Lightroom OnlyLightroom Tips

Day 4 of “I’m Giving Up Photoshop” Month

Happy Friday! Welcome to Day 4 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 is pretty interesting because it was taken hand-held, mid morning (not sunrise), while stopping along side of the road in the Palouse area of Washington State. It was an unplanned stop for just a minute and I think I had just pointed my camera and shot through the window, but it ended up being a favorite of mine.

I think you’re going to like the processing here though because it’s deceptively simple, but I find it works on a lot of photos.

(click to see the image larger)


Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Tamron 24-70mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter Speed: 1/180 second
ISO: 100

Like usual I started out in the Basic panel. But this time, rather than going through all of the toning settings like Exposure, Shadows and Highlights, I just click the Auto button. Look at the difference. Pretty crazy huh?


So what does Auto do? It basically does what we usually do with the Exposure, Whites and Blacks sliders. It looks at the Histogram and makes some automatic adjustments. Now, it doesn’t work like you see here on all photos, but I have to tell ya’, it’s definitely worth a try when you start editing a photo.

I did, however, just reduce the Highlights slider a little to bring back some more detail in the clouds.


I changed the Camera Calibration profile setting to Landscape. It wasn’t a huge difference but I like what it did for the overall color and contrast.


The Sky
What really struck me about the photo was the clouds in the sky. Lots of texture that can really benefit from the Clarity adjustment. But I didn’t like what the Clarity slider did to the grass at the bottom. It made it a little too contrasty and I liked the softer look there. So instead of adding Clarity to the whole photo, I used the Graduated Filter and dragged from the top down to add Clarity to just the sky.


Too Much Blue
I noticed that the increased Clarity made the sky darker and almost too blue. It’s like there’s a glow/halo around the clouds. But I’ve found a little trick to help out. If you increase the Shadows slider while you increase Clarity, it tends to keep the photo from getting darker in the sky.


Even More Clarity
Here’s another little known trick. Let’s say you want even more texture in those clouds. But you’ve already max’d the Clarity slider out at 100. Well, you can add yet another Graduated filter on top of the last one. Essentially, you can stack adjustments so that you can get even more of the effect. It’s not something I do with many settings, but if you want that ultra-contrasty look, stacking Clarity adjustments can be really cool.
(Note: This works with the Adjustment Brush and Radial Filter too)


Rather than sharpening the whole photo in the Detail panel (which would add noise and texture to the sky), I used the Adjustment Brush with some Sharpening (and just a little Clarity) on the grass.


Hmmm…. I Wonder What’s Next 😉
We’re pretty much done but you know we have one more thing left right? Yep! A Vignette 😉 I used the Effects panel for this one and darkened the edges a little.


That’s pretty much it for this one. It’s kinda crazy just how good of a job the Auto button does on it. But hey, I’ll take it when it works and it’s always worth a try first. Here’s the Before/After view.

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[imagetab width=”836″ height=”558″] [/imagetab]

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend and I’ll see you back here Monday!



  1. Dusan 11 January, 2014 at 11:44 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    thanks for posting series about editing Lightroom. Can you please share the original photos, to teach on them.

  2. Craig Beyers 10 January, 2014 at 17:38 Reply

    Matt – you’d suggested using Auto a while back so I tried it on a 250+ image set of a volleyball match. Result? It works really well overall, although most images (shot indoors with difficult backgrounds) require an exposure change. The nice part is that Auto doesn’t disturb my Import preset settings. I now use Auto for all of my shoots, then adjust each image from there. It’s a real time-saver! I find that LR gets me about 90% of the way in most pictures and that’s usually good enough for posting on the web. A few photos do really require Photoshop, especially when I need adjustment layers, detailed dodging and burning, type, etc.

  3. Matt R 10 January, 2014 at 16:19 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    This series is great. I’ve been using LR since the initial beta so I’m quite comfortable with it. However, I did opt for the recent PhotoShopCC deal. I’ve only tinkered with PS a bit in recent years so I’m finding your comments of what you would normally do in PS quite interesting. Already a couple of times in this series you’ve mentioned taking two photos in PS and picking the best from each. Do you have a tutorial that you can point me to for this?

  4. Mike Nelson Pedde 10 January, 2014 at 01:37 Reply

    Nicely done! Appreciating your ‘LR only’ work. A quick note is that in LR 5.3 if you hold down the Ctrl and Alt (Cmd and Opt) keys and click on the pin for a graduated filter, radial filter or brush it will duplicate the existing filter. You can also right-click on a pin to duplicate or delete that filter. With the graduated filter and the radial filter you can move the new pin to a different location if you want to access the pin underneath it, or apply the same filter somewhere else.


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