Digital Photography Tips

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Photo is a Greek term meaning “light”, and that is exactly what you capture when you start taking pictures with your brand new Canon DSLR. As a beginner, your manipulation of light will be mediocre at best, but as you’ve read this book and begin practicing with your camera, you’re understanding on the role light plays with your photographs will grow. Each change you make to your Exposure Triangle is another learning curve you are completing, but there is still plenty of room to make mistakes. If you’re stuck in a jam, refer to these few lighting tips to help you overcome the confusion and get back behind the camera.

  • The broader the light source, the softer the light. And the more narrow the light source, the brighter the light. So in case you need to soften the mood of the photo, opening a window or two and allowing light to shine in can accomplish that.
  • When using the flash or other external light sources, you can shine them against a blank, white wall to reflect it and diffuse it across your image. This is another trick for softening the light. It can also create great effects if you are able to reflect a narrow light source. This can take some practice.
  • Cool light will appear blue in images, and warm light will appear orange. Sunlight will always appear blue because, even though it seems counterintuitive to say so, sunlight is cool. Warm lights are commonly found indoors or in street lamps.
  • The farther away the light is, the dimmer your subject will appear. If you are using natural light and can’t physically bring it closer, this is when you can use the flash or another light source to compensate. Otherwise, move the light closer or move your subject closer to the light.
  • Lighting from the front is the most commonly used source for beginning photographers. Practice breaking away from this habit by putting lights behind or beside your subject. For portraits, three lights will always create the best shot. Put one behind your subject and one on each side in order to create the most natural lighting possible. You may have to work around the angles of these lights in order to complement your subject, and that will take time and practice.

In fact, all of photography will take time and practice. But with your user manual and the tips and tricks offered in this book, you will see yourself becoming better and better with each picture you take.

5 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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As an amateur photographer, you are going to make your own fair share of mistakes. You’re going to forget your settings, maybe even forget what you were trying to photograph, but that is the whole point of pursuing a creative hobby. These tips are not here to help you take professional pictures. These following tips are to help you have fun and explore the many options available to you through your Canon DSLR so that you can develop your own sense of style and taste. Once you do that, professional photography will become a talent for you, which you can pursue however you choose.

First Mistake – Automatic Mode

The biggest, most limiting mistake beginning photographers make is keeping their camera in Auto or Program mode. This denies you access to not only every aspect of your Canon DSLR, it also prevents you from exploring the creative caveats of your mind. By switching your camera to manual, you are opening the door for more and more creative options that can only be gained from making mistakes in your exposure settings and messing up your white balance. Do not be afraid to venture outside of your comfort zone and make these mistakes, because they will probably be the best things you could ever do for your photos. And because the camera is digital, you can just delete them and try again without worrying about developing film or wasting space on a memory card.

Second Mistake – Expensive Equipment

After you’ve already purchased your DSLR, you don’t need to buy any expensive add-ons until you’ve mastered it. Many beginners think expensive lenses and tripods are the quick way to professional photography, but just because you may look like a famous photographer does not mean you actually take pictures like one. Mastering the elements of photography, like light, movement, and color saturation do not require anything else but your mind and your camera. Get to practicing with the equipment you have and learn how to master white balance, artfully manipulate overexposure, and take perfectly flawless action shots before you start investing in lenses and lights. Once you learn how to do all of those things, that expensive equipment will be well worth the wait.

Third Mistake – Not Using a Tripod

While expensive equipment may be placed on the back burner for the time being, a tripod is always a wise investment. And, as the least expensive item compared to lenses, lights, and editing software, there is no excuse not to purchase one at the same time you purchase your camera. Tripods are not only great for taking those all-in family photos, but they also help you keep a steady camera during action shots or other instances when you’ll need to slow down the shutter speed. Any movement of the camera can blur up a shot, especially if you’re waiting a few extra seconds for lighting calculations and shutter speeds. Attaching your camera to the tripod will reduce the physical movement of the camera and therefore help reduces blurriness, noise, and smudges in an otherwise flawless photograph.

Fourth Mistake – Centering Your Focus

Yes, focusing on your subject is important, but that doesn’t mean they have to be in the center of your shot every time. The Rule of Thirds is a staple rule in photography and it can help you create more and more inventive shots. Simply divide your photo space in three pieces, either vertically or horizontally (depending on the subject of the shot), and make sure that your focus is in one of those three areas. Avoid the center area and practice taking pictures with your subject in the first third or the last third. This can bring in some creative perspective, but it can also be tricky to get your camera to focus on the subject at hand. Practicing this rule will give you time to practice the focus settings in Chapter 4 and perfect your ability to reign in the powers of your Canon DSLR.

Fifth Mistake – Disrupting your Subject

Whether you’re shooting portraits or out in nature capturing birds in flight, you need to remember your role as an observer. This means respecting your subjects’ boundaries. In natural settings, you will want to disturb as little as possible. Do not cause a ruckus when you’re trying to photograph animals in their natural habitat, and always be respectful of private property lines or crowded public places if you plan on taking photos outdoors. People are very wary of strangers photographing them, and it is a finable offense in some countries, so always be polite and ask if it is alright for you to be taking pictures. When taking portrait photographs, always make sure your subjects are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Impatience is common, especially in young children, so it’s always wise to lighten to mood with a great sense of humor and possibly a treat or two, even if that treat is a bottle of water on a hot day.

How to Get the Most out of Auto-Focus

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Once you’ve compensated for white balance and set your exposure triangle, the next step is actually taking the picture. This is the best step, the one you’ve been waiting for, but it still requires a little bit of skill. As you’ve learned, taking a picture is more complicated than just a point and click, and focusing on your subject goes beyond twisting the lens back and forth. There are a plethora of automatic settings for focus on your Canon DSLR, and knowing when to use which will make the difference between mediocre and truly eye-popping photographs.

The one shot focus setting on your Canon DSLR will get the job done nine times out of ten, so it will be discussed first. As mentioned in the introduction, the “ONE SHOT” item on your LCD screen refers to your focus settings. In automatic mode, moving the picture dial on top of the camera to the human face, the flower, or the mountain will maneuver you through the three different settings in one shot mode. The human is best for portraits or group photos, even selfies, because the camera will automatically detect the faces in each shot and focus on them. The flower setting works for smaller, more minute subjects you’re trying to capture, while the mountain works best for large landscape shots without people.

Don’t be afraid to play around with the freedoms these automatic, one shot settings give you. For example, if you choose the mountain setting while shooting people in front of landscape, they will be blurry while the background will be sharper. This can be intentional or not, depending on the energy you’re trying to bring to the image. Also, using the flower setting when taking pictures of people or animals can bring the focus on specific areas, like eyes or hair, if you’re trying to emphasize something specific. This is your photographic adventure, so play around and get comfortable so you can continue exploring the other options available to you

In the other automatic modes – AI Focus and AI Servo, you are at liberty to choose exactly what your camera focuses on. This can be both exciting and frustrating, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by what your Canon DSLR can do. It will help to read the camera’s manual along with this chapter, which will be important if you have a specific vision you’re wishing to capture. Depending on the model of your DSLR, you may have to confirm that your camera is in the automatic or “AF” setting. This adjustment can be done by moving the tab button on the top of the camera to “AF”. This setting will bring up a menu screen that offers One Shot, Focus, and Servo as options.

One shot has already been discussed, but choosing focus or servo modes will open up another menu screen that allows you to choose which part of the image you want to focus on. This collection of little diamonds coincides with different places in the photograph. Choose your diamond of focus and push the “SET” button to finalize the option. In AI Focus mode, you will focus this diamond on a place within a stationary setting, which can be the face, eyes, or ears of whomever or whatever you’re photographing. But for AI Servo mode, you will choose a spot on a moving target that you are attempting to photograph. This can be especially tricky because the object is moving, so you’ll want to make sure your ISO and shutter speed are set properly in order to capture an image that is not blurry.

You can manoeuver through the diamonds on your LCD with the arrow keys or by touch screen, depending on your camera’s model. And, depending on your skill level, you can choose one or more than one diamond to focus on. Choosing more than one allows your camera’s automatic setting to move through the best possible option, but choosing only one will limit your camera’s focus to that specific space. Once you perfect your focusing skills in automatic mode, feel free to venture into the manual settings by moving the tab over to “MF” and exploring the options through the menu screen. Manual mode gives you more freedom when it comes to deciding which items to focus on in your individual pictures, and you will eventually be able to take charge of exactly how and where your camera focuses. You will no longer have a one shot option in manual mode, so it is important to develop your skills with automatic first.

How to Set for White Balance

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White balance is a term known by photographers and filmmakers alike. It refers to the amount of blue and orange in the shot that can change the ways colors appear in the image. Blue is a cooler color and is more prevalent when there is less light, while orange is warm and present when there is more light. White balance can improve the way colors appear in your photographs if you have too little or too much light. Lucky for you, photographers have a much easier time adjusting white balance than filmmakers since their pictures aren’t moving, and you can simply set white balance with the push of a button. On your Canon DSLR, note the “AWB” symbol on your LCD screen. This is the automatic white balance setting that is default with your camera. In order to move through your different white balance options, select Custom White Balance from your menu screen. This provides you with a few picture options: a sun, a house casting a shadow, a cloud, a lightbulb, and a fluorescent tube with light emanating from it.

Each of these options comes with different white balance cues, and they are:

  • Daylight: The Sun; use this for normal sunny days or inside with normal lighting (not fluorescent).
  • Shade: The House; use this indoors or when shooting in the shade to increase the orange in the shot and mimic natural light
  • Cloudy: The Cloud; use this on cloudy or gray days to reduce the amount of blue in the image and increase the warmth
  • Tungsten: The Lightbulb; this setting increases the cool, blue colors and is used best indoors or under yellow lights
  • Fluorescent: The Tube; use this setting when shooting with fluorescent lights as it compensates for the vibrating blue and green lines of light common with those types of bulbs

Choosing these settings will automatically tell your camera how to balance the colors. In order for the white things we see to appear white on camera, these individual settings must be in place before you starting shooting. That way, all the colors will look as they should in your photographs. Of course, you aren’t limited to just these few settings. Each can be modified when you start to play around with your exposure triangle.

Adjusting your exposure can make some really interesting changes to the white balance and color relationship in your photos. For example, when turning your white balance to Tungsten, you are adding a lot of blue to the image and removing the warmth.

This setting is not recommended for shooting outdoors, but if you adjust the exposure down to -1 or -2 you can make it appear as if it’s night on film even if it’s high noon during the shoot. This is an old Hollywood trick in order to make day appear as night when running on a tight filming schedule. If you try out this trick, you’ll open up the door for plenty of creative opportunities that are no longer limited to night shooting

Depending on your model, some Canon DSLRs also come with a lightening bolt setting for white balance. It’s known as the Flash setting, and is similar to the indoor settings except that it will add more red saturation to the image. It’s only recommended to be used for exceptionally dark shoots, or if you are trying to capture a small image with a specific amount of light. For any other shot, the Daylight setting will work just as well, if not better.

The more you use your Canon DSLR, the more white balance will become a second nature to you. Eventually, you’ll be able to recognize the light and color in a room or in an outdoor shot and know exactly what setting your camera should be on. White balance should be the first thing you set before anything else during your shoot, and as you move your subjects through the set, you should consistently check and make sure the light and color saturation has remained stable. Often, you will have to adjust the settings as your light and shadows change throughout the shoot.

Metering

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Metering is the camera’s natural way of accommodating for your exposure triangle settings. When you adjust the aperture, the ISO, and the shutter speed, the camera will automatically assess all areas in the photo – both light and dark – and set a default exposure that averages the entire image to middle gray. Middle gray is the reason why all of your photos come out just a little darker than the natural setting, and this is to protect the light and color in each photo. But just as you modify everything in your exposure triangle, you can also modify your Canon’s metering. Adjusting metering is an advanced concept that can be a little tricky for beginners to get a hang of. But the more you play around with it, the more you will understand what different adjustments do for your photographs. It can easily be done at any time, and you can even change the meter when you change your exposure triangle. In order to change your meter, note the set button surrounded by four buttons to the right of your LCD screen. The left button in the circle will be noted by the eye symbol representative of meter. Hold this button down and move through your metering options with the grooved dial used to adjust aperture and shutter speed as well. Then press the set button in order to make your adjustments permanent. On your Canon DSLR, there are three modes for metering. Just as with white balance (discussed in the next chapter) they are known as Evaluative Metering, Center-Weighed Metering, and Partial Metering. Evaluative mode is the most automatic setting. The camera will automatically divide the picture into 4 equal parts, take the best out of each part, and adjust the exposure to accommodate those best parts. This is the ideal setting for taking pictures in darker areas as your camera will automatically choose the lightest images. Center-weighed focuses on the main focal point of your photo and adjusts the exposure based on them. It is best used if you are taking a back-lit portrait and need to adjust in order to light up the subject’s face, as discussed in the previous chapter. Partial metering is used only when you want to take a picture of a specific thing and ignore the elements of the background. A bird taking flight, a spinning top, or a blooming flower are all prime examples of when partial metering is your best bet. Metering can be used along with the exposure triangle in order to give you the best image possible. If you’ve adjusted your aperture, ISO, and shutter speed for a sweeping landscape shot of the Grand Canyon, and your aperture is set with a wide depth of field, make sure your metering is on evaluative in order to capture the right amount of light. On the other hand, if you’re photographing your family in front of the Grand Canyon, adjust your meter to Center-Weighed in order to stress the importance of light on your true focus – the family members – as opposed to the landscape background. Managing your meter effectively will only come with practice. Luckily, your Canon DSLR’s automatic settings for meter are spot on, meaning you’ll rarely have to change them once you’ve adjusted your exposure triangle. You will only have to change it around if you find that your camera is not focusing on the proper subject of your photograph. That’s when you have the opportunity to take artistic control and override the default settings.

The Exposure Triangle: Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed

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The Exposure Triangle is a photographer’s basic tool, and it will help you find the best exposure for your specific photos. It is controlled by the aperture, the ISO, and the shutter speed of your camera. Each of these settings is responsible for taking the best picture possible. When you adjust the light (aperture and ISO) you will also have to adjust the shutter speed in order to accommodate for the change in light. By accommodating for these three settings, you will learn how to control the relationship between light and shutter speed in your Canon DSLR and take amazing photographs. The first step is the aperture. As discussed in the introduction, aperture controls how much light gets into your lens. The larger you set the number, the smaller it becomes, giving you more depth of field in order to take large, sweeping photographs where everything is in focus. The smaller you set the number, the smaller your depth of field. This means that only the main subject of your photograph will be in focus while the surrounding parts of the image will be blurry. You want a smaller depth of field if you’re taking pictures of specific, smaller things, like petals, insects, or jewelry. In order to set the aperture for these small focuses, your camera must be in manual mode. Note the dial above your program dial – it’s black and grooved. Below it are two buttons. The one on the right is the exposure compensation button. Hold this button down and turn the dial left or right to adjust your aperture. For tiny objects, an f1.4 of f2.8 setting is perfect. Once you’ve adjusted for the depth of field, you may have to modify your ISO. On your Canon DSLR, the ISO settings available to you are 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. ISO100 is the default setting, and if you’re shooting at an f1.4 in a well-lit area, it will be fine. But if you’ve closed the aperture with a higher setting, such as f22, and the area is dark, you may want to bump your ISO up to 400 or 800 in order to capture the right image. Changing your ISO is as easy as pushing a button. When looking at the LCD screen of your camera, note the “SET” button to the right. It is surrounded in a circle by 4 other buttons. Pushing the top of these four will change your ISO speed. Remember, if you’re moving your ISO up, it is not necessary to use the flash. Third and finally, the shutter speed must be adjusted in order for the new ISO and aperture settings to actually work. Because you’re changing the amount of light going through the lens, you’ll need the lens to open and close at the right speed in order to capture the right amount of light in your photo and avoid overexposure. With your small aperture for tiny objects and an ISO100 setting, the default speed should capture the image you want. You could speed it up if you’re focusing on tiny moving objects, like bugs, because the faster the shutter speed the less blurry the picture will be, but that isn’t always necessary. On the other hand, if you’ve increased the aperture and your ISO speed, then you’ll need to speed up the shutter as well. To change your shutter speed on your Canon DSLR you will use the same dial you used to adjust the aperture, just don’t hold down the exposure compensation button. Take a look at your LCD screen as you move the dial back and forth to make sure you’re moving it to the desired speed. Remember, shutter speed is in the top left of your screen and reads 1/4000 when at default setting. You want your shutter speed to correlate with your aperture and ISO, so if you’ve doubled the latter two, then double your shutter speed. Now, you may want to play around with it a bit, so adjust the speed faster and slower and take a few pictures to see how it works out until you find the exact speed that you want. With these three settings in your Exposure Triangle, you will be allowing the right amount of light into your image. And now that you know how to adjust them for the perfect picture, you can start playing around with overexposure in order to create some truly artistic pieces or to simply accommodate for unfortunate natural light settings in your photography space. For example, if you’re taking portraits and the sun or light source is behind your subjects, a little overexposure can help you light up faces without losing too much from the background. Manually adjust your exposure by pressing the same exposure compensation button you used to adjust the aperture, but this time don’t turn the dial. Just press it until you reach the desired exposure you want on the -2 to +2 scale. When pressing the exposure compensation button, you are telling the camera to ignore its default metering settings. Metering is one of the more difficult aspects of photography and can be a little frustrating for those just beginning to use their Canon DSLR. But now that you understand the exposure triangle and how to adjust it, you can move on to the next chapter about metering and learn how to accommodate for brightness and color saturation in your photos.

Intro To Canon DSLR

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Get ready to meet your brand new Canon DSLR! You’ve just taken it out of the box and might be afraid to touch it – don’t be! Pick it up and get to know it, because you are about to take some amazing photographs. The first step is turning it on and taking a look at the LCD screen. There is a lot of information staring back at you, but once you understand what it all means, you’ll know exactly how and where to adjust your settings for each individual photo shoot if necessary. Starting from the top left corner, take note of the fraction. It should read 1/4000. This is your shutter speed, which controls how fast or slow the picture is taken. The bottom number is the speed. The higher it is, the faster the picture is taken. The 1/4000 is the default setting and is commonly used in most amateur and professional photography, but adjusting the speed can create some artistic effects or give you the chance to capture blazing fast images. There will be more on that in Chapter 1. Moving left you’ll notice the aperture setting. It should read F4.0. Aperture controls how much light is getting into the lens, and the lower you set that number the more light you’ll let into the photo. While 4.0 is default, opening it wider to a 1.0 or 2.0 setting will give you blurry pictures, which can sometimes be desired. We will be learning more about the aperture in Chapter 1. The third item on this top row of your screen is your ISO setting. It should read ISO100, which is default, meaning you will get great photos in normal indoor and outdoor lighting. If you are taking photos in the evening or early morning hours, you will have to adjust this to a higher number in order to accommodate for the darkness. Lower numbers will help you when it’s exceptionally bright outside or you’re using a lot of indoor lights to create a specific ambiance for your photo. The first item in the second row on your screen is the letter P. This is the program mode for your Canon DSLR. As you use it to take different types of photos, you can adjust the program to better accommodate the people, places, or items you are photographing. The program mode is controlled by the dial on the top right of your camera. Moving the dial down to the flower or the human face will automatically tell the camera to focus on the faces or specific objects in the shot, but moving the P to M will give send you into Full Manual Mode. Manual Mode gives you complete control over the photograph, and you will be responsible for setting everything from shutter speed to ISO yourself. Next to the P is a range of numbers that should go from -2 to +2. This controls the exposure settings when you are in AV or TV modes. The closer you are to the negative side of things, the darker your picture will be. Positive numbers mean brighter photos. AV and TV mode are for advanced photographers, but in Manual mode you will easily control the exposure by adjusting the lens and viewfinder. These numbers will change as you move the viewfinder, so make note of settings you like so you can be prepared when you finally enter the AV and TV modes. Below that you will notice an “AWB” box. This means “Automatic White Balance”. In this mode, the camera is automatically setting your colors by balancing them against the whitest thing in the shot. If you move this into “RAW” mode, you will be in charge of white balance. You can set white balance against anything, be it a white t-shirt or a professional white balance card. But you can also set it against things that aren’t white in order to create some interesting effects with color. More about white balance will be discussed in Chapter 3. The eye symbol next to the “AWB” refers to your metering. Controlling the metering means you control how your camera reads and utilizes the available light. You can make this automatic, or you can control it manually. There are three different options you can choose – evaluative mode means the camera applies the light equally, partial mode means the camera will focus light on the focal point of your photo, and in center-weighted mode the camera will focus the light on the center of the photo. More on metering will be discussed in Chapter 2. Finally, the “ONE SHOT” you see next to the eye symbol controls your focus. The collection of diamond-shaped dots below it shows you where and what to focus on, and you can adjust your focus as necessary. If you’re in one shot mode, you should be taking portraits or pictures of other still items. Adjust the settings to the AI Focus if you’re taking pictures of things that might move, like children or animals. The continuous or AI Servo setting is for photos of things that are moving, such as cars. If you’re in manual mode, you can also accommodate for moving objects with your shutter speed as well as your focus, and you will learn more about this in Chapter 4. The remaining items on your LCD screen refer to how your files are being saved. The “L” means large files, which is preferred because it gives you as many pixels as possible. This will give you more wiggle room when it comes to editing and printing pictures. Nearby, you’ll notice the battery symbol regarding your battery life and your shot number regarding how much room you have on your memory card.

Editing Your Images like a Pro

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Lightroom is a great tool for editing your images and making them stand out. You can make your photos look like they’ve been taken by a professional photographer in just a few steps. This article will show you how to make your photos pop.

TIP 11: Creating HDR Effects in Lightroom

In other to accomplish the HDR effect, you would usually need to install a plug-in in Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom. However, what many people don’t know is that you can achieve the HDR effect by working with various tools in Lightroom. Before I start explaining how you can create HDR effects on your photos, you should bear in mind that you can easily save these adjustments in presets and use them whenever you want to accomplish the same effect next time.

Step 1

the Develop module and head to the Basics section and make these changes:

  • Contrast: +20
  • Highlights: -80
  • Shadows: +80
  • Whites: +40
  • Blacks: -20

These changes will increase the contrast and improve the dynamic range by recovering highlights and lightening the shadows.

Step 2

Now, you should set the value of clarity to +25, and the vibrance value to +5. Adjusting the clarity slider brings mid-tone contrast to the image, which produces the impression of a sharpened photograph. The value of +25 is actually on a lower end of the HDR look, and if you want to make a greater impact, you can freely move the slider farther to the right. Basically, the higher the value of clarity, the more sharpened the texture of the photo.

Vibrance is also important for the HDR effect. If you want your photo to have a stronger and more drastic look, you can just move the slider a bit farther to your right.

Step 3

This is our final step. Here, we’ll play with sharpening and noise reduction. The settings for sharpening are:

  • Amount – 50
  • Radius – 1.5
  • Detail – 40
  • Masking – 50

Here are the values for noise reduction:

  • Luminance – 40
  • Detail – 50
  • Contrast – 20
  • Color – 30
  • Detail – 50 (Not a mistake, You will have to adjust detail in two different parts)
  • Smoothness – 50

The settings I chose will apply a relatively slight amount of noise reduction and sharpening into the image without making any drastic changes. Naturally, if you want to accomplish a bigger impact, you can change the values. The beauty of Lightroom is in the ability to try out different values and choose the one you like the most. Below, you can see the before and after photos:

TIP 12: Make a fairytale-like sunset landscape

So, if you take a photo of a sunset and want to bring out all its beauty, then you will love this section. The best, easiest, and most certainly the fastest solution for achieving a fairy-tale like sunset landscape in photos is with the Split Toning tool. Split Toning is actually a technique originated in film photography, and its primary aim is to transform the colors of the image. When emphasizing a sunset, the effect is always stronger when other objects are just silhouetted against the sky. First, import your photo to Lightroom and press D to open the Develop module. To go with a silhouette, you have to adjust the black level or increase the contrast in order to make sure that the foreground is completely black. After that, scroll down to find the Split Toning tool. You will notice that the tool is split into two groups: For altering highlights For the shadows   The balance slider is located between two groups. Your next step is to use the hue slider to get the color you want to see in the photo. Once you’re satisfied with the color, move on to the saturation slider and bring the value up (move it farther to the right) until you get the preferred intensity. Do this procedure with both shadows and highlights. This tool gives you the liberty to experiment with different values and color combinations. Try to choose and test different intensities or combinations in order to find out what really looks best on your photo. Remember, the goal is to make it look fairytale-like and natural at the same time. You can use the balance slider to adjust where the boundary between shadows and highlights is. You should use it to decide what portion of the image some color will occupy. When you’re satisfied with the sunset you see on your image, save the changes and you’re done.

TIP 13: Creating a dramatic portrait effect

Some portraits require soft and pleasing effects, and yet, there are portraits that look better with a dramatic effect. The purpose of this tutorial is to demonstrate how to create a dramatic effect in Lightroom with just a few clicks. The primary aim of this process is to create a rough and intense feel or atmosphere in the image. Naturally, the first thing you should do is import your photo into Lightroom. Here is how to create a dramatic portrait effect:

Step 1

Open the Develop module (or press D) and go to the Basics settings. Then, adjust the settings as seen below:

  • Exposure: +0.36
  • Contrast: +50
  • Highlights: -60
  • Shadows: +40
  • Whites: -50
  • Blacks: -40

With these adjustments, we have successfully increased the dynamic range by changing shadows and highlights. Moreover, we have set a strong black point by moving the blacks slider to the left, which also increases the photos’ contrast. The photo you get after Step 1 may seem too saturated for you, but not to worry. That’s going to be fixed in the next step.

Step 2

For this step, you also need the Basics settings, but these are the adjustments you should make now:

  • Clarity: +90
  • Vibrance: +20
  • Saturation: -60

Due to the increased clarity value, the mid-tone contrast was boosted, which gave the sharpened look to the image. Desaturation resolves the problem from Step 1 and the image doesn’t look too saturated anymore. In turn, the photo has more intensity.

Step 3

Head to the detail section where you work on sharpness and noise reduction. Here are the adjustments you should make for sharpness:

  • Amount – 90
  • Radius – 2.0
  • Detail – 60
  • Masking – 0

Settings for noise reduction include:

  • Luminance – 30
  • Detail – 50
  • Contrast – 25
  • Color – 30
  • Detail – 30
  • Smoothness – 15

Step 4

The final step in creating a dramatic portrait is to add a vignette. In the Post-Crop Vignetting section, you have to change the amount to -20. Your portrait is ready.

REMEMBER: You can create a more dramatic look by increasing or decreasing some values. Play with the settings and presets in order to find what you like best.

TIP 14: Creating a Lomo Effect in Lightroom

Fun, vintage-style photos are highly popular now, and you can easily create lomography in Lightroom.

Step 1

First, open the Develop module and head to the Basics section where you will have to make some changes. Here are the values I used for my photo:

  • Exposure: +0.25
  • Contrast: -25
  • Highlights: -10
  • Shadows: +20
  • Whites: -10
  • Blacks: +10
  • Clarity: +20
  • Vibrance: -10
  • Saturation: -10

REMEMBER: Every photo has its own story, setting, and scenario, so you may need to make tweaks in some of the settings listed above and change their value up or down in order to get the best results for your particular image.

Step 2

The next step you have to do is change the tone curve. For the purpose of this photo, I chose medium contrast from the drop down menu in the lower right corner.

Step 3

After changing tone curve, you can move on to add a slight hue. In the hue section of HSL, you have sliders and options to change different colors, such as red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and magenta. For my photo, I chose purple (+10) and magenta (+5).

Step 4

Once you have picked a color you want and adjusted the hue, it’s time to play with the split toning effect. As you’ve seen in TIP 12, here you are able to adjust highlights and shadows.

For highlights, I chose:

  • Hue – 50
  • Saturation – 50

These values give a golden tone to highlights, which are perfect for a lomo effect.

For shadows, I used these values:

  • Hue – 290
  • Saturation – 50

The purpose of these values is to provide the lavender lomo look to the overall image. I also moved the balance slider to +25.

Step 5

In our final step for creating the lomo effect, we will add just a bit of grain and vignette. Again, the strength and intensity of these effects can vary from photo to photo, and you can use the values I set as guidelines to do your own. For vignette, I used a value of -50 for amount, and left the other settings as they are. This move gives a dark vignette that is moderately strong.

For the grain, I chose these values:

  • Amount – 20
  • Size – 40
  • Roughness – 60

And you’re done.

TIP 15: Create a high contrast black and white photo

Sometimes you need a lot of colors to make a statement, and in some cases, all you need is a black and white photo to send a powerful message or to showcase all the beauty of some object, person, etc. In this section, I will show you how you can do it.

Step 1

Import your photo to Lightroom, open the Develop module, and head to the Basics section. There, you will notice sections named color and black & white and; of course, you have to choose the latter. This step automatically converts your photo to the black and white version, and in the next steps, we will work on achieving a high-contrast effect.

Step 2

In this step, we will bring a dull black and white photo to life. You still need the Basics section, and here are the values you should insert:

  • Exposure: +0.12
  • Contrast: 85
  • Highlights: +10
  • Shadows: +15
  • Whites: +10
  • Blacks: -12
  • Clarity: +20

With these values, we gave a major boost to contrast and a moderate boost to clarity. Due to slight increases of exposure and relatively small boosts to highlights, shadows, and whites, we have also lightened the photo. This is important because black and white photos often become a little darker than you intend, particularly if you plan to print the image; therefore, lightening black and white photos is necessary.

Step 3

This is our final step. Here, we have to make some adjustments in the detail section and set the values for sharpness and noise reduction. For sharpness, I chose a value of 50 for amount. On the other hand, I chose 30 for luminance. Basically, values from this tutorial work on most photos that you want to turn into high contrast black and white images.

TIP 16: Creating a grainy matte effect in Lightroom

A matte effect is simple to create in Lightroom. It can be done in several ways, and in this section, I will show you the easiest method.

Step 1

The first thing you have to do to achieve a grainy matte effect is to make adjustments of the tone curve. Changes you make in this section include adding one new point and lifting the left end-point slightly. The curve, seen on the image below, is the foundation of matte effects.

Step 2

Now, open the Basic section in the Develop module and enter some values. Here are the changes I made:

  • Highlights: -15
  • Shadows: +40
  • Blacks: +10
  • Clarity: +15
  • Saturation: -10

If you’re not happy with the changes you see on the screen, play with the values in order to get the best result.

Step 3

The next step for us is to add a subtle Split Toning effect, and you can do so by going to the Develop module – Split toning. I entered these values for highlights:

  • Hue – 50
  • Saturation – 5

In the shadows section, I made these changes:

  • Hue – 270
  • Saturation – 10

The Balance remained intact, i.e. the value is 0. In order to strengthen the split toning effect, you can increase the saturation value.

Step 4

Now, all we have to do is add grain. The values I entered are displayed below:

  • Amount – 40
  • Size – 30
  • Roughness – 40

NOTE: Make sure to experiment with values and add values depending on the photos. For example, you don’t want to get too much grain in your image. If you think your photo has too much grain, in order to fix the problem, just decrease the values you entered.

Easy Tricks Every Lightroom Beginner Should Know

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Lightroom is practical and powerful. Not only does it contain numerous tools that you can use to enhance the quality of your photos, but it also helps you speed up the entire process. This chapter includes various tips that every Lightroom user should know. So, let’s begin.

TIP 4: Create Presets to edit photos faster and develop your own style

Presets in Lightroom allow you to save the adjustment sliders’ configurations in the Develop module. This helps you save time as you can apply the same adjustments to multiple images with one click. Presets also help you develop your own style by creating images with a consistent look. With Lightroom, there is no need to memorize the settings you’ve used for some photos; you can save them as preset and use them all over again. Here is how to create a preset in Lightroom:

  • Click the Create New Preset (+) button in the Develop module. It is located right on the top of the Presets panel or you can just use Develop – New Preset
  • You can choose the Check All option in order to select everything in the dialogue box or Check None in order to deselect preferences that were already made. Also, you can click and select each setting that you can see in the dialogue box in order to include them into your preset
  • Create a name for your preset and enter it into the Preset Name box, and specify which folder the preset will appear in, then click Create
  • After clicking Create, the preset you made will be added to the folder you have chosen, which is in the Presets panel

    When editing a photo, all you have to do is choose the particular preset you created and the settings will automatically appear on the image.

    TIP 5: Batch process images to save time

    In Lightroom, you can edit multiple photos at the same time with the Quick Develop panel that you can find in the Library module. All you have to do is:

  • Go to the Library module and select one ore more photos in Grid view
  • The Quick Develop panel allows you to: crop multiple photos by choosing a crop area ratio from the pop-up menu, change photos to Grayscale from the Treatment section, apply White Balance from the pop-up menu, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, etc.

All options you choose will automatically appear on the images you selected, which saves time that you’d usually spend on editing images one by one.

TIP: You can undo adjustments that you don’t like by pressing CTRL+Z on Windows or Command+Z on Mac.

TIP 6: Transfer adjustment settings from one photo to another

If you have several images to edit, you can also transfer adjustment settings from one photo to another with one click and save time. How to do it? It’s easy. All you have to do is click the Previous button in the Develop module to transfer settings from one image to another.

TIP 7: Improve the quality of images with creative tools

Lightroom contains a wide range of adjustment creative tools that you can use to enhance the quality of your image and draw the viewer’s attention to a specific area; (focus of the photo). Here are some of them:

  • Graduated Filter – With this filter, you can introduce the gradient-type effect to your photos. For example, you can darken skies and make it seem completely natural
  • Adjustment brush – This allows you to paint on adjustments to specified areas of the photo. For example, you can brighten a certain part of the photo without ruining the rest of it
  • Post-crop vignette – After you have cropped your photo, you can produce vignettes to make viewers focus on the centers of your photo. Moreover, you can also remove vignettes produced by the camera lens

TIP 8: Get a perfect look with the Spot Removal Tool

How many times have you taken a photo of your friend or even a selfie, only to see blemishes and pimples that get in the way of that pretty face? That happens a lot. Fortunately, in Lightroom, you can easily remove imperfections and get a perfect and smooth look. Here are the instructions:

  • Choose the photo you want to work on, and then open the Spot Removal Tool inside the tools icon in the Develop module (the tools menu is located in the top right corner). You can also activate the menu by pressing Q on your keyboard
  • The Spot Removal Tool works in two ways: cloning and healing
  • When you activate the clone option, you will have to select the blemish or any spot you would like to cover up or fix, and you have to choose another spot on your image to clone
  • When the heal option is activated, Lightroom automatically blends the brightness and tones of the spot in order to make a more natural look

Regardless of what option you choose; clone or heal, you will see three sliders that are important for your editing process. They are: Size, Feathe,r Opacity

The Size slider lets you control the size of the blemish or spot you work with. The Feather slider indicates how soft or hard the edges of the spots will be. For example, if the slider is left at 0, that means the edges will be hard and you can soften them by moving the slider and increasing the value. Opacity indicates the strength effect. By default, the slider is moved to the right and has the value of 100. If you move it in order to reduce or decrease the opacity, the effect will be weaker and the old spot will start to show through. Ideally, if you want to cover acne, pimples, and blemishes, you should leave feather at 0 and opacity at 100.

TIP 9: Adjust colors easily with Luminance

The HSL module is one of the most overlooked sections of Lightroom, but it’s quite handy. The term stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance, and the section is useful for bringing back the washed out colors in your photos. For example, let’s say you took a photo of people or objects on a sunny day and the sky looks washed out and almost white instead of blue. In order to fix it, all you have to do is head to the Develop module and open the HSL section. Then, click on Luminance and do a quick adjustment of blue or any other color you want to emphasize, and you’re done.

TIP 10: Rotate multiple photos at once

For example, you import several photos to Lightroom and you realize you have to rotate them. Instead of rotating photos one by one and wasting your time, you can easily rotate multiple photos at once. In the Library module, choose the Thumbnail view, select images, and rotate photos using one of these methods:

  • Toolbar – Press T or go to View – Show Toolbar and you will see rotation buttons
  • Keyboard shortcuts – Use⌘+[ to rotate counter-clockwise or left and⌘+] to rotate clockwise or right on a Mac. On the other hand, keyboard shortcuts on Windows are CTRL+[ for left and CTRL+] for right
  • Main menu – You can also rotate photos by going to the main menu and following these instructions: Photo – Rotate left (CCW) or Photo – Rotate right (CW)
  • Right click – The main menu version can be accessed by right-clicking or CTRL clicking on a Mac. When you use the right click, you will get the same CCW or CW options

You can choose the method that you find the easiest to rotate all photos and save some time.

REMEMBER: If you want to make a mirror image of your photo, then rotating won’t do the trick. You can do it by flipping the photo vertically or horizontally by going to the main menu and: Photo – Flip horizontal or Photo – Flip vertical.

How to Crop Photos

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The first step that most people use when post-processing their photos is cropping their images. This usually happens when you want to emphasize the focus of the photo and crop out an unwanted person or object. Cropping photos in Lightroom is somewhat different from cropping in Photoshop, but it’s quite simple and is done in 5 simple steps. You can find out more about it below.

Import photo into Lightroom

If you want to edit a photo that is already imported to Lightroom, then you can skip this step. On the other hand, if you wish to crop and edit a photo that you just took, you can easily import it to Lightroom by following File – Import Photos and Videos or you can just click on the Import button in the Library module. Browse and find the photo you want to crop.

Open Crop and Straighten panel

In order to crop the photo, you have to open the Crop and Straighten panel. To do so, you have to click the Develop tab located right above the image in the workspace, then select the Crop and Straighten icon from the toolbar. Once you select the panel, options for this tool will open. TIP: You can also open the Crop and Straighten options by pressing R on your keyboard.

Straighten photo

In order to straighten the photo, you should hover the cursor right outside the edge of the image until the cursor turns into curved double-ended arrows. In order to rotate the photo within the frame, all you have to do is click and drag. For the sample, rotate your image until the horizon line levels. TIP: Use the overlying grid as a reference to aid in leveling the horizon line. When you straighten your photo, you can safely release the button of your mouse. If you want to start over with the original image, just click the Reset button.

Crop image

When you have straightened your photo successfully, you can start cropping it. In order to do so, you just have to click on any corner of the photograph and drag it in order to resize and adjust the crop area according to your preferences. Also, you can press and hold down the Shift key on the keyboard to constrain your crop area to a certain dimension. When you’re satisfied with results, let go of the mouse button. Your next move is to click and drag the image in the cropping area in order to choose which part of the photo you will keep. REMEMBER: By default settings, you are able to resize the cropping area freely. If you prefer selecting one of standard ratios for cropping areas, you can do it by using the Aspect dropdown menu. Here, you can select ratios like 5×7 or 1×1. Moreover, in the same menu, you can constrain the original image dimensions or insert a custom ratio. In order to resize the cropping area freely again, you can just head to the right of the Aspect dropdown menu and click on the lock icon.

You’re done

When your photo is cropped and you have succeeded in eliminating objects or details that you don’t want to see in your image, just click Done, which you can find in the bottom right angle of your workplace.