Workflow Step Three: Editing Your Selects
Now that you’ve whittled things down to the images you’re going to tweak, let’s get to work. Here, I’m going to take you through how I’d edit one of my Selects from start to finish, starting with the RAW, out-of-the-camera photo.
Here’s the original RAW image in the Develop module (download this image from the book’s companion webpage, mentioned in the book’s introduction). It has lots of work that needs to be done, starting with the fact that I didn’t have an ND (neutral density) gradient filter with me, so the sky is overexposed and kind of washed out. The foreground is a bit backlit and in the shadows, and we’ve got some jet contrails in the sky, a few weeds that need pruning, and well…let’s just say the image needs some TLC. I start by applying a color profile to the RAW photo. In this case, I applied the Adobe Vivid profile, but you can see in the before/after it didn’t do that much to the image, but that profile will help down the road.
I’m going to start in the Basic panel by doing a simple technique—one that I’ve been using that works like a charm for dealing with washed-out skies in situations like this. I simply lower the Exposure amount until the sky looks pretty good, and then I deal with the foreground being in shadows, which is often easier to fix than a messed-up sky. So, that’s what I did here—I dragged the Exposure down to –1.55 (as seen here). You can see what it did for the sky (versus how it looked in Step One), but it also made our foreground fairly dark. We can deal with that. Also, just so you can see the difference the color profile really makes, go back and switch the profile to Adobe Color. Ahhhh, big difference, right? Okay, switch it back to Adobe Vivid.
Now, let’s expand the tonal range by setting our white and black points (well, by having Lightroom do it for us). Press-and-hold the Shift key and double-click directly on the word “Whites,” then on “Blacks,” and it sets the white and black points for you automatically. There are plenty of deep shadows in this image, so it didn’t do that much with the Blacks slider, but it did kick up the Whites to +36.
To bring out detail in the hills and grass, drag the Shadows slider to the right until it looks good to you (in this case, I dragged it over to +86, opening up those shadow areas quite a bit). I went a bit farther than I needed to because I know I’ll lose some of that when I increase the Contrast in the next step.
Let’s kick up the Contrast a bit to make the brightest parts of the image brighter and the darker parts darker. I kick this up quite a bit usually, but in this case, I could only take it to +50 without the foreground getting too dark again, but that’s still a pretty decent amount. Also, to enhance the definition in the sky, I’m going to pull back on the Highlights a bit, lowering them to around –40. That makes quite a difference in the sky.
Next, to bring out some details in the mountains and in the grass, I would add some Clarity (in this case, I dragged the slider to the right to +23), and to make the colors a bit more “colorful,” I increased the Vibrance amount just a little (to +6, as seen here).
Now let’s get rid of some of the more distracting contrails in the sky (we can’t get rid of them all because some are pretty large, like that one going horizontally across the center of the sky, and Lightroom just isn’t cut out for this level of retouching—it would be a bit of a sticky retouch, even in Photoshop). Get the Spot Removal tool (Q) from the toolbox in the top of the right side Panels area (shown circled here), and start by painting a stroke over that contrail near the top-left corner (as you see here).
There are a few more you can get rid of, and once the sky looks pretty decent, then you can move on to getting rid of some of that grass sticking up on the left side (as shown here). You might have to reposition the sample area a bit on those weeds (well, I did anyway) by clicking-and-dragging the sample area over to the left to find a better area. Be patient, and make your brush size just a little larger than the contrail or piece grass you want to remove, and don’t be afraid to drag the sample area to a new spot if it looks funky (we looked at using the Spot Removal tool in Chapter 8).
Next, let’s enhance that sky a bit more by adding an ND gradient effect. Get the Graduated Filter tool (M) from the toolbox near the top of the right side Panels area (we looked at this tool in Chapter 6), double-click on the world “Effect” in the options below to zero all the sliders out, and then drag the Exposure slider to the left quite a bit to darken the exposure (here, I dragged it over to –0.89). Now, press-and-hold the Shift key (to keep it straight), then click-and-drag the tool from the top center of the image to just past the water’s edge to darken the sky and have it graduate slowly down to transparent (as seen here). If you think the sky needs to be a little richer in color, you can crank up the Contrast at bit (that’s what I did here, increasing it to 35 just in the areas affected by the Graduated Filter adjustment).
When we dragged the Graduated Filter down to the water’s edge in the previous step, besides just darkening the sky, of course it darkened that rocky hill on the left, as well. Normally, we’d switch to the Erase brush and carefully paint away that area, but since we have the much more accurate and infinitely faster Range Mask feature now, we’ll use that instead. So, go under Range Mask (at the bottom of the Graduated Filter options), and choose Color. Now, click on the eyedropper, and then click it on the color we want to keep (we can press-and-hold the Shift key to add up to a total of five color samplers). In this case, I tried clicking the eyedropper in a few places, but it kind of trashed the sky, so instead, I clicked-and-dragged over a range of colors (as seen here), and it perfectly masked the hills, removing the darkening immediately. Ya gotta love that!
Now we’ve just got to sharpen this puppy, and we’re good to go. So, head down to the Detail panel and, in the Sharpening section, drag the Amount slider over a bit until it looks good to you (remember, to really see the effects of the sharpening, click on the exclamation point warning icon in the top left of the panel, and it’ll zoom you in to a 1:1 actual size view. We looked at sharpening in Chapter 8). Here, I cranked the Amount to 70, but I wouldn’t go much more than that—if you feel you want more sharpening, you can raise the Radius amount to 1.1, but that should do it. Okay, I think we’re looking pretty decent. Let’s see a before and after (below).
Press the letter Y on your keyboard to see a side-by-side before and after of where you started and where you wound up. If you decide you want to see a little more detail in the hills, you could take the Adjustment Brush (K), zero all the sliders out, increase the Exposure amount to around +0.50, and use a small brush to paint over the hills in the background, but instead I just increased the Shadows slider by +10 (going from +86 to +96). Also, I thought the overall image now looked at little too colorful, so I went back and lowered the Vibrance amount from +6 to –3). That’s my pretty typical start-to-finish workflow.