Lightroom OnlyLightroom Tips

Day 15 of “Lightroom Only” Month (Interior/Architecture HDR Look)

Hey everyone. Sorry for the late post. I’m on my way up north to teach my Lightroom 5 Seminar tomorrow. Anyway, welcome to Day 15 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: St. Patricks Cathedral
A few years ago I was in St. Patricks Cathedral and took the photo below. I wrote about it at the time because it has an interesting back story – here’s the link if you want to read. I’ll warn you now though, some of the comments get pretty crazy. Anyway, the photo is actually part of an HDR series I did, but I decided to see what I could do here with just one exposure.

(click to see the image larger)

Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikon 14-24mm
Aperture: f/16
Shutter Speed: 2 sec
ISO: 400

Basic Processing
The Auto button did a good job here as a start. It really make the overall exposure look good. I did cool the photo just a bit by moving the Temp slider to the left a tiny bit.


The Auto button didn’t touch the Highlights and Shadows though, and that’s what’ll really give this photo the HDR look. So I pulled back on Highlights as far as it’ll go and opened the Shadows as far as they’ll go. I also set the Whites/Blacks by holding down the Option/Alt key.


Finally, I added 100% Clarity to give the details more texture and help achieve the HDR feel. I also added a good amount of Vibrance to give the appearance that the golden areas on the ceiling were glowing. Yeah, I know it looks pretty punchy in color but I like it.


Crop and Straighten
Okay, this is a wide angle photo with lots of vertical lines in it. If I were an architectural photographer, then I’d probably need to fix this. One way to help would be the Lens Correction panel. First I clicked the Enable Profile Corrections checkbox. Then I tried the Auto Upright button and this is what I got.


So I un-did that change and tried the Vertical slider under the Manual tab. Not so good either 🙂


Then it hit me. I’m not an architectural photographer. And most other people aren’t either. So the rest of the world, including me, doesn’t care about straight lines. So I’m not even going to bother trying to fix it. However, I did go to the Straighten tool and dragged along the top of the step (along the bottom of the photo) to straighten the tilted aspect of the photo.

The Detail Panel (Sharpening)
If there’s any photo that can handle a TON of sharpening it’s this one. I cranked up the Amount setting. Changed the Radius to 1.3 (pretty much right around where I leave it for every photo) and added some Detail as well. No need for masking since, like I said, we’ve got mega-details in this photo and there’s no reason to hide the sharpening from any areas.


There looks to be some little electrial boxes on the floor to the left and right of the red rug. Originally, when I first processed this photo, I used the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop. This time around I used the Spot Removal tool. I set it to Clone mode (because I want to precisely fix it with the exact area next to it) and painted over the box. I also used a very low Feather setting so that the edges don’t get blurred. I think it worked pretty well overall.



I also used a small brush on the chord between the box and podium. Lightroom did okay, there, but it’s definitely not perfect. It’s one of those things that I notice, but I don’t think some one who never saw this photo before would see it.


The Adjustment Brush
Those pillars near the edges of the photo on the top left/right looked pretty bright to me. So I grabbed the Adjustment Brush, with negative Exposure, and painted over them to lessen their impact.


As you’ve probably seen during the month a few times, we can add Clarity on top of Clarity by brushing Clarity on the photo (even though we’ve already added it above in the Basic panel). Since I’m really going for an HDR style photo, we can push this pretty far, but I only added one extra layer (you could always right-click on the adjustment brush pin and choose Duplicate if you wanted more).


Finishing Touches
Nuttin’ too crazy here. I just used the Vignette setting in the Effects panel. And I didn’t go too dark because I think our Adjustment Brush work above already did a good job at darkening the really bright parts I was worried about.


What Else?
For the most part, Lightroom did everything great here. However, HDR photos have a certain look and feel you get from the HDR processing software. We got close here in Lightroom, but you just can’t get the same results you’d get from processing 3 exposures in HDR software. But it is pretty darn close and I’m not sure I like the HDR version any better.

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]

Have a great day and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for the final day in “Lightroom Only” month! 🙂



  1. Dennis Zito 31 January, 2014 at 08:54 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Wow, this turn out fantastic! I’m glad you showed the close up of the electrical box removal, because it showed what the sharpening did to the concrete and pews. That’s what I get when I throw in extreme sharpening. It kind of has that over texture and dirty look to it. So, I’m not crazy!:-) Is that what you call pixel peeping? I like the perspective of the columns … I’m glad you didn’t straighten the photo.

    Have fun in KY!


    • Jim Scott 11 February, 2014 at 16:45 Reply

      It’s interesting to see this tutorial at this time because I’ve been thinking the same thing for some time now. I’ve even got a couple of side by side experiments of HDR on one side & the best of three histograms worked solely in Lightroom. My conclusion is that if your not looking for the HDR look, Lightroom can do it. One side observation I made:
      Is that it sometimes calls for a smart curves layer mask in small areas!!

      Thanks for the conformation
      Jim Scott (jd1963 on flickr)

  2. Kimberly M 31 January, 2014 at 08:14 Reply

    I did a screen split to compare your 2010 HDR to the finished LR shot and I actually like this one better. Not that my opinion matters but I like the less green and slightly less punch/line/detail in this one- and I’m not an HDR hater by any means. Maybe it’s the glow and warmer tone with the subject. I also like that you didn’t make it architectual straight, as this way makes it feel larger, more grandiose. I didn’t read the comments on the story but to me, it was funny and clever account on how you got the shot.

  3. Gordon 30 January, 2014 at 22:00 Reply

    From a recovering copy editor:

    About the “…chord between the box and podium”: It looks like an electrical or microphone cord to me, not a musical chord.

    Thanks for an interesting Lightroom-only series.

  4. Mike P 30 January, 2014 at 19:07 Reply

    Matt, this has been a great series! One suggestion is to include the histogram for the screenshots where the exposure is adjusted. I think it would have been very informative for this photo.

    • Bill Bentley 31 January, 2014 at 11:56 Reply

      Nevermind. I zoomed in on the page and saw that you were referring to 1.3 and/or 1.4 radius. Duh, on my part. But I use anywhere from 1 to 1.5 radius myself and don’t seem to encounter any issues.

  5. ernie decker 30 January, 2014 at 17:17 Reply

    Maybe I don’t understand the settings properly, but I thought that radius had to do with the size of the area around an edge that was sharpened (contrast increased). If so, by increasing the slider to around 1.3,4 wouldn’t you be increasing the likelihood of halos showing up in sharpening. I have been decreasing my settings to .9 for this reason. Does having radius set to more allow for more amount? I usually keep my amount to around 35 to avoid halos and oversharpening. Am I just being paranoid??

    • Bill Bentley 31 January, 2014 at 11:50 Reply

      Are you asking if it’s 13 or 1 point 3? The font doesn’t show periods very well. At 1.3 radius there is little to no risk of halos appearing. It’s quite a low setting.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *