Processing RAW Photos with Lightroom & Photoshop

Processing RAW Photos with Lightroom & Photoshop.

Not posted a blog for a while, as we have a new puppy in the household.  He is taken up most of our time at the moment, especially when he’s awake LOL.

I came across a webinar for enhancing landscape photography using Viveza 2 and a couple of other plug-ins.  Link provided within the blog.

Hope you enjoy reading. :)

Processing RAW Photos with Lightroom & Photoshop

A couple of weekends ago, I went over to the Yorkshire Dales with a very good friend of mine with the intention of capturing some great landscape scenes.  We both took all our camera gear, including filters and various lenses, not to mention our flash guns, and reflectors (well, you never know when you might need them)!

On arriving at Semer Water, the rain was coming down quite heavy, the Tarn was full, resulting in a “wash out”.  Semer Water is the second largest lake natural lake in North Yorkshire, after Malham Tarn. We were in two minds whether to call it a day before it even started, or see it out, and see what happens.  After a coffee and a sarnie, we headed towards Ravenseat.

As we drove, the scenery got even better, and so did the weather.  By the time we reached our destination the sun was out, white fluffy clouds appeared along with a nice blue sky.  It was at this point I decided to use my camera like  point and shoot.  No filters, tripods etc.  My friend did the same, and we continued this approach throughout the day.

A view at Ravenseat Farm, Swaledale

Final Image – Ravenseat, Swaledale

Got to admit, it was quite a relaxing day, driving around Swaledale, stopping when we wanted, grabbing the cameras when we came across a scene we liked.

Back at home, the photos were all imported into Adobe Lightroom, the bad ones deleted.  It was from this point, filters were applied at the post processing stage.

Brief Overview of my Processing

The techniques I am using I have only recently come across.  I watched a Webinar presented by Joe Brady called Powerful Landscape Photography Enhancements with Adobe Photoshop - this is a two hour webinar, but its well worth watching.  Its transformed the way I process my images on a daily basis.

Final Image - Old Barn Door

Final Image – Old Barn Door

Above is another example of my post processing using the technique explained by Joe Brady.  The only extra thing I have done is add a ‘Warming’ Photo Filter in Photoshop.  To show you the difference, here is the original photo, straight from camera.

Old Barn Door - SOOC

Old Barn Door – SOOC

As you can see there is a very visible difference.

  1. Edit general settings in Develop Mode in Lightroom before exporting to Photoshop.
  2. Use Viveza 2 and using the Control Points do selective changes rather than global.
  3. Apply Color Efex Pro’s Polariser Filter (this bits optional, but worth a go).
  4. Add a ‘Warming Filter’ using a Photo Filter Layer Mask in Photoshop.
  5. Flatten the image, and send back to Lightroom.

Ok, so that’s a brief run through, and hopefully you took a look at the webinar link above, so the following will make a little more sense.

First of all, I adjust the photo in Lightroom, altering Exposure, Contrast, and straightening.

Basic Lightroom Adjustments

Basic Lightroom Adjustments

With these settings applied,  the photo is then sent to into Photoshop by ‘right-clicking’ the image, then choosing Edit in Photoshop.

With the photo open in Photoshop, Viveza 2 is brought into play.  Using the Control Points, selective areas are treated, altering Brightness, Saturation, Structure etc.  By holding down the ALT key and clicking on a Control Point, you can copy previous settings.  Drag the new Control Point to another part of your image.

Viveza Control Points

Viveza Control Points

Keep repeating this process until you are happy with your end results.  You can select all the Control Points, and then Group them, to make selective adjustments more easier.

Once you are finished in Viveza 2, hit the OK button to apply you new settings.

The next step is to apply the Polariser filter from Nik Color Efex Pro.  This is optional, but it works a treat if you didn’t have a Polariser fitted to your camera when taking the shot.

Finally, add a Warming Filter layer mask by selecting the Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Pallet, and choose Photo Filter.  For this photo I used Warming Filter (LBA) and adjusted the density to suit, and because I was using an Adjustment Layer I was  able to ‘paint out’ certain areas like the sky to remove the orange cast.

Finally flatten the image, and send it back to Lightroom by clicking on the Close button and clicking on Save when prompted.

Original Photo *SOOC

Original Photo *SOOC

Here is a before and after so you can see how the photo has been transformed.  You can see the original photo is flat, and needs straightening.

Final Edited Photo

Final Edited Photo

Using the above technique, are is a selection of other photos from the day.

Introduction to Photo Stacking

Photo stacking is a great technique which is applied in post processing to multiple photos of the same object when using a macro lens, or a lens with a long focal length.  The final image show here comprises of 11 photos, each with a different focus point.  Using Photoshops Auto-Align and Auto-Blend features, all 11 photos were blended together to show on final image with a good range of depth of field.

Example of Photo Stacking - Chrysanthemum

Example of Photo Stacking – Chrysanthemum

When you photograph and object close up with a macro lens, you get a very narrow depth of field, even when you shoot at f8.  Take a look at the photo below to see what I mean.  You can see that I focused on the left hand side of the flower head, which is nicely focused, but the rest of the flower head gradually softens as the depth of field decreases.

Initial Photo of 11 photos of Stacked Set

1st Focus Point – Notice only left hand side is in focus

Setting Up the Shoot

For photo stacking a tripod is a must, so once I had my subject in place, the camera was mounted onto my tripod, camera mode set to Manual (so I had control over the exposure settings), and my first focus point selected.  ISO was set to 400 (used natural lighting), f8.0 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/45 sec.

To choose my focus point, I half pressed the shutter button, and used the ‘D-Pad’ on the back of the camera to set my focus area.  For the photo above, I was able to keep the camera in Auto-Focus mode, but there are many times when you will have to manually focus the camera as the lens may just keep ‘hunting’ for somewhere to focus.

After I had my first photo, I changed the focus point by using the ‘D-Pad’, re-focused and took another shot.  This procedure was repeated until I had focused on all 11 focus points, adjusting exposure where needed.

The next stage is to bring all the photos together to create one final image.  I have used Adobe Photoshop for stacking my photos, but other packages are available.  Another recommended (although I have not used it) piece of photo-stacking software is by Helicon, but there are a number of other programs available out there. my examples here I have used a Nikon D90 with a Sigma 1.8 50mm macro lens.

Stacking the Photos

Now that all the photos are on the computer,  all 11 photos were selected in Lightroom.  By right-clicking on one of the photo’s thumbnails, choose Open As Layers In Photoshop.  This is a great option for when you are importing multiple photos into the same document.  Otherwise, you would have to open each photo individually and copy and paste each photo into one document (and be time consuming).

Once all photos have been imported into Photoshop as one document, first unlock the background layer by double-clicking on it.  You can leave the default name of Layer 0 as it is.  Next select all of the layers in the Layers Pallet by selecting the bottom layer (layer 0) and holding down the Shift Key, click on the top layer.  All layers should now be highlighted.

Select All Layers in Layers Pallet

Select all the layers in Layers Pallet

Even though the camera was tripod mounted, its still a good idea to get all the layers aligned.  When using macro lenses even the slightest movement and create a large difference.  From the Edit menu, select Auto-Align Layers.  When the dialogue box appears accept the default setting of Auto.

More often than not, you will now need to crop the image slightly.  After the Auto-Align has finished, select the Crop Tool by pressing the ‘C’ key, and crop your image as needed.

With all the layers in the Layers Pallet still selected, once again go to the Edit menu and this time select Auto-Blend Layers…

Auto Blend Layers Dialogue Box

Make sure you click on the Stack Image option

When the dialogue box appears, make sure you click on the Stack Images and click OK.  Depending on how many photos you have, file size etc, this could take a little while to process.

After the Auto-Blend Layers process is complete, you will now see that Photoshop has created and applied a Layer Mask to each layer.

Layers Pallet with Layer Masks Applied

Layers Pallet with Layer Masks Applied

If you images have not blended correctly, you can select each layer mask and either ‘paint away’ parts of the individual layer (with black as the foreground colour), or ‘paint-back’ parts (with white as the foreground colour).

There is a great little shortcut function in Photoshop, Press and hold the Shift, Alt and CTRL and then press the E key.  This will create a new layer combining all the layers below it making it far easier to work on.  It also keeps your original layers in tact in case you need to go back to them.

Now you have your stacked photo image, you can continue processing your image as normal by applying Levels, Sharpening or using third-party plug-ins.

For my final image I applied Topaz Detail 2, and applied selective levels using a Levels Adjustment Layer.

A couple more examples of photo-stacked images.  All taken with Nikon D90, Sigma 50mm Macro Lens and processed in Photoshop.  I’ll add more shortly.

We'll Meet Again - Stacked Photography Example

We’ll Meet Again

We’ll Meet Again:  I liked the way I’ve managed to isolate the main headstone, but also keeping the background just out of focus on this one.

In Memory - Photo Stacking Example

In Memory…

In Memory: I wanted to mainly focus on the words on the headstone for this image.

Orchid: Photo Stacking Example


Orchid:  Admittedly, I could have used a better colour background for this one, but its and example to show.

Ivy Leaves: Photo Stacking Example

Ivy Leaves

Ivy Leaves:  I missed the bottom leave for focusing on this one – must check view finder more often!!

Levitation Article/Tutorial

I’ve been a fan of Levitation Images for a while now, and thought it was about time I had a proper go myself.  This small article/tutorial is a walk-through on how I created my image below.  Please bare in mind that you do not need low light nor flash.  It’s all about experimenting and having fun!

Levitation - Push Your Limits

Levitation – Push Your Limits

To get the final image above, I had a Nissin di866 MKII Pro flash gun mounted on a light stand, shot through a white umbrella.  The lighting itself was pretty low so I could achieve the shadow effect I was after.

I got to the location I wanted to set my equipment up at a little before sunset so I could get a focus reading (camera was mounted on a tripod).

A pair of step ladders was used as my main platform to stand on, and I took quite a few photos to get my staged lighting right.  When everything was set up, I set the camera to remote timed release.  Climbed up the step ladders (without falling off), and again took a series of shots to see I had everything set up as I wanted.

Levitation Photo - Stage #1

Levitation Photo – Stage #1

Because of the low light, and the way I positioned the flash gun, only the immediate foreground was lit, and also cast shadows to the right of me (as you are looking at the photo).

When I was happy with the way I looked on the step ladders (apart from nervous LOL), I needed to take a second photo – this time without the step ladders.  The camera nor the flash were moved.  Once things were moved I ended up with the following photo.

The background Image for Levitation

The background Image for Levitation

Now that I have my photos, the next step is Photoshop (or whatever photo-editing package you are using).  Open the two photos you want as Layers (or open both as separate documents and copy one onto the other).

With the two photos loaded, I placed the image of myself on the step ladders up on top of the layer stack, and then added a Layer Mask.  If you can’t use Layer Masks, the Erase tool will work just as well.

Next I removed the step ladders, and its shadow (shown below), taking care to leave my own shadow in the photo.

Remove Step Ladders & Shadow

Remove Step Ladders & Shadow

Finally, I cleaned up the foreground using Content Aware to make it look more natural.  The Clone Tool will do the same job (just takes a little longer).

I’m going to have more goes at this type of thing.  It would be great if you could post links to your own images – its all a learning curve :)