Skip to main content

DarkRoom in LightRoom

I love black and white images. For us darkroom folks, it has a special place in our heart.  So I'm brining the Darkroom back through LightRoom!  If you're confused, read on.
Canon 5D MK3
24mm 3.5L TSE II
Stitched two images together (using the lens shift)
See it bigger

This is the original color version

The color version is not bad, but I think the black and white image brings more drama to the photograph.

This is Baltimore by the way. The industrial area near Francis Scott Key Bridge.  All the areas near the water was fenced in so I was going to try some other places, but I got lucky.  I slipped through this one guard using my charm… Ok, This is what really happened:  the guard asks me, "You're going into the Marine Safety Building?" to that I said,"… Um, yeah… Marine Safety Building… That's it"  Then she lifted the gate.  I didn't even get to use my James Bond charm that I've acquired as a photographer needing access. Some times a simple "yes" is enough, I guess.

Canon 5D MK3
24mm 3.5L TSE II
Stitched two images together (using the lens shift)
See it bigger
I hardly use Photoshop anymore in "working" the picture.  I'm a poster boy for LightRoom. They should pay me.

The positives are many, but I'll keep it simple: LightRoom allows me to work on  hundreds of images, without opening and closing each image.  Also, It doesn't bloat up your hard drives with copies of the different versions of the same image or make big files with layers.  What LightRoom does is only apply the set of digital "instructions" to the image, not re-create the entire image. So it is non destructive, meaning you can always revert back to original.  Lastly, you can adjust things to a photo locally using the brush tool to effect just a certain spots, just like Photoshop. This last part is what we're going to get into here.

Who remembers the little paper lollipop thingy in the darkroom? Or making weird shapes with your hands like shadow puppets when exposing the paper?  If you do, you probably remember Jordashe acid-wash jeans too.  I pity you fools (Mr.T… another 80's referance).

Canon 5D MK3
24mm 3.5L TSE II
Stitched two images together (using the lens shift)
See it bigger
Technique

This is how I use Lightroom as a Darkroom. First I take the color image and just click on black and white in the Develop module.  That will give a very mediocre results at best. Now, adjust the contrast, exposure, clarity… (all the things in the Basic area of the Develop module) to your liking.  Avoid extreme adjustments here because it may introduce, noise and you may block out shadows and blow highlights too much.  Keep your eye on the histogram as you adjust.  Keep the "mountain" away from the left and right walls. I will blog about histogram later.

You can also play around with Black and White Mix, but I found that you can get good results not using them.  Once again any drastic adjustments here will introduce strange artifacts and noise sometimes.

Get your "base exposure" by just eye balling it.  Make it look decent using the basic slides.  Once that is done, pick an area to work on. I try to work on sections. For instance, I do the sky first, then the dock, then the water.  Then I might go into the small areas and do something there if needed, like evening out the waters or such.

Canon 5D MK3
24mm 3.5L TSE II
Stitched two images together (using the lens shift)
See it bigger
For example, for the sky my concern was to not blowout the highlights, so I took the brush tool on the sky using a big brush about the size of the width of the sky with enough feathering to make things not so noticeable and turn the exposure down a bit till I don't see any extreme white blowouts (you can zoom in to see closely by pressing the Z key).  The beauty of LightRoom is that you can adjust the levels after you've applied the brush.

You will learn quickly that there is certain limitations on how much you can adjust in the picture.  So getting it right in the camera rule still applies to this digital RAW days.

The basic idea is to express the enitre gradation of all the tones so you don't have blacked out shadows or blown highlights.  Use all the sliders to get it to what you think is best. Clarity works very nice to bring out that "snap" of contrast.  But don't over do it.

Then select a new brush and do the other areas. I highly recommend you separating the regions so you can control it independently from other scenes.

Canon 5D MK3
24mm 3.5L TSE II
Stitched two images together (using the lens shift)
See it bigger
Once again, I want to express the full gradations of everything in the photo. So zooming in and checking the histogram will help you to do that. Also hit the key J to see periodically where it is blocked up or blown. You will see either red or blue (highlight/shadow) overlay that shows you what is out of range.  For the newbies, "blocked up" means where the area is just totally back with no details, and "blown" means highlight is so bright it is just pure white without any details.

Also, keep clicking back and forth to see what effect you have made using the history option.  Sometimes the change is very subtle that you can't see it till you compare it to how it was before.

So, using the brush tool we can dodge, burn and add contrast locally like in the traditional darkroom. But now with LightRoom you can do more than that, way more.  But keep in mind its not about doing for the sake of doing. We should do it with a purpose. So what's the purpose?

Canon 5D MK3
24mm 3.5L TSE II
Stitched two images together (using the lens shift)
See it bigger
Artistry

The question that I get often is "how do you know what to do to the picture? or "Where do you start?" To find this out, ask yourself questions.  Do you want the clouds to be dramatic? Do you want the gritty details of the dock stand out from the water? Do you really need to see the ship out there? Just answering these questions will give you a bearing on what to do or what not to do. It's about the best presentation of what you saw and felt.

When you clicked the shutter on your camera you did it because you saw something that was interesting or beautiful. Post processing, or "working the image" is about making that part "shine" and the parts that's not important, not shine.  By "shine" I mean to accentuate or draw attention to it.

You can do it in many ways: making it lighter than the surrounding, increasing contrast, or making everything else darker… Experiment with different techniques, there are no rules here.  The only rule is guide your viewer's eye to the good important stuff.  Keep in mind that its all relative to what is around it. For instance, you can't make it all light to accentuate the entire area.  You need the dark areas to show the light areas. Keep it simple and keep to what you saw and felt.

What you saw it as interesting or beautiful was captured by your composition and camera techniques.  You have the diamond in the rough.  Post processing is the cutting and shining.  This was the case in the Darkroom… Now we can do it in LightRoom.  Let's get our shine on!



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Let There be (additional wirelessly controlled portable electronic) Light! With Canon 600RT

Canon 5D MK3, 50 1.2L, with 600EX-RT triggered by ST-E3-RT Click to see Portfolio  I've always held fast to the notion that there is nothing more beautiful of a light source than the natural light and I still do. I sometimes like to at least try to prove myself wrong. The reason being is that I believe that your ideas can, and should change… At least welcome the notion of that change. As it is true with many of my photographic ideas, some of the ideas have roots that goes way back.  I was flirting with the idea of shooting nature with electronic flash. Yes, that's sacrilegious to many including myself, till I realized that while believing in something strongly is good, holding onto something too strongly can lead to stagnation. And as we know, stagnation leads to death! Yes, Death! (repetition for dramatic effect). Canon 5D MK3, 50 1.2L, with 600EX-RT triggered by ST-E3-RT Click to see Portfolio  So today I headed out to the woods to test out this idea. Armed wit

Look what I've found!

I'm starting out on a series of photographs that's very exciting for me.  It is a completely a different approach.  I was playing around with the idea few years ago but now I decided to explore it some more. Canon 5d MK3 Click to see the entire gallery I caught the flashing meteor just as it was about to crash on the earth… Just kidding. This was done with long exposure and deliberately moving the camera for the desired effect.  The meteor is just the sun. Click to see the entire gallery Yes, it does look like an impressionistic painting. I assure you that there was no photoshop filters used.  Saturation, contrast and some tinting was used to get the colors the way I like it. Click to see the entire gallery This approach is so interesting for me because even though the image looks like an abstraction, it was derived from real life.  So in a way it straddles the world of your imagination and reality.  Or better yet, it blurs the boundary between the two rea

Ex President's Homes in DC

Shot for the Washingtonian Magazine for their "Before the White House" article.  It was fun visiting these homes and talking to the owners about what they know and have learned over the years. This story shows the homes of some presidents before they moved into the White House.  The presidents that I covered was Bush Sr., Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Harding, and Johnson. John F. Kennedy 3307 N St. NE DC JF Kennedy's house Canon 5d MK3,  24mm 3.5L TSE II This House was a bit of a challenge because I did not want to show cars or street signs. Just off the the left of the shot is the street, so I didn't have too much space to work with.  From this angle I was able to keep the composition pristine as possible. Just to the right was a bunch of construction workers moving stuff around.  The wide 24mm with the perspective correction allowed me this shot from such a tight vantage point. I love this lens!  JF Kennedy's house. Back view. Canon 5d MK3,  24