Mastering Lightroom: How to Use the Basic Panel

Lightroom has many features that can easily confuse those who are new to it. While the program offers plenty of different editing opportunities, in order to achieve the best results and user experience, it is important to understand the very basics of Lightroom. In the series of upcoming short articles, I will try to explain each of the most important Panels in Lightroom, so that in the end, you will find it to be a simple, quick and easy to use software for your post-processing needs. Lets start with the Basic Panel.

Where to Find It

Lightroom Panel List

The Basic Panel can be found in the Develop Module right bellow the Histogram display at the top-right side of the screen. Expanding the panel will reveal a number of basic controls offered by Lightroom. These controls show you the most obvious benefits of shooting in RAW, such as White Balance and Exposure Compensation adjustments. Lightroom was developed with a left to right, top to bottom editing workflow in mind. While in some cases you will find yourself going back and forth between the settings, we will try to stick with that order at this time.

Tip – if you left-click the top of any Panel while holding down the Alt key (for Windows users) or the Option key (for Mac OS users), Lightroom will go into Solo Panel mode and only keep one Panel open at a given time (for example, if you had Tone Curve Panel open and then click on Detail Panel, the Tone Curve Panel will then close). This allows for a more tidy experience, especially if you often find yourself scrolling through the right-side Panel List. Clicking it again the same way will return Lightroom to previous state. If you want to open another panel without closing the previous one in Solo mode, Shift-click it. Ctrl(Command)-click a panel to open/close all.

The Settings

1) Treatment

The very first setting you can change in the Basic Panel is the Treatment of the image. You have two settings – “Color”, which is set by default and keeps your image in color, and “Black & White”, which, as I have mentioned in my B&W Portrait tutorial, is a great way to start working on a B&W look of your image if that is your intent.

2) White Balance

Sometimes the Auto WB setting on your camera may pick the wrong value, or you might choose a wrong one yourself. These settings are there to make sure that the color captured in your image is correct no matter how the camera was set when you took the picture, so if the image is too blue or too orange, you can easily correct it.

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How to Convert Portraits to B&W with Lightroom 4

In this tutorial I will show you how to convert a portrait (shot in RAW format) to a black & white image using Lightroom 4. By the end of the tutorial, and with some practice, I hope to teach you how to have full control over the look of your B&W images. While I chose this particular look for this particular portrait, Lightroom offers many kinds of different ways to convert your images to black & white, and so it’s impossible to put all the looks into one tutorial. Certain conversions fit certain images better than others, and it also depends on taste and goal of the author. In the future, I hope to make more tutorials for both black & white and color photography with different conversion methods and looks.

B&W Result: HSL desaturation

Before we start, I would also like to note that, despite the fact that our final image will be in black and white, it is important to understand how everything works in color during the conversion process. While sometimes a simple contrast slider and curves tool can lead to a good-enough conversion, usually it is better to spend some more time tweaking different color ranges and working with white balance to affect color, and thus the tone of the image in order to achieve the best result.

With that in mind, here is the image I will be working on:

B&W Conversion Using Lightroom 4

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How to Effectively Sell Your Photo Gear on eBay

Given the popularity of my previous article, “Diseases That Plague Photographers“, and the many humorous responses I have received, it seems that most of you have also come to terms with your afflictions, and admitted to having little, if any, desire to be cured! That would suggest that over your lifetime, you will likely buy and sell a fair amount of photography equipment. As such, I thought it might be helpful to know how to maximize your ability to get top dollar for your used gear.

There are many other avenues for selling your equipment, but I happen to believe that eBay is one of the best structured market places to conduct business, offers quite a bit of protection to both buyers and sellers, and exposes you to an extremely broad market. This article will cover the selling side of eBay, while the next will focus on the buying process.

Lens Photo

1) Focus On Legitimacy

Legitimacy is a simple concept – it is not only appearing, but actually “being” what you represent yourself to be. Keeping this simple, but powerful, concept in mind as you navigate through the auction process will help set you apart from other eBay sellers, ensure that you get a good price for your gear, and enable you to earn solid eBay feedback scores. Why do I emphasis legitimacy? Because in a world of slick advertising, fine print, numerous drug side effects that sound far worse than the illnesses they purport to treat, and occasional con artists, people are genuinely concerned about doing business with trustworthy people, feeling confident that they get exactly what they bargained for, and being treated fairly. On eBay, as in many other areas of life, “a little Golden Rule goes a long way.”

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Case Study: Bird Photography

I have finally been able to more or less clean up my mailbox and sort through most of the emails that keep pouring in from our readers. The case studies that our readers are sending have been piling up in my mailbox and my to-do list, so I will try to do a better job in posting these on the blog from now on. Let’s start with a case study from our reader Gaurav Rajaram, a bird lover and photographer from Bangalore, India. Here is what he sent me:

I use a Nikon 300mm f/4 paired with a Nikon D200 for my bird photography. While shooting, I notice that I do not get a clean background, which I would expect from a prime lens. I have got such a background in one image of mine, however, the subject is a little too soft for my liking (the picture is attached). Is there any way to get a clean background so as to help the viewers’ focus remain on the subject (the bird in this case)? Could you share a tutorial with us? I’m attaching sample images for this case study in JPEG format with full EXIF info.

And here are the two images Gaurav attached:

Bird with clean BG but too soft

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How to Watermark a Photo in Lightroom 3

In this article, I will show you how to watermark a photo in Lightroom 3 using the standard, available tools. Adding copyright watermarks to photographs in Photoshop can be a very time consuming task. Although you can create a batch job for watermarking multiple images in Photoshop, it is a rather slow and cumbersome process that involves recording actions for different layouts. Embedding watermarks in Lightroom 2 was also painful, because you had to use a separate plugin that had to be installed and configured. Gladly, Lightroom 3 now has an integrated functionality to embed watermarks that you can use in batch action while exporting your images. Let’s go over the new method of embedding watermarks and how you can use Lightroom 3 to watermark all of your vertical or horizontal images during the file export process.

How to watermark a photo

1) Why Watermark Your Images?

The first question you might ask yourself is – should you or should you not watermark your images? There are many opinions on this matter. Some photographers argue that watermarks prevent theft (which I and many others disagree with), allow self-promotion and help build brand recognition, while others argue that adding watermarks spoils the viewing experience and does more harm than good. Let me quickly point out what I think about watermarks and when they should and should not be used.

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How to Store Memory Cards

After losing a memory card with the best pictures from a trip I took across the western USA, I decided to write a quick article on how to store memory cards and how not to lose photographs during long trips. It was a lesson learned the hard and painful way, so a couple of days after the loss, I came up with a plan to protect my data going forward and try not to lose it any more in the field. Below you will find my plan and my recommendations.

Losing images from a long-planned and expensive trip can be very painful. After it happens, you realize that it is not the financial aspect of it, but the effort you put into creating those images instead that hurts the most. We as photographers have to work with the best light during the day, which happens at sunrise and sunset times, no matter where you are located. In Glacier National Park, the sunset times in summer can be as late as 10 PM and as early as 5 AM in the morning. Northern Canada and Alaska are even worse, with sunset times close to midnight in July and sunrise in less than 5 hours. Add +1 hour after sunset and -1 hour for sunrise to get back and to the location, and we are talking about less than 3 hours of sleep at night. In addition, those late hours are also the peak and active time for wildlife, making it dangerous to hike to get to a good spot. And I am not even talking about the weather, which can go against you in those twilight hours. In addition, you carry the heavy weight with you and spent a lot of time tweaking your equipment and composing your shots using different spots and angles. So with so much effort put into making those images, the last thing you want is to lose them. What’s worse is, if you have been shooting for a while, you know if you got a great photo right at the time you take it. You take a look at the camera LCD and you know it is a keeper, a potential for your showcase portfolio. Once you lose photographs, you start to remember those keepers and deep regret hurts even more. So, why even take the chance? Take all the steps you can to protect your photographs when traveling and working on the field.

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AjRichard – Beware of buying gear from unauthorized sellers

I recently witnessed how a friend of mine got robbed by an online camera store called AjRichard based out of New York, USA when he purchased a Canon 5D Mark II. The camera was out of stock for a few weeks in every single local and online store he trusted and he could not wait any longer. That’s when he decided to expand his search and see if he could find an Internet store that had the 5D MKII in stock. He eventually ended up on Nextag.com looking at a list of merchants with “in stock” indicators. The top sellers all had very high ratings and he noticed that some of the sellers were advertising the 5D MKII at lower than the $2,500 “normal” rate that everybody else sells for. The top result was AjRichard.com and with over 1,000 reviews, 5 star rating and a “Trusted Seller” status, he decided to take the plunge and order the camera at just $2,350 – a really good deal he thought he was getting. The sad part is, he felt something was not right while making the purchase and still did it, thinking that his credit card company would protect him in case something went wrong. Next day, he got a call from AjRichard sales rep, who told him that camera battery and charger were not included in the $2,350 price and convinced him to buy those, along with some accessories he did not need. The order went up to $2,629 and he was promised free three day shipping. He needed the camera ASAP, so he agreed to complete the transaction and paid in full. Here is what his order looked like:

AjRichard Order

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How to Remove Dust From Nikon 24-70mm Lens

I often get plenty of dust behind the rear element of my Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens. While for the most part it does not affect my images, after my last trip to Utah, I ended up with a large dust particle that somehow made it into the lens. Nikon only removes dust from lenses if you pay for the service, because the normal lens warranty does not cover dust removal. I did not feel like waiting for a couple of weeks and paying a hefty sum to get mine cleaned, so I decided to do it myself. In this video, I will show you how to remove dust from the rear element of the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens in less than 5 minutes.

WARNING: Opening your lens will void your warranty if Nikon finds out you did it. This video is NOT for beginners. Do not attempt this if you have a couple of small dust specks in your lens. See my “what to do with dust inside lenses” article for more information.
DISCLAIMER: I take ZERO responsibility for any potential damage that you might cause as a result of opening the rear lens element. DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Now for the brave souls that decide to do this: the process is actually fairly simple. Start out in a clean, dust-free room. All you need to do is remove three screws from the rear wall of the lens mount, then gently lift the rear lens element and use a rocket blower to remove the dust from it. You can also remove the dust from the next lens element that sits inside the lens. Just zoom out to 24mm so that the element moves down towards the rear, then blow off the dust from it using the same rocket blower. Be very careful during the process and make sure not to touch any lens parts or lens elements from the inside. When using the blower, keep a safe distance, so that you do not accidentally hit anything. Do NOT try to blow off the dust with your breath or canned air – use Giotto’s Rocket Blower instead. When putting the screws back, don’t over-tighten them.

Here is the video with full details:

How to Clean SLR Camera Lenses

When it comes to cleaning SLR camera lenses, photographers use different methods that work for them. In this article, I will show you my way to clean DSLR camera lenses. I often get emails and comments from our readers, who ask to provide detailed information on this process, so I am including a detailed article along with an accompanying video to thoroughly explain the process. Cleaning lenses is a fairly straightforward process and is almost risk-free, as long as you are using proper tools for the job. If you are impatient and want to see the video where I show the entire process of cleaning a lens, skip all the way down. I hope you find the below article and video useful.

1) Why Clean Camera Lens?

Besides the obvious answer “because it is dirty”, keeping your lenses clean will ensure that you get the best and highest quality results from using your gear. During a Photo Walks that I led a couple of years ago, a novice approached me with a question about his camera. He told me that his images look cloudy and he had no idea why it was happening. I asked if I could take a look at his camera to see if I could find anything wrong with it. As soon as I opened the front lens cap, I knew exactly what the problem was. The front element of the lens was very dirty and had oily fingerprints and other stuff all over the place. I showed him the lens and asked if he knew about the problem. He told me that he had a toddler that likes his camera too much and apparently, that’s how the lens ended up getting all the stuff on it. He did not know how to clean the lens properly and after spending so much money on the camera gear, he was too scared to clean it himself. Gladly, I always carry my cleaning kit with me, so I took a picture before and then another after cleaning the lens. We compared the images and as expected, the first one indeed looked cloudy, while the second one was clear and sharp. This is one example of how dust, dirt and oil can affect your images.

Another important reason to clean your camera lens is keep your images free of particles that might show up in background highlights and other parts of the image. Take a look at my earlier post on “the effect of dust on lens bokeh” – you will see, that dust on the rear element of your lens will show up in your images, especially if you have large specks of dust there.

Dust is a normal part of a photographer’s life. While it is a good idea to prevent dust from landing on your gear, whether you like it or not, you will eventually end up in a dusty environment some day. So, it is not a matter of how, but when. If you see a beautiful sunset on a windy and dusty day, are you not going to take a picture? Some photographers say things like “do not get your gear dirty in first place”, which I consider to be a ridiculous statement. I would never want to miss an opportunity for a good picture, just because I wanted to keep my gear clean. Every time I go to places like Sand Dunes, I know beforehand that it is most likely going to be windy. Take a look at this shot:

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Nikon AE-L / AF-L Button

Whether you are using an entry-level DSLR like Nikon D3100 or a top of the line DSLR like Nikon D3x, there is a special button on the back of your camera labeled “AE-L / AF-L” that can be quite useful in many situations. After I wrote the Autofocus Modes article, I received several requests from our readers, asking me to explain what the AE-L / AF-L button does, when it should be used and how it can be combined with different autofocus modes. In this article, I will try to go through this button in depth and explain how I personally use it on my cameras.

Nikon D3100 AE-L AF-L Button

1) AutoExposure-Lock / AutoFocus-Lock

The AE-L / AF-L button stands for “AutoExposure-Lock and AutoFocus-Lock” and its primary function is to lock camera exposure and/or focus. What does this exactly mean? If you are using any of the camera modes like Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or other scene modes, the button could be used to force the camera to use a certain value for shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance. Since in any of the automatic modes the camera uses its metering sensor to determine the optimal exposure, instead of having your camera re-evaluate the light every time you recompose, you could lock the exposure to a value you are comfortable with – hence the term “AutoExposure-Lock”. There are many cases where using this feature is very helpful. One example is when you photograph panoramas. It is extremely important to use exactly the same exposure from frame to frame in panoramic photography. If one exposure differs from another, it is practically impossible for panoramic software to stitch images together in a consistent, continuous form. Another good example is if you are photographing a subject with a constantly changing background and you want to expose the subject exactly the same way from shot to shot. Basically, any time consistency of exposure is required and you do not want to switch to a full manual mode, the AE-L button can be very useful.

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