Lightroom OnlyLightroom Tips

Day 9 of “Lightroom Only” Edit Month (Travel photography in Bruges Belgium)

Hey everyone, before we get started I just need to help pay the bills for a moment. I have some of my 1-day Lightroom seminars in the next 8 weeks for I’ll be in Covington, KY, Richmond, Houston and Los Angeles between now and March. Here’s a link to the seminar website. The seminar gets rave reviews from everyone, and I’d love to see you out there. Okay, back to business…

Welcome to Day 9 in my self-project-ish, month-long postings of images I’m only using Lightroom to edit. In fact, I kind of changed the name this week to “Lightroom Only” since it seems to make more sense. 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: Bruges, Belgium
I’m digging back in the archives to an old favorite of mine. This was a photo I took on a trip to Bruges Belgium in 2007. I taught at a conference for Adobe in Amsterdam, and took a trip to Belgium after. Bruges is this gorgeous canal-based city and sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”. I’ve never been to Venice but it’s definitely one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to. It’s also a very touristy city. It’s packed! I still remember waiting on this street for all of the people to move away. It took forever. As soon as it looked like a person would exit the frame, another one would walk in.

(click to see the image larger)

Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D200 (yep, it was a while ago)
Lens: Nikon 17-35mm
Aperture: f/8
Shutter Speed: 1/25 seconds
ISO: 100
No Tripod

Basic Processing
The photo started out pretty dark. It was a cloudy day, late in the afternoon and I didn’t have a tripod. So I underexposed a bit to keep the shutter speed as fast as possible. So the first thing I did was work with the Exposure, Shadows and Highlights to get everything brighter and more balanced. I also increased the Temp slider to make the photo warmer. Finally, a little Clarity to help boost the contrast and some Saturation to add some color.


Sharpening and Lens Correction
Lens Corrections were huge here. See, apparently Bruges is tilted toward one side because of the tides in the canals, so when I took this photo it appears it’s really crooked (because I would never take such a crooked photo). Now, you know I’m totally bs’ing you here right? I must have had a few too many of those Belgian beers that day because my framing is way off, but we definitely need to fix it.  I went to the Lens Corrections panel and clicked the Enable Profile Corrections checkbox which didn’t do much. Then I clicked the A for Auto Upright and it worked perfectly.


From there I went to the Detail panel for some sharpening. There’s a ton of little details in this photo so it can handle a lot of sharpening. So I cranked it way up on all sliders.


Focussing the Light
Next I went to the Radial Filter to focus the light. I could have used the Vignette adjustments but it’ll focus toward the center. With the Radial Filter (and reduced Exposure setting) I can really get your attention toward the top where the walkway turns out of view.


Detailed Adjustments
Next I went to the Adjustment Brush for some detailed adjustments. First, I wanted to add some more detail to the photo so I painted 100% clarity over the whole thing.


Then I clicked New to add another adjustment. I painted (with a large brush) along the walkway to draw attention to it. Almost like lighting the path through the photo.


Finally, I though the Clarity adjustment brightened the photo too much, so I went back to the Radial Filter and just darkened the original adjustment I added before.


 What Else?

There’s really only one two things I missed here. As I’ve said before, onOne’s Perfect Effects Dynamic Contrast plug-in has become my go-to plug-in for contrast and detail. It would do a great job on the details and contrast in this photo. Does Clarity make a good alternative. Definitely, but each clarity-contrasty-detail adjustment/filter has it’s own “feel” and I happen to like onOne’s. The only other thing I missed here is Photoshop. I’m being really picky with this one though. If you look at the top of the photo you’ll see a small white triangle area, which looks like it’s part of the white edging or molding around one of the buildings.


It doesn’t look really bad here, but if I printed this, and framed it with a white matte, that little edge would stand out. I always try to get rid of bright areas around the edge (especially if they’re triangular since those really draw attention), but Lightroom doesn’t really have the cloning/healing power to do it well so I’d probably use Photoshop. I did try it though so you could see. Zoomed out, it’s actually not that bad, but again, I’m being really picky by even pointing it out.


Anyway, here’s the Before/After.

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

Have a great day!



  1. salsaguy 31 January, 2014 at 17:13 Reply

    Matt, can you link the prior and very next episode to each post in the series? It’s distracting to have to go back to another page 3
    Pages ago to be able to find the LIST of posts in the series and then be able to click on the very next post numerically bigger in the series. The “you might also like” at the bottom of the page don’t help since those link to 2 or 3 days ahead in the series instead of the very next days article. This would be a big help. Thanks. Also you misspelled “thought” as “though” in your article above. Please correct. Thanks again.

  2. salsaguy 31 January, 2014 at 17:04 Reply

    Matt, I’ve noticed in all the posts for this LR ONLY series that you never mentioned ( at least up to this post) adjusting the white balance. I know you are shooting raw but don’t you ever adjust it? Or are you really that good at getting it correct In camera ? Or are you just not mentioning this as it’s an assumed step? Thanks

    • Les Howard 1 February, 2014 at 11:09 Reply

      White Balance and Color Temperature are the same thing so it’s been covered in most of these posts at some point.

  3. Jamie Fletcher 28 January, 2014 at 08:51 Reply

    Thanks a lot for sharing your work and explaining your methods in this blog. It must have been a fantastic experience. Judging from the picture, this must be one of the most gorgeous places of the world. I really appreciate that you have revealed some of your tricks.

  4. labro 21 January, 2014 at 11:32 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    welcome in Belgium 🙂 when do you come in Liege ?
    This lightroom only idea is fantastic and what i also like is that you explain where you are missing photoshop,… and how you can find a trick to avoid using it,…
    It is very interesting how you can change a standard image into a beautiful artistic one.

    I am suprised you only mention onone suite for a while. Why don’t you never mention color efex pro 4… ? i agree nik suite is awful to use with many independant plugins with lot of tif files in case we need to come back to a certain step but filters are working nice

    best regards

  5. Robin Horton 21 January, 2014 at 09:03 Reply

    This is a brilliant series Matt, learned a lot, especially how much sharpening you use, and the tip for using clarity on B&W’s was great.

  6. Disillusioned_Banker 21 January, 2014 at 06:04 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    great job on Day 9. I’m especially amazed by your little trick to hide the white triangle at the top of the picture. Pretty clever!
    This definitely makes me eager to check your LR/PS tutorials on KelbyOne 🙂
    Have a good day.

    Bertrand (from Belgium^^)

  7. Neil Brink 20 January, 2014 at 20:33 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    I do love your January LR5 series – easy to follow and some great tips – Bruges is particularily good – well done mate.
    Was puzzled about using the adjustment brush to paint over the whole picture and then increase clarity (under detailed adjustment) How is this different to boosting clarity in the first step? (basic processing)


  8. Felix Sanchez 20 January, 2014 at 14:56 Reply

    Hi Matt.
    I’m a pretty new follower following you via RSS.
    This Day 9 edit is absolutely one of the better!
    Looking forward to seeing more.. and to seeing other kinds of posts also 🙂

  9. Allan Thompson 20 January, 2014 at 14:13 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    I am a Canadian fan , I started out using lightroom 3 and now I am a more experience user now with LR5. I have been following your Blogs and tips for a couple of years and have learned a lot form one of the best , I think. I started out with a Cannon AE1 in the seventies and now I use a ESO 7D . Some my old favorites have been reprocessed with Lightroom and unbelievable the difference a few adjustments can make. Thanks for knowledge and all the presets , webinars, you have shared with all of us camera carriers out there. Great Site, Great Blogs, Matt, keep them coming ! form grateful readers.

  10. Charles L 20 January, 2014 at 13:27 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks, that’s very instructive !

    That would be awesome if you could put as a final result 3 photos: the original, your Lightroom result, and the result you would get with Photoshop so we can see if it makes a big difference or not… Although I assume you might not have enough time for that… Maybe for LR 10th birthday !

  11. Bill Young 20 January, 2014 at 12:09 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    This is an off-topic appeal from an aging half-blind guy to think about changing your WordPress theme. Your’s is one the of few blogs I read that won’t let me zoom in on the text with my iPad. I can read it, barely, but late at night it would nice to zoom.

    Thanks, and thanks for this really interesting series.

    • Les Howard 21 January, 2014 at 11:43 Reply

      If you have an Apple Mac computer, you might try using the zoom tools, CMD+ to zoom in, CMD- to zoom out and CMD0 to return to original size. This is an OS X feature that works for every application. I don’t know if Windows based computers have a similar feature.

  12. R M Guijt 20 January, 2014 at 11:49 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Great to follow your Lightroom only blogs. One thing I noticed is that U never (might have missed when U did) use the contrast slider nor the curves. Is there any particular reason to skip them? Or do U feel that setting the white / black point and clarity gives more then enough contrast to your photo’s?

    I also noticed that U use the sharpening tools quite heavily, where I have been told that U “should” use around 50ish as a max. Could U clarify this for me?

    thanks a lot and keep up the great work.

    Kind regards,

    Richard Guijt

    • Matt K 20 January, 2014 at 12:50 Reply

      Hi Richard. I use black and whites, as well as Clarity for contrast. I figure, I only need so many ways to add contrast to a photo 😉
      As for sharpening, I push the sharpening sliders until my photo looks oversharpened (halos, gritty look).

  13. Dennis Zito 20 January, 2014 at 08:16 Reply


    Nicely done! This one really helps me a lot. I love taking photo of allies like this, but I could never get them looking like I originally saw them. Very helpful stuff here! I do have a question. I use a Canon 7D 18mpix. I can not crank up the sharpening and clarity like you do or I’d have halos galore! Is it a mpix thing or am I doing something photographically wrong.

    Again, nice job on this one!


    • Matt K 20 January, 2014 at 12:51 Reply

      Hey Dennis – at 18MP you should be able to push them pretty high. Today’s photo was taken with a D200 and I’m pretty sure that was less than 18MP and I was still able to crank ’em up. I push the sliders until I see halos and texture and then I pull back a bit. I’ll even leave a little texture on there because A) You won’t notice it unless you zoom in, and I don’t post my photos large enough (nor care) what people think when they zoom in. And B) If you print it, with the slightly oversharpened texture, it’ll smooth out.

      Hope this helps 🙂

  14. JB 20 January, 2014 at 02:36 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    I’m a fan of your blog. You made me discover and like Lightroom ! Unfortunately I live in France and cannot attend your US workshops.
    Regarding the “Lightroom only” project, I really enjoy it. Those real examples help understand how the settings work and also how to use them (most important !).

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