Day 14 of “Lightroom Only” Month (Sports Photos)

Welcome to Day 14 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: Sports Photos (Golf)
Last year I got the chance to shoot the Tavistock golf tournament in Orlando, FL. I noticed that I hadn’t posted any “Lightroom Only” sports photos so I thought dive in with some photos from that day. As you can imagine though, sports photography has a journalistic nature to it, so you’re somewhat restricted on what you can do. But we’ll still have some fun with it :)

(click to see the image larger)

Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 300mm
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec.
ISO: 100

White Balance
I started off by using the White Balance eyedropper and clicking on the S on the logo on the background (just to the right of his legs) because I knew that was white. It corrected the white balance, but the photo felt a little too warm so I just adjusted the Temp slider back a little.


Basic Processing
I tried clicking the Auto button to start with. I find that it works great on daytime photos and it really did a good job here. I did pull back a little more on the Highlights slider to take some of the brightness off his pants. Then I added some Clarity and a little bit of Vibrance to boost the colors (Saturation would have made the skin tones too red).


The Detail Panel (Sharpening)
Like usual I added some sharpening to this one. It’s not really an up close photo, so it can hold a lot of sharpening without adding too much texture to the image. I increased the Amount, Radius and Detail and left the Masking at 0.


If we’re staying journalistic here, there’s probably not much more I would do to the photo. But if I were to push it a little more, we can definitely have some fun with this one.

Okay, the golf ball was the first thing that caught my eye. It’s on the edge of the image and partially cut off. I’d like to get the ball in the frame more and I’d usually just turn to Photoshop. But I decided I’d see what I could do in Lightroom so I used the Spot Removal Tool set to Clone mode. I clicked in the area where I wanted the ball (not where the ball was). Lightroom automatically chose a sample point and I just moved that point over the ball. I also cranked up the Feather setting to help smooth the edges.


Now we have two golf balls. And Lightroom wouldn’t let me place a Clone point over another cloned point. So I just clicked in a random area to put a clone point down and just moved it over the original golf ball to get rid of it.


Next I went to the Adjustment Brush and increased the Exposure so I could paint on the ball to make it just a little brighter and more visible.


The next thing I wanted to tackle was the golfer’s face. He’s in the shadows and his face is really dark. So I added another Adjustment Brush with increased Shadows to brighten it just a little. You have to be careful here though, because it’s easy to get carried away and it’ll look fake if you do. I also added ¬†little warmth because shadowy areas tend to get cooler in color.


Lastly, I cranked up the Clarity and painted over his shirt. Clothes with folds and texture look really cool when you add some Clarity to them so I painted over his upper body here.


Finishing Touches
Since he’s off center, a vignette won’t work too well here so I used the Radial Filter to put a little bit of a spotlight on him and darken the rest of the background.¬†


What Else?
I would normally think I’d have to clone the golf ball in Photoshop, so I was really surprised at how well it worked in Lightroom. I’d never have thought to do it here, but it ended up just fine. Also, since there’s a journalistic nature to sports photos, there’s not too much work in Photoshop that I’d normally do. However, if I were really going to try to make this photo better, I would try blurring the busy background some more in Photoshop. Lightroom can fake it with negative Clarity but it really doesn’t work too well here. But Photoshop has some pretty sophisticated blur filters that would “fake” depth of field better. That’s about it though. Overall, I thought Lightroom did more than enough here.

Here’s a quick Before/After:

Have a great day!


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  1. Matt,

    Cloning the ball is a bit unethical if you are shooting for a new outlet such as AP. You should have put a caveat in your article that if you are shooting a sporting event for a news outlet that this is not allowed.

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    • I did Rick. If you read the post, I said if it were for journalistic purposes we’d have to stop after sharpening.

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  2. Matt, the radial filter over the golfer is a little too obvious to me in the AFTER pix as the trees in the background above him are too bright then transition to dark to quickly/not smoothly…. only issue I noticed. Keep up the great work. Nice to see a different subject matter to help ALL types of photographers out, not just landscape or portraits.

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  3. What? No vignette??? (tries unsuccessfully to scroll down page… searching frantically… but no — no vignette mentioned!) :)

    Like others, I haven’t missed a day of your 30-day series and now find myself asking, “Hmm. How would Matt approach this shot?” (Yes, subtle golf/photo pun in there!)

    Loving it all, Matt. Please keep up the great work!


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  4. Thanks, Matt. I haven’t missed a day! You usually add sharpening (amount, radius and detail), but is it possible to explain how you decide how much of each of these you need to adjust. For example, what are you looking at in the photo when you adjust the radius? The same question for amount and detail. Thanks again.

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    • John Land, check out Anthony Morganti’s “Learning Lightroom 5” video series on YouTube for a lot of good explanations on the why’s and what’s of each setting. Seeing and hearing a video sometimes helps more than a static post can. Matt is great though and very helpful. Julianne Kost’s series “the Complete Picture” is also a must see for any LR user.

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  5. Hey Matt, thanks for using a great subject….an AUSTRALIAN golfing Champion :)

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  6. This blog is so great!
    Thank you so much for sharing you knowledge.

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  7. I recently did some photo shoots with Valentine’s Day theme to them. I had a red back drop (hindsight – won’t do that again) with some white hearts on the sheet and white Christmas lights behind the sheet. I found that depending on the angle of the subject, the hearts weren’t enough. So I could choose to get rid of them completely, or add more. I did some work in photoshop, but I’m still learning PS and am more comfortable in LR. So I found the healing brush worked REALLY well for adding more hearts and even lights if needed. I basically did what you did with the golf ball, but didn’t delete the original, instead just kept adding more.

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  8. Hey Matt,

    The cloning of the golf ball is awesome! I’ve never had any luck with that tool in LR. I always go to PS for cloning. Each day you do this, I try to figure out what you’ll do vs what I’d do. Wellllll, I’m close, but no cigar. :-) I’m glad you starting doing this series … really helping me a lot! Oh, I just saw your reply on Day 13 and left you a Reply over there.



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