Brief Introduction to Lightroom Panels

Lightroom is an extremely powerful tool filled with just about everything a photographer needs to create an amazing portfolio. Not only is it powerful, but it’s fast, and can run on modest hardware. All of my photos have been edited on my 2012 Macbook Air. Most of my edits only take me five to ten minutes to get from a RAW file to a finished product. To top it all off, it has an elegant and powerful organization toolset. A lot of the beauty of Lightroom is its selection of photo centric tools placed under the Developer tab. I’m going to very briefly describe each major section that I focus on during my edits and what each of them do. This is a simplified article regarding what you can do with Lightroom. To watch some of this knowledge play out on screen I do offer editing videos where I use each of these tools mentioned to edit some of my photos. 

Histogram

First up, you have your histogram; a graphical representation of your image. From exposure information, to contrast and color casting. Within this box you can actually adjust your exposure, highlights, shadows, black and white points simply by dragging in their respective areas. The left side is the darker regions of your photo and the right is the lighter regions. You can also activate highlight and shadow clipping information on your photo by pressing on the arrows in the top left and right of the histogram box.

Basic

Next up is the Basic edits box. This can give general edits to the overall image. If you want to bump down highlights or restore shadow information on the overall photo, this is where you’ll do it. Essentially, this places those same controls of the histogram into individual sliders. If you want to bring out some details in your shadows, drag the slider up. If you’d like to darken up your image a bit, drag down your black points. You can also give a general addition of contrast with that slider. There are several controls for coloring. The temperature slider can balance out your white balance if you didn’t get it right in the shot. Or it can create warmer or cooler images if you want to drag them a little further. The tint slider goes a bit further to adjust your magenta/green spectrum of your photos. This can be used in conjunction with your temperature slider to create interesting color combinations. There is a clarity slider as well. This somewhat works like contrast on a micro level. This slider can be very helpful, but can also give you just enough rope to hang yourself with, especially regarding portraits. 

Adjustment Tools

If you’ll notice, just below the histogram box is a nice little toolset for more direct manipulation of your image’s settings. You have adjustment brushes, circular tool, gradient tool, spot healing brush, and a crop tool. Each of these can be very powerful. The first three tools mentioned can make similar adjustments that you can do in your basic box. These are how you make adjustments to skin, skies, eyes, and more. The spot healing brush isn’t as powerful as what photoshop users are used to, but it’s perfect for minor corrections. Then there is the crop tool. Didn’t get your composition quite right in camera? This is a way to help alleviate that. 

Tone Curve

Another way you can adjust your contrast, shadows, highlights and such is to make use of the tone curve. Just like your histogram your darks are on the left and lights areon the right. Moving them up/down from the default linear position will adjust the values on your photo. Some people even use this tool to help obtain a more film/matt like look in their photos. This can be done by maintaining the linear direction but by dragging the black points up and the white section down. This decreases contrast and flattens the images a bit. 

Colors

Colors can be managed by the HSL/Color/B&W box. You can change the tones of some colors, de/saturate them, or even adjust the brightness of each color. Have a dominant color on your photo that you want toned down? Desaturate it a little and adjust its brightness. If B&W isyour thing, head on over to it’s tab and your image will automatically be adjusted for black and white. Once there, you can selectively adjust the the brightness of each color tone. This is important because black and white images tend to rely heavily on contrast. 

Split Toning

Split toning is not something I use heavily. However, this tab can give color tones to your highlights and shadows.  If you want to give your black and white photo a hint of color? This is a way to do that.

Sharpening

Now that your photo has been adjusted for contrast and color, you can bring out the details. This is very important when shooting RAW because the camera hasn’t applied any sharpening for you. Many people rave about PS’s high pass tool. You can achieve very similar results with this tab. The better your image file, the more you can push it. If you do portraits, you’ll want to use that masking slider as that will allow the sharpening be applied to areas of microcontrast rather than everywhere. This is key since pushing your sharpness too far can result in grain. 

Lens Corrections

The Lens corrections area is great when you’re using glass that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. This is where you change distortion, chromatic aberrations, and many other aspects to what can go wrong during your shoot.

Effects

The last tab I’ll talk about is the Effects tab. Here is where you can correct for a vignette or even create one yourself. You can even add grain if you want to give it a grungier look. [dt_gap height=“10” /] Well there you have it! A brief synopsis of Lightroom and the tools I use to help make my photos what they are. I don’t use any presets and if you’d like to learn more about how I do this, my videos can be found at www.adriancmurray.com/videos/

The New Camera - Sony A7R

To predicate this post I’d like to remind everyone that it isn’t the tools that make the art. Sometimes we get so caught up in gear that we forget that cameras are simply our paintbrushes and we are the ones that choose the final image through selection of light and composition. However, I receive many questions about cameras and lenses so I’m offering my opinion about my own gear here.

My Interview With Yahoo!

About a week and a half ago I went to New York to sit in front of a camera with Yahoo! Studios. Rather than me talk about my experiences, I figure I can just share the video with you here. In it I describe what inspired me to start with photography and what continues to inspire me. I hope you enjoy all the hard work the fine people at the studio did.

Why do I stick with Lightroom?

For awhile I’ve been posting on some photography groups in social media. Some people are surprised to discover that I’ve done all of my post processing work in Lightroom. Others are more surprised that I deliberately choose to steer clear from Photoshop as my weapon of choice. I actually subscribe to Adobe’s CC photography package so I do have both pieces of software. I even spent several years in graphic design where I heavily used photoshop for many designs. So it’s not that I am afraid of using Photoshop from a technical standpoint, or that I don’t have access to it. When I started in photography my focus was on learning what the camera was capable of. I wasn’t concerned with what I could do on my computer. I had been there. Done that. I knew that I could create entire worlds with software. What I wanted to do instead was capture the world I was living in; capture my kids discovering the magic of our mundane reality. Photoshop could help create some of the imaginary worlds that we see in films and dreams, but I felt like for my goal as a photographer Photoshop was the very definition of overkill. I had all the power I needed with a lens, a camera, and the lightweight champion, Lightroom. I also loved that I could get from a RAW photo to a finished result in a few very short minutes and I didn’t need a supercomputer to do it.

…Photoshop can do everything that Lightroom can do and so much more…

I’ve heard plenty of people try to convince me to use the industry standard by saying how Photoshop can do everything that Lightroom can do and so much more. I knew this. In fact, that’s the exact reason I stay away from it. When I opened up Lightroom I knew that I was editing with limitations. Having these limitations kept me grounded. What I was worried about with sitting in front of the “PS” logo was that I would start to abuse its power. That I would abandon the very core of my photography and embark on a journey to create worlds that might not exist. Because for most of us, the fantasy is far more fun than reality. Then I cheated. One day during my last vacation I went out and took some photos of my oldest son during sunset. I loved the golden light bouncing off the surrounding snow. However, there was one thing that really bothered me… There wasn’t any actual snow falling. I had missed the falling snow because I wanted to wait for the perfect light. That’s when I had opened Photoshop for the first time and played around with a couple of overlays including some from

Jessica Drossin Textures

. I had a little fun with it for the night and even posted the result on all of my social network pages.

However, by morning the whole experience made me feel cheap. I had just done what I had avoided for so long; I created a world that didn’t exist. I fabricated a memory. Now I’m sure a lot of you are saying right now, “so what? You added some snow! It was snowing just hours before you took the photo…” I get that perspective. But I got into photography because I wanted to capture my childrens’ imagination in reality. Not to design a new reality. If it were snowing when I took the photo, the light wouldn’t have been quite the same. My son wouldn’t have been as comfortable. The photo was a sham and I knew it. Even though I knew I didn’t love what I had just done I gave the falling snow another go around. I applied it to a photo that was more fantasy than reality. I had a concept in my head about King Arthur and had a sword at my disposal. The image was fine without photoshop but I figured, sure why not add in the snow again and add some more dynamics to the story. This time I didn’t have as much fun like I did the first time I added some falling snow. After that, I was done with augmenting my reality on my 13" laptop screen. I had reaffirmed that I was a photographer and not a digital artist. Now hold on just a second before you think I’m saying everyone who uses photoshop is cheating or isn’t a photographer. I’m not saying that one bit. In fact, some of my favorite photographers use the tool. Some use it heavily, some use it as if it were Lightroom. I have a very large amount of respect for these artists irrespective of what tools they use to create their final image. The reason I say I felt like I was cheating is because I wasn’t being true to myself as an artist when I used Photoshop. I will continue to avoid photoshop for any of my images and stay true to who I am as a photographer. Just like other photographers and artists will continue creating amazing work utilizing Photoshop. The question isn’t why I use Lightroom over Photoshop. What you really want to do is ask yourself what is at the core of your photography.

New Year, New Site

Every year it’s standard protocol for each of us to do something new; to change ourselves for the better. Since today marks the first day of 2015, I figured it was fitting for me to share my plans for the next 365 days. For the last few months I’ve been using a simple portfolio site provided by 500px and I’ve been quite happy with the designs they had available. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the way of expansion for their themes and I have decided to move on to some familiar territory, a blogging system. I have a lot of plans for this new site. For starters, I am going to offer training videos, give some tips on the blog, and perhaps even market a book that I may or may not be working on in what little spare time I have. The purpose of this site is for information. I am apart of many social media networks and groups and have noticed a clear consensus, people want more information. Therefore, it’s time that I offer some information and insights into my perspective in photography. I’ll be updating this site for the next little while.