Enhancing a night scene in Lightroom

Now that we are in the digital age I still hear that mantra repeated time and again. Unfortunately it's usually followed with some reference to not needing to do any post processing or some other such nonsense. That should tell you my feelings on that.

To prove it, I have decided to show you some post processing on an image that was done right in the camera. I normally start off showing the finished product first, but in this case I'll start with the before image. You can see that it's a pretty decent shot. Exposure is good, composition is nice, we have a nice light trail leading into our frame; a simple, quiet scene of a neighborhood bar on a corner. This is how it looks like with no editing.

As with all your edits it should start with an analysis of the obvious. In this example there really is very little, but very little doesn't mean none. Again, I want to remind you that this is my interpretation for this image. You may or may not agree with some of my choices, that's up to you and how you see things. Hopefully by following what I do here you'll get some insight into the tools.

So, what do I see wrong? For one, the colors are a bit muted. From experience, most images can benefit from a bump up to the blacks. Personally I always add some clarity (+40) and vibrancy (+20) to almost all my images.

Since this little tweak alters the blacks and the color saturation I prefer to do this step first before adjusting anything else. I do this automatically with a preset. I also use a preset to correct any lens corrections. I feel one of the greatest attributes about Lightroom is its ability to create and use presets just about everywhere in the program. After using Lightroom for a while you will begin to see some repetitive actions in your editing. This is when you should make a preset. Let Lightroom take over the hard work.

Because this is a night shot I want to really emphasize the atmosphere. My next step is to cool the colors down by shifting the temperature into the blue. Since the reds look pretty good I opt not to touch the tint slider.

From here I work on normalizing my exposure. I check both my black andwhite clipping and adjust the sliders appropriately. My preferred method is to use the ALT (CMD on Mac) key in conjunction with the black and white sliders. This shows your clipping mask and makes adjusting easier. Another way is to activate the blinkies by clicking on the two triangles in the upper left and right of the histogram. All that's left is for a slight adjustment on the shadow and highlights sliders. Remember the goal is to maintain and enhance the feeling of night.

The image is already looking so much better. The blue evening sky is more vibrant, the red of the tail lights really come forth and the car has lost some of its transparency. Even the roadway pops out a bit more, which may be a problem. Remember that global changes affect the entire image. In this case I was looking to affect the sky and the lights. Because they are global changes it also affected the road, the trees, the building and everything else. That's okay too because we want the entire image to have a consistent look to it. Let's continue.

To add to the feeling of night and also enhance the fact that were are looking at a location that's inhabited by people enjoying their night life I felt that the bar entrance was too dark and uninviting. Keeping in mind that our eye goes to bright areas first I thought it appropriate to brighten up the entrance and awning of the corner bar.

Using a broad brush I paint the area of the entryway and the front of the lit awning. I then adjust the exposure slider until I find a brightness that looks natural. Don't worry about your feathered edges too much. Light spills all over so brightening the top of the vehicle in front of the building isn't going to appear off. Just make sure you get all the areas you want brightened. In darkroom speak this is called dodging.

Now we're looking pretty good. The only thing that bothers me is the large expanse of roadway in the lower left part of the frame. It's picking up and reflecting a lot of the ambient light. All that open expanse is crowding the right side of the frame too.

For broad areas the gradient tool tends to work well. In this case a gradient from the lower left corner pulled into the center of the image works best with a reduction in exposure. Think of it like adding a vignette just into this one corner. It helps pull the eye out of the corner and back to our restaurant.

At this point I could call it quits and be happy. I like the star burst effect of the lights but I'm wondering if the street light behind the traffic light is too much. Since everything done in Lightroom is non-destructive I can experiment and not worry about making mistakes.

I am also still not happy with all that road in the foreground. As I mentioned before, it makes it look all squashed up into the right part of the image. I decide to try a crop. If I don't like it, I can always remove it.

I open up the crop tool and pull my frame in from the left until the light pole with the questionable light is removed from view. Looking at the final composition I think I like the cropped version. All that's left is to export the final image.

Overall you can see that not a lot was done to the original. What was done was also very subtle and in keeping with the goal of the image which was to express a warm inviting look to a neighborhood tavern at night.

The original image was shot on a tripod at 100 ISO with an aperture of f/22. The small aperture is what gives the lights that star burst effect. Don't forget to leave your comments below. Hope you enjoyed.

Wedding Coming Up? Be Ready to Capture All Those Beautiful Moments With Professional Help!

Ah, the wedding day - one of the most important days in most people's lives. It's an amazing experience, and likely one that you'll remember for the rest of your life, no matter what way things are headed later. Of course, your memory is not permanent, so as much as you may want to preserve every last detail from your wedding in your head, that may not be that easy. There is certainly something else you can do that's just as good though - hire a competent photographer who knows how to capture the event, focusing on the important moments, and who can deliver a quality result to you afterwards.

There's a huge difference between an actual photographer who knows their job properly, and an amateur with an expensive camera who likes to take a few pictures after work. A good photographer has many qualities that can make them the better choice for you, so you should definitely not spare any expenses when it comes to hiring a professional here.

For one thing, good photographers know how to bring out the best from the people that they're photographing, so you can expect all your pictures to feature happy, smiling faces that are obviously having a good time. That's because a professional photographer will not only take good pictures in the first place, but will then sift through hundreds of them just to pick out the several dozens that are actually worth presenting to you. That's another thing that most amateurs don't get - you often end up taking a dozen pictures for a single final shot, and you have to make sure that your photographer is capable of filtering their work properly like that.

Post-processing is another important detail which a good photographer can help you a lot with. No matter how good a picture is, it can usually always use a few touch-ups to really bring out the best from it. Nothing fancy is usually needed, just a few small touches to correct the color balance and contrast here and there. So while it's important to edit the photos so that they look as best as possible, it's just as important to take it easy on the editing to prevent them from looking too fake.

All of this can be achieved easily when you're using a professional photographer with long-running experience behind their back. You will just have to give the photographer a call and let them know when your wedding will take place, and they'll show up with their equipment and take care of everything. Of course, make sure you call them early enough so that they'll be sure to have enough room in their schedule. Photographers tend to be very busy, and that goes double for popular ones - so if you want to make sure that you can actually hire them, you should be as early as possible in giving them a call. Otherwise, you may either not get a good answer, or get a very high quote due to the busy state of the photographer.

Restoring Your Old Photos

Photography is a great hobby and a fantastic way to keep a record of family members and those precious moments. However, old photographs have the habit of being vulnerable, and lots of things can spoil a photograph after it has been developed. They can become faded, torn or destroyed, and that includes photos that have been stored away, that is why you need to digitize your photo collection.

Digitizing Your Old Photos

When you digitize your photo collection, you are giving yourself the chance to preserve and enhance them as well as being able to share them with many more people. It allows you to share those precious memories with friends and family who may well be living on the other side of the world, or you can share them via social networking sites.

Scanning Your Photos

In order to digitize your photos, you will need to purchase a scanner, or you may already have a scanner integrated with your printer. A scanner will allow you to scan all of your images where they will be stored on the hard drive of your computer. Once stored, you can then begin to enhance and edit them by using a simple photo editing tool.

Photo Editing at Home

Once you have scanned all of your pictures, you can then begin to choose the ones that may need editing or retouching, and it is likely that the older the photo, the more retouching and editing it will need. There are many different kinds of photo editing software available, and you may even find that there is one already installed on your computer. However, if a photo has a lot of damage or needs a lot of work, then you may need to consider seeking help from a professional photo restorer.

Professional Photo Editing

A professional photo restorer will be able to help you with things such as: 
• Restoring the color to faded photos 
• Repairing tears and restoring missing parts of a photo 
• Removal of water stains 
• Adding a missing person or deleting an unwanted one

When seeking expert help for difficult to restore photographs, a quick search online via a search engine will list those people in your local area who are offering their photo restoration services.

As you can see, there are a number of facets to restoring old and damaged photos, however, it will certainly be worth it when you see the finished results, because the photos that you digitize and restore right now, will be available for future generations for years to come.