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Day 8 of “I’m Giving Up Photoshop” Month (New York City)

Welcome to Day 8 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: New York City Skyline
This photo was taken from Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’m not a big street photographer so I wasn’t even going to bring my camera the last time I went to New York. But after I did some searching on, I found this location. If you saw the photo from the other day and watched my Long Exposure Photography class on, then you’ll know I’m a sucker for anything with pilings in front of it 😉 So I figured I’d bring my gear and go shoot sunset.

(click to see the image larger)

Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 18-35mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter Speed: 90 seconds
ISO: 100
Filter: Tiffen 3-stop ND filter

Basic Processing
The photo wast taken just after sunset so I moved the Temp slider toward the blue side and the Tint slider toward the magenta side to enhance that “twilight” feel. I opened up the Shadows quite a bit for the pilings in the foreground. Then I adjusted the Whites/Blacks by Alt clicking on the slider and dragging them to set a good white and black point. I also added some Clarity for some extra contrast, and a little Saturation to boost the color.


Sharpening and Lens Correction
I went to the Detail panel and increased the Amount, Radius, and Detail settings until the pilings in the foreground looked nice and sharp.


Then I went to the Lens Correction panel and checked the Enable Profile Corrections option. It didn’t fix the slight vertical perspective problems and the buildings looked like they were leaning in a little. So I went to the Manual tab and adjusted the Vertical setting. Don’t forget to go back to the Basic tab and click Constraint Crop to get rid of the blank area that gets left around the edges when you adjust perspective.


Detailed Adjustments
Next I went to the Adjustment Brush for some detailed adjustments. First, I thought the pilings toward the bottom were too bright. So I increased the Exposure and darkened a few of them. They also had a little bit of a green-ish color so I reduced the Saturation slider too.


From there, I wanted to enhance the warmth of the buildings as well as the contrast. I added a new adjustment and increased the Temp, Highlights, and Clarity sliders. Then I painted on the buildings. I always find that the mixture of the cool colors in the sky, and warm colors from the lights really helps make a nice contrast.


A Quick Retouch
There’s a small shadow up front (on the bottom middle area) so I grabbed the Spot Removal tool and painted over it with the Brush set to Heal mode.


Finishing it Off With a Vignette
Yep, you can guess where this is going. I used the Effects panel for this photo and added a vignette, as well as adjusting the Midpoint and Feather settings so it looks more natural.


What Else?
There’s really only one thing I missed here. onOne’s Perfect Effects Dynamic Contrast plug-in has become my go-to plug-in for contrast and detail. It really does great on cityscapes with the buildings and helps make ’em stand out. So if I were using plug-ins then I’d have used it here. That’s about it though. Here’s the Before/After.

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

Have a great weekend!



  1. labro 22 January, 2014 at 01:12 Reply

    nice tutos and beautiful colors !
    can you please explain why you used the tiffen 3-stop nd filter on night.
    i am not familiar with these expensive filters and thought they were only intended for smoothing waterfalls, sea waves,…
    shutter speed is here 90sec. how long would it be without the filter (10sec ?) and what would have been the difference on the picture ?

    best regards

    • Matt K 22 January, 2014 at 11:12 Reply

      Hi Marc – The longer the shutter speed the smoother the water gets. I tried it at 30 and 60 seconds and the water still had too many ripples. But at 90 seconds it really smooths out.
      Hope that helps.

  2. Dennis Zito 20 January, 2014 at 07:58 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Awesome work on this photo. I notice that you really crank up the sharpening sliders (amount and detail). If did that on my photos, they have halos galore!!! I have a Canon 7D, 18 mpix. So, it must be your mpix that let you do this much sharpening? Again, I love the twilight moves you make! 🙂


  3. Matt Schlotzhauer 18 January, 2014 at 08:30 Reply

    This has been a great series, Matt. Getting into the details of how you see and develop your photography is very enlightening. You can always learn something through the perspective of how others apply editing techniques. At the end of the series I do have one request. Pick the one you think most applies and show the before, LR after, and then the result using your favorite plug-in.

  4. Arnel Garcia 17 January, 2014 at 12:23 Reply

    Great angle and composition with the pilings leading to the city skyline and great processing. Thank you Matt, for sharing. Since I started using Lightroom in 2007, it is extremely rare for me to go to PS or ACR to process my RAW files. For me, PS is now more for putting texts, framing and finer retouching.

    • Sharon 18 January, 2014 at 12:00 Reply

      Beautiful shot…. Thanks for giving us your LR work flow. The thing I would miss the most about not using PS in post is the healing brush. It’s just so much better and easier then LR. I also use OnOne or Nik for that final pop of tonal contrast. I really enjoyed your Long Exposure class. I finally got my Big Stopper this summer. Our local camera store is a big Lee dealer so I actually got it faster there then the on line stores. I’ve been having lots of fun with it.

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