Using the Brush Tool
I'm walking through the forest, forget where this was. I think it was maybe Glacier National Park. I'm walking through the forest and there's just something about like I looked out at these trees and somebody asked me one day, they're like, what lens, if you have a super power for photography what would it be? And I was like, my super power would be to see the world through a 70 to 200. Because I always find myself like I look at something, I have a wide angle lens on and I'm like, I think that could look cool. So that would be my super power. Well, I decided one day I was walking through and I would just, I put my 70 to 200, I'm like I'm just gonna do small intimate scenes in the forest because there really wasn't, there wasn't a grand landscape to be had. It was this pathway through and I thought if there's anything in here I'm gonna want to get close to it. So, I walk past this area, these trees and you're thinking why is he showing this photo, it's just some trees? And I don't know...
, the way the light, it was setting, sun setting light. The way the light was kinda curling around and I'm looking at this pattern of trees and it just, it kinda stopped me. It looked moodier than it really comes out on here. So, we're gonna make it that way. I think the first thing that, one of the first things I did on this one actually was kind of just decided to crop in on it, to take one of those trees out. Make it, simplify the scene a little bit. The next thing I noticed was the main core tree that here, this one that was right in front of me, it doesn't have this wrapping, contouring light that the other trees have. So, we're gonna go to our next tool beyond just the exposure and whites and blacks. The brush tool and a lot of what we're gonna do in here is the brush tool. So we're gonna go over here and I'm gonna make it happen. So, what I'll do is I'll make the brush a little bit brighter on exposure. I can hit the left bracket key and then I'm just gonna paint, and I'm going off of what this tree looks like. I'm just gonna paint down the side, all right and I'm gonna add some warming to it too. So a little bit brighter, a little bit of warming. Now I'm gonna take new because now I can create multiple brushes. I'm gonna click on new or I'm gonna bring it the other way and I'm gonna paint down that side. It's a little too much of a transition for me so when that happens I usually hit the right bracket key to make my brush bigger and I'll kinda paint along the outside there. And then I can adjust it. Now, I did spill over beyond the trees so in that case I'll just go down here to erase and I can erase it from there. You don't see it as much, if I click over here you can see it's actually erasing there, all right. So now, just that's all we've done so far but just look. Just a little bit of contour, all right? So, from here I've decided, in order to really, in order to make this the scene that I kinda remember because part of this also guys is you're looking at something. And just the fact that you're looking at it you see it a little bit different than your camera sees it, you know? Your camera has no idea what you were focusing on so I just find a lot of times the experience of being there is different from when I get it onto this, this two dimensional world on my computer. So for me, that tree really stood out. So, I'm gonna go to my basic panel. I'm gonna pull back on the exposure a little bit. I'm gonna go to my whites and do the same thing that I did before. So now we're getting somewhere, now we're getting a little bit moodier. Let's get a little bit warmer on the light there. Go back over here to the brush, click on new. And now what I wanna do is just go and paint over the background a little bit. Just to some of these areas just to take a little bit of the attention off. Okay. So now add a little bit of contour, little bit of shadow to the other side and then I've got one over here. If you're not familiar with the brush tool, if it looks like we're doing a lot, you will see little dots that appear on the photo. So these little dots are all of your brush tool, I'm gonna call them layers but they're not a layer but kinda think of it as a layer. If you were in Photoshop and you were to select the layer that's what these little guys would be. If you go and you hover over one it'll actually show you the little red overlay of what it looks like. So if you go and I click and I hover over this one I can see what that one's doing. If I click on this one I can see what that one's doing. And there is a checkbox right down there, so that's a way to just basically turn it on and off so I can see the on off version. And then if that's not enough, the one I used the most letter O for overlay. So O, we'll turn that on and off. Public service announcement number one. Commit that keyboard shortcut to memory, put it on that little list of paper called when things stop working or go funky in Lightroom. Because you will at some point have that on and be like whenever I brush it's just red, my Lightroom's broken. I'm calling Adobe, I'm calling tech support, there's something wrong here, it's always red, there's nothing I can do. I get this question once a week. So, just put that on that little list that you have, like things that could go wrong, maybe your cat walked across the screen, across the keyboard and accidentally hit it. But if you see red over there that is because that little checkbox down there is on. Public service announcement number two. What about if you don't see that little checkbox? You know what that means? That means your cat walked across the screen again and hit the letter T for toolbar. So, your cat walked across your keyboard and hid the toolbar that shows you the little checkbox. That is probably even more common than the overlay thing if that little toolbar disappears, I wish that keyboard shortcut would go away forever and ever and ever because it's just, it does so much more harm than good. But again, these things will happen to you so I just wanna give you a way out when they happen. All right, so let's turn that overlay off there and then as I mentioned before I'm not opposed to a vignette. So we'll come over here, hit the effects panel. Throw little bit of a soft vignette and if it were me and it is, I will go over to my little highlight on the tree and kinda boost that a little bit, maybe even a little bit warmer. That now, just a little bit warmer too. All right, so wanna see what we started with. That's what we started with, that's what we end up with. Those are the kind of tools I'm talking about. This is interesting because I can tell you I get a lot of questions over the course of the week. On my website I make my email, contact, support, everything is very, very apparent so I get a lot of questions during the week. I can't tell you how many questions I get on sharpening and noise reduction and lens corrections. Probably the three biggest topics I get questions about and they are the three topics that occupy about 15 seconds in my photo editing. And you know what occupies the entire time of my photo editing? This stuff. This is the stuff that takes up like and if I know, I did another interview and somebody said if you could only keep one tool inside of Lightroom what would it be? Brush tool. You give me the brush tool I can do anything I want to my photo, anything that I wanna do. Give me good camera technique so I can capture a sharp photo. If you don't capture a sharp, well, like think of it this way. When was the last time you looked at one of your photos that was not sharp and you moved the sharpening slider and you're like oh my god, this is amazing. Like, you looked at your photo you're like this isn't so good. And it had maybe noise and it had some sharpening in it and you went into the sharpening and noise reduction and you got rid of all the noise and you added all the sharpness to it, and you're like, this is now an amazing photo. Your amazing photos do not lie in sharpening and noise or sharpening and noise reduction or the lens corrections panel. To me this stuff is the magic. This is the creative stuff that we can do to our photos. Very, very common travel type of a situation here. See this a lot, whether it's a street, whether it's an alleyway or whatever, we go traveling and for some reason these little areas kinda always draw our attention. To me, something like this, again, the solution does not lie in cranking up the exposure. The solution doesn't lie in just cranking up shadows or trying to pull back highlights or anything like that. To me we have to create some kind of mood and atmosphere in this. The first thing I do is I grab that brush and I decide, I definitely wanna do some brightening. I'll go through here and brighten some of those areas. What I'll do I'll just as a artistic choice, rather than and by the way you can hold down your option or alt key. Remember I went down here to erase mode. You can hold down option or alt and that takes you into erase too. So I'll keep that ground dark and then creatively what I'll choose is I'll just paint a little path down the middle because I see this as kind of a hook. Kind of something pulling us into the photo. Then we can come in here and click on new, maybe make it a little bit darker, maybe see if we can pull back on some of the sky, even pull our highlights down a little bit. I'm gonna go back over here to my brightening one, make it a little bit brighter, even open up the shadows a bit. Clarity's a good one too. Clarity will just give everything a little bit of edge to it. Okay, we don't have a lot of blacks and whites in this but we have a lot of those midtone colors and clarity is gonna add. It's gonna look like it's sharpening but it's actually just kinda adding contrast in there. We'll go down back over, I got that little layer selected here and maybe add a little bit of warmth to it. And then just as we did before throw a little kind of a tunnel type of a look. Again simple, brushes. We go from that to that. And to me those things are the things that will save your travel photos, you know? You're walking down the street, pick up your camera and you see this thing, click. You can't control that stuff and it's usually never gonna look like it did when you were there. It's almost impossible just 'cause we experience so much there. But to me all these little things just totally help save our travel photos for that stuff. All right, let's see here. Same thing, I went spend too much time on this one but I would do the same exact techniques, you know? Grab my brush and to me I'm seeing, I'm seeing this path that I wanna illuminate a little bit down the street. I click on new and I click new so I can separate them. I can make them brighter or darker if I want. But sometimes I won't even paint everything. You know, sometimes I'll go through here, if you notice part of the key to this so just beyond the how but more the why and the what I'm doing, part of the key is you see the inner circle, the brush and you see the outer circle, that outer circle is the feather. If you scroll down you will see there's a feather setting here. If I were to start doing this you see all these hard lines. And so, the way that I'm avoiding having to really zoom in and outline subjects and outline walls, the way that I'm avoiding that is I'm using a really soft feather. We can't always do it and we'll get to some cases where we can but I'm using a really soft feather. And because of that now I can move through here and I'm kinda hiding my tracks in a way, you know? You're not gonna look and see a hard line through something. Adds a little bit of mood, adds a little bit of atmosphere because you're kinda blending these things in together. I mean, all I did was brush. I haven't even darkened any areas in this but I think that helps, you know? And then by just randomizing a little bit like it's night. Like our eyes like it when they get to dart around and you see little things that are, little parts that are lit, little parts that aren't lit. Like that's what helps make the photo. Okay, next up. Oh you know what and here's the other thing. I missed the big part here because I told you I was gonna teach you more some of the why not just all the how to do stuff. Remember back on this photo, let me reset this back to where it was before. I have a little trick that I use for, it's kinda like my roadmap. Remember how I said like I'll contour something and it'll give me, I'll try to give a little bit of edge to something. What I'll do is I'll bring the exposure down, way down, more further than I would ever take it and I'll crank up the whites and that gives me, I wanna like, I'm not suppose to like leave the map. (audience laughing) One year I was told it's like lava, so just pretend it's lava. I actually jumped in to the lava one time. So, I won't leave the map but I kinda want to because I understand everybody online is not gonna be able to see the screen. What I'm looking at guys, I'm looking at what stands out to me. That becomes my roadmap. So when I look at these trees and I see that light there, that's the kind of thing. I'm not gonna leave the photo like this, you already saw what I would do to it but those little things become my roadmap through the photo, like these are the areas that I'm gonna use and draw attention to. They're already there, they're already lit and I wanna help it. So, that's a trick that you'll see I'll use quite a bit is I'll bring the exposure down and I'll kinda just check out to see what stands out to me and those become areas that I wanna fix. So in a photo like this, you know? We can boost the shadows that dramatically changes the photo but I want a roadmap, all right? And part of this class also I think I called it like fix bad lighting but it's not even necessarily bad lighting it's just when the lighting's not cooperating. So in a shot like this, we have a lot of shadow area. It's just the light goes behind a hill and we kinda lose it. And if I get it any earlier than this, this was at sunset, I go any earlier than this what happens? I mean, the sun's pretty high in the sky and it gets pretty contrasty. You lose a lot of that nice soft warm light here. So it's like a Catch-22 but we can work with it. One of the cases is I will pull back on that exposure, maybe open up shadows a little bit but what I'm looking for is just what stands out, all right. So I see some contour on the hills over here, I see a rock here that's a little brighter, I see this whole line over here that's a little bit brighter, I see over here. Those are things I'll look at as I start to edit this. First thing's first, I will definitely boost shadows in this but that doesn't get us there and part of the reason it doesn't get us there is shadows are always gonna kinda be cold. So whenever you open up your shadow slider whatever lies beneath that and it brings out is gonna have a very cold temperature. You can see up here we've got a lot of warmth in the photo. So, when you open up these shadows everything gets cold. If I just go over here and I crank up the temperature, now I make the whole photo yellow which isn't really what I wanna do. We'll reveal some area here then I'll go down and I'll grab the brush just like I did before. Add a little bit of exposure to it. Again, use a pretty soft, feathered brush so I don't have to get the rocks perfect. But to me that brush is kind of a hook. What happens if I wanna make that rock brighter than the other rocks? Do I have to keep clicking on new here and go over and over again. It gets pretty monotonous. So, one of the things you can do is bring your flow down. Your flow is kinda like opacity. So, if you've ever painted with a semi-opaque brush, you paint one stroke over at 40%, you paint another one over it builds and it builds and it builds and it builds. So in this case what I would do is if I really wanna draw attention to one rock more I bring that flow down. Now, as I paint here I'll start that over again. Now as I paint, I can paint more, I can just keep clicking and painting over on that rock. I can go down here. I can paint a little bit over here. And every time I paint because I'm painting with a 40% opacity I'm building this up and I'm leaving, the more I paint over here the brighter it gets, the less I paint over here that doesn't get brighter. So if you're to look, kinda see the difference. You can turn on your overlay, you'll see it's a lighter color red overlay in some areas and a little bit darker in other areas. So, that's one of the ways that you can help see it. And then I'll go up here and now I can control it. Remember how I said what lies in those shadows is gonna be cold so to me these rocks have a very cold feeling to them, so I can counteract that with some warmth. So that's one. We can go in here and we can kinda bring that up a little bit. I'll hit new. I'll make my brush a little bit smaller, same thing. Kinda paint along the hills, just go with that natural contour that I saw earlier. And brighten those areas up. Again, we can add a little bit of warmth to them too.