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Lightroom has the power to completely transform your landscape photograph into something far more powerful, something that hits home with viewers, and something that pops off the screen.
By default digital cameras create flatter image files than what you see with your eye. Your eye has the ability to see dimensions like no camera can really capture. Although many try.
The definition of dimension is: an aspect or feature of a situation, problem, or thing. When utilizing the word dimension in your photograph, think of the features of specific locations and objects within the frame. As an example, in the photo you will see here, there are multiple layers of dimension to play with. There’s the sky, the water, the rocks, the buildings, the grass, and the shed. Each has its own uniqueness to it, and can and should be treated as such.
Like the other local adjustment tools in Lightroom, the adjustment brush tool has the ability to fine tune specific parts of a photograph. Using the tool can create new dimensions you would never have otherwise seen from a camera rendition. Your eye, however, most likely did see the dimensions.
You can see in the first photo that it’s a really cool lighthouse scene, but there is something drastically gone wrong. The photo is super flat. That is because it was a very rainy day with tons of fog everywhere, and mist from the water constantly hitting the camera.
To use the Lightroom Adjustment Brush, open a photo in the Develop module, then select the brush icon at the top right, just under the Histogram (the keyboard shortcut is K).
Once selected, a variety of local adjustments will appear. From there you have a wide range of options that you can make on a very specific section of your photo. For example, sharpness, exposure, or even brushing on a new color.
The first thing you should know before starting with the Adjustment Brush is that Lightroom keeps your last settings whenever adding a new brush. To zero out the settings simply double click on the word Effect.
Also, the Auto Mask feature is very smart. Think of it like a content aware brush. Simply put, it looks at the cross hairs inside of your brush and will try to stay “within the lines” and not brush on what doesn’t match up. This is fantastic for edges. However, the Auto Mask feature uses more Lightroom performance, so you may notice a slow down. My workflow is to fill in big spaces and then turn on Auto Mask when I need it.
As you are brushing in areas, hit the O key on your keyword to see a red mask of where you have brushed (hit Shift+O to cycle through the available mask colors).
I started brushing the middle section of the photo with more contrast, and reduced highlights and shadows. This broke through the haze and enhanced the greens enough to where I like it.
I then made another brush by clicking on New in the brush panel. This one was to bring down the extreme highlights of the house and lighthouse. I brought it down just enough so it’s still white, but doesn’t blend in with the sky, which is also very white.
Then came a third brush, which was for the rocks. I wanted to make sure they popped out more than anything else. I didn’t want them to just have contrast, so I also used the clarity slider. Clarity will enhance a lot of edge detail, which is awesome on rocks.
Now that the grass, the structures and the rocks all have different dimensions of contrast, clarity and light, it is time to play with the color dimension. So I created another brush with a hint of transparent blue to the water. This adds more life to the boring gray tone it had previously.
I then did the same with the sky, but with less transparency due to the whiteness of the sky already. Adding a hint of color the white sky helps separate the house and lighthouse from the background even more.
The last brush I added to the photo was on the roof of the house. The intention there was to recover the red color subtly, so it doesn’t take away from the rest of the photo. So I increased the contrast, dropped the exposure slightly and added a hit more red to the roof.
At the end of the day, the photo has multiple layers of dimension. It’s no longer flat, and notone section has the same feel as the rest. Using the brush feature in Lightroom I was able to not only recover color and contrast, but add even more texture and life to the scene.
Think of the Adjustment Brush tool like layers in Photoshop or onOne Software. There are no actual layers but rather brush points which can be adjusted individually.
Below is a video showing what I’ve done with this photograph.
There is a lot more that can be done, like sharpness, noise reduction and even changing color temperature and tinting for specific areas in a photo. But what I have shared here is a handful of what you are capable of doing within your favorite photography workflow software, Lightroom.
I’d love to see some photos you have processed using Lightroom Adjustment Brush tool. Please comment to share with the dPS community.