Lightroom OnlyLightroom Tips

Day 1 of “I’m Giving Up Photoshop” Month

Hey folks! Welcome to the first day 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
This photo was taken at Sol Duc River in Olympic National Park this past June. Most of the photos you see from Sol Duc are taken from the bridge in the top left you see in the photo. After moving around a bit, I settled on the location looking back toward the bridge.


Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Tamron 24-70mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter Speed: 1/2 second
ISO: 100
Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-33

First I went to the Basic panel and adjusted the overall Exposure and tone. I shot this photo in a 5-shot bracket so I actually had a brighter version. But the shutter speed was longer and the water became too smooth, so I chose the darker photo that still has some texture in the waterfall. After the Exposure, I adjusted the Whites and Blacks sliders by holding down the Option/Alt key and dragging each slider until I had a white/black point.

Overall I like my waterfall scenes warm so I adjusted the Temp slider to the right a bit.

(click to see the image larger)

Camera Calibration Presets
From there I went to the Calibration panel and changed the Profile to Landscape. I adds a nice contrast and color to the photo, but it does make it a little darker. So I just went back to the Basic panel and tweaked the Shadows setting to open up the dark areas a bit. I also reduced the Highlights setting to bring back some more detail in the water.



I cranked up the Clarity setting pretty high here. There’s lots of little details that really work great with Clarity. If I had my way though, I’d have used onOne Software’s Perfect Effects 8 and the Dynamic Contrast effect instead. But Clarity really does well here. I left the Vibrance and Saturation alone though, since the photo seemed to have plenty of color saturation.


Cropping and Lens Correction
Next I went to the Lens Corrections panel and turned on the auto Enable Profile Correction setting. The trees in the back seem like they were leaning from the wide angle lens and I tried the Upright setting but it didn’t do much. So I went to the Manual tab and adjusted the Vertical perspective setting to help out. Then I checked the Constrain Crop checkbox to get rid of the un-cropped area left over from the perspective adjustment.


I prefer Perfect Effects (mentioned above under Clarity) for my sharpening and detail work, but we’ll go with the Detail panel here for sharpening. Again, there’s a lot of small details in this photo so it’ll hold a lot of sharpening. I moved the Amount setting and Detail setting up quite a bit. I also adjusted the Radius setting to 1.4 (which is where I usually leave it at). Don’t forget you have to be zoomed in to 100% to really see the sharpening.


Cloning and Retouching
Finally, we’ll finish up with some cloning and retouching, with the Spot Healing Brush, to get rid of some of those distractions like the people on the bridge, in the background, as well as the fallen tree across the water. This is where it gets a little tricky.
1. The fallen tree: I found cloning out smaller sections worked better here. I also found (after many attempts) that using a low Feather setting on the brush helped out. That’s actually opposite of what I normally do, but it seemed to work well here. I also didn’t remove the entire tree, just the area over the water. I know it’s not perfect, and this is one place I think Photoshop could help out, but unless you really zoom in, you’d have a hard time knowing what I did here.


2. The people on the bridge and in the background: same thing here. I used a smaller brush and removed each one separately.


A Vignette
I think you’ll see throughout this month that just about everything gets a vignette in the Effects panel 🙂


What Else?
I was really able to do most of what I wanted with this one. There’s really only one area I’d improve on, and I’m sure it’ll be a common theme among most of these posts – retouching. Ideally, I’d have used a creative combination of healing, cloning, along with content-aware stuff in Photoshop. That would have covered my tracks removing the large fallen tree, as well as the people on the bridge. While I was able to do it with Lightroom, it’s not perfect (pretty damn close though). I would also use cloning and healing to remove some of those distracting branches sticking out from the bottom left. No matter what I did in Lightroom it just wasn’t happening.




  1. Malcolm Duffy 23 January, 2014 at 14:08 Reply

    Thanks a lot for posting these images and for the explanations that you have provided. You have convinced me that, sometimes, PS is unnecessary. I enjoyed reading about your creative process. I look forward to learning more about it.

  2. Lowal Crustov 11 January, 2014 at 07:36 Reply

    I love this project! Weather or not you use PS is not important, I just think it’s a great way to follow your workflow. I definitely hope to see more of this.

    My two cents on this particular image;
    First of all that is a really beautiful photo. It’s a also a great example where you don’t really need PS.

    But why you thought you had to amputate that branch is difficult to understand (other than deliberately showing a limitation in LR).

    It didn’t work, even in the small photo here it doesn’t look good. That’s not a stab at neither you or LR, just a weird decision in my opinion. 🙂

    You did a great work with the people on the bridge though (as well as the rest of the photo).

    Also, when is the LR Mag coming to newsstand and or Android? Juuuuust kidding!

  3. Dutch 9 January, 2014 at 21:15 Reply

    I enjoy your photos and tutorials very much. If for no other reason, this series should make LR users more proficient with that tool. I only have Photoshop Elements 11 and use it for content aware, cloning etc. However, I am downloading Perfect Effects 8 tonight, primarily for layers, masking and resizing. That should result in my only need being Silver FX.

  4. John 6 January, 2014 at 21:28 Reply

    I have to add that your original image is fantastic. As you pointed out in your Kelby training landscape training class, you have to go to places that have great scenes in order to get great pictures. I find myself using photoshop not only for the things that Lightroom struggles at, but also to add creative changes when the scene is not quite so interesting as yours.

    Thanks for the great post – they are always of value to read!

    • Matt K 7 January, 2014 at 09:31 Reply

      Thanks John. It was a beautiful area. Lots of fun to photography, although the spray from the waterfalls made it nearly impossible to get photos without water on your lens. I probably went through several towels that day wiping the mist off 🙂

  5. Patrix 6 January, 2014 at 10:04 Reply

    Wonderful. I don’t use Photoshop at all and only rely on Lightroom so this series is very interesting for me. Cloning out people I can relate with but somehow I don’t like to remove natural elements unless they’re like a smudge or maybe because I don’t use PS 🙂

  6. Dennis Zito 6 January, 2014 at 09:25 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Nice job on this one! I was very interested in the Cloning/Healing. I thought it was just me having issues with removing larger items in LR. I’m going to try your feather tip and see how that does. Being familiar with LR and Clone/Healing I could actually see where you cloned the fall tree. Other folks wouldn’t though. One confusing thing for me in Clone/Healing is which one to use when? For some reason, I don’t seem to see much difference. Can you help me on this?

    Great job on the Photo! I do get a lot out of your lessons!



    • Matt K 6 January, 2014 at 09:43 Reply

      Thanks Dennis – you clone when you want the area you’re fixing to look EXACTLY like something else. You heal when you want to do kind of a blend/meld between the two.
      Hope that helps! 🙂

  7. david 6 January, 2014 at 07:05 Reply

    Matt,This is a great self project! looking forward to your journey shared with us.My guess is that with LR as your only means of working on your images you will become more proficient, using the tools available to you. as for many of us LR is our only program . I would love to own on one,silverfx. but I don,t. So Lr is what I have,not perfect but ……..
    My one comment on this series, could you also include the histogram and or perhaps a side by side before and after.
    thanks, your efforts are greatly appreciated!

    • Matt K 6 January, 2014 at 09:34 Reply

      Thanks David. You nailed it to, so I really appreciate that. While I know that I have Photoshop to fall back on, I know for a fact from my seminars that SOOO many people don’t. And it’s not just because of cost, but also complexity. Some people just don’t want to learn it and LR is so simple. So my goal is to really get a feel for what it’s like when LR is the only tool I have and hopefully be able to better understand the people I’m in front of.
      Anyway, I can include the Histogram, although I don’t do much with it. But a Before/After is a great idea.
      Thanks 🙂

  8. Steve Hyde 6 January, 2014 at 04:53 Reply

    I’d be interested to know why you performed the actions in the order you did. For example, why adjust the white and black points BEFORE adjusting the camera profile, which requires you to then go back to the basic panel. Similarly for the lens profile. I always tend to adjust the camera profile first, followed by the lens profile before I do anything else. Also, is it better to do your retouching before or after making exposure and sharpness adjustments?

    • Matt K 6 January, 2014 at 09:42 Reply

      It’s a fairly fluid process for me Steve. I start at the top and work my way down. Sometimes I have to go back and readjust something after I change another setting. There is no “right” way to do things. The days of an official “workflow” are gone since Lightroom doesn’t care in what order you do things. So while you prefer to adjust camera and lens profile first, I do it differently which is totally fine since the adjustments aren’t stacked in a certain order.
      As for retouching, again, it doesn’t matter. I usually do it last.

      • Steve S 7 January, 2014 at 16:24 Reply

        I think where the order does matter a bit is in the preview rendering speed. Some changes (e.g. lens corrections, sharpening, noise reduction)are more computationally intensive and can slow down re-rendering of the preview for subsequent adjustments. This can make Lightroom seem sluggish, particularly on older machines. I try to do these adjustments last.

        • Matt K 7 January, 2014 at 17:01 Reply

          Sounds like you have it figured out Steve. Though certain things can make LR work faster than others, I’ve not found (on any aged machine and I’ve gone back to machines 6+ years old) order to matter. Especially not to matter enough to make “workflow” even more confusing by introducing a specific order to do things. The only place I’ve seen mention of slower performance if you do Lens Corrections or Sharpening first is in a document that’s buried so far deep on Adobe’s website I have a hard time believing it’s that important.
          But hey, if it works for ya, go for it 🙂

          • Anthony 8 January, 2014 at 10:36

            LR on PC is very sluggish using the clone / heal tools after you’ve applied Lens Corrections. I couldn’t figure this out while I was trying some retouching earlier this week, then found a lot of people are complaining about this. You have to turn off the Lens Corrections in order to have usable clone / heal at present. And this is on a quadcore 8GB machine.

          • Steve S 8 January, 2014 at 19:02

            Not sure what you mean by “buried”. It’s in the “Performance Hints” page that is linked to the main FAQ for Lightroom ( And Victoria Bampton also mentions it in the performance section of her “Missing FAQ” ebook. IIRC it is often mentioned in various forums when performance comes up. Maybe these guys are all wrong. As you say, if things are working fine, no need to worry about it. But performance seems to be an issue for a lot of people (ask Scott why he uses Photo Mechanic for initial grading of his sports images instead of Lightroom). Understandable that Adobe may not highlight this. Despite running an overclocked i7 with SSD and raptor drives, I often had multisecond (5 or more) rendering delays when moving from image to image in develop. Things improved when I removed lens correction, noise reduction, and sharpening from my import preset (saving them for later).

  9. Bruno 6 January, 2014 at 02:58 Reply

    I would appreciate if you could make the text (significantly) darker. Shades of white are damn hard to read on a white background. Thanks

      • Bruno 6 January, 2014 at 11:04 Reply

        Hi Matt

        On my Mac Pro (OSX 10.7.5) the titles of your post (as well as the names in the comments) are bold and black, the text however is in (very) light gray – almost no contrast, very hard to read.

        I tested Firefox, Chrome, Safari – no difference.

        Then I tested on my Mac Book Pro (OSX 10.8.5): here the text looks normal!

        Strange enough: when I write this reply, the text I’m writing is black …

  10. RON COMSTOCK 6 January, 2014 at 01:56 Reply

    I think Lightroom has some great features and is awesome at processing the Raw Data our Raws are made up from and translating it to our output files. The tools in lightroom are such that they cut down on the amount of photoshop work. However Photoshop is still the go to for photo fixes (manipulations/retouching).
    Here is in my opinion why, as we will most likely see in the month to come of this lightroom only endeavour, lightroom is a photo processing and management software while photoshop is a photo editing software. The tools in photoshop have far more options associated with them, while lightroom may have similar technologies they are limited by the options or lack of in lightroom.
    So ..if all you had was lightroom and no photoshop, It would be as if shooting with film and processing in your home darkroom. Sure we can adjust colors and such in lightroom, but when we retouch in lightroom we are retouching the negative. Even back in the day of film when the neg was retouched, there still needed to be a certain amount of print retouch to thoroughly clean up the image. Well thats today’s modern way using software instead. The filters we used to put over the lens to get those special effects, are now what we call plugins.

    If all you have is lightroom, then get it right in the camera as if you were shooting film and had no way to fix all the things we can now. But I think photographers should shoot that way anyway.

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