Within the earlier articles on this collection, we’ve mentioned the methods to acknowledge nice gentle and the very best digicam methods to seize it. Now it’s time for the final step, understanding when and the way a picture must be post-processed.

A photo looking through a cave to the starry sky beyond.

This can be a panoramic scene created by focus stacking 4 photos, together with one picture captured with the deal with the celebrities and the opposite on the cave. Through the publicity for the cave, I used a small gentle panel for illumination. The 4 photos have been stacked manually earlier than merging all the scene.

Over time, I’ve developed a technique for producing photos which have the right distinction ratio for printing or publishing to the net whereas additionally incorporating my very own type. This largely subjective a part of producing your private work hyperlinks together with your pre-visualization and digicam method. Consider this technique as including furnishings to your property to make it yours.

Put up-processing isn’t just a technical perform however somewhat a mix of technical and artistic abilities required to create the ultimate picture. When enhancing a picture, I take into account it a efficiency that mixes my pre-visualization, enhancing abilities and fervour for my artwork at that very second in time. Future edits of the identical file may fluctuate, not simply due to my enhancing abilities but additionally resulting from adjustments in my focus and feelings.

Every scene is completely different and impacts the way in which I really feel. I take into account this, plus the technical facets of the method when enhancing, earlier than making any precise edits. I make some edits globally and depart others for a masked area the place I can management the colour and density to assist lead the viewer’s eyes via the scene.

An example of post-processing notes and the final image.An example of post-processing notes and the final image.

This scene of Cimon della Pala within the Dolomites reveals how imperfect gentle may be dealt with with the help of post-processing. The mushy shade of the morning and the atmospheric haze have been essential facets of the sunshine on this scene that impressed me to create a closing picture. I used two methods in digicam to perform what I had in thoughts: focus stacking and ETTR. If I did it excellent, I may then full the method in post-production by rising the brightness of the flowers within the foreground from a shadow to a midtone. Discover the flowers are in shadow. Discover the sky is a spotlight. Discover the mushy, low distinction gentle on the meadows within the center. These are all facets of the time of day and place from which the picture was taken. The sunshine within the sky is a spotlight, and the foreground is in shadow. As a result of the sunshine was not optimum, I used to be impressed by my understanding, or pre-visualization, of what this scene would change into. I used ETTR for the publicity, giving me probably the most shadow data doable for the post-production work forward. The publicity used for these 4 focus-stacked recordsdata needed to be very correct, inserting the very proper fringe of the information on the very proper of the histogram. This allowed for max brightness within the foreground shadows whereas not clipping the highlights. I used masks to deliver up the shadows within the foreground to midtone values.

Adobe Lightroom Traditional is the device I take advantage of most frequently and is the main target of what I wish to present you. Whereas I nonetheless use Photoshop and have invested 10,000 hours in it during the last 20 years, I’m fairly happy with the enhancements in Lightroom and discover that I can full most of my enhancing with out Photoshop. Masking is the principle motive I targeted on Photoshop for therefore a few years because it permits me to create extra intricate masks and provides me the chance to mix a number of photos collectively manually, one thing Lightroom is incapable of doing with out the help of computerized HDR or Merging. But Lightroom instruments have progressed considerably, permitting me to really feel assured in exhibiting you all that may be carried out with them.

Lightroom Instruments For Adjusting Distinction

Earlier than we get into my processing technique, we have to focus on distinction. Lightroom presents a number of instruments to alter the distinction of a picture, every producing dramatically completely different outcomes. You could use a few of them already with out realizing you’re adjusting distinction.

Once you change the distinction of a picture, you alter the luminance of all affected pixels. Any device used to extend or lower the density of a pixel adjustments the distinction. Some instruments apply distinction globally, whereas others use masks to have an effect on solely a particular area.

The impact of adjusting the distinction of a picture is important when working with RAW picture recordsdata. RAW picture knowledge is designed to look flat and lacks distinction. This offers you, the photographer, the chance to use the distinction to your choice somewhat than the digicam doing it for you. Modifying in Lightroom makes use of an RGB shade house that permits the editor to control distinction and shade concurrently. Because of this while you change the luminosity of pixels, you additionally change the colour. After making dramatic distinction adjustments, you’ll discover adjustments within the saturation. Usually, as you add distinction, you additionally improve saturation. Every device we’re going to debate has a novel method of adjusting distinction, with some having a larger affect on shade than others. The trick to making use of distinction changes is to use them area by area; don’t apply them globally. In case you sharpen your file in Lightroom, use the Masking slider throughout the Particulars Panel, as I’ll clarify.


It is very important perceive that sharpening instruments regulate distinction to alter the obvious sharpness of a picture, regardless that it isn’t usually thought of to be a distinction device. The highest two sliders within the Element Panel underneath Sharpening are Quantity and Radius—these sliders are by far probably the most important. The Quantity slider lets you improve or lower the distinction ratio alongside the perimeters of all element. The Radius slider lets you improve or lower the variety of pixels affected by the Quantity slider—while you improve Radius, the world affected is bigger. In case you improve the radius an excessive amount of and the viewing distance to your closing picture is just too shut, a halo turns into seen. If seen from a larger distance, the halo seems as a sharper edge. These sliders work on what known as a “kernel,” which is a particular sort of masks that determines what’s an edge (and due to this fact ought to be sharpened) throughout the picture.

As a result of sharpening instruments shouldn’t be utilized globally, Lightroom presents a slider throughout the Element Module known as Masking, which alleviates potential issues attributable to international sharpening. This slider creates a masks of all of the areas inside your picture that maintain little or no element and are exterior of the kernel. Once you improve the worth of this slider, increasingly of the picture is masked away, permitting solely particular areas, or what’s throughout the precise kernel of information round all the perimeters of your picture, to be affected by your sharpening settings. In case you maintain the Choice key (Mac), or Alt key (Home windows) whereas dragging this slider to the suitable, Lightroom reveals the masked areas in black, leaving the area in white that will probably be sharpened. Slide this proper till the areas like a sky go black. I hardly ever go previous 50, as this may create a visual edge to the masks or kernel.


This device is used to regulate the quantity of distinction intimately much like edges however bigger in dimension. A sharpening kernel of information may maintain edges with 1 to five pixels. Texture impacts edges which are even bigger, similar to all of the limbs of a tree. This device can even reveal halos when overused.


That is used to regulate the quantity of distinction in topics nearer to midtones. It’s usually used so as to add extra distinction to cloudy skies. This device hardly ever creates halos, however whether it is used to extremes, it does reveal digital noise.


The Distinction slider impacts giant areas and is often used when making international changes. This device controls a lot bigger areas of darks and lights, making all the things brighter than a midtone even brighter and all the things darker than a midtone darker. There are a number of different methods to regulate and refine distinction in a complete picture, together with the Tone Curve, Spotlight, Shadow, Blacks and Whites sliders. The Distinction slider is a fundamental device that I hardly ever use as a result of it doesn’t provide the management I want.

One different device, Dehaze, impacts distinction however is so completely different from the opposite instruments that I left it out of our dialogue on distinction. Dehaze is a mix of distinction and shade saturation. Sure, it’s true that while you improve distinction, shade turns into extra saturated, however Dehaze additionally will increase the density of the colour in addition to the saturation. Growing Dehaze provides distinction and darkens colours, like utilizing a polarizing filter in your lens.

The Notorious Tone Curve

Utilizing the Tone Curve takes follow and is much less intuitive than a easy slider, so many new customers keep away from it. I discovered the way to regulate distinction with a tone curve and nonetheless imagine it’s a very highly effective device. The Tone Curve is a world enhancing device and may be in comparison with the Fundamental Panel luminosity sliders. There are a couple of variations between the Tone Curve in Lightroom and Photoshop, however the fundamental perform is identical. It provides you full freedom to regulate all of the distinction in any picture.

You possibly can add factors to the curve at any given density between black and white, then regulate that time by dragging it as much as make it brighter or right down to make it darker. That is all carried out on the RAW knowledge on a linear scale. The Focused Adjustment Instrument (TAT) can be utilized to disclose the place the density in your picture is on the Tone Curve after which edited accordingly. Within the higher left nook of the Tone Curve module, search for the small circle and click on it as soon as to activate it. Now scroll over your picture, and also you’ll discover the appropriately linked dot showing on the Tone Curve within the precise location of the density that density is linked to in your device.

One of many causes I want to make use of the Tone Curve for bigger, extra invasive edits is that the device is just not adaptive primarily based in your picture knowledge however somewhat unbiased and able to transferring the information the identical on any picture file. Once you use the sliders within the Fundamental Panel, similar to Shadows, Highlights, Blacks, and Whites, it’s doable to regulate them too far and create halos between areas of larger distinction. When you can regulate the Tone Curve too far, it doesn’t create those self same halos as a result of it doesn’t use masks when making use of the adjustment to the picture. The Fundamental Panel sliders are adaptive to your RAW picture knowledge and fluctuate primarily based on these values. Utilizing the Fundamental Panel sliders might look higher on sure photos, however there are many instances when it isn’t the superior technique to set the distinction vary, regulate the midtones or so as to add distinction. With out the masking results, the Tone Curve presents a really highly effective enhancing resolution.

Darkish & Moody

Example of dark and moody post-processing.Example of dark and moody post-processing.

Darkish & Moody. This picture was taken earlier than dawn underneath a thick layer of clouds. I employed this darkish gentle to create a temper and a protracted publicity to melt the water and clouds. I used masks to loosen up the darker midtone areas in and across the brighter water, in addition to to lighten the forests on either side of the stream.

Modifying photos may be simply as thrilling as photographing them. Wild climate in distant areas and reminiscences of favourite cinematic Hollywood options have influenced the way in which I painting my panorama photos. The lighting created for motion pictures like “Lord of the Rings” jogs my memory of instances I’ve spent within the wilderness. Hollywood is filled with examples of films that painting darkish and moody scenes that may affect us in varied methods.

A giant a part of what we bear in mind about instances in our lives is the temper. Moods are created by influences we would not perceive however direct us within the portrayal of the tales we inform. In the dead of night of a storm that lasted for days, I bear in mind feeling comforted not by the fury of the climate however by the refined nuances of what was left to watch, the little issues and the stillness. Locations the place the quiet is loud and divulges an nearly immobile and stylish world. I began in search of scenes the place darkness comforted me, somewhat than making me nervous, and settled in over me like a heat blanket.

Mild & Brilliant

Example of light and bright post-processing.Example of light and bright post-processing.

Mild & Brilliant. In an effort to disclose the softness of windswept dunes and lose any daring colours, the Tone Curve was the right alternative for making these edits. By eradicating distinction and shade saturation from this scene, this picture jogs my memory of the placement. It’s uncommon for me to take away distinction and shade in any scene, however this picture turned extra welcoming when the pastel colours have been revealed.

Brilliant photos convey happiness and heat and may deliver again optimistic reminiscences. Sitcoms in tv use excessive key lighting in most productions to convey the exact same upbeat temper. It was initially used again within the movie days to regulate distinction by merely limiting shadows to suit onto the restricted dynamic vary of the movie. I suppose the technical requirement to decrease the distinction ratio decided the sunshine, brilliant look. This exact same technique can be utilized in panorama images as a robust device to create the temper of a scene.

This method works nicely in nature in the event you deal with compositions with construction. Good examples of construction embrace a lifeless tree skeleton in opposition to a brilliant sky, patterns of rounded boulders separated by darkish shadows, and layers of ridges wandering off to the horizon. Every instance is a graphic composition with daring traces. I take advantage of ETTR (Expose To The Proper, mentioned in half certainly one of this text collection) on many topics through the center of the day to perform this look.

Another example of light and bright post-processing.Another example of light and bright post-processing.

Mild & Brilliant. On this scene, morning mist impressed me to loosen up the temper. It was a darkish, wet morning, all the things was dripping moist, and the rocks have been slippery. The colour forged was blue as a result of the solar had barely risen. The mist made this scene simple to transition into brilliant as I used to be capable of shade steadiness on the mist to remove the blue forged that was including to the gloomy temper.

Brightening a picture begins with understanding what you’re doing. Most of the shadows change into midtones, and many of the midtones change into highlights. The highlights may even get blown out or clipped. You create this look while you brighten all of your luminance values by about 25 %.


An example of painterly post-processing.An example of painterly post-processing.

Painterly. The scattered clouds created some dappled gentle that forged shadows on Lake O’Hara beneath. These gentle and darkish areas impressed me to try a painterly method. I knew I would wish to brighten the shadows from my first publicity, and my digicam’s giant sensor captured the dynamic vary wanted to brighten the shadows to a midtone.

I’m influenced by the romantic painters of the American West, similar to Albert Bierstadt and Charlie Russell. Each of those painters created drama with spectacular gentle to brighten the size of the immense grandeur of the West. The scenes included many vibrantly coloured clouds, and a few work used atmospheric haze to create depth and add scale.

Another example of painterly post-processing.Another example of painterly post-processing.

Painterly. The setting solar was sandwiched between clouds on the horizon, creating pure dappled gentle that was heat in shade. Different clouds within the sky bounced extra gentle into the foreground, giving extra element to the shadows. As a result of I used to be pointing the digicam into the solar, I needed to shoot a seven-image HDR bracket to seize sufficient good shadow element within the foreground rocks.

What made these work compelling was the dappled gentle. Usually the topic could be highlighted by a shaft of sunshine, leading to a luminescence that was enhanced by the encircling shadows. This luminescence could be very troublesome to attain when photographing a grand scene. Being in the suitable location to view such magnificent landscapes with an analogous gentle because the work turned intriguing. I’ve included two examples right here of the very deliberate method I course of with this painterly type in thoughts.


An example of textured post-processing.An example of textured post-processing.

Textured. Icebergs are a superb instance of a multi-surfaced topic that requires completely different instruments for various sides. The sky behind the ice wants distinction, requiring a masks. The sunny facet of the iceberg requires Texture, and the shaded facet requires Readability. I most popular Readability on the shaded facet due to the dearth of high quality element and clean surfaces. I made a separate masks for the sky and used Distinction and a little bit of Readability.

I’ve at all times been impressed by the quantity of element in nature. The shapes of geologic rocks, historical icebergs and three,000-year-old timber all have a lot to review. A lot of this small element forces me to seize it with as a lot decision as doable. Over time, I’ve used many various kinds of cameras to seize high-resolution photos. I’ve stitched a number of recordsdata from full-frame sensors, in addition to from high-resolution medium format sensors. Capturing this a lot element is enjoyable to take a look at and post-process, however it isn’t the one method to spotlight and show nature’s particulars.

Radical Edits

An example of radical post-processing.An example of radical post-processing.

Radical. I made this picture with a single file and a number of masks in Lightroom. At the moment, masking in Lightroom was new, and I used to be testing its capabilities. I uncovered this scene for the highlights so I might have sufficient element within the cloudless sky to seize the morning colours. The shadows have been much less essential for the success of the picture as a result of they’d change into a silhouette.

Out of the shadows! The sunshine that’s hidden within the shadows may be wonderful. Our eyes don’t see all the things, and if we don’t squint or particularly have a look at the sunshine at nighttime areas of a scene, we would miss it. Mild adjustments rapidly, topics may be transferring, and typically you solely have a break up second to seize a picture. The 2 examples I’ve included listed below are simply that—rapidly captured scenes with no time for fancy digicam methods. I used ETTR and hoped that I had sufficient data within the shadows to permit me to edit to my coronary heart’s content material.

Another example of radical post-processing.Another example of radical post-processing.

Radical. Whereas I like working in monochrome, I imagine that shade is more difficult when engaged on luminosity. Once you not want to think about shade throughout post-processing, it’s a less complicated course of as a result of shade limits every edit by including the problem of shade bit depth. When you perceive the way to course of shade photos, the transition to enhancing black and white is extra simple. I used to be assured that I might convert this picture to black and white once I captured it. Why? As a result of Japanese block carvings impressed me. Once you research these artistic endeavors, you discover robust shapes created by uncommon topic varieties. The outlines change into the compelling topic, which is strictly what these loopy splashing waves created. I selected to transform this to black and white to focus the viewer’s eye on the graphic shapes of the water and solar. The intense sky behind the waves helped delineate the wave profiles to create the mandatory distinction. As a result of it was sundown and the solar was on a hazy horizon, there was a lot much less distinction than through the brighter instances of the day. There was little or no element within the shadows, however as you may see right here, I used many masks to disclose sufficient element to present the water texture.

Mastering The Artwork Of Luminosity

Understanding gentle and the affect it has on a picture considerably improves the standard of your images. By observing the traits of sunshine, you change into skilled in deciding the way to visualize gentle and the way it contributes to your artwork. Once you create a picture on this gentle that you simply’ve pre-visualized, it turns into unforgettable. As you set this data into follow, I hope you’re feeling extra ready to seize these fleeting moments. 

This three-part article collection is excerpted from The Artwork of Luminosity by Marc Muench, obtainable as a free obtain at muenchworkshops.com/e book.

Textual content & Pictures By Marc Muench –>

(function(d, s, id) {
var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
js.src = “https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.6”;
fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

Shop Amazon