August 27, 2015

Backing up your Lightroom Presets

Here’s a tip that could be a lifesaver for some of us Lightroom users. If you’ve ever had a hard drive crash on you, you’ll appreciate months tip.  A lot of us that have been using the program for a while know that there are ways to drastically speed up their workflow, one of which is by creating their own custom Presets. Some of us started out using Photoshop before Lightroom was even invented and are used to creating Actions to do repetitive or complex tasks for us. Presets are basically “Actions for Lightroom”.  These Presets can also include anything from your Import presets, Develop presets or even all your Print presets. We’ve all been told that it’s a very good idea to back up your Catalogs fairly often and put the back-up on another computer or in a Dropbox location so you can have access to them in case of an emergency. But it’s also a good idea to make sure you have copies of all your Presets too. 

This month’s tip will show you an easy and reliable way for you to make sure you have copies of all your Presets. It’s as easy as making a copy of a folder that you can load on your system again quickly and easily. This tip could save you from having to create all your presets from scratch or trying to remember where you downloaded them from. It’s quick and easy process, so follow along with me and I’ll show you how to back up yours.

First, find the folder where all your Presets are. To do this, go to Lightrooms Preferences. This is found under the Lightroom menu on a Mac or under the Edit menu of a PC. After you open that, click on the Presets tab on the top of that dialog box. About halfway down you’ll notice two check boxes. The first one is ‘Store presets with this catalog’ and the second is ‘Show Lightroom Presets Folder’. 

A lot of Lightroom users think, the first check box should do the trick. Please read the article below before choosing that option. Even the people at Adobe don’t recommend selecting this option. If they thought it was a good idea they would have made it the default option from the start don’t you think?  By clicking that option, Lightroom will create and store your presets in a totally separate subfolder which could really mess you up, especially if you are using multiple catalogs.  Check out this article in the Lightroom Forums website which explains it in more detail and you’ll see what I mean.   # 3: Implications of using this option 

Instead of choosing that first option, click the Show Lightroom Presets Folder box.
This will bring up a new dialog box with a folder called Lightroom highlighted. Now just make a copy of that folder and save it in a nice safe place, preferably with your Catalog back-ups on another computer.  The beauty is that if your system ever goes bonkers on you you’ll be prepared.  Just click on Show Lightroom Presets Folder again right after you reload Lightroom. Now all you have to do is to delete that folder and replace it with your Lightroom back-up folder (with all your Presets) and you’re back in action.  Remember to do this anytime you create a new preset and you’re all set. Fortunately backing up your Lightroom presets is easy and doing this will give you peace of mind.  Pretty nice huh?

Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

August 15, 2015

What F-stop was that shot at?

I'm always surprised how many people don't know how easy it is to see all your shooting info while you are in Lightroom.

Lightroom actually lists a lot of information about your image just by clicking on Metadata panel located in the Library module’s panel area. Most of the time I just use the Default view in the pop-up menu on the left side, because in this mode I can see the file name (or whatever I have the image renamed)  the name of the folder where its located and  it’ll show you all of your shooting info down below in the bottom section. 

You'll notice this includes a whole bunch of things like your shutter speed, ISO,  F-stop,  whether or not your flash fired and even what focal length and what camera and lens you used.  It even shows you the date and time you took the original shot for quick reference. 

Now there are always other places to view this information, but while you are already in the Library module, this is just a quick way to see this info while you're in the Grid View.

Maybe you might need to view some of the other information imbedded in the file? Sometimes it might be someone elses image you're working on and you need to check out all the IPTC data or other EXIF data. This is pretty simle, just click those options instead of the Default option.  Nice huh?

Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

July 13, 2015

Do It Yourself HDR Photos

These days I have a side business where I shoot homes for realtors who are looking to improve their marketability by getting better images for their websites and printed materials. I’ll go to homes and take a series of photos of the exterior and the interiors for the agents and deliver full sized and web sized (MLS) photos all color corrected and finished. Check out my website here. Believe me this is a lot tougher than it sounds and takes a good eye and a lot of practice. Maybe in the future I’ll do a post on shooting interiors, but in this post I’ll show you one of the methods I use for my exterior shots when I’m in a pinch. 

When shooting real estate photos I shoot bracketed photos 90% of the time and use various software programs to blend the images. By shooting bracketed shots, I can capture more of the highlights and shadows which help me get a better finished shot. Clear days with some nice clouds are ideal, but that isn’t the case most of the time. Some days you just can’t get to the home early enough in the morning or late enough in the afternoon (depending on which direction the home faces) and you need to have some ‘magic tricks’ in your hat to help you get your shot. In this tutorial I’ll show you a work-around I use in the rare times when I only have a single image to work on. In this case it’s I’ll be using one of my HDR programs to do my magic. I hope you like it. 

When I’m out driving around, I’m always looking for homes that might make a nice image for my real estate website. Unfortunately on the day I shot this home I was on my motorcycle, I had a camera with me but didn’t have a tripod.  It was taken around 2 in the afternoon so I wasn’t able to get a decent exposure on the sky and the front of the home in a single shot but I really liked the clouds and knew it had some potential.   If I was going to get a nice shot of this home, I would use one of my magic tricks. To start, I would have to make three copies of my photo so that I could process them like an HDR image. Ironically, this home ended up being on the opening page of my website until I find a home that I like better.

My regular workflow process starts by opening my original images (in this case my single image) in Camera RAW and adjusting the Contrast, Blacks and Clarity sliders. After making those adjustments, I then underexposed it by one full stop and open it as a copy in Photoshop so I can save it as a TIFF. This image I will name Dark.

Neutral Copy
Now I go back into Camera RAW and open my original again. I make sure its Exposure is set to neutral (0) keeping my other adjustments I made on the first image (Contrast, Blacks and Clarity sliders) and then I bring it into Photoshop and save it as a TIFF and name this one Neutral.  

Over Copy
Now I open the original a third time in RAW, raise the Exposure on it by one full stop, then bring it into Photoshop and save it as a TIFF called Over.  The reason I’m saving them as TIFF files is the fact that if I need to, I can open them in Camera RAW later if I need to make some more changes and I find it easier to this way.  

Now I import all three of these TIFF files into Lightroom CC where I’ll do my magic, in this case I’m using Photomatix Pro 5.0, but it is currently up to version 5.5. You can also run Photomatix in Photoshop, but I prefer to use it in Lightroom.  Photomatix Pro is one of several HDR programs I have loaded on my system and each one will get me different results. If you have this program loaded on your computer, you can go up under the File Menu and choose it from your Plug-ins. 

When I start up Photomatix, it is going to start up and immediately stop. A dialog box will pop open that allows me to set my Pre-processing Options. Check out the image of my settings. I don’t need mine aligned because it’s a single shot, but I do reduce noise and chromatic aberrations.  In the section called Handling of HDR, I check it to automatically re-import into Lightroom for me. Then I check 8 bit in the Output Format menu. When I have these all set, I click Export on the bottom and Photomatix will start up and quickly stop again.

Another dialog box will open to tell me all three images have the same Exposure settings according to the Exif Data. Like I didn’t know that huh? 

Fortunately the program allows me to change them manually in this dialog box. I set the one called Over to +1.0, the Neutral one I leave alone and the Dark one I set to -1.0.  Check out the image. When I’m done changing those, I click the OK button. 

Photomatix will re-start and does its thing and when it’s done, a screen will open with a bunch of output choices.  I check out my choices and in this case I like the one called Default so I choose that and then click on Save and Re-Import box.  See Image. Photomatix will then save it as a TIFF in my folder and Lightroom will re-import it for me. When I get it saved I then bring it into Photoshop for my final tweaks.

When I get it into Photoshop, the first thing I do is to duplicate my background layer because I never like to work on my original image. I can see I want to do some patching on the driveway and the street in front of the house. When I’m done my patching, I use the Quick Selection tool to select the whole driveway and sidewalk, then pop it on its own layer and feather the edges a little bit. Then I’ll use the Burn Tool (set at about 25%)  to darken the driveway just a little bit. When I’ve got all my tweaks done, I darken the whole photo a little bit more and add some contrast. Finally I crop it down to a 4 x 6 format and trim off some of the street and then Sharpen it and save it as a PSD file. I then make a JPEG copy of my file in sRGB mode  to deliver to my clients.

There are many ways to do the same thing I’m doing here, this methods just works for me. This whole process takes about 5-8 minutes total, but judging by the final photo, I’m pretty pleased. What do you think?  I hope this little tutorial gives you some ideas for future projects yourself. 

Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography