Posts Tagged ‘Edit’

Capture One 21 Review: Dehaze, Speed Edit, and More

03 Mar

The post Capture One 21 Review: Dehaze, Speed Edit, and More appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Capture One 21 Review

In this comprehensive Capture One 21 review, I’m going to take you through everything you need to know about Capture One’s latest editing software.

In fact, as a beta tester for the newest release, I’ve spent plenty of time working with Capture One 21 behind the scenes (and I have used Capture One as my main editing software going all the way back to version 12!).

So let’s take a closer look at this software program – and determine whether it’s the perfect editor for you.

Starting with…

What’s new in Capture One 21?

The list of new features is a little lighter than in other major upgrades.

It includes:

  • A new import design
  • Dehaze
  • Speed Edit
  • ProStandard profiles
  • General speed upgrades and bug fixes
  • New tooltips and hints
Editing a portrait in Capture One 21 software
The familiar Capture One layout with a few new additions. Are these enough to make it worth the upgrade?


Capture One’s new Dehaze tool is a welcome addition for landscape photographers. Dehaze has been in Lightroom for some time now, and it’s nice to finally see it in Capture One.

Basically, the Dehaze tool is there to reduce the amount of atmospheric haze in images and improve the saturation in low-contrast photos. 

Dehaze is most commonly associated with removing fog or smog from an image, but you can also increase the haze – an effect that can add atmosphere. The tool can also be applied selectively via layers. To my eye, it seems to work quite well, but I’m a non-landscape shooter and have little to compare it to.

Now, I have seen this tool used to dodge and burn portraits, and it can subtly enhance faces if used sparingly. 

However, while the Dehaze tool is good (and many claim it’s better than Lightroom’s), it’s not really the tool that landscape photographers desperately wanted. And for those of you who are not landscape photographers (like me), it’s a tool you will rarely use.

Testing the Dehaze feature
As a non-landscape photographer, I will rarely use the Dehaze tool. I had to search through my archive for a landscape shot.

Speed Edit

Wow! Just wow! Capture One 21’s new Speed Edit feature is really good. I am a huge Loupedeck fan, but I may be moving away from it for editing in Capture One. The Speed Edit tool really is the next best thing.

In basic terms, Speed Edit is a set of keyboard shortcuts you use with your mouse to edit images. Simply hold down the key associated with the edit, then drag the mouse to make the adjustment.

The process works incredibly well in practice and, within a few minutes, becomes second nature. The ability to edit images in a full-screen layout with no distractions is amazing. The only thing you will see is an unobtrusive slider at the bottom of the screen showing which edit you are carrying out. 

Capture One 21 comes with the most common Speed Edit keys mapped for you, but these can be customized to suit your preferences. You can also adjust the sensitivity of your mouse. This can be changed easily, so if you are looking to get a set of rough edits done, you may want to leave the sensitivity quite low. Then, when you go back to complete final edits, you can fine-tune the sensitivity for precise control of the sliders. 

The speed edit keyboard shortcuts in Capture One 21
The main editing tools come with corresponding keys, but you can easily change these and add other shortcuts.

The adjustments you can make to an image with Speed Edit are:

  • Exposure
  • High Dynamic Range
  • White Balance
  • Dehaze
  • Clarity
  • Levels
  • Vignetting
  • Sharpening
  • Lens Correction

You can also use these shortcuts to quickly and easily alter the size, opacity, and hardness of brushes. I’ve heard some people comparing Speed Edit to PC gaming, and while I’m not a gamer, it feels natural to use the keyboard and mouse in harmony like this while editing.

Speed Edit is a serious timesaver and brilliantly implemented. It will save a lot of people a lot of time when editing – especially if you edit hundreds of files at once. Also, the ability to edit without toolbars allows you to focus solely on the image. 

using the speed edit function
The Speed Edit tool allows you to edit your images with no visual distractions, and it works perfectly in practice.

ProStandard profiles

This feature is currently only available for a selection of the most popular cameras, but Capture One is working on profiles for more cameras, and ProStandard looks like it will be the default profile for new cameras going forward. 

Capture One states that these “ProStandard” profiles have been completely reworked to give much greater color accuracy while protecting hues and color shifts. For people doing work such as product photography or reproduction of artworks, this is a massive improvement. 

But for those who are not in need of such accuracy, do the ProStandard profiles really make a difference?

The answer is yes – but it is subtle.

When I compared some files shot on a Canon 5D Mark IV, the unedited photo simply looked better with the ProStandard profile applied. Colors seemed a little richer and more lifelike, and it felt like a better starting point.

However, the difference is not night and day. So while ProStandard profiles are nice, they’re not an essential feature for most photographers.

A comparison of profiles
One of these is the standard profile, and one is ProStandard. Can you tell which is which?

Import and speed improvements

The Capture One import process had a facelift.

It is now easier to pick and unpick selects before you import images into the system, and while I haven’t run tests, the actual import feels much faster.

Improvements continue under the hood. Capture One feels snappier. It’s hard to quantify this, but it’s something I noticed, and no doubt a lot of long-term Capture One users will, too.

The import window in Capture One Pro 21
The import is improved in Capture One 21. It’s faster overall, though many will not notice or need this.

Enhanced tooltips

When a software company lists new and improved tooltips and tutorials as a key feature, it really does make you question how significant the new version is. 

Yes, the tooltips are improved, but they aren’t really needed past the first few weeks of using the software.

Then again, I am a long-term Capture One user. So I spent some time thinking about those who are coming across from Lightroom or other software, and here’s what I concluded:

The tooltips and tutorials will be useful while you get accustomed to the software. The tutorials are short, meaning you don’t have to wait too long before you can dive back into your edit. And the tutorials are well done. The tooltips, while annoying for longer-term users (you can switch them off!), will help you get to grips with Capture One 21 – so that mastering the software will not take you that long.

tooltips on HDR
As a seasoned user, I forget that tips like this can be really useful when learning software.

Is Capture One 21 worth it?

Capture One marketed their software release with an approach of buy now, discover later. They ran a series of online events showcasing new features, each time promising there was much more to come.

However, there wasn’t much more to come, and many customers who either purchased or upgraded came out en masse to make their voices heard. Feedback was decidedly mixed, and many were not very happy with the new feature set.

And I’ll be honest:

It really doesn’t feel like a full-blown release to me. 

A saving grace for the Capture One team is that they have upgraded Capture One 20 to run on the latest Mac OS X. This is a welcome gesture, one that will make the decision of whether to upgrade easier for many.

Capture One is working on an Apple silicon adaption, but this is not yet ready (though I’m sure it will be here sooner rather than later). Again, this is only useful for some users but worth pointing out, especially if you are tempted by one of the new Macs that Apple has already released or is bringing out in 2021.

I hope there is a large update within a few months that adds ProStandard profiles for many more cameras, and maybe even some more tools that make this version more of a must-have.

The fact that cameras like the Nikon Z7 II will only be supported in version 21 means that some users will have no choice but to upgrade, although I feel some may be headed back to Lightroom. 

There was also a price increase that doesn’t sit well with me. At the time of launch, Capture One for Sony, Nikon, and Fujifilm cost $ 129, but the price was quickly boosted to $ 199 (and the price to upgrade increased, as well). Photographers (especially professionals) have had an awful 12 months, business-wise. While this price increase may bring in some extra cash in the short term, it feels like the Capture One team failing to read the room. The way this release has been so aggressively marketed will, in my opinion, see many moving back to Lightroom.

However, Capture One is still my choice of editing software, so would I recommend you upgrade?

Capture One 21 review editing a full screen image
I love how Capture One makes my images look. For new users, there is an obvious conclusion; for those upgrading, it’s a little different.

For new users

I always tell those who use Lightroom to try Capture One. And when doing a Capture One 21 review, it’s easy to get caught up thinking about upgrades for existing users.

However, Capture One 21 is the best version of this software yet. So for those who are exploring software alternatives, I would strongly suggest taking a look. Especially those of you who have cameras compatible with the ProStandard profiles. 

If you shoot with one camera brand, you can even get a brand-specific version of Capture One 21, which will save you money. 

Here’s the bottom line:

RAW processing is where Capture One excels, and this release proves no different. Capture One images simply look better compared to Lightroom. I still feel Capture One is the best RAW editor out there. 

For existing users

The new tools in Capture One 21 feel aimed at a specific niche of photographers. The Dehaze tool has no real appeal to someone like me who rarely shoots landscapes. Yes, it is fun to experiment with Dehaze on portraits, but I will use this tool infrequently at best. And I’m sure this is true for any non-landscape photographer. 

The ProStandard profiles are nice, but not yet available for many cameras. And the need for incredibly accurate colors caters to a select group of photographers. 

The new tool I love is Speed Edit. It’s beautifully executed and removes the need for a workflow tool such as a Loupedeck for many users. The ability to edit images in full screen without distraction is simply amazing. For those (like myself) who shoot weddings or events, this tool will be a huge timesaver.

Lastly, there is the new importer. It’s nice, but honestly, most won’t notice the difference. And those who need the speed will continue to use Photo Mechanic.

So my Capture One 21 review boils down to this:

Which new tools will you use? And do they justify the price increase? Personally, I am not able to justify the upgrade price just for the Speed Edit tool. Like many other photographers, my work has been drastically affected in the past 12 months, and I cannot justify the price of the upgrade right now. I am sure many other working professionals are in the same boat.

That said, for a small section of photographers, the upgrade is a no-brainer. Capture One 21 is the fastest version of the program, and it has features some will welcome with open arms. If you are yet to try Capture One, you really should test it out and see what all the fuss is about.

However, I will wait for Capture One 22. 

You can download a 30-day trial of Capture One 21 on the Capture One website.

The post Capture One 21 Review: Dehaze, Speed Edit, and More appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

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Skylum announces LuminarAI, an AI-powered app designed to change how you edit photos

04 Sep

Skylum Software has increasingly utilized artificial intelligence in its editing software, including its flagship raw photo editing software, Luminar. Skylum has used AI for tasks such as automatically adjusting the color and exposure of an image and even replacing the entire sky in an image. With the newly-announced version of Luminar, aptly dubbed LuminarAI, Skylum has taken the implementation of AI even further.

Skylum has designed LuminarAI to automate as much of the photo editing process as possible while never removing the user from making creative decisions with their images. The idea is to streamline the process and make photo editing more accessible for beginners while offering even more powerful editing tools for experienced users. As Skylum puts it, LuminarAI uses artificial intelligence to remove ‘boring and complex tasks without sacrificing professional quality.’

Image credit: Skylum Software

Of LuminarAI, Skylum CPO Dima Sytnik says, ‘LuminarAI will bring an entirely new, non-conventional approach to the world of photo editing, focusing on the results instead of the process. We’ve designed LuminarAI from the ground up to change how people interact with their images. We’re really excited to see what LuminarAI can do for creatives everywhere.’

Artificial intelligence begins operating as soon as you select an image in LuminarAI. The software analyzes your image and recommends certain templates to help improve a specific image. Although AI is present throughout the entire process, you retain complete control over which edits are made and how they are applied.

LuminarAI can automatically crop and straighten your images via CompositionAI and automatically adjusts exposure and color via AccentAI, a feature longtime Luminar users will recognize. To add detail and texture to your image, LuminarAI includes StructureAI.

LuminarAI includes SkinAI to easily retouch skin and remove blemishes. There is also IrisAI, allowing the user to quickly enhance a subject’s eyes. Image credit: Skylum Software

The portrait retouching process includes numerous new AI-powered tools for photographers. If you’d like to change the shape or relative size of parts of the subject, you can utilize BodyAI and FaceAI to gently sculpt. If eyes are truly the window to the soul, you’ll want to use IrisAI to enhance a subject’s eyes. Skin retouching is often a time-consuming process in software such as Photoshop, but in LuminarAI, Skylum includes SkinAI to quickly remove imperfections and blemishes in the skin without making the subject look fake or unnatural.

Image credit: Skylum Software

Landscape photographers will be able to enhance the sky in their image with the existing Sky Enhancer feature, but there’s a new AtmosphereAI tool as well to add additional details to the sky. Of course, you will still be able to entirely replace the sky in your photo using SkyAI in LuminarAI. Within SkyAI, you can add warmth to the scene and even add rays of light.

LuminarAI includes numerous features aimed at enhancing landscape images. You can replace the sky, add rays of light, add warmth to the scene, enhance the sky and more. Image credit: Skylum Software

LuminarAI is releasing this holiday for macOS and Windows. The software will be available as both a standalone application and as a plug-in. To learn more about LuminarAI and to preorder via early-bird pricing, visit Skylum’s new LuminarAI page.

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Great Photoshop Tools to Edit Backgrounds in Images for Online Use

21 Jun

The post Great Photoshop Tools to Edit Backgrounds in Images for Online Use appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

photoshop tools to edit backgrounds

Are you moving your business online? You’re probably noticing the huge amount of possibilities? From blogs to Instagram; from banners to thumbnails – you need to keep editing your images to fit your every need. Fortunately, there are some Photoshop tools to edit backgrounds that come to the rescue. Keep reading to learn how to solve some of the most common issues about backgrounds.

Introduction to Photoshop tools to edit backgrounds
Are your white backgrounds really white?

Photoshop tools to edit white backgrounds

There are a number of Photoshop tools to edit white backgrounds, so let’s break them down.


A white background shot seems simple, but it ‘s not so easy to achieve. You can always cut out the subject and replace the backdrop, but this can be very time-consuming even if you did it right in the photo-shoot. You still need to do some editing, and one of the best Photoshop tools to edit a backgrounds’ brightness is Curves.

Photoshop tools to edit a white background
When a white background image is placed on top of a digital background you can see if it was really white.

Often, despite your best efforts, your seemingly white background is not 100% white. Look at the example above. On the left, you can see the result of the photo-shoot, which appears to be okay. But, if I add a white background layer, you can see it’s not. Notice how you can see the difference in the corners. To easily fix this, you have to add a Curves Adjustment Layer.

To add a Curves adjustment, click on the Adjustments icon at the bottom of the Layer palette, denoted by a circle with black and white halves.

Curves is a good Photoshop tool to edit backgrounds

Then, lighten your image by dragging the top part of the curve. Keep going until the transition between your photo and the digital background is not visible. Don’t worry if your subject is getting too light, you’ll fix that in the next step.

Layer masks keep the subject out of adjustements

Now, grab the Brush tool, and with a soft brush at 10 or 15% flow, start painting black over your subject. This will mask out the adjustments from the curve to keep the original exposure on the subject, including its shadows.

Clone Stamp blemish retouch

Photoshop tools to extend backgrounds

There will be times when you also need to extend your image backgrounds. Here are some tools to help you do that.

Clone Stamp

The Clone Stamp is one of the most useful Photoshop tools to edit backgrounds. Being able to clone one part of the image to another, helps you to retouch almost anything.

You can correct any specks, dust, or scratches in your image.

I want to show you another situation where it can come in handy too. Imagine you need to extend your background to gain some negative space. You can clone your background to cover a bigger area. First, enlarge your document by going to Menu->Image->Canvas Size and set up the new size.

Photoshop tools to extend backgrounds
For this example, I was turning a thumbnail into a header.

Grab the Clone Stamp and take a sample from the background to start cloning. If you are working on a separate layer, make sure to set Current and Below in the options bar. If you’re working on the same layer, use “Current Layer.”

Clone stamp is a Photoshop tool to edit backgrounds

Keep going by sampling from different areas each time, that way, it’s less noticeable, and you’ll get a better result. If the area is too big for this, then the Pattern Stamp tool will be more efficient.

Pattern Stamp

First, use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select a sample of the background. Then go to Menu->Edit->Define Pattern. This will open a pop-up window where you can name and save this background as a pattern.

Define pattern to use as a stamp

Pick the Pattern Stamp tool that you’ll find under the Clone Stamp. On the options bar, you can open the pattern menu and choose the one you just created.

Pattern Stamp is another Photoshop tool to edit backgrounds

Now you just have to paint all the space you want to fill. You can adjust the size of the brush, the hardness, and flow for better results.

If the separation between stamps is noticeable, then go back to the clone stamp tool and smooth out the junctions.

Extended background with Pattern Stamp

Photoshop healing tools for backgrounds

Similar to the Clone Stamp is the Healing Brush, which has two variations. Unlike the clone, both of them will blend the new pixels with the existing ones. As a result, the correction is much smoother. Let’s see the difference between them.

Spot Healing Brush

The Spot Healing Brush will automatically sample the pixels it thinks are best to use as a source. It will take the texture and reproduce it while blending the color and luminosity with the pixels in the new spot.

This is really useful when you’re working on large empty areas, like textures. In most cases, I find it’s very unpredictable, and it includes pieces that don’t belong, so I don’t use it often. However, it’s a matter of finding what works best in each situation.

Healing spot brush is unpredictable
I wanted to extend the background. Notice how it included the texture from the subject.

If you cancel the action by going back on your history or using the command Ctrl+Z and try again, it will give you a different result. It works better when you use a small brush and tackle small areas at a time.

If you want to cover a big space, you’ll be better off using the Healing Brush Tool.

Healing Brush

This tool is a mix between the Spot Healing Brush and the Clone Stamp. You can manually choose where to sample by clicking on the spot while holding the Alt key. Then click on the area you want to ‘heal’ and it will blend the source pixels with the current ones. This way the result will be much more uniform. Make sure that “Sampled” is marked as the Source in the Options bar.

Healing brush is a versatile photoshop tool to edit backgrounds

You can use this tool to extend your background or to retouch any details on it. It’s very versatile, so try it out.


Your background can complement, enhance, or distract from the subject, so it’s just as important and you want to give it enough attention. Whether it’s a blemish or an extension, these Photoshop tools to edit backgrounds can help you out for most of your online needs.

What is your favorite tool? Share it in the comments section!

The post Great Photoshop Tools to Edit Backgrounds in Images for Online Use appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Ana Mireles.

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How to Edit RAW Portraits in Lightroom

07 Jun

The post How to Edit RAW Portraits in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.


What’s the best way to edit RAW portraits in Lightroom? Is there one correct way to do this?

As with many aspects of photography, there is no right or wrong way. What is most important is being intentional with the edits you do make. Start with a clear idea of what you want the completed photo to look like.

You want to feel satisfied when you’re done. You’ll also want your subject to appreciate the portraits you’ve taken of them.

In this article, I’ll walk you through some Lightroom techniques to help you create well post-processed portraits from your RAW files. 

Young Thai woman traditional dancer
© Kevin Landwer-Johan. Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8, 1/400 sec, f/3, ISO 400, Manual Mode, Pattern Metering.

Know what you want – a realistic look or not

Whenever you start to edit RAW portraits you must decide first the style of photo you want to end up with. RAW files from modern cameras contain a huge amount of data. This data can be manipulated extensively in Lightroom to alter the appearance of the photo. 

It’s up to you how you edit. You can aim to work on the RAW file to get the photo looking as realistic as possible. Or you can alter it in such a way it’s transformed into a very different-looking image from the unedited RAW file.

Your intention will guide you to achieve the look you want. If you’re not sure how you want the finished photo to look, you can waste a lot of time messing around.

Keeping in the style of how you lit and composed the portrait is the easiest approach to take. 

To edit RAW portraits created with soft light and a warm feeling, you’ll often want to retain the feeling of the photo when you make your adjustments. It would the same for a portrait lit with hard lighting with a more dramatic look. 

Editing in Lightroom, you have the opportunity to alter the image to achieve the look you want. Knowing what you want is a good first step – even before you open Lightroom.

To illustrate the process I use, I will aim to produce a natural-looking edit of this portrait.

RAW file image for article edit RAW portraits

White balance for correct skin tone

Most of the time, I have my camera’s white balance set to Auto. I find this setting produces photos with correct colors most of the time.

With RAW files, it’s easy to correct the white balance when it’s a little off. I will start with the eyedropper tool and click it in a neutral area. If there’s not suitable white in the photo, I’ll pick a grey area.

In this photo, I needed to adjust the Temp slider towards the left because the eyedropper overcompensated for the slightly cool tone of the original. I have made the adjustment so her skin tone looks as natural as possible.

for edit RAW portraits article

Crop and straighten

Next, I crop and straighten the photo. I prefer to crop my portraits early in the editing process, so I only see what I want.

This portrait needed very little cropping. There was a bright area on the left that was distracting. I have cropped this out and, in doing so, the model’s right eye is closer to the one-third guideline on the right of the image.

When I crop, I am looking to eliminate parts of the photo that don’t add to it. I also look to improve the shape of the composition.

Crop image example for edit RAW portraits article

Correct highlights and shadows

Portraits taken outdoors in the shade, as this one is, often have a limited tone range. They do not contain much difference in tone value between the brightest and darkest areas. This makes them easier to work with than portraits made in hard light.

My model’s hair is very black, but it looks dull. Moving the black slider to the left darkens her hair a little too much. I then use the Shadows adjustment slider and move it to the right. This brings back some of the detail while retaining the blacks.

When you edit RAW portraits, you must consider how the brightest areas of the photo look as well. In this picture, I am happy with the look of the highlights, so I have not made any adjustments to them.

Highlights can be challenging to adjust and keep them looking clean. If you have very overexposed highlights and attempt to adjust them with the Highlights and/or Whites sliders, take care they do not end up looking grey. It’s best only to make adjustments when there is actually detail in those areas.

adjust the shadows for article on edit RAW portraits

Removing spots and blemishes

This young woman has beautiful skin and applies her make up very well. There’s not much post-processing required. Often this is not the case. People will often have small blemishes on their skin. Removing them will not change the feel of the portrait, but it will help your subject feel better about themselves.

When I edit RAW portraits in Lightroom, I use the Spot Removal tool and zoom into my photo to the area I want to work on. Adjust the size of the tool so it’s a little larger than the spot you want to remove. Simply click on the spot and Lightroom removes it. 

Check to see the area you edit blends well. On smooth skin, Lightroom usually does a great job of this. Sometimes there will be some noticeable contrast in the area you apply the brush too. If it’s too obvious, undo that step, adjust the brush size a little, and try again.

Close up example for spot removal

Fine-tune with the adjustment brush

The Adjustment Brush is a powerful tool to use when you edit RAW portraits. You can use it to diminish or remove wrinkles, enhance eyes, whiten teeth and a whole lot more. Here I’ll show you how I use it in some of these ways.

Soften dark bags under eyes

As I begin to paint with the Adjustment Brush, I push the Exposure slider to the far left or right. This allows me to see clearly the area that I am painting over. 

Adjustment brush example for edit RAW portraits article

Once I have the part of the image painted that I want to work on, it looks pretty terrible, as in this example.

Now, I’ll work with the various sliders to bring up the dark parts I’ve painted over so there’s not so much contrast. Doing this, be careful not to overcompensate and make these shadows look unnaturally light.

Adjustment brush close up example

Whitening teeth

Paint over the teeth with the adjustment brush. Be as precise as possible and not cover any of the lips or gums.

To make the teeth look clean and white, I use a combination of sliders. I start with the Exposure Slider as it will often make the teeth look good. You can also make use of the Dehaze and Temp sliders. Dehaze will lighten and soften dark areas. Moving the Temp slider to the left will reduce yellowing.

Close up of teeth

Brightening eyes

It’s important to edit RAW portraits so your subject’s eyes look right. Too much editing, or not being careful enough when you do edit eyes, can ruin a portrait. 

In my example portrait, I have made minimal changes. There are so many tutorials available about editing eyes that I will not go into detail for this article. 

All I have done on this portrait is to brighten the whites of her eyes using the Adjustment Brush. I have painted the whites of her eyes and boosted the exposure slightly. This was enough. 

Dark-colored eyes are more challenging to manipulate than lighter colored eyes. With light eyes, you can alter the color of the iris and control the way the eyes look more than with dark eyes.

close up of eyes


The possibilities when you edit RAW portraits are almost limitless. Knowing the look you want helps you keep on track and saves you time.

Duplicating a file in Lightroom allows you to make copies to experiment with. Right-click the photo and choose Create Virtual Copy. Now you’re free to experiment with a completely different look and feel for your photo.

Being intentional as you edit and not pushing any slider to it’s extreme will help you create better-looking portraits in Lightroom.

Do you have any other tips for editing RAW portraits in Lightroom that you’d like to share? Perhaps you’d like to share your resulting images with us? Please do so in the comments!

The post How to Edit RAW Portraits in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

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Poll: What Post-Processing Software Do You Use to Edit Your Photos?

17 Apr

The post Poll: What Post-Processing Software Do You Use to Edit Your Photos? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

Poll: What Post-Processing Software Do You Use to Edit Your Photos?

Here at dPS, we’d like to know what post-processing software you use to edit your photos so that we can deliver some post-production tutorials that better suit you.

Let us know below. You can vote for more than one if you use multiple editing platforms. If the software isn’t listed, please let us know what you use in the comments section!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

The post Poll: What Post-Processing Software Do You Use to Edit Your Photos? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

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How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively

05 Jul

The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

I hope you had a chance to read my previous article, “Eight Tips for Better Fireworks Photos” before going out to make your fireworks images and found that helpful.  If so, you should have some good shots to work with here.  If not, these techniques will still work for you if you have some other good fireworks photos.  Either way, let’s see if I can teach you how to do the basic editing on your fireworks images. Then, how to creatively composite your shots and take the “wow factor” up another notch.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

You shot in Raw, yes?

I realize that beginning photographers may be making their images with their camera set to save only the .jpg file, perhaps not having the editing tools or having learned to edit a Raw file.  While that’s not a deal-breaker, you will find doing so causes the camera to do much of the editing itself, using the camera’s built-in .jpg algorithm to “cook” the final image for you.  Perhaps while you are still a novice image editor, (cook), editing raw files can seem intimidating, and you may feel the camera is a better cook than you are.

The trouble is, with something like your fireworks photos, you will want as much latitude for creative editing as possible as well as much file information as the camera originally captured.  Letting the camera create a .jpg image lets it make the creative decisions and also throws away information you might have needed.

You will still be able to use the steps outlined here to edit a .jpg file.  Just understand things might not work as well.  One final plug for shooting Raw files before moving on – Almost all pros do, and that’s the level of work you want to create, right?  ‘Nuff said.

2 - How to Edit Fireworks Photos

This effect is what I call the “boom-zoom-bloom.” You’ll have to read Part One of this series if you missed how to create it.

Editing tools

The workflow described here assumes you will be using the editing programs I use for working with my images; Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop.  Other editing programs may work equally well such as Photoshop Elements or another favorite of mine, Corel Paintshop Pro.  Use what you have and know; just understand the steps here are using the Adobe programs.  I will also sometimes use plug-in filters such as those in the Nik suite, Topaz Labs or Aurora.

Basic editing of a fireworks photo with Lightroom

This is my workflow with an image in Lightroom.  Much of the work simply involves moving each adjustment slider up and down to see what you like.  Playing is encouraged.

  • White Balance – You shot in Raw, right? Good, because if so, you can take the white balance wherever you like. Play with the Temperature and Tint sliders and get the colors you like.  Because fireworks have no “correct” color your viewer expects, you can pretty much adjust white balance however you like.  Although, if you’ve included foreground objects, you may want to use those as a reference in determining what is realistic.
  • Basic Controls – Play with the Exposure, Contrast, and other sliders to bring the image to your liking. If your highlights are a little bright, (but still not blown out), you can bring them back with the Highlights slider. You might also want to bring down the Blacks if the sky needs darkening
  • Adjust colors with the HSL/Color sliders. You can play with the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance sliders to tweak colors to your liking. Don’t forget to try the Targeted Adjustment Tool to pick and adjust specific colors in your image.
  • 3 - How to Edit Fireworks Photos
  • Dehaze – The Dehaze tool could be your friend and help reduce smoke in the shot if it became a problem.
  • Clarity and Texture  – These controls can give your fireworks images extra sharpness and pop.  Also, try sliding these controls toward the left for different looks.
  • Vibrance and Saturation – With standard photography, these two are typically used conservatively, particularly Saturation which is a bit of a sledgehammer. With firework images, however, often you are going for “pow,” so go ahead and play… it’s your shot.  Oversaturation will blow out details.  Watch each histogram RGB channel.  A histogram off the right edge means you’ve oversaturated that color.
  • Detail – Some sharpening can be good. The two best tools in this group for fireworks images are the Masking Tool and Noise Reduction/Luminance. Sharpen your image as desired.  Then, hold down the Alt key, (Option on Mac), and drag the Masking slider to the right.  What appears white will be sharpened, what is black will not.  The idea to allow the fireworks to be sharpened, but not the dark sky. As for Noise Reduction, if you shot at a low ISO you probably won’t need much. Use as little as needed here.
  • Consider saving settings as a Preset.  If you’ve used the sliders to get your image just right, you might want to apply the same settings to some of your other fireworks photos.  Saving the settings as a preset will allow you to apply the same look with a single click.

Other tools

I mentioned using plugins as options in your editing.  The sky really is the limit here.  Here are a few I have and sometimes find useful with fireworks photos:

Nik – Color Efex Pro, Viveza

Topaz Labs – Adjust, Denoise, (probably others too, I just I don’t have them).

Aurora HDR – You can work with a single image here not needing multiple shots as with traditional HDR work and can get some interesting looks.

Compositing for drama

Sometimes the best fireworks photo is a composite of several photos.  You can layer multiple images and create your own grand finale.  You can also put fireworks over places where they weren’t, but to your thinking should have been.

Confession time.

The image of the Boise (Idaho) Depot I used in the previous article, (and repeated above), is a composite.

They do have fireworks shows over this iconic landmark in our city; I’ve just never been there for a show.  I did, however, have nice nighttime images of the depot and also fireworks photos from another time and place.  With compositing, I created the image I wished I could have captured live but wasn’t there for.  What can I say, creative license, right?

So, you have a great fireworks photo.  You have a great night shot of a landmark or scene where you’d have liked to have captured a fireworks show.  Here’s how you make those come together.

Time for layers

If you only edit with Lightroom, this will be the end of the road for you.  Lightroom doesn’t do layers and they are a must for this technique.  Photoshop does layers, as does Photoshop Elements, Corel Paintshop Pro, and probably a few other editing programs.  Layers capabilities are a must for compositing. So, your editing tool of choice must have them.

Compositing images is a pretty advanced technique in some cases. However, because the background of your fireworks photo is likely to be black or very dark, things become much easier.  Learning compositing using fireworks images can be a great way to begin learning about layers, masks, and compositing in general.

Step-by-step compositing

  1. Open your fireworks image in Photoshop (or your editing program of choice).  You can open Photoshop first and then open the image or send it from Lightroom – (Photo/Edit In/Edit in Adobe Photoshop)

    How to send an image from Lightroom to Photoshop for editing. You can also send multiple images as layers in Photoshop, useful when doing the “Grand Finale” composites described later in this article.

  2. Open your other location photo, also in Photoshop.  You will have the fireworks photo and the scene photo each on separate tabs at this point. Just a note when selecting the scene photo: Select one that has a logical view, angle, and lighting that it will seem consistent with having fireworks in the shot.  Obviously, a daytime image or an image without much sky is just going to look weird.
  3. Go to the image of the fireworks.  Crop it to include just the fireworks section you want if you didn’t do this in Lightroom first.  Then Select All (Ctrl-A, Cmd-A on a Mac), Copy (Ctrl/Cmd-C)
  4. Go to the other tab with the Scene and hit Ctrl/Cmd-V for Paste.  The firework image will be placed as a layer on top of the scene image.
  5. With the fireworks layer selected, select the Screen blending mode.  The dark parts of the sky will become transparent and the fireworks will be superimposed over the underlying Scene image.

    Use the Screen blending mode and the black in the fireworks photo will become transparent showing the underlying image.

  6. You will need to place and size the fireworks where you want them over the Scene shot.  Use Free Transform for that.  With the fireworks layer still the one selected, Ctrl/Cmd-T.  Then hold down Shift and drag from a corner handle to resize while maintaining the aspect ratio of the fireworks image.  Click, hold and drag in the middle of the shot to move the overlying fireworks where you like.  Don’t worry about some of the fireworks perhaps appearing in front of things.  You’ll handle that in the next step.

    The fireworks moved and sized to put them where desired. Note: leaving a little overlap will add depth and make the composite look more realistic. You’ll clean-up in the next step.

  7. To touch up areas where the fireworks might overlap an area they should be behind, (note the fireworks overlapping the tower in my shot and the roof at the bottom), you will create a Layer Mask. Click the icon that looks like a rectangle with the dark circle in the center  A mask will be added to your fireworks layer.
  8.  With Black selected as your foreground color and the mask selected, use the brush tool to paint out areas where the fireworks overlap the foreground.  You want the fireworks to look like they are behind any foreground objects.
  9.  You may find areas in the fireworks layer weren’t black enough that the Screen blending mode eliminated them.  This might work for you –  With the fireworks layer selected, (not the mask, the layer itself), open the Camera Raw Filter (Ctrl-Shift-A).  Just the fireworks layer will appear in Camera Raw.  Take the Blacks slider down (left) to see if you can darken the problem areas.  Also, try the Shadows and Exposure sliders, but pay attention to how the fireworks are affected.  When you click OK, you will be returned to the Photoshop main window.  See if the problem is gone.  If not, use the brush on the mask as you did in step 8 to clean up any remaining areas.
How to Edit Fireworks Photos

This grand finale was captured in one 6-second shot and is not a composite.

The Grand Finale

The most exciting part of a fireworks show is when they shoot off a flurry of fireworks in rapid-fire fashion.  It can also be one of the harder parts of the show to photograph.  Sometimes the intensity of so many fireworks bursting in the air can result in a blown-out, overexposed mess with the settings used for most of the show not right now.

What to do?  How about creating your own finale with the compositing technique we just explored but this time, layering several fireworks images to build-up your finale shot.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

When things really got crazy during the grand finale, the same 6-seconds was too much and the image was blown out. Look at the histogram. There’s no recovering highlights when they are pushed off the right side of the histogram. Way too overexposed!

Use the same steps as with the composite image we just covered. Stack up several layers of fireworks shots each on its own Photoshop layer.  Then turn on the Screen blending mode on all layers but the bottom one.  Use the technique as before, blending and masking as necessary.

Here’s what that might look like.

Position and clean each layer with a mask as before where necessary.  Voila!  Your own grand finale.

How to Edit Fireworks Photos

Fun even when the smoke clears

For most spectators, the fun of a fireworks show is over when the last boom is heard, and the smoke clears. As a photographer with editing skills, however, you can continue to create all kinds of exciting images with the fireworks shots you captured.  Using the editing and compositing techniques here will not only help you produce some great fireworks images but grow your editing skills in general.

Now, go have a “blast.”

Feel free to share your fireworks images with us in the comments below.


How to Edit your Fireworks Photos Creatively


The post How to Edit Fireworks Photos Creatively appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

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How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro

16 Mar

The post How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

Before and after split screen of edit

Whilst we all flock to Photoshop for our retouching, Capture One now has a lot of great tools. But is it possible to do a full image edit including retouching? More so, if it is, should you do it and avoid Photoshop altogether?

To find out, I closed Photoshop and settled myself down for a full edit using only Capture One Pro. Lets go through the process and see what I learnt.


Capture One’s built-in annotation tools make it easy to plan your retouching for your images. A variety of colors can easily be added to the image should you wish. I really like this tool. It allows you to make simple notes on screen. While it may look like I am practicing my abstract expressionism, I am actually highlighting what I want to improve. In this case, the red is for retouching and yellow is for exposure issues. I love this tool! So far so good.

The annotate tool is great for making notes before you start the edit.

Colour balance

When the image comes into Capture One, the first thing is to get a good neutral color balance. I always start by letting Capture One get me into the ballpark via the Auto tool in White Balance. While not perfect, it gives a good starting point.  I then tweak the color to taste. In most cases, it is only a small tweak from the auto white balance to get a starting point I am happy with.


Continuing with the basics, next up is exposure. It always pays to get as close as you can in-camera, and this case required very little. For this image, I pushed up the exposure just under 0.5 stops and added a slight amount of contrast and saturation to my taste. All that was left was a slight highlight recovery to take away the worst of the hot spots. The worst highlights will be taken care of in the next step (and first layer) Luma masking.

Layer One: Luma Mask

New in Capture One 12 is Luma masking. I love this tool! It is such a great time saver for masking highlights. I use it here to mask out the highest highlights in the image and then use the High Dynamic Range sliders to pull back the highlights. Subtly is the key here. I only want to take the harshness out of the bright spots.

An image showing the luma mask in Capture One Pro 12

Possibly my favourite tool in Capture One 12. The Luma mask

Layer two (and three and four): Blemish Retouching

Trying to do any amount of blemish retouching in Capture One soon tells you that it wasn’t designed for this task. The system is clunky. You sample using the alt key (the same way as Photoshop); however, you cannot resample a different area on the same layer. Instead, you need to create a new layer and a new sample. I ended up using 3 layers merely to do basic spot removal (and this wasn’t even going as far as I would in Photoshop). Capture One isn’t effective for any serious blemish removal. I tried this process out on another image to see if it fared better, but it was worse. It got to the point where I just gave up. Yes, it works for simple items, but in the future, blemishes will be worked on in Photoshop only.

Layer five: Skin smoothing

The Skin Smoothing tool is a super-great way to improve skin with a simple mask and a couple of sliders. I use this tool all the time when editing wedding photography. It gives a great effect with such little effort.

The first step is to create a mask using a new layer and the Brush tool. Make sure you leave out areas of detail, such as the eyes and lips. You can then refine the mask to get it more accurate. I tend to use a number between 100-150 for most situations. After this, I go back in with the brush and erase tools until I am happy with the mask. A little tip here is to change the mask color from the default of red when working with people. It just makes the mask stand out more against the skin.

Next, the special sauce. A.K.A The Clarity tool. Just go to the clarity section, choose Natural as the clarity type and slide the numbers into the negatives. I generally find the sweet spot for this technique to be between -60 to -70. Much more than this and it can become a little fake. It comes down to the image you are working on. Simply adjust the sliders until you are happy with the result.

This on its own has a massive difference on the image, but when you add in the Color Editor tool, it takes this to another level.

Layer five continued: Skin Colour

The ability to work with color so precisely is one of Capture One’s greatest strengths. Editing skin tone is a great way to make your model’s skin glow. You can find this tool located in the Color Editor section. To start, click the icon and sample a skin tone. Next, you work with the two sections of this tool, Amount and Uniformity. The amount sliders are to get a skin tone that you are happy with. You then move onto the uniformity sliders to even out the skin tone through the whole face. As with much retouching, it is easy to go over the top. My tip for this is to do the edit, then take a break for a couple of minutes and come back. You instantly see if the image is over done and you can dial back accordingly.

We now have an even, soft skin tone through the image. This layer has made a huge difference to our image. It’s now time to finesse the details.

Capture One screen grab showing mask and colour tools

As you can see, the combination of the clarity slider and the Skin colour editor has really made a difference. The blue mask, maybe not so flattering.

Layer six: Teeth

The teeth need to be slightly whitened. This is as simple as a mask, followed by reducing the saturation. Again, don’t take it down to zero – it will look weird. Take it down just enough so that the teeth look naturally white. In this image, the sweet spot was -51. I then pushed the exposure just slightly to give a whiter smile. But again, as with all retouching, less is more.

Layer seven: Eyes

You sense a theme yet? I created another mask for the eyes. This time I added a very slight bump in exposure and some clarity to give them a subtle pop that was missing before.

Layer eight: The top

The red top the model wore in this shoot was just too bright. Using a combination of a mask and the color editor, I was able to easily reduce the red tone to something less overpowering.

Capture One screen shots showing before and after the colour editor

Toning down the red top means it is not quite as powerful in the image.

Layers nine and ten: The Hair

As the old saying goes; in for a penny, in for a pound. Having worked on the heal and clone layers for basic spot removal, this was going to be something that I was unsure would work. However, with a lot of trial and error, I produced something that was okay. Would I do it again? No. But, I did manage to improve the hair significantly from the previous state.

I ended up using a clone layer for one side of the hair and a heal layer for the other. Again, editing like this shows the limitations of Capture One for high-end retouching. However, after some trial and error, it did an okay job.

Layer eleven: Colour Grade

I generally don’t color grade images heavily – if at all. I usually prefer a natural look. But for this tutorial, I added a color grade. To do this, you add a new fill layer and add your grading there. This also allows you to reduce the effect by opacity or simply turn it on or off quickly to give different looks.

For this image, I decided to use Capture One’s excellent film grain emulations to add some soft grain. Next, I spent some time with the Color Balance tools pulling the shadows into the blues and highlights slightly into the orange. Finally, I used the levels to give a slightly faded look to the final color grade. That’s it. It’s done!

Final photo after retouching

The final edit.

What did I learn?

Well, it is possible to do a full retouch in Capture One. However, in reality, it is clunky and nowhere near as powerful as Photoshop.

The worst part of this was the blemish removals. It was painful to use for more than a couple of blemishes in an image. Also when trying this on another image to remove an eyelash, it was impossible to get it to give a pleasing result.

The standout of this edit is a process I use all the time: the Skin Smoothing and Skin Color combination. These two tools can quickly take care of many skin problems you may see. As a wedding photographer, this is a powerful tool. I can make a bride’s skin look glowing, quickly and easily without the need to round trip to Photoshop. To give you an example, check out this before and after using only this combination. You can achieve quick, simple and powerful results in just a couple of minutes.

A comparison of before and after skin reoutching in Capture One

Such a vast improvement only using two tools.


In general, the color tools in Capture One are amazing, and as well as working well on the skin, they were great for color grading the final image. My regular workflow for an image like this would be a trip to Photoshop for the skin, then back into Capture One for color grading.

Overall, Capture One did give a good final result, but at the cost of time and with some frustration.

Can Capture One Pro do a full edit with retouching? It can – kind of.

Would I recommend it? No.

It’s just not quite precise enough to be able to use regularly for this type of edit. That skin trick though is gold!

Do you use Capture One for your retouching? What are your experiences?


The post How to Edit and Retouch Images Using Capture One Pro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Carl Spring.

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How to Edit Silhouette Photos in Lightroom

05 Mar

The post How to Edit Silhouette Photos in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

Clicking silhouette photos is in itself a different kind of experience. Unlike photos where the subject is exposed correctly, here the subject appears completely dark.

However, there must be situations when you are not able to capture a proper silhouette image in-camera. The reasons could be anything from incorrect exposure settings to the insufficient dynamic range in the frame.

Even if you can capture a proper silhouette, chances are the colors might not be as saturated as you desire. Using Lightroom, we can get a proper silhouette with the required saturation.

Achieve ideal contrast

As I mentioned earlier, there can be silhouette images which might not have your subject appear as pitch black. Now to make your subject appear black and preserve details in the backdrop, you need to make a few changes in Lightroom.

As you can see in the photo above, I tried my best to capture a silhouette while maintaining details in the background. You can see the boat clearly, and the clothes are still visible. I have opened this image in Lightroom and made few adjustments, after which I was able to achieve a perfect silhouette.

If you refer to the toolbar on the image above, all I did was adjust the shadows and blacks. Usually while working on I silhouette, I always play with the shadows first and then blacks if needed.

In this situation, I was able to make the subject appear completely dark within seconds. However, this silhouette still lacks saturation, right? Let’s work on that too and make it a perfect silhouette.

Enhancing colors

You might make a colorful silhouette or convert it to monochrome, depending on what you like. If you plan to keep it colored, you might have to enhance the colors present in your frame. You can do this in Lightroom, and it is uncomplicated.

Primarily you have to play with four sliders: Vibrance, Saturation, Temperature, and Tint. Vibrance and Saturation allow you to boost all the color tones in the image whereas Temperature and Tint allow you to adjust the color tones ranging from blue to yellow or green to pink.

Using these four sliders, you can get your desired combination of color tones and vividness. As you can see in the two images shared above, the first one had cooler tones while the second had warmer feel to it.

If you wish to go a step forward and make fine adjustments to each color in the frame, you can use the HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) slider. Let me take another example at the above image does not have multiple primary colors.

As you see in the comparison above, the image on the right looks much more punchy and vibrant. If I wanted something like the image on the left, I could have simply adjusted the vibrance and saturation. However, I knew that I could achieve more by adjusting the HSL sliders. You can increase/decrease hue, saturation, and luminance of a particular color without affecting other colors in the image. This is the primary reason to use HSL sliders.

In this scenario, I enhanced the saturation of the majority of colors as per my need and reduced where I felt the need. If I had merely increased the saturation from the basic saturation slider, all the colors would have been affected equally. Whereas now using the saturation slider under the HSL toolbar, I can individually adjust the saturation as well as hue and luminance.

So next time if you try to click a silhouette and feel the in-camera file is not perfect, Lightroom is there to take care of it. Just follow these few steps, and I am sure you can achieve your desired results.

Feel free to share your views or silhouette images in the comment below.

The post How to Edit Silhouette Photos in Lightroom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kunal Malhotra.

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How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography

08 Feb

The post How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

High-key lighting originated in the early film and television days. Early cameras and film with limited dynamic range, forced lighting techniques to reduce contrast intentionally. Today, with its use of bright light and an emphasis on whites which give an almost ethereal feel to a photo, the high-key look has become the desired style for some photographers. Let’s explore when you might want to choose the high-key photography style and how you can achieve it both when shooting and in editing.

Emulating the look of early television was the goal for this photo and a high-key monochrome was a great way to do it.

As with all art, individual interpretation plays a big part in what photographers consider a “high-key” image and how the technique should be used.

A few things that typify a high-key photo:

  • Bright lighting that greatly reduces and sometimes eliminates shadows
  • A dynamic range that is predominately toward the right side of a histogram.
  • Images where the “mood” is typically upbeat, light-hearted, ethereal, “airy” or beautiful.
  • Typical uses are in high-fashion, product, or studio-produced images. Lesser so, but not totally non-existent, are high-key outdoor and landscape photographs.
  • Lighting where the ratio between the key and fill light is very close, thus the root of the term “high-key.”
  • Distracting elements in the background get eliminated, and typically high-key images contain only the main subject. High-key images are often Minimalist. Many times, the background is entirely white.
  • Monochrome high-key is more prevalent, and when there is color used, it is typically subdued or used as an accent.

Images of babies and children often benefit from the bright, happy feel of high key.

Two basic approaches to creating high-key images:

1) Light, expose and shoot the photo with high-key in mind from the beginning, or
2) Rework a photograph in editing so that it takes on the attributes of the high-key style.

Often the final image, even if initially shot with high-key in mind, may still require some post-processing to achieve the best result. So let’s first look at how to light and create a high-key image.

Creating the high-key look in the studio

I use the term “studio” here to reference the use of artificial lights in an indoor environment where you can control lighting. This may be but is not restricted to a traditional studio. For smaller still-life subjects, the kitchen counter works just fine. How you light the subject is what creates the high-key look.

The background

The first objective is to light the background in such a way that it is entirely white with no detail. The choice of background material is up to you. If you are shooting a model full-length in a studio, you might traditionally use something like a large piece of seamless paper. A plain white wall can work too. In fact, you can use most light-colored backgrounds if you can put enough light on it to bring the levels up to a “255” totally white level. The lighting diagram below shows how you can set up for a high-key shot in the studio.

Two lights to light the background and two softboxes or other modified lights to light the subject is how high key portrait lighting might be traditionally used in a studio

Once you have your lights set up, make a shot and adjust your exposure so that the background goes as close to all white as you can make it. Sometimes, depending on the lighting equipment you have available, you may not be able to get even lighting across the background. Getting it right in-camera is, of course, optimal; however, you can clean things up in post-processing.

Professionals who make many high-key shots during a studio session may take the time, and have the equipment, to light the background evenly, thus avoiding extensive editing of each shot later. If you are a beginner though, lack of more expensive lighting equipment should not prevent you from giving high-key lighting a try.

Lighting the subject

Lighting the subject is done in the same kind of standard style you might use when doing portrait photography with a key and fill light. You’ll see from the diagram above the key and fill lights have been placed on opposing sides of the subject. For traditional portrait or studio still-life shots, the fill light is typically slightly dimmer than the key light. This allows some shadows to create modeling and depth to the image. (The difference in intensity between lights is called the “lighting ratio.”) In the high-key lighting style, the key and fill lights are usually closer in intensity with the objective being to lessen shadows and give a “flatter” look, minimizing contrast.

In the first diagram above, the background is front-lit with light shining on the background. An alternative is to back-light the background, placing whatever lighting device you’re using, (studio strobe, continuous light, flash or whatever) behind a translucent background so the light shines through and illuminates it. As before, you should light this to be even, and bring its brightness as close to full white as you can get. Take a look at the diagram below to see this alternative lighting method.

Another often used variation of this style is to use a large softbox behind the subject and pointed at the camera.

Here is an alternative that uses just one light. The light source is placed behind the subject and diffused through something translucent. I used a white shower curtain here. Reflectors are used for key and fill.


This lighting style brings in another option of how you light your subject. Because the light used to illuminate the background is pointed at the camera, it might be possible to substitute reflectors for the key and fill lights, bouncing that backlight back onto the subject. This technique can work well for smaller subjects where the distances between the background, subject, and reflectors can be smaller and less light is required.

It may be possible to create the entire effect using just one light source. The photo below was done using this technique.


Using window light

Understanding the concepts above can help you create high-key images using window light and a reflector or fill-flash. Portrait and wedding photographers often take advantage of this style of creating high-key shots with a minimum of lighting equipment. The same principals apply – overexpose the background and light the subject with fill lighting.

An easy way to make a high-key shot at a wedding is to put your subject in window light, overexpose the light coming in the window and fill the subject with your Speedlight.

This was done using the same technique with the backlit shower curtain, but a Speedlight was used to fill the subject.

High-key in landscape photography

High-key images are relatively easy in an environment where you have full control of the lighting. Being able to make high-key shots outdoors with only the available light is more of a challenge. You have to work with the light that is available, have an eye for subjects that lend themselves to the high-key look, and then use your camera settings to get the best in-camera shot you can. Also know that almost always, you need to do some extra work in editing to achieve a good high-key look with your landscape images.

This bitter cold day in Yellowstone National Park had a high-key look already, and minimal editing was needed. High-key needn’t always be monochrome.

The look that typifies high-key photography

Consider the look that typifies high-key photography and what subjects and conditions in landscapes might lend themselves to that look:

  • Bright, white backgrounds – Snow and bright sand often work well, as do flat cloudy skies
  • Low contrast lighting – Cloudy, foggy, flat-light days are a good time to consider making high-key shots
  • Back-lit subjects where you can overexpose the background and fill in the subject with fill-flash or reflected light
  • Consider spot or center-weighted metering of the subject, allowing good exposure of the subject but a blown-out background.
  • Using the Live-view feature of your DSLR or mirrorless cameras can be your friend as you can see your exposure and lighting effect before you make the shot.

Snowscapes Can take you most of the way to a high key image right out of the camera.

Editing high-key images

While it’s always a goal to get images that are perfect Straight-Out-Of-Camera (SOOC), editing can be used to fine tune an image. Even when you shoot in the high-key style, additional editing can be used to clean up problem areas, lighten up and even out the background, and enhance the look and feel you are striving for. Take a look at the image below.

Straight out of the camera, this shot needed to be white balanced and there were portions not evenly lit.


Turning on the Highlight Clipping feature in Lightroom allowed painting in more brightness with the Adjustment Brush and Auto Mask turned on. It was an easy way to get a completely white background when the lighting wasn’t even enough

Sometimes you might have an image that you did not consider making a high-key photo when you shot it. However, while editing, you may decide the mood you are seeking would is best suited to a high-key look. Such was the case with the “Angels Dance” image below.

The music and mood of the dance when I captured the shot of these ballet dancers was free, light, and airy. It created a mental image of angels dancing for me. So later, I used the tools in Lightroom to get the look I was after. Following the method used may give you insight into how you can create high-key images in post-processing.

This shot was going to need some work to give it the high-key mood desired.

Post-production technique

The Raw color image out of the camera was underexposed, and the stage lighting had introduced some unusual color. This did not start out looking like a high-key candidate, but here are the steps taken in Lightroom to produce the final result:

  • There were two dancers in the shot with good form, but two others who needed to be cropped out.
  • I used a basic editing workflow – Exposure brought up to +1.00, Highlights brought down to -100, Shadows opened up to +100, the Whites brought up to +44, the Blacks brought down to -56.
  • To deal with the color problem, and also be more compatible with the high-key look, I converted the image to Black & White. Next, I opened the Black & White Mix dropdown and used the Targeted Adjustment Tool. Here, I sampled different spots in the image and brought up the luminance of those colors. Further manual tweaking of the sliders helped bring up the brightness of each color.
  • Then I readjusted the Exposure to +1.46, the Contrast to +38, brought the White down slightly to +38, the Clarity to -7 and Dehaze down to -9.
  • To make the background full white, and also lose some distracting elements, I used the Adjustment Brush tool. The Exposure was turned all the way up to +4, checked the Automask checkbox, and carefully used the brush to “white out” the background.
  • To further give the “heavenly effect” I used a brush with -50 Dehaze to brush in some light “clouds.”

This high key version much better captures the mood of the dance.


The numbers and precise steps used for this image are a guide rather than an exact “recipe.” They are intended to show you the general idea for creating the high-key photography look with Lightroom and the tweaks and tools to get there. The main point is, even if you have an image that does not immediately look like a candidate for the high-key look, some knowledge of what constitutes that look, and how to use your editing tools to get you there, can create some magic.

It’s okay to have some darker tones in your high key photos.

Good photographs communicate to the viewer, tell a story, convey an emotion, or take the viewer to a time and place. Using the technique of high key is one more way to use your images to speak to your viewer. Learn the techniques both to shoot and edit a high-key shot, and you can not only grow your lighting, camera, and editing skills but add a new means of communicating with your images to your bag of photo tricks.

Please try this technique out and share with us in the comments below.

The post How to Light, Shoot, and Edit for High-Key Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Rick Ohnsman.

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How To Edit Real Estate Photos in Lightroom (RAW)

23 Jan

Understanding the editing process is necessary for every photographer, especially if you’re in the business of real estate photography. You need to know the methods of post-processing so you are familiar with the necessary steps you have to take in order to achieve the output that you need. From the photo shoot down to the post-processing, a professional photographer should Continue Reading

The post How To Edit Real Estate Photos in Lightroom (RAW) appeared first on Photodoto.


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