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When to Jump to Adobe Photoshop, and How and When to Jump Back

While Photoshop Lightroom is great for organizing your photos, processing your images, making slide shows, and printing, it’s not Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop Lightroom doesn’t do special effects, or photo retouching, or pro-level sharpening or one of the bazillion (yes, bazillion) things that Photoshop does. So, there will be numerous times during your workflow where you’ll need to jump over to Photoshop to do some “Photoshop stuff” and then jump back to Photoshop Lightroom for printing or presenting. Luckily, these two applications were born to work together.

  • Step One. Once you’ve made all the tonal changes you want in Photoshop Lightroom, if you want to do things Lightroom just can’t do (for example, in this photo I’d like to remove the white line on the right side, plus I want to hide some distracting little things on the car itself, plus I’d like to add a zoom effect, and sharpen the photo significantly), it’s time to jump over to Photoshop CS2 (or CS3, if you have it). Go under the Photo menu and choose Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3 (as shown here), or use the keyboard shortcut Command-E (PC: Ctrl-E).
  • Step Two. This brings up a dialog where you choose exactly how your photo goes over to Photoshop for further editing. The first two choices, Edit Original and Edit a Copy (only available when your photo is a JPEG, TIFF, or PSD), ignore all the changes you’ve made in Lightroom and send either an untouched original or a copy over to Photoshop. However, the third choice—Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments—creates a copy of your photo with all the edits you made in Lightroom already applied, and sends that copy over to Photoshop. Note: If you’re working on a RAW photo, this third choice is your only available choice.
  • Step Three. If you have either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (the consumer version of Photoshop) installed on your computer, Lightroom chooses it as your default external editor, but there are some options for how your files are sent over to Photoshop (or Elements). Press Command-, (comma; PC: Ctrl-,) to go to Lightroom’s Preferences, and click on the External Editors tab (as shown here). At the top, you’ll see options for choosing the file format of photos sent to Photoshop (I use TIFF, which also lets you choose a compression method so the files aren’t so large), along with your choice of color space and bit depth. You’ll see right in the dialog that Adobe recommends ProPhoto RGB as your color space at a bit depth of 16 bits for the best results. If you shoot in RAW, that’s good advice because thus far no color profile has been embedded in your photo. However, if you’re working with JPEGs or TIFFs from your camera, your camera already embedded a color profile in them (like sRGB, or hopefully Adobe RGB [1998]), so from the Color Space pop-up menu, choose that same color space to keep everything consistent.
  • Step Four. If you don’t have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements installed, then you can choose an Additional External Editor in the lower portion of the dialog. Just click the Choose button (as shown here) and choose a pixel-based editor (here, I chose Apple’s iPhoto, which came pre-installed on my computer). You can choose the options for how files are sent there as well.
  • Step Five. Once you close Lightroom’s Preferences dialog, your External Editor choices are saved, and if you go under Lightroom’s Photo menu (shown here), you’ll see your default choice (in this case, mine is Photoshop CS3), and the shortcut to jump over to Photoshop, which is Command-E on a Mac or Ctrl-E on a PC. Right under your default choice will be your Additional External Editor choice (remember, I chose Apple’s iPhoto). Now, Edit in iPhoto appears in the menu as well, and to jump to this additional external editor, you’d press Command-Option-E on a Mac, or Ctrl-Alt-E on a PC).
  • Step Six. When you send a photo for editing to an external editor, by default Lightroom automatically embeds the ProPhoto RGB color space into your photo (ProPhoto RGB is Lightroom’s native color space. It has a very wide color gamut, and in many ways it’s an ideal color space for today’s digital photographers). However, as soon as your photo arrives in Photoshop, unless you already have Photoshop’s working color space set to ProPhoto RGB, the Embedded Profile Mismatch dialog (shown here) will appear. So, ideally you’d change Photoshop’s color space to ProPhoto RGB (in Photoshop’s Color Settings preferences) before your photo leaves Lightroom, or you can convert the file to your working color space (hopefully Adobe RGB [1998] and not sRGB) by choosing Convert Document’s Colors to the Working Space in the Embedded Profile Mismatch dialog when it appears, shown here.
  • Step Seven. Now that our photo is in Photoshop, the first thing we want to do is remove that distracting white line in the lower-right corner. Get the Clone Stamp tool (S), Option-click (PC: Alt-click) to the left of the white line, and begin cloning over the line (as shown here).
  • Step Eight. Now switch to the Spot Healing Brush tool (J), and click once directly on any spots or other distracting things on the ground around the car, so the track looks clean and clear (if you look closely at the photo in Step Seven, you’ll see lots of spots and specks in the foreground and to the left of the car, by the back tire. Of course, we could have removed the white line back there as well. If you’re up for it, switch back to the Clone Stamp tool, and clone over it. You might be wondering why I didn’t get rid of those spots using the Remove Spots tool in Lightroom. I could have removed them in Lightroom, but Photoshop’s Spot Healing Brush is much faster and easier to use, and since I was coming over to Photoshop anyway, it saved time and trouble to do it here.
  • Step Nine. Now, to add the zoom effect, start by duplicating the Background layer by dragging it onto the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Then go under Photoshop’s Filter menu, under Blur, and choose Radial Blur. When the filter’s dialog appears, for the Blur Method choose Zoom, increase the Amount to 27 (as shown here), and click OK.
  • Step Ten. When you click OK, the zoom radial blur is applied to the layer, and although the center of the zoom is somewhat clear, the effect is too overwhelming, and covers too much of the detail on the car. So, we’re going to add a layer mask, which will let us basically paint away any area of the zoom effect we want (that’s why we duplicated the layer—so we’d be able to add a layer mask later to edit where the filter was applied without destroying the photo). To add a layer mask, go to the bottom of the Layers palette and click on the Add Layer Mask icon (as shown here). This adds a white layer mask to your layer (you can see it added to the right of the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers palette).
  • Step Eleven. Now that your layer mask has been added, get the Brush tool (B), press X to set your Foreground color to black, and choose a very large, soft-edged brush. Now, take that brush and paint over the front of the car (as shown here) and a little bit of the sides, but don’t paint all the way to the back of the car because it looks good with a little bit of that zoom effect still visible back there. If you make a mistake, just press X again to switch your Foreground color to white and paint over the area you didn’t mean to paint, and the zoom blur will reappear in the area you’re painting (that’s the power of layer masks—you can always go back and fix or change your edits). Okay, that’s enough effect—let’s sharpen this puppy and head back to Lightroom.
  • Step Twelve. Flatten the layers by choosing Flatten Image from the Layers palette’s flyout menu (found in the top-right corner of the palette itself). Now, to sharpen the photo, go under the Filter menu, under Sharpen, and choose Unsharp Mask. When the dialog appears, for Amount enter 120%, for Radius enter 1, and for Threshold enter 3, then click OK (as shown here). This gives a nice punchy amount of sharpening, and when your subject has a lot of well-defined edges like a car, it can take a lot of sharpening like this without damaging the photo (whereas, if this were a portrait, that would probably be too much sharpening and the photo would have little halos around the edges and would look noticeably oversharpened).
  • Step Thirteen. So, you’ve hidden lines, removed spots, added a zoom filter effect, and majorly sharpened the photo. Now it’s time to save the photo and return to Lightroom. You can either go under the File menu and choose Save (don’t choose Save As because you don’t want to change the name of this file, and it won’t go back to Lightroom automatically, thus it will hose your workflow) or simply close the image. If you close the image, the dialog shown here will appear, asking if you want to save the changes you just made in Photoshop. (Notice how the name of your photo has “-Edit” added to the end of it? Lightroom automatically added that to let you know that this is a copy of your original created for editing outside of Lightroom.) If you click Don’t Save, the photo closes and goes back to Lightroom, but without any of the changes you just applied in Photoshop. Instead, click the Save button (as shown here) to save the changes you just made and send the photo back to Lightroom with those Photoshop edits intact.
  • Step Fourteen. When you switch back to Lightroom, it takes you right back to where you last were (in our case, the Develop module), and your Photoshop-edited photo, with all the edits applied, now appears within Lightroom (you can see the zoom blur and sharpening in the image shown here).
  • Step Fifteen. If you press G on your keyboard, you’ll return to the Library module’s Grid view, and there you’ll see your newly edited copy appearing right alongside your original photo (as shown here). By the way, if you’d like to compare these two photos side-by-side, just Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) on both photos to select them, then press C to enter Compare view where you’ll see them side-by-side. When you’re done, to return to the Grid view, just press G again. Now, see that little number 2 on top of the upper-left corner of your original photo? That’s letting you know that your edited copy is stacked with the original photo for housekeeping purposes.
  • Step Sixteen. If you click directly on that little number 2, the edited copy tucks right under the original, creating a little stack with the original on top (as shown here). If you want to see the edited version, then just click on that little 2 again and it will pop right back out, just like it looked in Step Fifteen. This works not only here in the grid, but in the filmstrip as well. This helps you from becoming confused when you’ve got multiple copies of the same photo. Note: The only reason we have two thumbnails of our file is because we chose to work on a copy in the Edit Photo dialog that appeared back in Step Two. If you have a JPEG or TIFF file and choose to work on the original, then you’re doing just that—working on the original in Photoshop, and when you return to Lightroom, you’ll see just one photo because you’ve edited your original photo.
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