Lightroom OnlyLightroom Tips

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!



  1. Stewart Mhyre 8 January, 2014 at 23:15 Reply

    Matt, Love your posts. I’ve had LR for a while but I’m learning a ton from your posts and the explanations why you do one thing over the other. Could you say a few words on the difference between the Healing Brush and the Cloning Brush and using one over the other. Thanks
    Keep it coming.


  2. Fredrik Andersson 8 January, 2014 at 14:22 Reply

    Hello Matt! I’m following your Lightroom-only project with great interest. I really enjoy reading your blog and following the things you do here and on KelbyTraining.

    I once picked up a tip from David Ziser (on his video-blog, I think) about using the Adjustment Brush with Auto Masking in a way that you can minimize the halo-effect. It doesn’t always work, but it could be worth trying.
    You start by selecting the adjustment brush with the settings you want (decrease exposure, …) but turn OFF auto masking. This will of course mean that you will paint into the building and other areas that you don’t want to, but you don’t care about that for now.
    When you are finished with this, you change the brush to erase-mode and turn ON auto mask. Then you start to delete the parts where the adjustment shouldn’t be. In this way the auto mask works from “the other side”, so to speak, and could yield a better result.

    Looking forward to the rest of this project! Thank you!

  3. Bill Bentley 8 January, 2014 at 13:45 Reply

    Good stuff Matt. I like this project idea of yours. I also try and do as much in LR as possible, although like you mentioned, the content-aware tool in PS would have been great for removing the people.

    I usually start with the lens correction panel when doing my editing. Is there any danger to doing that first vs. later?

    You mentioned using the color temp slider to bring some blue back into the sky as you had warmed the photo earlier. I sometimes do this as well and I also find using the blue slider in the luminance tab of the HSL panel a great option for adding some more color back.

  4. Stuart Cosgrave 8 January, 2014 at 12:30 Reply

    Enjoying these blog posts Matt. Like you I love Lightroom – great seeing how far you can take things with the one tool. This post also got me thinking how sometimes it’s easy to spend too much time, effort and fuss over small details in an image that most people wouldn’t even notice. I’ve found myself doing that in the past in PS. Thanks for sharing. Stu

  5. John 8 January, 2014 at 12:15 Reply

    Thanks for the mentioning of halos and how to avoid them. That’s an area I need to work on. I’m making a good checklist of things to learn. From this lesson: Content Aware and Adaptive Wide Angle filter.

  6. Les Howard 8 January, 2014 at 12:05 Reply

    Hi Matt. I really like your project using only Lightroom for a month. Like a lot of others, I often feel intimidated by Photoshop so I don’t use it much.

  7. Bill Young 8 January, 2014 at 11:52 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Just wanted to let you know I’m really enjoying your series. Interesting idea. LR is great, but without layers and a more complete set of selection capability and tools, PS looks like an indispensable piece of the flow. But its pretty cool to see how much you can do without it. When you do an end-of-month wrap-up, I’ll be interested to see if you thought you ever needed anything beyond Elements.

  8. Christine 8 January, 2014 at 10:48 Reply

    Hey Matt – I’m really enjoying this series. Keep it up. I self-learned LR and this is really helping me understand the sliders better and understand processing a little better. I’m learning so much every day. Thanks for the good work.

  9. Kimberly M 8 January, 2014 at 08:51 Reply

    I am truly enjoying your project. I had PS years before LR and my brain just doesn’t wrap around LR for using it for more than culling. Well, I use the highlight too or did before I read what you wrote on this post. I do love some of the LR presets and wish I knew how to use them in PS. I asked you about this on G+ not too long ago because I love several of your presets- esp that 300 one and want to use it in PS, OnOne and Nik but I don’t know how to use presets between programs. I know that is outside what you are doing here with your month long project. I am not going to CC and think I’ll at some point either have to sit down and study LR when my cs5 no longer works or go back to Corel. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the month ~

    • Matt K 8 January, 2014 at 10:33 Reply

      Hey Kimberly – the presets I create for Lightroom only work in Lightroom. So you’d have to apply it to the photo there first.
      Thanks 🙂

  10. Dennis Zito 8 January, 2014 at 08:30 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    That turned out really Great! With the sharpening do you hold down the option/Alt key to get the B&W and then make your adjustments? Also, I read that you should always mask sharpening sky and water. What’s your thoughts on that? Man, this is really great to see you in action on all these different photos. I’m getting a ton of info here!



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