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.

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See you back here tomorrow!