See those subtle changes? Now, if you open an image in the past and you wanna see what you've done to it, we can do that with the adjustment brush. First, let's talk about what I did here, and then let's just see how extensively it was changed. When I have the adjustment brush turned off, and I look at this image, my eye goes to the flower, but it also flicks up to here, because those little highlights that are up there. And it also flicks to right there, and it goes to right there. Those are the three spots that pull me away from the flower. Don't know if it does with your eyes or not. When I turn the adjustment brush on, do you notice that those areas got mellowed out? So if I move my mouse on top of the image, that's when those little pins are gonna show up and you can control when those little pins are showing up by the way, with a setting in the lower left. That settings is, show edit pins. And I think the default might be always, where you always see those dots, and that annoys me. When I move my mouse away from the image, I wanna see the image, I don't wanna see any dots on it. So I set mine to auto and by using auto, the pins only show up when your mouse is near the image. And they disappear when your mouse is over where the sliders are. I like that. So let's see which areas got changed. I'll just hover over one of the pins. You see that area? If you wanna see what adjustment was applied, click on it. And look at the sliders, I brought the highlight detail down. Click on the next one, hover over it, you can see how small of an area was changed. And then we got another one right here in the middle, what did I do to the middle one? I brought up clarity, clarity brought out the little details in the image. Why do it to the whole image? That'll make everything in the image have more detail to it. Why not make it only where you want your eye to go? And so in the process of doing that, I made it so there was some little areas my eye used to flick to, but afterwards, I toned them down so now my eye goes to that flower. And it might start to go away from it, but it pulls right back to the flower cause that's where the color is, that's where the detail is, that's where the brightness is. And that's what my eye is usually attracted to, color, brightness, detail. Questions about the adjustment brush? We didn't do a lot with it in that there's other options, but we only have limited time. I have an entire class called Lightroom mastery. It's like multiple days, I think, that covers all that stuff, but here we have limited time. So this is kind of a simple question, so. What would you say the biggest difference is between adjusting, like on that flower picture, the clarity versus the sharpness? Cause you mentioned having the details brought up. How does sharpness affect details versus clarity affect details? Okay, sharpness, depending on the settings you use cause there's a lot of sliders, is usually gonna make a change that takes up, how would I say? It finds detail, like I have a pen here in my hand. The edge of the pen might be considered detail, and it puts a tiny halo around the edge of this. To make it easier to see this edge, the halo is absolutely tiny unless you mess with the settings. If you mess with a setting called radius, radius means how big is the halo? That halo can get much bigger, and it could extend all the way out here, and if it did, to make it so it's not as obvious, it'd need to be subtle. It'd need to be a slight change. And that's closer to what clarity does. Clarity does it over a wider distance. I would think... Clarity is similar to sharpening at a high radius and a low amount, if you happen to know about sharpening. Or you could think of it as... It is going to emphasize textures. Clarity is gonna emphasize even tiny, tiny details that are... Not just the textures. And it's hard to describe. And let's just see one last image here. Yoga shot. So here's before I see the lighting. I got the light on Karen, do you notice where I positioned her? I made her keep going further and further away until she got right in the light. She could, if she was three feet closer to me, she'd be in the shade. And then the sides of these bushes, they're not in the light. The top of them are being lit but it's rather shady, so I grab my adjustment brush and I lit up the... The bushes to make them stand out from their background. See Karen's face? It was dark cause it was in the shade near the bottom of the photo, but if you stare at her face when I turn this on, see it brightened up? Then in the foreground, my eye went to these things. And so I painted on them to tone them down. I could have simply cropped them out, but you see all the places where I painted with that brush? You see all those little dots? I fine tune my images quite a bit. I just didn't want this one to be too much of a panorama. So there's all sorts of things we can do in Lightroom. One other thing, just very briefly, is with architecture. One option you might wanna consider, is if you ever do tilt your lens, go to the choice called lens corrections. And under lens corrections, there's an area here called upright. Click on auto, and if you have any images where you've tilted your camera up, when you click auto, it will attempt to automatically find vertical lines that aren't quite vertical and adjust them. And then you'd have to crop your image because of the correction it did. And you can go to a bunch of images. This one I had to tilt up on, and this just feels weird, it feels like the building shouldn't be stable, it's just about to fall over. But if I hit auto, I can do that. And below that we have a few buttons where we can force this to use different things. The one called vertical means only think about vertical lines. Don't think about horizontal lines. If I shot this building straight on from the front, I might choose full, and full thinks both about verticals and horizontals. And when that doesn't work... Then you go to the area on the right called manual. And you say, fine, I'll do it myself. And in here, we have a slider called vertical and that can tilt the image. Then we have one called horizontal, if I wasn't quite lined up and I wish I would have been three inches to the right or left. I can swing it this way to try to fix that. And so, when that doesn't work, when auto in upright doesn't work, then come in here and mess with these manual ones. And that's what was done also to this image, if I turn off those settings by just turning off the little light switch next to lens corrections, you see just a little bit there in that it had some distortion. But here, I see this line isn't quite straight. If I go, I might just do the slightest correction to get it straight, and then I'll have to crop, K? But those are some of the other things that I end up using in Lightroom all the time.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lightroom Presets Quickstart Guide
Lightroom Preset Sampler
Pre-Trip Planning
Actions Sampler Guide
Travel Photography Handbook
Actions Sampler
Lightroom Keywords
Big Set of Lightroom Presets
Practice Images
Travel Photogtaphy Mobile Guide
Gear List
Lightroom Tips and Keyboard Shortcuts

Ratings and Reviews


This was simply an amazing experience! Without a doubt the best investment of time and money I have experienced in quite awhile. Ben's complete command of the subject, the practical tips, suggestions and reference information was outstanding. I have enjoyed point and shoot photography for some time and recently decided to invest in some decent DSLR equipment (Canon EOS D70). I have a trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg South Africa rapidly approaching and thought it might be a good idea to take some classes and make an effort to get up the learning curve ASAP to take advantage of this travel opportunity. "Discovering" Creativelive and Ben Willmore's class was literally an answer to prayer! There is nothing like sitting at the foot of wisdom, taking notes, and having numerous "ah-ha" moments! This was great....looking forward to more classes. Thanks for the high quality effort!

a Creativelive Student

Genius! Ben is a brilliant master teacher - focused, clear and holds back no information. The best! This course has condensed the equivalent of 10 courses into one. He is a perfectionist in his approach and knows how to present the material. He is the leader in photoshop and photography "par excellence". Highly recommend any of his courses. Save your time and start with the best - everyone loves Ben!!!!

Nichole Sams

I feel the title of this class, Travel Photography, is much to limiting for what you are really going to get. As a wedding photographer, who dreams of traveling, I attending the class live in Seattle, and was hoping to get some inspiration for on location shoots. What I got, however, was a WHOLE LOT MORE. I would recommend this class to anyone with a camera and Lightroom. What I learned about how lightroom works and how to integrate it with photoshop is invaluable. I actually think they should charge WAY more for this course. The bonuses with purchase from the keywords (we are talking every key word you could possibly imagine) and the presets (holycow everything you would ever need) are worth exponentially more than the course price itself. Ben is a gentle easy going teacher and nice to listen to. His ease of teaching pretty complex ideas was truly wonderful. If you are reading this you must buy this course, it is well worth it!

Student Work