I’ve always admired photographers who can get it right ‘in camera’ and who don’t need to resort to post processing. In fact, I suspect they’re few and far between. Even in the days of film cameras there was a lot of wizardry in the darkroom!

Tonight’s episode of ‘Photocraft online’ was a chance to share some tips and techniques on how to edit and improve your pictures. Through the wonders of modern science (aka screenleap), members were able easily to demonstrate how they used their very own editing software on their home computer. We could see ‘before’ and ‘after’ and watch an average picture being transformed into something special. We were able to, as it were, peer over the demonstrator’s shoulder and do some mutual learning about Lightroom and Photoshop – including some unorthodox innovative workarounds.

Four members shared the workflows they used to enhance their pictures, together with some useful tips along the way. Brian C kicked off the evening by showing how, with the help of Lightroom, he’d transformed what he called a rather ‘unexciting’ picture into one that really brought out the radiant autumn colours. These are some of the tips I, for one, picked up:

o In the develop mode, you can right click the right hand menu and customise it to your preferred order of working (in some versions of LR at least) – Brian, for instance, likes to give the sharpening a little nudge early on in post-processing (see, also, Mark Denney’s YouTube video on using the Lightroom sharpening tool).

o When sharpening, you can control the extent of what is sharpened by holding down the ALT key and using the masking slider.

o The ‘Clarity’ slider can be an effective way of sharpening mid-tones.

o You can simply press ‘R’ to start cropping; and then cycle through different overlays (two-thirds, golden ratio, etc) by repeatedly pressing the letter ‘O’. This link will take you to a list of the other keyboard shortcuts (thank you to Chris R for posting this and the previous link in the chat bar).

o If you want greater control over your vignettes, try using the ‘Radial Filter’ (decrease the exposure and don’t select the invert mask).

Try using the slider in the pictures below, to see the photos before & after editing…

Next up was David J. He began his demonstration in Lightroom and showed how he’d tweaked a preset, used ‘Transform’ to remedy the perspective, and employed ‘Lens Corrections’ to give the image extra pop. David then took the image into Photoshop (the easiest way of moving the image is simply to right click on it and select ‘Edit in Photoshop’). We then had a masterclass in how to use layers – especially in order to protect his car image during the editing. There were a lot of unnecessary details both in the background and foreground. As well as using the cloning tool, he did a lot of selecting, copying (CTRL ‘J’) and moving, with the help of extra layers (which worked very effectively on the geometric brick background). It was a fun image and by the time he’d finished it had changed a lot. It was an image he became quite proud of – so much so that, next time he was cycling past, he knocked on the door and presented the woman there with a copy of his photo. He told us that she simply accepted the photo and closed the door. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised, because he had actually completely removed her door from the final picture!

After the tea/gin break, David P revealed one of his go-to tricks – a non-destructive way of dodging and burning in Photoshop. He began with a fascinating glimpse into the pre-history of dodging and burning – how, in the heady days of analogue, you literally lightened or darkened areas, when printing from an enlarger in the darkroom, with pieces of card, holes in card or even by using your hands (a distant, but maybe more creative, memory for a number of us, I guess). His non-destructive dodging and burning technique was a complex tour de force. One of the capabilities it gave you was to dodge or burn with colours. It goes without saying that usually ‘less is more’ when adjusting your photos and that it’s best to work with small increments. David did admit that he is not a Lightroom aficionado and others did helpfully point out that non-destructive dodging and burning can readily be done in Lightroom. His unorthodox Photoshop workaround was, nonetheless, suitably enthralling.

The final spot of the evening was taken by Dave S, who demonstrated how he creates triptychs in Photoshop 7. This presentation again showed the value of being able to use layers (which are only available in Photoshop and not in Lightroom). Dave worked a lot of magic with the ‘opacity’ slider, as he worked on a splendid underwater photo. Unfortunately, we lost sound quite early on, so I can’t tell you much more about how he created the final triptych. Perhaps we can request an encore sometime soon!

This was another excellent lockdown evening, which again enabled us to do things that we couldn’t ordinarily have done so effectively at St Elphege’s. Perhaps we could eventually build online evenings like this into our ‘new normal’?

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