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Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Post Production Tips

Nobody likes a grainy photo, right? The majority of the time we want less graininess. In the digital world, we see grain as the enemy. But is it really? I’ll tell you now that grain isn’t always bad. I’ll go even further than that and say that grain can actually be something that adds to the strength of your photographs.

Film grain gets a bad rap because it’s often confused with digital noise. The two are, in fact, entirely different. In this article, I’ll talk about the difference between noise and grain. Then I am going to show you how to use Lightroom to purposefully ADD grain to a photo. Get ready. Be bold. Embrace the grain.

It’s grain…not noise

The difference between digital noise (sensor noise) and grain comes down to the light sensing properties of each. Digital sensors convert light into an electronic signal using an array of photosensitive diodes. These are the “pixels” or “picture elements” of the sensor. Digital sensors carry “noise” based on a number of things such as the size of the sensor, its temperature, and the ISO setting.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Digital noise at ISO 5000

Film, on the other hand, uses light sensitive silver crystals which are embedded in the emulsion of the film. The physical manifestation of these crystals is what we perceive as film grain. The higher the film’s ISO, the more crystals are present, hence more grain.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Agfa Vista Plus 200 ISO 800. A cropped section of an image by Akio Takemoto

Grain is an organic characteristic of the analog film process. It’s almost like a fingerprint exclusive to the type of film you’re using. Perhaps that’s why film grain is gaining a growing acceptance among new photographers in this digital age of imaging.

This notion hasn’t been lost on the developers at Adobe and they have given us a way to simulate the grain patterns present in film with our digital images. Depending on your photo, adding some creative film grain can impart a vintage feel of earthiness to your digital image. And you’re about to learn how to do it in Lightroom in…3…2…1….

I hope you enjoyed the dramatic countdown.

Adding Grain in the Effects Panel of Lightroom CC

You can find Grain in the Effects panel of the Develop module in Lightroom CC. It’s where you can do a number of things but for this occasion, we are going to focus on the grain section. You’ll notice there are three adjustment sliders; amount, size, and roughness.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

This is how you will essentially replicate those light sensitive crystals found in film emulsion I mentioned earlier.

**Note, it’s wise to apply grain (like most effects) as the last part of your final steps in post-processing.

Amount of grain

The amount of grain is controlled by, you guessed it, the “Amount” slider. Think of this as the number of crystals you are adding to your image. The higher the amount, generally the higher ISO look the effect. Here’s a +40 grain amount on an image shot at ISO 640.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

It is a good idea to use a large increase in the amount of grain while adjusting the next two sliders and then back it off from there until you reach the desired amount.

Size of grain

The size of the grain plays a big part in how apparent it will be in your final image. Larger crystals will be more noticeable even at low amounts. It’s virtually the same concept as high and low “grit” sandpaper. Now here’s a +40 boost in grain size from the last image.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Keep in mind that the further to the right you move the slider the larger each grain will become. This can diminish small details in your photo so use with caution.


Grain roughness is closely related to grain size. The difference is that the roughness slider controls how raised the grains appear to be from the image. Essentially how rough or smooth their surface appears. The next image shows the same +40 amount of grain with the size set back to the +25 default. This time I increased the roughness to +70.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Think back to the sandpaper analogy. The more raised the grain the rougher the overall texture and thus the texture of the final grain effect.

Here are a few more examples of using simulated grain in Lightroom. Black and white images have always loved grain.

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Black and white image with Grain set to +50 Amount, +71 Size, +50 Roughness

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Grain set to +30 Amount, +66 Size, 0 Roughness

Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom

Grain set to +60 Amount, +18 Size, 80 Roughness

Final thoughts on grain

Never forget that grain is completely different than noise. Grain is, in some ways, the signature of film. Adding it to your digital images can sometimes, not always, give your photos a non-mechanized flavor that hints back to the organic appeal of analog film.

You can control this effect easily in Lightroom by adjusting the amount, size, and roughness of the grain. The combinations are virtually limitless. Just remember, as with all processing effects, use them up to, but never past the point they were intended. That being said, never be afraid to experiment and “go against the grain”…sorry, I had to say it.

The post Tips for the Creative Use of Grain in Lightroom by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Easily Add a New Element to Your Image Using Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

This is an article for beginners in Photoshop. You will learn how to simply add an element to your photo and transform a daylight image into a nighttime one.

Open your selected images in Photoshop

First thing you want to do is select a photo of a mountain (in raw format). For that, open Photoshop then go to File > Open, it will open a window where you can select the photo that you want. Here we select raw file of the mountain:

Add element using photoshop 01

Raw adjustments first

Because we opened a raw file it is going to pop up in Adobe Camera Raw and we are going to retouch it to make it look like night first. Let’s set the White Balance towards the blue, so move the Temp slider to 4150. Then you want your Exposure to be very low so it looks dark, try -1,90, lower your Highlights to -84, add some Contrast to +39, boost the Blacks to +28, and lower the Whites to -46. Basically bring down the bright parts and boost the darker parts to give the image a night mood.

Add element moon photoshop 02

Now click on the sentence under your photo: ProPhoto.. and select Open in Photoshop as a Smart Object.

Add element photoshop 03

Open the element you want to add

Once you have done that you can come back and open an image or element to add to the first image. We are going to select a moon that we want to add to this mountain. Go to File > Open and select one photo of a moon in jpg.

Add moon photoshop 04

Arrange your workspace

You should have the photo of the moon and the mountain in tabs on the top of your Photoshop interface. If you don’t see that, you can go to Window > Arrange > Consolidate all tabs:

Add moon photoshop 05

For this tutorial we need a workspace with two windows on the right, one is to show Layers and one is for Properties. For that you need to select “3D” from the pull-down menu for Workspace in the upper right corner.

Add moon photoshop 06

Move the moon or element onto the mountain image

Go to your moon photo and grab the Move tool, it is the first icon on your left side (tools palette), the keyboard shortcut is V.

Add moon photoshop 07

Using the Move tool you need to click on the moon, hold your mouse button, drag it over to the tab of the mountain and let go of the mouse to drop it.

Add moon photoshop 08

Blending the images together

You can see that we have black around the moon still, so we are going to blend that out. In the layer window there are different options for Blending Modes, For this one we are going to use Screen. Pull it down and select Screen from the options.

Add moon photoshop 09

That took most of the black out.

Resize and place the element

To make the moon even bigger, go to Edit > Free Transform.

Add moon photoshop 10

Using the shift key to maintain its proportions, you can extend the moon by grabbing the corner and pulling it down.

Add moon photoshop 11

You can also move the moon or your element around, and see where you want to put it. It looks pretty cool already but now we are going to get into masking. For this you will need to click on the Eye icon next to the moon layer number (to turn it off) and click on the layer of the mountain to select it.

Add moon photoshop 12

You should see this now.

Select the Quick Select Tool (W on your keyboard) and drag your mouse over the sky to select it.

Add moon photoshop 13

Turn the moon layer back on and click on the little square icon at the bottom to create a layer mask (shown in red below).

Add moon photoshop 14

This is going to create a mask and because we have an active selection, a part of the moon is now hidden.

Add moon photoshop 15

If you want to reposition the moon you just have to select the moon layer and click on the little chain on the side to unlink the image of the moon from the mask.

Side note: if you make a mistake you can select Cmd/Ctrl+Z to go back or undo the last step.


Fine adjustments

You can see that there is a difference of color around the moon because of the layer, so to fix grab the Brush tool. (hit B for brush on the keyboard) or the select the Brush on the tool palette).


Make sure that the opacity is at 100% and that black is your foreground color. Right-click and set the hardness to zero. This makes your brush very soft and you can brush over the white to remove it.

Side note: Click on the Control and Alt keys to make your brush or any tool in Photoshop smaller or bigger.

Add moon photoshop 18

Add moon photoshop 20

Here you can see where I painted on the mask.


Add moon photoshop 19

There you go! You have added a moon to your landscape!

I hope you liked this article and you feel more comfortable using Photoshop so you can add the moon or another element into your landscapes and create this cool effect.

If you enjoyed this tutorial and want to learn more about how to use Photoshop, check out Serge’s course Photoshop for Photographers 2017. Use the special promotional code – DPS65 – to get 65% off as a dPS reader!

The post How to Easily Add a New Element to Your Image Using Photoshop by Serge Ramelli appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Have you ever found your photos flat? The colors are muted and it just looks dull? That’s because it lacks contrast. Sometimes regardless of your best exposure skills, the conditions are not suited to get a wide range of tones. Not to worry though, it can be fixed in post-processing. I’ll show you my workflow for how you can take control of contrast in your images using Curves and Levels in Photoshop.

Of course, there are many ways to adjust the contrast on Photoshop, there’s even a tool called Brightness and Contrast, however, it doesn’t give you much control. What I like to do is to manipulate Curves and Levels. In this article, I’ll explain to you why and how I use these tools to boost contrast.

The issue of low contrast

Low contrast can happen for many different reasons; bad weather for example or photographing through glass. In any case, the resulting image doesn’t show a wide range of tones, in other words, there’s not enough difference between the lights and the darks.

I find this problem occurs especially while traveling, because you can’t go back to the location when the weather is better, or because you are seeing things through a pane of glass. For example, the image I will use for this tutorial was taken through the window while traveling on a tour bus.

How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

How do you know it’s low contrast?

I chose an image where the contrast is clearly low so that you can easily see the effects of every step. However, in some cases, it won’t be as obvious, but you can always review the histogram to know the tonal range of your image.

A typically correct exposure should have a histogram that reaches from black (left) to white (right) evenly spread, with the highest values in the middle. Please note that this can change if you are going for a different effect like low key or high key where you purposely choose a specific range to work with, so I am just talking about the average image here.

As you can see, in this case, all the information is concentrated in the middle tones, but it doesn’t reach the black or the white side (see histogram below). This is why the image has no contrast.

How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Using Curves

First, we are going to manipulate the Curves tool. Remember to do it on an adjustment layer and not directly on your original (this is non-destructive editing), that way you won’t loose any information and you can always go back and start again if you don’t like the results. To do this go to the menu then: Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Curves and a new window will pop up.


You can also get to Curves on the Adjustment panel.

Curves adjustment

Inside that, you’ll find a graph with the histogram on it. The line that crosses the graph controls the contrast; the steeper it is, the greater the contrast.

Curves- How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

You can fix anchor points along the line that you can move up or down to adjust the contrast of the image. Add as many anchor points as you need. The higher right quadrant controls the highlights and on the lower left one, you have the dark tones.

Curves Anchors - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

If you want to increase contrast, as we do in this case, add one anchor point in the lower left quadrant and slowly pull it down. Watch how it affects the dark areas of the image. Move it until you’re happy with the result. Then add another anchor point in the upper right quadrant and pull it up slowly until the highlights are bright enough for your preference. By making the straight line into more of an s-curve you will add contrast to the image.

Note: if you have an image with too much contrast the opposite can work. Pull down the highlights, and push up the dark areas on the curve to get an inverted s-curve.

After fixing the curves for the overall image, this tool allows you to fine-tune by channel. The step we did before was working on RGB, however, if you click on the drop down menu you can choose each channel to work with separately.

In this case, let’s start with the Blue channel. If you pull up an anchor point from the highlights (the upper right quadrant) you are making the sky, which is the lighter part of the picture bluer. In the left lower quadrant (the shadows) pulling the anchor a little bit down allows you to remove some of the color cast.

Next is green channel so that you can get a wider tonal range out of the forest and nature of the scene. The adjustments are very subtitle because when you are working in such detail the tools become very sensitive. Move around the graph until you are happy with the result.

Remember different light sources have different colors;  a sunset has warmer colors than at noon, artificial light can be more yellow than natural light, etc. Apart from correcting any color bias, it works to add some special effects and get creative. In the next example, you can see what happens when the graph gets completely inverted in the red channel. You can also achieve this by playing with the different presets, in this case, color negative.


Using Levels

Next, you want to manipulate the Levels, also using an adjustment layer. You can do this by going to the menu > Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Levels (or you can find it on the Adjustments panel just to the left of Curves). Again a new window will appear with a different graph, this represents the darkest parts of the picture (0) to the lightest parts (255).

Levels - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

You can manipulate contrast by dragging the sliders underneath the graph, however, you will have much more control if you use the eyedroppers. This is how to work with them:

First, choose the white eyedropper (bottom one next to the graph) and click on the lightest part of the image that still has information or detail. You’ll notice how your entire image becomes lighter and brighter. Don’t worry about getting it right on the first try, you can click around on the image until you are satisfied with how it looks.

Levels white eyedropper

Levels White - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Then pick the black eyedropper and click on the darkest part of the image with detail. Same as the white one, try it until you get it right. You can always do some final adjustments with the sliders as well.

Levels Black - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Finally use the gray (mid-tones) eyedropper to set the ambiance or mood of the scene, as it will change depending on where you click. Here some examples:


In Levels, you can also do the selective adjustments by channel if you need.

Before and after

And there you go, when you are satisfied with your results, flatten the image by going to the menu Layers – Flatten Image. See how the histogram has a much wider range now, and the final image has more impact.

How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Before image.

Before - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Before adjustments for reference.

Histogram After - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Histogram after Curves and Levels adjustments.

after - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

After image.

Handling reflections – example

Remember that when you are photographing through glass there might be reflections, and when you boost the contrast these reflections will be much more noticeable. So think about that before shooting, when you are composing your image.

In order to demonstrate this for you, I made a photo while enjoying a panoramic view from a skyscraper in Milan. It was a 360 degrees glass wall, so I was bound to have a reflection. In order to use it to my advantage, I decided to place my foot strategically so that its reflection would be in between two buildings and entitled the photo “Stepping into Milan”.

Skyscraper Before - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

Before processing.

Skyscraper After - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop

After processing, notice my foot in the lower left corner?

Dull weather – example

As I mentioned before, it’s not only shooting through glass that can give you low contrast scenes. Here I have another example that had to do with the weather. It was a very cloudy day so there were no shadows, everything looked kind of gray and the light was very flat. This too can be fixed with Curves and Levels following the previous steps.

Canal Before - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop Canal After - How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop


Now you know that a low contrast photo doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a flat or dull image, so shoot away! I hope you found this helpful and if you have any doubts or tips about contrast, please share them with us in the comments section below.

The post How to Take Control of Contrast Using Curves and Levels in Photoshop by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

When it comes to noise reduction, you always have two goals. First, obviously, you want to get rid of any digital noise in your picture. But secondly, you want to preserve detail. These often work against each other because increasing noise reduction often leads to a loss of image detail, but if you focus on preserving the detail then you may end up with a noisy picture.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

So what can you do about it? Different people have different methods, but for me, there is a good, better, and best way to go about noise reduction. As you might imagine, my good way is simple, the better way involves a little more effort, and my best way requires a lot more effort (and can be rather complicated). In this article, I will walk through my favorite options so that you can decide if one of them is appropriate for your own noise reduction workflow.

“Good” Noise Reduction

Lightroom has very good noise reduction tools. They are powerful and really easy to use. They reduce noise and do a decent job of preserving detail. Further, the noise reduction in Lightroom seems to get a little better with each new iteration. If you want a good noise reduction tool that will take up almost none of your time, simply use Lightroom.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Lightroom noise reduction sliders.

The primary slider is the top one labeled Luminance. I think of that as the amount of noise reduction being adding to your photo. From there, you can fine-tune your noise reduction using the additional sliders below it. Frankly, however, if I am using Lightroom for noise reduction, it is because I want it to be quick and easy, so I usually just use the Luminance slider.

Suggested starting points

You may be wondering about a starting point for the amount of noise reduction to apply. Of course, that is hard to do, and it depends on a lot of things. First of all, it depends on the ISO value you used. It also depends on the low-light performance of your camera. However, I hate the “it depends” answer, so to give you an idea of a starting point taking into account those variables, here is a chart with some suggested values for the Luminance slider.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Suggested starting points for noise reduction settings in Lightroom.

Of course, there are other factors involved as well, which this chart does not take into consideration. For example, dark tones will show noise much more than lighter tones, so you may need to increase the amount where you have darker tones. Just use this chart as a starting point, and don’t take it as a definitive range that you must stay within.  Always do whatever the picture requires, even if it is drastically different than what is set forth here.

Read more on noise reduction in Lightroom here: How to do Noise Reduction in Lightroom

Selective Adjustments in Lightroom

The noise reduction settings within Lightroom will apply to your entire picture. We are going to get into selective noise reduction later, but I should mention here that you can also use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to selectively add noise reduction.

Select the Adjustment Brush and find the slider labeled Noise. That’s right – you only have one slider for this, so think of it as the equivalent of the Luminance slider you used above. From there, just set your brush size (you can use your left and right bracket keys for this) and paint in the effect where you want it. You’ll see better ways to selectively apply noise reduction in a minute, but if you aren’t too picky about the selection then the Adjustment Brush might be the tool for you.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Noise reduction slider inside Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush.

“Better” Noise Reduction

Normally, when I want to bring out the heavy artillery in any aspect of post processing, I find that I need to head into Photoshop. That is sort of true here, in that we will be heading to Photoshop, but then again not true in that we won’t be using Photoshop’s noise reduction. I find that Photoshop’s noise reduction tools aren’t that great, and Lightroom actually works better (there are plenty of people that disagree with me though, so make up your own mind about that as you use them both).

Instead, I merely use Photoshop to take advantage of third party noise reduction software that works within Photoshop. Yes, you could also use them from Lightroom, but using them within Photoshop will allow you to take advantage of Photoshop’s powerful masking techniques (which you will see in a minute).

Noise reduction plugins

What are these noise reduction applications that are available?  Let’s take a look.

  • Noiseware: First, we have Noiseware by Imaginomic. I mention this first because it is the application I have used for my own noise reduction for the past several years. It works really well, does a great job eliminating noise, is simple to use, and it preserves a lot of detail. There are several presets to choose from and then a few sliders to make adjustments from there.
  • Nik Define: A free option is Nik Define. It is part of the Google Nik Collection, which is now free. It does a nice job of reducing noise, and if you are looking for a free option this is a good one. The downside is that it appears this software is no longer being updated and its days are numbered.
  • Noise Ninja: This is part of the Photo Ninja Suite by Picture Code. The entire suite costs $129. I personally have not used it, but the reports I have heard from others and the reviews have always been positive. Read: How to Reduce Noise with Photo Ninja for more info.
  •  Topaz Denoise: Topaz makes a series of plug-ins that do a variety of functions really well. Their noise reduction software is called Denoise and it costs $79 (or you can get the whole suite of apps for $500).  I haven’t used this one either, but the reviews have been good and my experience with other Topaz apps has been very good.
  • Macphun’s Noiseless: Inside Macphun’s Creative Kit you will find the Noiseless plugin (you can also buy it alone). Read this for more info on this option: Macphun Noiseless Pro Software Review

Any of these will do a nice job.

Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques

Screenshot of Noiseware interface.

“Best” Noise Reduction

The best way I have found to apply noise reduction is exactly the same as the way you just saw, except that you apply it selectively. The reason is that noise reduction reduces detail in your image. It is often hard for noise reduction software to tell the difference between noise and important detail. That is particularly true in night sky photos, where the many stars can resemble the random flecks that constitute noise.

Basic Masking

To avoid having your noise reduction software reduce detail, you can use Photoshop to mask off the more important areas of the sky. To accomplish that, you just create a layer mask so that the noise reduction only applies to certain parts – which will be white in the mask – of your image.

A simple, but admittedly imprecise, way to do this is with a brush. If you start with a “reveal all” (white) layer mask, you will then use the brush (color set to black), which will keep the noise reduction from reducing detail in the areas you choose. On the other hand, if you start with a “hide all” (black) layer mask, you will paint the entire mask with white except the part where you want to preserve detail. You can get as course or fine as you want (or time allows).

An example of masking off noise reduction in an area where you want to preserve detail in the picture. This applies to the cliffs picture at the top of this article.

How to do you do it? First create a new layer copy (Ctrl/Cmd+J if your picture only has one layer, or Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Alt+E if you have multiple layers already), then apply your noise reduction as you normally would. After that, just click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom, which will create a white (reveal all) layer mask (or press Alt while doing so to create a black layer mask to hide all). Then just use your Brush (B) to paint with the opposite color as your mask.

You can get as involved as you want with masking. You likely have your own favorite ways already, so go ahead and use them. There is no right or wrong way to mask.

Applying Noise Reduction

So those are my three ways to apply noise reduction. You can add some quick noise reduction in Lightroom, which takes only a second. For slightly more involved but also more powerful noise reduction, add the addition application of your choice. For your most important pictures – or the ones with the biggest problems – add noise reduction and then use masking to limit the effect to the specific areas you want.

These are just my ways though. Do you have your own special methods that are different?  If so, let us know about it in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful it is just one of 31 tips you will get if you grab Jim’s new dPS course: 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer.  Enrollment for this course is only opened for a limited time and closes August 11th (5 more days) so get it now.

The post Good, Better, and Best Noise Reduction Techniques by Jim Hamel appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Make Creative Lightroom Develop Presets for Portraits

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

It’s natural for portrait photographers to take lots of photos during a shoot. Therefore, it’s also helpful to have a system in Lightroom that allows you to save time processing your portraits. The easiest way to do this is with Develop Presets.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

A Develop Preset is a record of the processing work you have done on a photo in the Develop Module of Lightroom. The idea is to save the settings you used in a preset that you can then easily apply to other photos. The end result is that you save time and finish developing your portraits more quickly.

Let’s take a more detailed look at how it works.

1. Select a portrait to process

First, select a portrait and adjust it in Lightroom. Alternatively, use a portrait you have already developed.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

2. Create a Develop Preset

Make a new Develop Preset by going to the Presets panel (on the left-hand side) in the Develop module and clicking the plus icon on the right (or, go to Develop > New Preset).

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

When you do this, the New Develop Preset window appears. There are three sections you need to pay attention to, see below.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

A. Preset Name and Folder. Give your preset a name and select the folder you want to save it in. The default folder is User Presets but you can pick another or create a new one by going to the New Folder option at the top of the menu. It’s a good idea to create a new folder for your Preset as it helps you keep your Presets panel organized.

B. Auto Settings. Lightroom gives you the option to tick the Auto Tone box. I recommend you leave it unticked. Otherwise your preset may behave unpredictably when you apply it to other portraits.

C. Settings. This is where you tell Lightroom which Develop Module settings you want to include in the Preset.

Some settings may be unique to your photo. For example, you may have used a Graduated or Radial filter to make the background darker. These won’t work when applied to another portrait with a different background, so you should leave those out.

It’s also a good idea not to include Exposure or White Balance settings. These need to be adjusted individually for each portrait. For the same reason, you should leave the Sharpening, Noise Reduction, Lens Corrections and Transform boxes unticked.

You can tick all the other boxes, as shown in the above screenshot.

3. Apply the Develop Preset to other portraits

The next step is to apply the Develop Preset you just made to another portrait. Open the new portrait in the Develop module. Click on the Preset you just created, which you can see in the Presets panel.

In this case, I created a new Develop Preset, especially for this article.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

You can also apply your new Develop Portrait to more than one portrait at a time. This is useful if you have several portraits that you would like to develop in the same style. Here’s an easy way to do it.

1. Go to the Library Module and select the portraits to which you want to apply the preset. It helps if you have already organized your portraits in a Collection.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

2. Go to the Quick Develop panel. You can access all your Develop presets under Saved Preset. Select the preset you just created from the menu. Lightroom will apply it to all of your selected portraits.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

3. Open the portraits one by one in the Develop module and tweak the settings or retouch them if needed.

The creative power of Develop Presets for portraits

Now we’ve explored the mechanics of creating Develop Presets for portraits, let’s look at some of the creative things you can do in the Develop Module. All of these can be included in presets. Eventually, you will build a personal library of your own presets for portraits.

There are four techniques that are useful for portraits.

1. Apply a vignette

There are two ways to apply a vignette in Lightroom.

The first option is to go to the Effects panel and use Post-Crop Vignetting. Move the Amount slider left to apply a vignette. Use the Midpoint slider to change the area covered.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

Here’s a before and after example.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

The only drawback of Post-Crop Vignetting is that the effect is centered. That leads us to the second way of creating a vignette which is using a Radial Filter. The advantage of Radial filters is that you can put them wherever you like.

Here you can see two screenshots of a Radial Filter I applied to a portrait. The first (left) shows the position of the Radial Filter. The second (right) shows the area affected by the Radial Filter in red.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

I moved the Exposure slider left to make the area outside the Radial Filter darker.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

This is the comparison so you can see the difference.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

2. Adjust colors in the HSL / Color / B&W panel

Lightroom also gives you the option of adjusting the saturation and luminance (brightness) of individual colors. You do this in the HSL / Color / B&W panel.

In my portrait, there is some blue paint on the wall behind the model. You can adjust only that color by going to the Saturation tab and moving the Aqua and Blue sliders left.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

These photos show you the effect.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

3. Split Tone

Split toning isn’t just for black and white, it’s very effective for color portraits as well. The effect is similar to color grading used in TV shows and movies.

One option for split toning is to apply blue to the shadows and orange to the highlights. Another is to apply teal to the shadows and yellow to the highlights. Here are some settings you can try.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

Here are the results.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

4. Adjust the Tone Curve

You can use the Tone Curve panel to create a matte look. That is where the blacks are dark gray rather than black as if the photo has been printed on matte paper.

Lift up the left-side of the RGB curve, as shown in the screenshot below. You can also do the same with the blue curve for a similar effect that also adds blue to the shadows.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

These are the results.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

Adjustment Brush presets

You can also create your own Adjustment Brush presets to make retouching portraits easier. A good example is Lightroom’s own Soften Skin preset, which sets Clarity to -100 and Sharpness to +25.

I like to make the model’s eyes more defined by creating an Adjustment Brush and setting Exposure to around +0.30 and Clarity to +70.

Lightroom Develop Presets for portraits

You can make an Adjustment Brush Preset from those settings by going to Save Current Settings as New Preset at the bottom of the Effect menu. Give the preset a name and Lightroom saves it in the Effect menu. You can also use this preset with the Gradient and Radial filters.


Develop Presets are powerful tools that help you leverage Lightroom’s advanced developing options. With the techniques in this article you can use presets to speed up the developing process and apply creative effects to your portraits.

Do you have any questions about using Lightroom Develop Presets? Please let us know in the comments below.

Are you a fan of the natural / vintage look in portraits? Then check out my Vintage Portrait Presets for Lightroom. There are over 30 presets to help you create beautiful portraits in Lightroom.

The post How to Make Creative Lightroom Develop Presets for Portraits by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Lightroom is a fantastic tool for organizing, editing, sharing, and even printing photos and is an essential tool in the workflow of many photographers today. Unfortunately, it sometimes gets a bad rap when compared to its big brother Photoshop since the latter can do far more in terms of altering, enhancing, changing, or otherwise editing pictures and images. That’s not to say it is a slouch by any means, and you might be surprised at what it can do when you start to learn to use more of its powerful, yet sometimes hidden, features like Auto Mask in Lightroom.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine - rabbit photo

You mean Lightroom has advanced image editing capabilities I don’t know about? Go on, tell me more…

What is Auto Mask and how to find it?

The best way to get started with the Auto Mask feature is to navigate to the Develop module in Lightroom and then click on the Adjustment Brush tool. This lets you change all sorts of parameters like exposure, contrast, clarity, sharpness, and more, but only on specific parts of a photo instead of altering the entire image at once. You can select from various brush presets or move the sliders to create your own adjustments, then click and drag on the image itself to implement those adjustments.

You can even use multiple brush adjustments on the same photo and selectively erase your adjustments in case you want to undo anything. When you look at all the features the adjustment brush tool offers, you can start to see just how powerful and useful it really is. What’s more, at the very bottom of the adjustment brush panel is a little check box called Auto Mask that can dramatically increase both the usefulness and effectiveness of this tool in general.

How does Auto Mask work?

In a nutshell, the Auto Mask option constrains the edits of the Adjustment Brush to a narrow band of colors that are very close to where you originally started brushing in your adjustments. Because the Adjustment Brush is circular in nature it can be tricky to confine your adjustments to specific areas, especially when working with angles or hard edges.

To show you just what the Auto Mask does, I’m going to make a few changes to this image of a water valve. It’s not the most stunning picture and won’t win any awards, but thanks to the Auto Mask feature it can at least be made to look a little more interesting.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine - before photo

Editing this is going to be tricky. Or, rather, it would be tricky without the Auto Mask feature.

Using the Auto Mask

In this picture I want the reds and greens to really stand out, and while this could be accomplished with the Color sliders and adjusting the overall saturation of the red and green color values, I want a little more granular control of exactly what parts of the image I’m going to edit. By using the Adjustment Brush Auto Mask feature, I can do exactly that.

To do this process on your own, navigate to the Adjustment Brush panel, select a preset or move the sliders to your own liking, adjust the size of the brush, and then tick Auto Mask. Then click the “Show selected mask overlay” option at the bottom of the Develop window (or press O on your keyboard) so you can actually see where your adjustments are being applied. In the example below, I used this process to apply extra saturation to just the yellow circle. I only brushed on the top-left quadrant and left the Mask Overlay turned on so you can see how the adjustment brush was confined to just within the yellow circle.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

The red portion is just an overlay showing where the adjustment brush was applied. Auto Mask is a great way to make sure you always color inside the lines, just like your kindergarten teacher told you to do.

Auto Mask helps you work fast!

To finish off this particular edit, I filled in the rest of the yellow circle with the same method and within about seven seconds I had a picture that was much improved over the original.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

To finish off the image I applied an adjustment brush to the red portions of the water control valve, and because I used Auto Mask I was able to do it in 34 seconds. Literally. I even used a stopwatch to time it.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

The finished picture has adjustments applied only to the red and yellow areas, without anything creeping over into the green background.

The process can be even faster if you increase the size of your Adjustment Brush as far as it can go, making it easy to instantly apply an adjustment to virtually the whole picture at one time. As long as you have Auto Mask enabled, the brush adjustments will be limited to only the parts of the picture that are similar in color to where you actually click your pointer.

Auto Mask with the Radial and Graduated Filters

There’s another way to use the Auto Mask setting in combination with the Radial or Graduated filters, which can be extremely useful if you shoot landscapes, architecture, or other scenarios which often are enhanced by those two types of filters. Frequently there are objects in landscape or architecture shots that don’t necessarily benefit from having a radial filter applied, and yet unless you use the Brush tool with Auto Mask it can be very difficult to work around them.

To illustrate how this works, here is a shot of a building that would be an ideal candidate for using the Graduated Filter as a way of enhancing the sky, except for the columns rising upwards from the structure.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

This kind of image is ideal for a Graduated Filter, but the columns make it a little tricky unless you kick it up a notch with Auto Mask.

Here’s the same shot, but edited with a Graduated Filter applied that increases saturation and slightly adjusts white balance.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

Adding a Graduated Filter made the sky significantly improved, but also altered the color of the columns.

The issue

The image is much better, but when Show Selected Mask Overlay is selected, it’s clear that a few problems have cropped up.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

Showing the Overlay lets you see exactly where the Graduated Filter has been applied. The same thing works for the Radial Filter as well.

At issue here is the fact that applying the gradient to the sky has also changed the saturation and white balance of the building itself, particularly the columns. Normally, the solution to this would involve painstaking work in Photoshop to create and edit separate layers, but Lightroom has an easy solution thanks to the Adjustment Brush tool and Auto Mask.

Auto Mask with the Graduated Filter

With the Graduated Filter option still selected, click the “Brush” option at the top of the panel. Not the icon, but the text option that shows up just to the right of “Edit” (shown below).

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

You can now use the brush to apply the same edits in the Graduated Filter tool. But rather than applying more edits using this method I like to remove the effect from unwanted areas, especially with Auto Mask enabled. To fix the image of the building and sky so that the gradient is not applied to the columns or to any part of the building, press the [alt] (or [option] on a Mac) key which causes the brush tool to change from a plus (+) with a circle around it to a minus (-) with a circle around it. Then while still holding down your modifier key double-check that Auto Mask is enabled, and brush the parts of the image from where you wish to remove the gradient (see below).

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

You don’t have to worry about staying inside the lines. Auto Mask takes care of that for you.

A few clicks of the mouse later and the image now has the Graduated Filter applied only to the parts where you want it, without altering the areas of the photo where it is not needed. All thanks to the power of Auto Mask.

How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine

The finished image, with only the sky affected by the Gradient Filter. I also brushed away any traces of the filter from the roof and side of the building.


This particular example involved the Graduated Filter, but the same process can be used to modify any edits you make with the Radial Filter as well.

Note: I also want to note that this is only available in current versions of Lightroom, so if you aren’t on Version 6 or the Creative Cloud plan you may not be able to use the Brush tool to edit the Graduated or Radial filters. But the Auto Mask will still work with your Adjustment Brush tool.


While this is clearly a long way from Photoshop’s powerful and meticulous editing capabilities, hopefully, it illustrates that Lightroom is not exactly a slacker in the editing department. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this as well and also know if there is anything I might have missed. Please leave your responses in the comments section below.

The post How to Use Auto Mask in Lightroom to Make Your Photos Shine by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Why I Use ACDSee Versus Adobe Bridge for Culling Images and More

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Believe me, I have tried. Over the years, I have tried to wean myself off ACDSee. But, like Al Pacino in The Godfather, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”. ACDSee does what I want it to do and, as a single package, and it does it better than anything else I have found.

I use Lightroom as a factory, a mass production tool. I import the images, I process them, that’s it. For a long time, I have felt no urge to look at anything other than the Library and Develop modules.

ACDSee Image Software

The wood shed.

Continuing the analogy, what I might call handcrafted images, are processed in the garden shed, with Photoshop. Pretty much everything else I do in ACDSee.

ACDSee in place of Adobe Bridge

First and foremost, ACDSee is an Adobe Bridge replacement for me. For something like 80% of the time, I use about 20% of its capacity, that is its ability to act in the place of Bridge. I am certain that I have only launched Adobe Bridge once in the last year. I had to do it just once to write this article! ACDSee simply does it better in my opinion.

ACDSee Image Software

Standard file manager style screen

Any of the different versions, even the most basic of them, meet my needs. The screen shots for this article are from ACDSee Ultimate, but my previous experience is that all versions work in a similar way. You would need to work out just how many bells and whistles you wanted to invest in. ACDSee offers a good comparison of the different versions on their website. I am sure you would find that ACDSee is not a challenging piece of software, it works quite conventionally.

This article may well invite some comments suggesting that “such and such” software does that too, and I am sure that is true. Is the elephant in the room Photo Mechanic, is it Irfan View, or even Adobe Bridge? I am also sure that there are even others. So I try others, I give them a go, but I end up back in the arms of the little-known all-around beauty which is ACDSee.

ACDSee Image Software


I tend to be a little bemused when I have heard people talk about having a lifestyle. I have wondered if I ought to get myself such a thing. My reaction is not much different when people talk about having a workflow. Different situations seem to me to require different approaches, and I have wondered if I should get myself a workflow.

The truth is that I am not totally slapdash. For example, if I have been out on a photo walk, there is a routine which I tend to follow. Stepping through that routine seems a good way to look at some aspects of ACDSee. Here is my process.


ACDSee provides a ton of choices for importing photographs, let me highlight just one.

ACDSee Image Software

Import window of ACDSee.

I am a huge believer in the adage that “Data only exists if it exists in two places”. The extension of that thought is that you do not actually have a backup until you have a third copy. Presuming that you leave your images on the card in the camera, ACDSee gives you the choice to make two copies on import and to give you those second and third copies of your images. The first copy can be imported to one folder and the second copy can be imported to another location. That might just prove to be a very useful safety net one day. You might be glad you tried ACDSee for this reason alone.

It might be a consequence of having used computers since before The Ark, but I still tend to think in terms of named and dated folders. Libraries, collections and the like, clearly work for some, but I import to my date/location file structure, then into Lightroom from there.


One of the most important parts of my workflow (Oops! did I just admit to something?) is the culling process. I will take a long time sorting through the photographs, in sweeps, which are progressively more demanding, deleting those which I do not want to spend time processing. ACDSee helps me with the cull in at least 3 ways.

ACDSee Image Software

1 – ACDSee is fast with RAW files

Subjectively, I tend to find Adobe Bridge rather clunky to operate and slow in responding. It was painfully slow to open a folder and draw the thumbnails on a computer with quite high specifications. The same folder was opened, with thumbnails and images viewable very promptly, in less than ten seconds with ACDSee. It was taking so long with Bridge, the images were still not viewable after 2 minutes, that I moved to another copy I have of the same images on a faster, SSD drive. In all fairness, Bridge was then just as quick as ACDSee.

ACDSee Image Software

Adobe Bridge

Objectively, ACDSee is faster at drawing a RAW file than Bridge to an insane degree. I took shot Image A and opened it to a full-screen view in ACDSee, then in Bridge. Then I reversed the process and opened Image B in Bridge first, then in ACDSee. Both ways, using ACDSee, the image was clear, viewable in sharp detail, within 2 seconds. Using Bridge, after more than 30 seconds I gave up, clicked to zoom in, and only then did it become a clear, sharp, fully-drawn image.

ACDSee Image Software
That adds up to an awful lot of time over the years. I cannot fathom that there is anyone who likes sitting and waiting for their computer to catch up. Not only would you save a huge amount of time cumulatively, it also makes for a much more satisfying experience.

2 – Comparing images is easy with ACDSee

Second, the process of culling is easier because ACDSee offers an excellent tool for comparing photographs in close detail. I know Lightroom offers something similar, probably others do too, but none seem to work as well as that in ACDSee. Often I will have a series of four or five shots (or more) which are largely similar. ACDSee lets you put those shots on screen, next to each other, all at the same time. Actually, I think it works best with just three on screen at a time.

ACDSee Image Software

Three or more photographs compared side by side.

The choice as to which photograph to keep often comes down to a technical decision such as which shot is the sharpest. For a portrait, that usually means looking at the eye. With ACDSee, when you zoom in on one of the photographs which you are comparing, all of the shots zoom in to the same point, at the same level. Again, I acknowledge that other software probably does this, but I have not come across all the things I want, working as well as they do, in one package.

ACDSee Image Software

All three shots zoomed in to the same level.

3 – Full-screen mode

The third way in which ACDSee helps me cull images is that it goes to full screen so very easily and quickly. It displays photographs in the way I want to see them. Full screen, with no window border, no mouse pointer. Double click or hit Enter and you are in full screen. Also “Crtl/Cmd+scroll wheel” zooms you in. That is how I want to view photographs.

Then, there are two bonuses. First, a right click option is Zoom Lock, which means I can Page Up and Page Down between shots which are full screen and zoomed in to the same point and level. You might even prefer this to the side by side comparison. The next bonus, which can be useful now and then, is that the EXIF data can be brought up very quickly with ALT/OPTION+Enter in the full-screen view mode.

ACDSee Image Software

Full-screen mode, with the EXIF data, added on the right.

All the above is mostly about ACDSee being used as a replacement for Adobe Bridge. One important thing I have not squeezed in so far is that you can open an image straight into Photoshop from ACDSee. It does the file browser function of Bridge just as well, and a very easy keystroke combination of Ctrl/Cmd+Alt+X takes the image into Photoshop. It is probably the only shortcut I can use without looking at the keyboard.

These factors alone make a case for why ACDSee keeps pulling me back in. However, there is more!


ACDSee Image Software

ACDsee has a good selection of batch operations.

The tools which I probably use most often, and they work very well, with all the options you could ask for, are the batch tools. I find it so helpful that ACDSee will batch resize a number of images, then convert the file format, then rename them. There are a few other tricks too.

It is not part of the batch menu but, at least in my mind, it is linked. I often publish directly to social websites where, again, you are given useful choices.

ACDSee Image Software

Send to …

ACDSee Image Software

This is probably a good place to mention again that I know Adobe has the tools to do all of this. But I do not think anyone can believe that they are as simple to use, and they are certainly not all in one place.


As I have already confessed, I am still in the mentality of file browsers, and that is the format which you are looking at with ACDSee. It has all the benefits which you would expect from such a tool. You can search, play with metadata, sort by different criteria, look at different views … it just works well.

ACDSee Image Software

Full-screen slideshow.

Seems this might be the time to mention that ACDSee does good slide shows too, with some level of sophistication. Full screen, with the toolbar you can see above only appearing when you click on the screen. Most notably, that gives you the ability to change the delay. For more sophisticated settings, you can dig a little deeper.

ACDSee Image Software

Slideshow settings window.


Finally, the part of ACDSee which I use least often, though still appreciate, is the program’s capacity as an image editor.

I do sometimes use it for one-off processing of an image. Some people suggest that ACDSee is a full blown alternative to products which are much better known. ACDSee will handle RAW, it has layers, it is non-destructive … it has some clever tricks … if you do a search on You Tube, you will find plenty of people offering not just enthusiasm, but solid tuition that might persuade you that ACDSee can meet ALL your photographic needs in what would then be a very reasonably priced package.

Read dPS author Leanne Cole’s review here: Photo Editing Alternative – An Overview of ACDSee Ultimate 10

It might seem trivial, but what I often use ACDSee for is cropping and leveling. Without a description of the minute details, it has all the usual cropping facilities, but with the easy ability to set dimensions precisely to the pixel.

ACDSee Image Software

Pixel precise cropping.

You can then place the mask precisely on the image, in a way that I have not found any other program capable of doing. I also like the way it allows you to vary the opacity of the image area outside the mask. If you set a crop dimension and move through a series of photographs, the dimension will also be retained from one photograph to the next.

ACDSee Image Software

A helpful tool.

It also works similarly with regards rotating the image.

ACDSee Image Software

You can rotate by the degree.

I’ve not used anything else which lets you rotate the image with such precision, auto-cropping as you go.

Again, a clear display of what is happening, with helpful options


I love the forensic, hugely detailed reviews which, for example, DP Review conducts. This article cannot be of that nature. It is more a taster, highlighting a few of the things which I find helpful to me personally, and which might work for you too. I also join others in celebrating the underdog, particularly if it is, in fact, a really good team, which plays a good game.

Why not go over to ACDSee, download it for a 30-day free trial and give it a go yourself. If you already use it, tell us in the comments below what features you love the most and why.

The post Why I Use ACDSee Versus Adobe Bridge for Culling Images and More by Richard Messsenger appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Quick and Dirty Method of Using the Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Let’s say you use Lightroom and you’ve tried and tried to get rid of those distracting spots using Lightroom’s Spot Removal Tool but no matter how you set it – using Clone or Heal or changing the Opacity or increasing the Feather – you have a giant, obvious repair on your image. Not good!

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - wild horses

This is my final, processed image but I had to dive into Photoshop to get there.

You’re a good photographer

For kicks, let’s agree that in addition to knowing your way around Lightroom, you’re a skilled photographer. You also subscribe to Adobe CC, but honestly, you don’t use Photoshop much. Perhaps you’re even a little bit afraid of it. You loaded the software and update it whenever Adobe tells you to but other than the PS icon looking cool and professional in your dock, you don’t actually use it.

You just don’t use Photoshop

I mean, Layers, Masks, Blending? Ugh. I know. I do 90% of my work in Lightroom. No one has ever called me out on that so I keep on keepin’ on with Lightroom. I love Lightroom but – and it’s a great big but – LR’s Spot Removal Tool is no match for Photoshop’s Spot Healing Brush Tool.

Because I know this issue affects so many of us, I’m going to teach you the quick and dirty method for how to Spot Heal in Photoshop. No layers. No tricky stuff. Just easy, quick simple repairs for the problem areas in your images.

Practice as you read this

Grab an image that has a problem area that you can’t seem to fix in Lightroom and follow along with me. Practice is the best way to learn so repeat these steps a few times today. After you Spot Heal a few images in PS, it will naturally become part of your image processing tool kit.

Step #1 – Process the image in Lightroom

In Lightroom, process your image as normal. Here’s my RAW  image before I’ve made any adjustments.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - raw image

Canon 7D Mark II, 70-200 plus 1.4x @ 280mm, f/6/3, 1/1600, ISO 400.

Below is a screenshot of all the adjustments I’ve made on my image. I started with a pretty aggressive crop. You can see the White Balance and Basic adjustments but I also dropped in several Radial Filters to add clarity and brightness to key elements like the horses’ eyes. However, I struggled to get rid of the flecks of mud around the black horse’s eye.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - Lightroom adjustments

Step #2 – Edit in > Photoshop

Right-click on your image. Select Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - Edit in Photoshop

It is very important that you don’t skip this step. Do not open your image directly in Photoshop. For the down and dirty method to be most effective, you must start this process in Lightroom.

NOTE: If you haven’t updated to PS CC 2017 or if you use an older version of PS, you might need to modify these steps. Instead of Edit in Adobe Photoshop CC 2017, you might see Edit a Copy in PS.

Step #3 – Select the Spot Healing Brush

It takes a minute, but eventually, your image will appear in the Photoshop window. Here’s the image I’m working on. Check and make sure your screen looks pretty similar to mine.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - PS interface

Click on the Spot Healing Brush Tool. It looks like a band-aid except that it has a little semi-circle handle over it.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - band-aid icon

If you can’t find this tool, count seven icons down on the tools pallet and right-click on that. Once you right-click, you should see the rest of the tools. Hover your cursor over the band-aid icon that says Spot Healing Brush Tool. Click to select it. It will now show as the active tool.

Step #4 – Setup the Spot Healing Brush

Review the settings for the tool bar that runs across the top of your Photoshop window.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - mode and type

If your Spot Healing Brush Tool doesn’t default to these settings, change them to:

  • Mode = Normal
  • Type = Content Aware

Step #5 – Zoom in

Zoom in and increase the size of your image so you can see the problem area more clearly. Click the Command/Alt key and the + (plus) key simultaneously. Click again to zoom in more. If you’ve zoomed in too far, click the Command/Alt Key and the – (minus) key simultaneously to zoom back out. Grab the drag bars on the bottom and right side of the image to reposition the problem area so that it’s in the middle of the screen and easy to see and repair.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - zoom in

Zoomed into 200%, I can see the problem area clearly.

Step #6 – Size the Brush Tool

Hover the Spot Healing Brush Tool over the problem area. You may need to change the size of the brush. The easiest way to do that is to use the square bracket keys on your keyboard.

  • Click the Left Bracket Key [ to decrease the size of the brush.
  • Click the Right Bracket Key ] to increase the size.

Notice that as you click on the bracket keys, the Size number in the bar that runs across the top of your image increases or decreases. (If you click on that number, you’ll get more tool options. Don’t worry about those for now.)

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - 20px brush

Using the Left Bracket Key, I adjusted my Spot Healing Brush Tool to 20 pixels and started making small repairs around the eye.

Step #7 – Brush over the bad area

After you’ve adjusted the size of your brush, start clicking on the area of your image that you want to repair. You can also drag the brush to make short strokes.

Photoshop is smart and should fill in the area with an appropriate selection but if it doesn’t, click Edit > Undo Spot Healing Brush in the top menu (or Cmd/Ctrl+Z will also undo). That will undo the last thing that you did.

If you want to undo multiple things, go to Edit and click Step Backward repeatedly till you’re at the last point that you liked. Step Backward does have limitations so work slowly and check your repair work often. Note: you can aslo open the History panel and go back to any previous step.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - undo

Step #8 – Save

Evaluate your work. Do you like the repairs? If Yes, go to File > Save in the top menu. Photoshop defaults to saving images as a TIFF file. If it doesn’t, select the TIFF option if/when the menu pops up. This will also import the newly edited image into Lightroom.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - save

If you don’t like the repairs you made, quit Photoshop without doing anything. Photoshop will ask if you want to save your work. Just say No. Go sip some coffee and try again another day when you’re fresh.

Step #9 – Head back to Lightroom

Almost done!

Go back to Lightroom. You’ll still be in the Develop Module with the original RAW image that you were working on still open. Press G for Grid which will take you to the Library Module. Check to make sure that next to your original RAW file is a new TIFF file. Select the two images and view them in Survey Mode so that you can look at them side by side (N on your keyboard).

If the two files don’t show up right next to each other in Lightroom resort your images by Capture Time (or file name), or drag and drop so that they do.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - compare

Side by side of RAW file adjusted in LR (on the left) and TIFF with the addition of spot healing (on the right).

Wait, don’t you have to use layers in Photoshop?

That’s the down and dirty part. When you’re doing simple fixes like this, you don’t need to worry about layers. Why? Well, layers are excellent if you’re doing quite a few things to your image and you want to be able to turn different effects on and off. They’re also important so that you preserve your original image in a background layer (non-destructive editing).

But with this method, you still have your original RAW file. That’s why you want to start in Lightroom and then open your image from there into Photoshop. Lightroom sends a copy of your image to Photoshop. When you save your work in Photoshop in step #8, Photoshop generates a totally separate image file. That new TIFF file shows up in your Lightroom catalog next to your original RAW file.

NOTE: If you haven’t updated to PS CC 2017 or if you use an older version of PS, you might need to modify these steps. You might need to select “Edit a copy” and not “Edit Original.”

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - final image

This is a wild horse so I didn’t go too crazy fixing every little thing, but the distracting mud around the eye and on the neck is cleaned away nicely, don’t you think?

What if the down and dirty method doesn’t work?

This might not work for your image. Some repairs are finicky and this is definitely a hack method that won’t work for everything. My advice is to experiment. Remember the other tools that were grouped with the Spot Healing Brush Tool? Try one of those. Or, keep using the Spot Healing Brush Tool but change the Mode from Normal to Replace or even Multiply.

Remember when we clicked the Size number? Click that again and adjust the Hardness of the brush or the Roundness. Make only one change at a time and make notes on what each change does. If something works, click File, then Save and remember what you did. If nothing works, exit out of Photoshop without saving (and go have more coffee).

You can always experiment again another day because you still have your RAW image. It’s cataloged in Lightroom right next to the TIFF file. As long as you always start in Lightroom, you’ll be able to try again later.

Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool - Essaouira cafe

In this image of an outdoor seafood market in Essaouira, I experimented with a variety of tools to zip out the distracting bit of tree on the left, the construction equipment and the light posts. The RAW image, with Lightroom only adjustments, is on the left. The spot-healed TIFF is on the right.

Share with the dPS community: What hack or down and dirty methods do you use when you process your images?

The post Quick and Dirty Method of Using the Photoshop Spot Healing Brush Tool by Lara Joy Brynildssen appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

The worst part about taking photos of monuments and city streets is that you always get cars and people blocking the architecture behind them. It can be very distractive, and they take away from the real subject. In this Photoshop tutorial, you will learn a technique that will allow you to quickly remove people and cars from your photos. You do need to plan ahead and take multiple photos, but the results will be amazing!

Photoshop has this little-known feature that has been around for over a decade called Image Stack Modes.
The Image Stack Modes are sort of like a Blending Mode that blends layers inside of a Smart Object in a certain way depending on the algorithm that you select.

One of those Stack Modes is Median, which takes a statistical average of the content found in all the photos in the stack. It will keep identical areas and remove everything that changes between the different shots. It is very likely that cars and people will move and change locations from one shot to the next. Thus, you can remove people and unwanted traffic when the algorithm is applied, leaving only the background.

The tricky part is to get the right photos for this Stack Mode to work. Ideally, you should take your photos on a tripod so that the images line up better during the blend. However, if you do not have a tripod, hold your camera as steady as possible when shooting your images and you will still get great results.

The pictures that we will be using in this tutorial were shot by hand with a mobile phone. I wanted to use photos that were less than perfect so that you could see the power of this technique.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

When you take your photos, wait about 20 seconds or so in between each shot. You want to give people and cars enough time to move. In most cases, you will need between 8 to 25 photos.

Bring Your Photos into a Single Photoshop Document

The first step is to bring the image files into Photoshop as layers in a single document. To do so, go to File > Scrips > Load Files into Stack…

In the “Load Layers” window select “Folder” from the “Use” drop down. Then click on the “Browse” button, and look for the folder containing your images. Press OK after you have selected the folder.

The file names will appear within the window (as shown below). If all the files are there, press the OK button. Photoshop will then take all the files and place them in a single document as layers.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Auto-aligning Layers

For the Image Stack to work, the layers need to be aligned as best as possible. If you used a tripod when shooting the images, then your layers should already be aligned. The photos used in this tutorial were shot without a tripod, so we will need Photoshop to align them for us.

To align the layers, select them all by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on PC). Then go to the Edit menu and select “Auto-Align Layers.” Make sure that “Auto” is selected, and press “OK.” Photoshop will then look through all your layers to find similar pixels and align them accordingly.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Put Aligned Layers into a Smart Object

Now that all the layers are aligned, you need to put them into a Smart Object so that you can apply the Stack Mode. Select all your layers again by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on PC). Then right-click the space on the left side of any selected layers and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”

You should now only have a single Smart Object in your Layers Panel.

The Median Stack Mode

Now that all the layers are inside a Smart Object you can control how the set blends by using a “Stack Mode.” Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median.

This Stack Mode takes a statistical average of the content found in all the photos. It keeps identical areas and removes everything that changes between the different shots, such as people walking through the scene.

Faster Way of Doing This – The Statistics Script

You can get to this point in the tutorial by only using one single command!

The reason that I took the long approach was so that you could see what Photoshop was doing behind the scenes. If you get into trouble, then you’ll know what the steps were to create the effect, and you can backtrack to fix the problem.
To do this whole process in a single command, go to File > Scripts > Statistics…

In the Image Statistics window, select Folder you want to use. Click on the Browse button to find the images that you want to use in the Image Stack.

Once the images load, select Median as the Stack Mode, and check “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.”

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

This will Auto-Align the images, put them in a Smart Object using the Median Stack Mode. Getting you to this part of the demo all within one window!

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Fixing Image Stack Errors

Problems may arise when dealing with background elements that are always moving, such as water, clouds, or flags. In this example, the two flags on top of the Tribune Tower disappear. We can bring them back by copying and pasting a flag from one of the original images.

To see the original images, go to Layer > Smart Object > Edit Contents. A new tab will open that contains the contents of the Smart Object. Then look through your layers to see which of the original layers contains the best version of the item you would like to replace.

Select the Lasso Tool and make a selection around the objects. With the selection active press Cmd/Ctrl + C to copy.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

Go back to the working document and press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + V to “Paste in Place.” Repeat these steps with any other object that you need to fix.

Create a Smart Object to Hold it All Together

Select the all the layers by pressing Cmd + Option + A (Ctrl + Alt + A on a PC), right-click on the side of any selected layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object.” This Smart Object can now be adjusted or manipulated as if it were a single layer. You can apply the Camera RAW filter non-destructively to enhance the image color and tone.

Camera RAW Filter to Adjust Tones and Color

Select the Smart Object containing all the layers and open Adobe Camera Raw by going to: Filter > Camera RAW. This filter works a lot like Adobe Lightroom. The controls are in a similar layout and do the same things. Lightroom is built from the Camera RAW engine, so it will be familiar to you if you are a Lightroom user.

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop

You can create an HDR effect by darkening the Highlights and brightening the Shadows. Slide the Highlights slider to the left, and the Shadows slider to the right. Slide the Clarity slider to the right. Clarity adds contrast to the mid-tones.

Finalize the effect by adding Vibrance which is a controlled saturation. Vibrance adds less saturation to already saturated areas, and it protects skin tones in portraits.

Crop Your Photo

If you did not use a tripod, you will see that the edges of the photo are likely misaligned. To remove these imperfections, you can simply crop them out by using the Crop Tool. Press C on the keyboard, then use the handles to adjust the size of the crop. Press Return when you’re done.

This is how the final image looks:

How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop


Give this technique for and go try and remove people and cars from your images. Let me know how you make out and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments area below.

The post How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop by Jesus Ramirez appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Use the Folders Panel in Lightroom

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

The web is full of articles about Lightroom’s Develop Module. It’s the flash part of Lightroom, making our images look so much better. It truly is the heart of Lightroom, but if you can’t find images when you need them, you may as well have never shot them. That’s where the Folders Panel in Lightroom. Because if Develop is the heart of Lightroom, then the Library module is definitely the head.

The Library module is all about managing your images. It uses a range of tools to do this. Key among these are Folders and Collections. In this article, we’ll be looking at the Folders Panel.

The Folders Panel


The Folders panel shows a hierarchy that represents folders on your drive which have been imported into Lightroom, either directly, or created when importing images. Because it only contains imported folders, it may not include or show all folders or subfolders available on the drive.

Show/Hide Parent Folder

Don't Import Suspected Duplicates in the Import Dialog

Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates in the Import Dialog

The key feature of Folders in Lightroom is that they only allow an image to be located in one folder only. This is controlled by the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox in the Import dialog. There are good reasons for this.

First, physical duplicates take up space on your hard drive, and in backups. Secondly, how do you know if you’re looking at the right file to export if there are only subtle differences between them? You can, of course, create different versions of an image using Virtual Copies (without duplicating the file). The beauty of this is the copy only exists as a preview on disk, taking up very little room, but still allowing a managed set of versions to exist.

With the hierarchy in the Folders panel, you can move up and down the folder tree by using two commands available on each top level folder (the folders in which subfolders reside). These commands are; Show Parent Folder and Hide Parent Folder. The former reveals more of the folder tree on your hard drive, while the latter hides it.

Show/Hide Parent Folder

Show/Hide Parent Folder

Add Folder/Subfolder

Click the + Icon for more Folder options

Click the + Icon for more Folder options

Generally, most of the folders in Lightroom are created outside Lightroom, or as part of Import, but there are also tools to create them within Lightroom. Click the plus (+) icon in the Folders panel header to access the Folders menu. From there you can create a new folder or even a subfolder inside the current folder. When creating a subfolder, you can include images to move into it after its creation.

Find Missing Folder/Update Folder Location

It’s important you remember that Lightroom is a database, so it depends on the information collected upon import to do its job. One important bit of information is the folder’s physical location on your hard drive. If you move a folder outside of Lightroom (or even rename it), Lightroom will lose track of it. You can relink the folder using the “Find Missing Folder” command, but it’s generally best to move single folders and images inside Lightroom. If you want to move an entire tree somewhere else, use the Show Parent Folder command until you’re at the top of the tree. Then in the OS copy the whole tree to the new location.

Click the + Icon for more Folder options

Click the + Icon for more Folder options

You can quickly get to the top folder on your hard drive by using the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + R for Show in Finder/Explorer. Once the copy is complete, right-click on the top-level folder in Lightroom, and choose “Update Folder Location”. Browse to the new location and select the top level folder. Lightroom will now associate all the catalog information with the new file location. This is great for when you outgrow a drive but still want all your files together, as it allows you to move everything safely without losing any of your work.

Drives in Folders

Folders Drive Icon

Folders Drive Icon

Speaking of drives, each disk also has a tab in the Folders panel, showing the name of the drive, and information about it. A graphical LED shows a color to represent remaining space on the drive. Green means okay, orange means it is almost full. Red means critically full, especially for the drive that contains the catalog file. Black means the drive is disconnected, and the drive bar will be dimmed.

Video with More Info

To expand on this article check out my video on the Folders panel. It’s a pretty in-depth look at Folders in Lightroom and covers more than what I’ve gone through here. If you’re a visual learner, you’ll get more from watching. Check it out below:

If you’ve specific questions, don’t be afraid to ask in the comments below.

The post How to Use the Folders Panel in Lightroom by Sean McCormack appeared first on Digital Photography School.