Saturday, February 4

Emerging from the shadows - photography

I'm afraid that I still haven't got to grips with manual settings on my camera and rarely stray from the automatic setting.

Even if I could get my head round which settings to choose there are times when I need to take a photo very quickly and, if I had to fiddle with settings, the moment would be lost. 

One example was when a robin was singing high in a tree . The late afternoon sun was shining and the bird was just a silhouette. No point even trying to take a photo with my lack of expertise? Digital photography means there is never anything to lose by just pointing the camera and pressing the shutter.

The resulting image was this ...
Rubbish isn't it? The camera, however has captured far more than it first appears and all is not lost.

We have a piece of software called Adobe Lightroom which often compensates for my lack of expertise in setting up the camera correctly. Using this I can apply settings after the image has been taken. 

Cheating I hear some of you muttering but my aim is to produce a pleasing image and why is it cheating to tweak settings after the photo was taken rather than before. If the initial photo is really rubbish then the software won't magically turn it into a perfect photo. The information has to be incorporated when taking the image in order for the software to bring it out.

I've chosen this extreme example to show what is possible. The photo above was actually what I saw with the naked eye. 

I'm not going into tutorial mode - the idea is just to give a flavour of how something half decent can be produced from what initially appears to be a completely failed photo.

I imported the original image into Lightroom.
Let's look closer at part of the panel on the right.
This area allows you to correct the exposure and alter various other light settings. All I needed to do to this photo was to decrease the amount of shadow. I reduced it to the maximum capacity as you can see from the slider above.

I ended up with this ...
The details of the robin were magically revealed. The camera had caught all this bit the shadowing masked it.

The image was taken with my Lumix FZ1000 at the full extent of the optical zoom. The actual photo size was 5472px x 3648px (or to make it simpler 772mm x 515mm or 30" x 20") I know incredible isn't it. 

The huge size of the image means that I can select and crop a much smaller part of the image so that the robin becomes more dominant.

Back to Lightroom and more tools.

I clicked on the aspect ration control tool to open the padlock as I wanted my photo to be a different shape to the original Then I clicked the crop tool.

I set the crop box around the part of the image that I wanted to keep.

Let's look closer.

If you look closely you can see that the highlighted selection has some guidelines displayed. I have this set up in thirds, like a noughts and crossed template. I'm not going into any detail about the rule of thirds here other than to say that the guides help with composition. The selection can be moved around until you are happy with the composition. I wanted the viewer to be drawn to the robin's eye and so this was placed at the point where a horizontal and vertical line cross.

Once satisfied I clicked the crop tool again to'cut' out the selected area. So here we see the before and after. Both are cropped for a direct comparison.

It's not as sharp as it could be but considering how it set off I don't think it is bad. It was good enough to use as the design for my 2016 Christmas cards. 


  1. As a user of Photoshop I would never accuse anyone of cheating! lol although, I have been accused of cheating, so I know what it is like. What's the difference between making adjustments before or after the shot is taken? Being careful to avoid my soapbox now!
    I do like the thought of taking back control by using the manual settings, and, as you know I am {supposed to be} taking part in a year long course to this purpose, but not been able to do very much as I can't get to grips, properly, with these manual settings. I'm finding, as I expected, I'm missing shots because I'm off auto. I never once missed a shot using a 35mm camera, btw! I missed last night's spectacular sunset {after an abysmal day} just because I'd forgotten I was on manual! Piffle.
    There's a place for both, but when you are dealing with a fleeting moment auto is the must go to choice. I shall faff around with compositions and still life etc. on manual, but auto and Photoshop for everything else!

    1. that's a delightful picture, btw!

    2. My thoughts exactly, Deborah. I play around with shots in the garden that I can repeat or am not too bothered about. I have found some of my camera options are not available in Auto so I have to dip my foot ion the proverbial water. Light settings are beyond me as even if your head around it, the light changes so quickly at times.

  2. Well done Sue for getting an excellent image in the final edit, no such thing as cheating in digital photography the end justifies the means, we used to cheat in the darkroom back in the film days by "dodging and burning". You do what you like best and don't get bogged down with technicalities. I am about to post on FB a question I have often been asked you might find it interesting. Keep up the good work your results in such a short time mean you have a good eye for what makes a good photo.

    1. Dodging and burning sound dangerous, David. I'll look out for the Facebook post.

  3. An interesting post, Sue. I have been wondering for some time if it was worth investing in light room, which I understand has gone to an annual subscription now, compared to what is already available on my Apple Mac in edit photos? Lovely photo.

    1. We pay monthly for Lightroom, Bridge and Photoshop as a package, Brian. We then get regular updates. Lots of software seems to be going down this route.

  4. Great photo (I rather liked the original too). Thank goodness for digital and software! I use an oldish version of Paintshop Pro and Perfectly Clear is a good app on my ipad, for quick edits

    1. The software is really clever isn't it, Belinda?

  5. The original photo look good too Sue!
    Look at how technology have developed and make everything look so good! ;)

    1. It makes you wonder where technology will go next, Malar

  6. Well I only took my mobile to the plot today - and now I am failing to save the pictures after emailing them to myself - They have arrived as embedded pictures instead of attachments. No post today and I will take my camera next time - on auto setting. Occasionally I do crop or change the exposure but that facility seems to be available as options on my photo gallery. For the most part I try to avoid it though as I end up with lots of different versions of the same pic or I get carried away and overwrite the original by mistake with a psychedelic sky! I'm willing to learn - but need clear train tracks to follow...

    1. The good thing about Lightroom is that it doesn't alter the original image, Mal. The changes are applied 'virtually'. When you are happy with your changes you then export the virtual image to create a jpg. You always have the original unless you actually delete it. We also use Lightroom to tag and catalogue images so we can search say for a photo of a daffodil throughout all our photos quickly.


Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment - it is great to hear from you and know that there are people out there actually reading what I write! Come back soon.
(By the way any comments just to promote a commercial site, or any comments not directly linked to the theme of my blog, will be deleted)
I am getting quite a lot of spam. It is not published and is just deleted. I have stopped sifting through it and just delete any that ends up in my spam folder in one go so I am sorry if one of your messages is deleted accidentally.
Comments to posts over five days old are all moderated.