Tag Archives: techniques

Using Lightroom Presets

When I posted a photo of a Great Blue Heron, a friend said that it looked under-exposed. I said it that was intentional because I was trying to avoid glare from the water. Later I got a free set of 190 Lightroom (LR) presets from onOne Software and I decided to experiment with them. A LR preset defines development settings like tone, contrast, saturation, and all the other values that you may adjust with sliders. This is different from the filters in Photoshop where an algorithm is applied to a photo to produce a desired effect such as “oil painting”.

Here is the original photo. I’ve cropped and resized it, and have converted it from RAW to JPEG, but I have not adjusted any settings. The wings are ok, but the bird’s bill blends in with the water.

Original Photo

Original Photo


My original processing lightened everything.

Original Edit

Original Edit


The first preset is called Dark Side, Light. It kept everything dark and used a small (light) amount of tweaking.

Dark Side, Light

Dark Side, Light


Old Style 2 removed some color from the photo. There is not enough contrast between the heron’s body and the dark water.

Old Style 2

Old Style 2


Under Tint, Daylight removed more color and lightened the photo. The heron’s distinctive blue coloring is almost gone, but now it stands out better against the water.

Under Tint, Daylight

Under Tint, Daylight


B&W 3a converted the photo to B&W, then added a tint. It’s a nice vintage effect, but the bill is getting lost in the water again.

B&W 3a

B&W 3a


I manually converted the photo to B&W. I like everything except the bill, which needs some emphasis.

Manual B&W

Manual B&W


After playing with the presets, I processed the photo manually again. I used the Camera Vivid profile to bring out the blue wings and yellow bill. An ornithologist may be unhappy with the heron’s coloring, but my goal is to make a nice photo, not to be biologically accurate.

Manual Edit

Manual Edit


What I learned from this experiment is sometimes you can change a photo in an unexpected way. Presets are an easy way to try a variety of settings on a photo quickly and easily. I’ve found a few presets that I like a lot, and I’ll use them as the starting point for my processing. Eventually I may create my own presets.

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Processing in B&W

My formal training was in B&W film.  I think that’s a great way to learn the basics like composition and depth of field.  It takes more effort to visualize the final image instead of thinking, “Oh, look at the pretty flower.”  While some scenes cry out for B&W, such as trees in the snow and other high-contrast images, I’ve found that some bland pictures can be enhanced by converting them to B&W.  That’s what I attempt to demonstrate here with some pictures I took along the Little Gunpowder Falls in Gunpowder State Park.

The first picture is a covered bridge. Perhaps if I were better at using Lightroom, I could do more to improve this picture.  This is an old covered bridge, but there is nothing special about it.  The color is fairly bland and it blends into the greyish trees behind it; the modern road sign is distracting; and the stone foundation is probably the most interesting part of the picture.

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge

Here’s my B&W version. I increased the contrast to make everything sharper.  The bridge has more character now and looks older.  Best of all, the road sign is no longer a bright yellow distraction.  It could be darkened or even removed entirely.

B&W Covered Bridge

B&W Covered Bridge

The next picture is of a modern bridge that was nearby.  It’s made of brown steel and is framed by bare trees, rocks, and concrete.  It’s halfway to being B&W already.

Steel Bridge

Steel Bridge

Here’s my B&W version.  The emphasis is now on the lines of the bridge rather than the rocks or trees.  In fact, the jumbled rocks and random trees serve as a nice background.

B&W Steel Bridge

B&W Steel Bridge

This factory is an abandoned mill.  The windows are broken or boarded up, the water tower is rusty, the bushes are overgrown, and a large, bare tree looms over everything.  It’s already quite desolate, but I wanted to make it feel grittier.

Factory

Factory

I think that getting rid of the red brick and the color of the leaves and bushes really adds to the empty feeling.  The buildings seem older and this picture could have been taken during the Great Depression.

B&W Factory

B&W Factory