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Day 3 of “I’m Giving Up Photoshop” Month

Hey folks! Welcome to Day 3 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 a few years ago while I was teaching at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. I was on a photo walk with another photographer/friend of mine, David Nightingale, and he was giving an HDR workshop at the Dubai International Financial Center in Dubai and I jumped in to take some photos.

Right from the start, this photo would make a great candidate for merging two photos (with different exposures) using layers in Photoshop. It’s impossible to get the area in the shadows/foreground well exposed, as well as the bright sky in the background in the same photo. So I bracketed and have both a light and a dark version of the photo. But since we don’t have layers, just like yesterday, I’ve picked one to go with.

(click to see the image larger)

Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikon 14-24mm
Aperture: f/16
Shutter Speed: 1/80 second
ISO: 200

I started out in the Basic panel by warming the photo with the Temp slider and then decreasing the overall Exposure a little. I’m trying to tone down the sky and I knew I couldn’t darken it all the way, but I could get closer by reducing the Exposure. I also knew ahead of time that it would darken the foreground, but you can increase the Shadows slider to compensate. Then I adjusted the Whites and Blacks sliders by holding down the Alt/Option key and increased the Clarity for some more overall contrast.


Quick Note: You may be wondering why I didn’t reduce the Highlights slider to try to darken the sky. It actually does a really good job to darken just the sky (see below). The problem (and this only comes from doing it a bunch of times to realize) is that using too much Highlights slider on a really bright area tends to leave a halo around the edge.


Selective Adjustments
Since I wasn’t able to deal with the bright sky with any of the sliders, I turned to the Adjustment Brush (just press K). I decreased the Exposure slider to darken the sky, and moved the Temp slider to the left to add some blue to the sky (since I warmed the whole photo in the previous step). Then just paint over the bright sky and buildings. It’ll also help to turn on the Auto Mask checkbox around the edges of the building so you don’t have use a really small brush. As long as you keep the middle of the brush over the bright sky (not the building), Lightroom will (usually) help keep the effects of the brush off the building. Also, I mentioned the halo from the Highlights slider before, which is why I’m using the brush. While the brush works great, it does sometimes leave a little edge you can still see. It’s barely noticeable here and I don’t think anyone who didn’t see the “Before” photo here would notice it, but it does happen with the brush. This is another time where Photoshop’s more precise selection tools would definitely come in handy.


Camera Calibration
Next, I went to the Camera Calibration panel and set the profile to Vivid. I tried the other ones but Vivid seemed to work best. Keep in mind that you’ll only see these profiles if you shoot in raw. If you shoot in JPEG you don’t get ’em.


On to the Detail panel. I increased the Amount, Radius and Detail sliders. Unlike yesterday’s portrait, we don’t need much masking because the entire photo can really handle the sharpening.


Lens Corrections
Okay, this is a big part in this photo. There’s obviously some perspective issues here from using a wide angle lens like the 14-24mm. After turning on the Enable Profile Correction checkbox, I tried using the Auto Upright feature in the Lens Correction panel. As you can see, it didn’t work so good here 🙂


From here you have a couple of choices. You could go to the Manual tab and adjust the Vertical setting to try to get things right. As you can see below, it makes the photo look kinda squashed.


Or you can leave it alone (my vote), knowing that only architectural photographers really care about straight lines on buildings. Most other people are used to seeing it because every other person’s camera does the same thing. I ended up adjusting the Vertical setting a little bit (and the Rotate setting too), but not all the way. Then I turned on the Constrain Crop checkbox to automatically crop out the remaining area.


There’s a couple of people along the right side of the building that should disappear 🙂 I used the Spot Healing Brush on Heal mode to get rid of ’em. It’s not perfect, but unless you really knew they were there and you looked closely at the photo, you probably wouldn’t notice that retouching was done. If I had Photoshop to use though, this example would have probably been a good one to use the Content Aware tools there.


 And… A Vignette
What photo would be complete without a vignette. I used the regular ole’ Vignette settings in the Effects panel to finish this one off.


What Else?
Other than I what I mentioned in the beginning about layerings a bright and dark version of the photo in Photoshop, the only other thing you could really do in Photoshop is fix some of the perspective issues. With some creative transform controls coupled with Photoshop’s Adaptive Wide Angle filter you could probably get most of the lines straight without having to crop out a significant part of the photo like we would have in Lightroom. But that’s about it.

Here’s the Before/After:

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

Thanks for stopping by today. Enjoy!