Lightroom OnlyLightroom Tips

Day 11 of “Lightroom Only” Month (An Everything-In-Focus Landscape Photo)

Welcome to Day 11 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: An Everything-In-Focus Landscape Photo
One of my favorite things to shoot is landscape and outdoor photos. And one of the questions I get asked the most concerning that type of photography is how to get everything in focus (oh, and where to focus). I usually give two answers:
1) If you don’t want to do much post processing, I tell people to focus on whatever is most important in the photo. If there’s a rock up front and it’s a big part of the foreground, then focus on that. If there’s a tree or whatever, then focus on that. We want the core part of what we’re shooting to be sharp. So if there’s a mountain in the background, and it’s not perfectly sharp, our eye will usually forgive it because it’s concentrating on what’s up front or has the most impact in the photo.
2) If they’re willing to do a little more post-processing, then I advise people to focus one photo close up, and one photo on whatever is in the distance. Then merge the two later in Photoshop.

That brings me to today’s photo. I wrote a little story behind this photo a while back on my blog, in case you want to read it. But the photo is of Mt. Hood just outside of Portland, OR. I had to shoot several photos here. One where I focussed up close and one where I focussed in the middle and one where I focussed in back on the mountain. As you can see from the two photos below, you can see which photo I focussed up close and which one I focussed in back (the one where I focussed in the middle is pretty much identical to the one where I focussed in back.

(click to see the image larger)


Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 18-35mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter Speed: 1/45 sec
ISO: 400

Why The Difference?
If you looked at the photo details above I shot this at f/8. Why? Because it was windy that evening. I probably could have gotten everything in acceptable (not tack sharp, but acceptable) focus if I’d shot at f/16 or f/22. But my shutter speeds were too long and the flowers up front were getting blurred by the wind. I even tried increasing the ISO, but I was pushing it too high and it was getting too noisy. So I shot at a wider aperture of f/8 to lessen my shutter speeds and capture the flowers with less movement. The result is that it’s got a shallower depth of field, so you can pretty clearly see where the focus was on each photo. I knew I could blend them in post using Photoshop and layers (or even onOne’s Perfect Layers), but I don’t have Photoshop to use this time around so I have to pick one. Going with my advice above, I’m going with the photo that has the foreground in focus because your eye will forgive the background, and we have some Photoshop tricks to help make it sharper that don’t work as good on the foreground.

Basic Processing
It sounds silly but I tried clicking the Auto button here and it did great. I did however adjust it a little and pull back on both the Highlights (to darken the sky a little) and Shadows sliders. I also increased the Temp slider to add some more overall warmth to the photo.


The Detail Panel (Noise and Sharpening)
There’s no noticeable noise in the photo so I left the Noise sliders alone. I did add some detail though. Like always, I increased the Amount, Radius, and Detail sliders. I added a little to the Masking slider too, so it would help keep the sharpening away from the smooth areas like the sky.


Detailed Adjustments
Next, I went to the Graduated Filter to darken the sky. I decreased the Exposure setting and dragged downward toward the middle of the photo. Since we warmed the overall photo in the Basic panel, I thought the sky was too muddy, so I also added some blue with the Temp slider.


Then I went to the Adjustment Brush and increased the Clarity and Sharpness sliders and painted over the mountain to make it appear sharper. If you add too much Clarity, sometimes it also makes the area you paint over look brighter, so you may have to tweak the Exposure slider a little to balance it.


Since I think the Mountain can hold some extra sharpening, I wanted even more Clarity/Sharpness so I used a little trick that came out recently with Lightroom. It used to be that if you wanted to duplicate an adjustment you had to recreate it from scratch. But now you can just right-click on the adjustment pin and choose Duplicate. Now we’ve got the mountain looking sharper.


Any Spots?
There’s a pretty clear sky so it’s always good to look for spots. I turned on the Spot Removal tool and checked the Visualize Spots button along the bottom to help check. There weren’t many, but it’s always a good idea to put that as part of your workflow. Especially if you’re printing your photos.


Finishing it Off With a Vignette
I was thinking of not adding a vignette here (gotcha!). Of course we’re adding a vignette. I think the photo is pretty balanced (key areas that you’ll look) so I used the Vignette settings under the Effects panel to add the vignette toward the center, rather than the Radial Filter for this one.


What Else?
If you read the beginning of the post then you can probably guess what’s coming. I’d ideally like to use both photos I started with and combine them in Photoshop using layers. That would let me add the best of the sharp areas up front, and the best of the sharp areas in back. And whenever I do this, a lot of people ask how do you get the photos to look the same (exposure and color). That’s an easy one. Lightroom has a great little trick. Once I edit the first photo, I go to the next photo and simply click the Previous button. It’s one of my favorite buttons and it’s basically a “do this again” button. It applies the same settings from your previously edited photo to the next photo. That way, when I combine them in Photoshop the exposure, tone, and color all match.

Oh and I would probably add a prettier sky with some clouds. Again though, that would require Photoshop or layers. But that Photoshop talk is crazy-talk this month, so we’ll have to call it quits here 🙂

In the end, I think the background is “acceptably” sharp. So what really does “acceptably” sharp mean? It means that to everyone in the world (besides photographers) the photo is sharp. Nobody would know the difference. They’d look at the photo and think it was just fine. Photographers know, so we’re tainted. But the rest of the world thinks everything looks just great, mainly because the area up close to them in the photo (the foreground) is sharp. Here’s a quick Before/After.

[tabs slidertype=”images” auto=”yes” autospeed=”4000″]
[imagetab width=”836″ height=”558″] [/imagetab]
[imagetab width=”836″ height=”558″] [/imagetab]

See you back here tomorrow!



  1. Matt R 27 January, 2014 at 12:55 Reply

    This series has gotten me using the Auto tone button on a regular basis. I was used to staying away from it since the results were abysmal for so long. Now it seems like it provides a good starting point more often than not and that is a rap time saver!

  2. Dennis Zito 25 January, 2014 at 08:18 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    As usual a Great lesson here! You got me on the Adj tool duplicate move! That’s an awesome secret! Well, not a secret anymore. 🙂


  3. Lenzy 23 January, 2014 at 15:51 Reply

    Matt, this series is awesome. Thank you so much for conceiving and putting time into something like this. The question I have is regarding a product that I learned about through this series. I started shooting RAW a year ago, so my post-processing experience began with Lightroom 4. I used Scott Kelby’s Lightroom book to get me from no Lightroom knowledge to establish a workflow and become reasonably efficient at post-processing.

    I also bought PS Elements (and Scott’s PS Elements book) so I could jump over to PS Elements for those handful of things that Lightroom either can’t do at all or doesn’t do well/easily. I haven’t used Elements yet or read the book. Like I said, it’s only been a year of shooting RAW and that’s hardly enough time to really learn Lightroom enough to what Lightroom’s true limitations are versus what the limitations of Lightroom are due to my lack of experience.

    Now, I’m at the point where I’d like to begin doing some things that I know Lightroom isn’t the best tool for, like removing a fire hydrant or putting a portrait subject in front of an alternative background. Before reading this series, I would have opened my PS Elements book and started training. After reading your comments on the onOne software, I looked into it and it looks like Perfect Photo Suite 8 (PPS8) is no longer an extension to Lightroom, but rather a product positioning itself to replace Lightroom entirely.

    Based on my limited research, it looks like PPS8 doesn’t (yet) have Lightroom’s cataloguing/organization capabilities (collection sets, keywords, etc), but as far as actually adjusting images, PPS8 provides one-stop image processing, instead of 90-percent Lightroom/10-percent Some Other App.

    I know that this website is an odd place to be asking if I should move away from Lightroom at my next software refresh, but I would really like your opinion on this. Consider my perspective as a person with limited Lightroom experience and no PS Elements experience at all. Given that I’m on the ground floor of learning these post-processing apps, does it make sense to transition to PPS8 for 100-percent of post-processing since it looks like it’s on track to be a full Lightroom/PS Elements replacement? If I can use only one app to handle the entire gamut of post-processing, that would be ideal and it looks (to a novice) like onOne is positioning PPS8 to be that app. You started me down this path, sir. Now, I need a little more guidance because I’m sure there are lots of considerations that I’m unaware of.

    • Matt K 24 January, 2014 at 09:31 Reply

      Hi. I’d say Lightroom is still the place where your photos should start. Developing, editing, toning, etc… Then if you want to do more detailed work Photoshop, or Photoshop Elements is the place (PP8 still isn’t there for compositing yet). But if you just want effects and some layering capabilities, then PP8 would work fine. Right now, nothing replaces Lightroom for overall photo management and workflow. Hope this helps.

    • salsaguy 31 January, 2014 at 18:17 Reply

      Lenzy, right in the PP8 initial training /get to know us video they say that they want you to use LR still and are not trying to compete or take over LR and yes it does work as a plug in to LR and not as a stand alone, which it will also do if you only want to use PP8. Once you say edit the image in PP8 (from LR) and then save the file it will take you right back to LR to continue your edits.

  4. Chris 23 January, 2014 at 14:07 Reply

    “It used to be that if you wanted to duplicate an adjustment you had to recreate it from scratch. But now you can just right-click on the adjustment pin and choose Duplicate. ”

    Well I never knew that…


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