One shot – before and after (#2)

Back again with an edit post.

I don’t do a lot of these because they can be tedious, but I’m really digging the edit I did with this photo and wanted to share what steps went into it and how small changes can bring an image to life.


Here’s the unedited version –


Here’s the camera and settings info and a look at the Basic panel for some of the first adjustments I made. I usually hit Auto and then adjust as needed. Nothing drastic, but the shadows were too open and the highlights got adjusted way down. This is a direct result of my over exposure to get the snow white. Shooting in Manual mode for winter scenes is the easiest in my opinion because exposure doesn’t change much. I also bumped the white balance a bit.


Next I decided to apply some local adjustments using masks. Masking in Lightroom has come even further since the last One Shot post I did and so this time I’ll show you the screen shots of the panels and how I made them work together.



First mask is for the sky – it needed presence and some drama, but not too much. It wasn’t stormy – the sun was breaking through. A sky selection didn’t work because it didn’t select what was directly behind the trees. So I tried a luminance range selection and that got it with some loosening as you and see at the top of the panel. All it needed was a touch of clarity, dehaze and contrast. At full strength it was too much, so I pulled the amount slider down to 79. Don’t ignore that slider – it’s really useful for fine-tuning.


Next up, the Sunlight mask. I used this to amplify the effect of some sunlight coming through down to the tree island. It was this phenomenon that made me stop the car in the first place. It wasn’t as strong as when I actually took the photo, so I think this sleight-of-hand gives the image a little lift.

Placement with Radial gradients is vitally important and so is the feathering. Notice that a lot of the gradient goes out of the frame at the top. This is to ensure that the spread is wide up there and doesn’t look confined. A great way to judge whether your fade is looking smooth is to view your photo much smaller than full screen. Believe me, anything harsh or badly blended will show up.


And here are the only two things I did with this adjustment – slight warming and a little boost in highlights and whites. At first I added a touch of magenta, too, but it wasn’t working so I took it out. Again the mask strength is pulled back so the effect is even more subtle. I don’t want you to notice it in a way that says “editing”.


The final mask addressed the snowfield which just needed a boost to make it brighter – just little bumps here so that it would’t affect the sky or trees.

Next some I made some of the taller corn stubble disappear –


I also improved colors and saturation by using both the Calibration and the HSL panels. Since I use Calibration for color work early in my process, I moved that panel from the bottom where it’s often ignored, to the top because I think the changes it makes gives me more realistic color balance and separation. It works to change the blue, green and red values in the pixels themselves. Each pixel uses those three to display every color and so working globally to adjust the underlying combination of those can be really effective. A little goes a long way, but experiment with it.

The HSL panel works on colors as they are rendered individuals so that when you move a slider the hue itself will be changed everywhere in the photo. I really wish the HSL panel was an option with Masking. Curves, too. Maybe someday. But as you can see, a little tweak in both brought up the blues nicely and also the warm colors in the tree island. Because the line of trees in the far back are so cool and greeny gray, the mid ground trees stand out now.

So that’s it! I purposely didn’t add clarity or texture because I wanted a softer look. I did throw in a little sharpening, something I always do. Here’s a look at the before and after side-by-side –


It might seem like a lot of steps, but it really didn’t take that much time. As always, my approach to editing is to enhance the scene and the reason I photographed it in the first place. This lone island in what will be a sea of corn just called to me. Because we have so much snow on the ground, the trees are isolated even more and the sky cooperated by giving me something interesting and throwing some nice light my way. Good thing I live in the sticks where there is no traffic – I stop quick!

Anyway…if you have any thoughts about this, put them below. What’s your approach to your editing?


4 thoughts on “One shot – before and after (#2)

Add yours

  1. I always like to see how people edit photos using digital software. I do this all the time, with film and digital images. This includes some of my paintings, too. In the printing industry, this is done all the time to make a painting “nicer” or “cleaner” – spots, whatever. Watching someone at work is fascinating because if I am familiar with what they are doing I can see what they do that is different from my own processes, and maybe learn something. Nice work, as always!

    1. I usually do learn something when I watch editing tutorials, even if I’m familiar with the software. How others use the same sets of tools is always interesting. Recently on NPN, we have an Image Processing Challenge category where folks can download a DNG file and have a go at editing other people’s photos. It’s always fun to see what other people do with your file. Next month Sean Bagshaw is going to pick some in that category to work on and that should be fun.

  2. This is fantastic information. I don’t have much experience with editing software, and none with Photoshop. My go to is Lightroom to use the heal patch for camera lens spots. I’ll have to come back and re read your info on using masks, something I know nothing about. Thank you for the information!

    1. You’re very welcome, Deb. I have never been shy about editing – even going heavy sometimes – to get my desired result. These days image creation doesn’t stop in camera. The digital darkroom is fun and can take your photos to their fullest potential. I guess maybe I should do more of these!

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