Day 10 of “Lightroom Only” Month (A Wedding Photo)

Hey everyone, sorry for the late post today. Things got kind of crazy and I could never finish it. Also, I’ve ben asked here, as well as on my personal blog at Mattk.com, about why I’ve been shooting with Canon gear lately. So I wrote a quick post over there if you want to check it out. Okay, on to the Lightroom stuff…

Welcome to Day 10 in my self-project-ish, month-long postings of images I’m only using Lightroom to edit. If you’re just coming in to reading this and haven’t read the original post where I wrote why I’m doing this, then make sure you check that out too. Okay, here goes:

The Photo: Wedding Photo in Church
So far, the entire month, I’ve been using my own photos. But I realize there’s so many wedding shooters out there. Plus, if you’re not a professional wedding photographer, chances are some one has asked you to take their photo in a dimly lit place. So I think this makes a good example. But, since I’m not a wedding shooter, I don’t really have many photos to work with so I asked my good friend and co-worker, Pete Collins (who happens to be a GREAT wedding photographer), for a photo to use. Here goes:

(click to see the image larger)
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Photo Details:
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 100mm Macro Lens
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 1250

Basic Processing
The white balance is a bit on the cool side so the first thing I did was warm the photo. An easy way to get a good white balance on a photo like this is to use the White Balance Eye Dropper and click on something that should be gray-ish. His shirt was white so that’ll make a great point to click on. I also added some Exposure, reduced the Highlights (for the windows in the background) and increased the Shadows a little to bring out some more detail in the hair and jacket. I don’t want Clarity on their skin so I left that alone, and there’s not really any color to boost in the photo so I left the Vibrance and Saturation alone too.

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Noise Reduction
Since I’m mostly an outdoor and landscape shooter, I’m always on a tripod. That means I rarely have to crank up my ISO which means I’m never using the Noise Reduction settings. But Pete had to boost his to 1250 here, so we’ll hit the Detail panel next. Here’s a before photo zoomed way in just so you can see what we’re dealing with. You can see some color noise there, which we’ll get rid of. As soon as that’s gone, the luminance noise/texture will be left and we can get rid of that with some other sliders.

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The color noise is gone quick. Just increase the Color slider to around 10 and it’ll disappear. No need to go any higher for just about any photo out there.

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The luminance noise is next. I started by dragging the Luminance slider to around 40-50. That tends to smooth out the noise, but also smooths everything else. So then I dragged the Detail slider to 50 to bring back some detail.

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IMPORTANT NOTE TO PIXEL PEEPERS: Keep in mind, if you’re not printing the photo there’s no need for noise reduction. The only time you’ll see it is if you print the image large. And if you do print it, chances are that the noise will smooth out automatically without any noise reduction changes. If you’re printing a lot, just try it out and you’ll see what I mean.

Sharpening
Sharpening after noise reduction is always a tricky thing. It’s like a push-pull scenario so you’ll want to keep it low here. I did add some sharpening though, but I made sure I held back on the Detail because that would have introduced a noisy texture right back in to the photo. I also boosted the Masking slider to help hide the sharpening from the skin tones and their faces.

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Detailed Adjustments
Next I went to the Adjustment Brush for some detailed adjustments. First, I thought their eyes were too dark so I used some Exposure to brighten them (just a little though).

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Next, I clicked New and took a large brush with a high Feather setting and just pressed once in the middle where that light is shining through them. It just adds a bit of brightness and atmosphere to the photo.

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I added another new brush adjustment, and painted some Clarity over his jacket. Clarity tends to look really cool on jackets and clothing with a lot of folds on them.

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Lastly, I painted over their face with positive Exposure just a little bit. Not much, but I just wanted to brighten their faces more than the rest of them.

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A Quick Retouch
I think they both look great so there’s no need to go crazy on the retouching here. Their teeth are as white as can be. Also, she’s got great skin. But I did paint a little bit of negative Clarity to help soften the skin a little more.

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Then I used the Spot Removal Tool and painted under both of their eyes with the Brush in Heal mode. There’s two keys to making this work so it doesn’t look fake. First, when I painted under their eyes, the tool automatically found a source that was about as far away from his skin as possible. For some reason, it thought his ear was a good sample point :) Anyway, you’ll often have to click on that sample point and move it closer to the area you’re trying to heal. This is also a great place to clean up any blemishes if your subjects have them.

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Next, reduce the Opacity setting of the Spot Removal tool. I don’t want the dark area under their eyes to be perfectly smooth. I just want to help reduce the impact of those dark circles or lines a bit. So I always drop the Opacity to around 30-40%.

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Finishing it Off With a Vignette
I finished things off with a vignette. Rather than using the Vignette in the Effects panel, I used the Radial Filter so I could position it exactly where I want and so it didn’t darken their heads too much (like the Effects panel Vignette would have done).

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What Else?
A serious retoucher would probably want their time with this one in Photoshop. I personally would have jumped to Photoshop to soften the darker circles and areas under their eyes – it’s the way I’ve always done it. But I think Lightroom worked great here (aside from the crazy sample point it chose the first time we painted). That said, most wedding photographers aren’t going to spend a ton of time in Photoshop retouching. Their retoucher may, but I think it depends on the photo too. For this one, it’s not really a close-up tight shot of the bride. You’re not going to see every little detail. Depending on how large it was printed, it’s not a photo I’d spend a lot of time retouching and I think Lightroom worked just fine here.

The only other thing I’d do in Photoshop is darken the background in a different way. Rather than add a vignette to darken the background, I’d probably have taken this photo in to Photoshop, and made a more precise selection around the people to do it. That’s about it though.

Have a great weekend!

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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16 Comments

  1. Matt … really enjoying these tutorials. Short, concise, and the before and afters really show how you can make your photos sing with LR. Definitely sharing with the FB Group. Keep em comin!

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  2. Thanks, Matt. I haven’t missed a lesson yet and am keeping a good list of things I need to remember and what you would have done outside of LR if you wanted to. Thanks for all the time you are putting into this.

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  3. nice tuto ! interesting to see how you add some light on the faces.
    ounce again we see how the healing brush is stupid.
    i use a lot retouch brush in capture nx2 and perfect brush in ononesuite 8 and they are fantastic. we really wonder why adobe didn’t consider content aware tools of photoshop to make a tool more clever. it is really a pity we waited so long to have a so rough tool.

    have you already noticed in old lr4 and in the new tool in lr5.3 that we can’t pass several times at a same location to fine tune. it is tricky and we need to brush at another location close to it and move at location we need while any perfect brush allows to paint many times on same location

    best regards
    marc

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  4. Hi Matt,

    I love what U did by using a image that was not your own. So we also get to see other niches.

    Maybe it would be a nice idea for somewhere in the future to make a blog like this, but then edit 1 or 2 readers photo’s. Then U could also give tips on improving the image etc.

    I think that would be as informative for readers as these posts, but with added interest for the maker of the photo since he can see what could be done with the photo. (U might want to hide some edit details then, so people cant really 1 on 1 copy your edit)

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  5. Thank you for this series! As a LR novice I have to say I’ve learned more from this series than most tutorials. Most tutorials begin with LR, the photos (if any) almost an afterthought. This series begins where I do; with a photo that needs some work.

    Having discovered this series (through Zite) you can bet I’m exploring more of your content – and watching for the next Florida seminar.

    In case you ever wonder whether your efforts are worthwhile, let me assure you that for one am more able because of your work.

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    • Hey John! Thanks so much for the kind words. Glad you’re enjoying the series :)

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  6. Great tip – these “people & interiors” type of pictures can be a nightmare to expose. I noted the other day that you added a second adjustment brush to double the effect. Is this preferential to right-clicking the pin and selecting “duplicate”?

    Have a great day

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    • Either way Paul. If I’m duplicating the adjustment, then right-clicking and making a copy is good. I just honestly forget about that sometimes since it’s so new :)

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  7. Hi Matt,

    Another excellent example for us LR users! By the way, a while back I asked you about the Retouching presets you made long ago? Well, I actually found them in LR 5! I went to the custom setting in the adjustment brush and their they were! I guess they carried through with updates and upgrades … interesting. I did have to make some slight adjustments to them, but that’s normal.

    Cool info and learning experience as usual!

    Dennis

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  8. This is such a brilliant series, simple, informative, easy to follow, thanks for taking the time.

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