When in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe for my Senior Project, I learned a lot about how to better use my equipment simply by taking thousands of pictures over the course of two short weeks. However, what I learned the most about was my photo-editing software: Lightroom. For this week’s blog post, I wanted to discuss how incredible and helpful Lightroom is as probably the best tool I currently possess, perhaps even better than my camera.
Before I jump in, there is one thing I would like to briefly discuss: the use of photo-editing as cheating your natural environment. With a tool as powerful as Lightroom (which I will get into in a minute), many people believe that editing your photos to be brighter, have less shadow, highlight certain colors, or even blur out parts of the photo is a way of cheating the natural environment you are shooting in. However, I could not disagree more.
When anyone snaps the shutter button on their camera, they are trying to capture a moment. Photographing wildlife is amazing and oftentimes feels magical because I am sharing an intimate moment with an animal. But, on a regular basis, the photos I take do not fully capture the feeling I had. It is that feeling I want to convey when people look at my photos. Allow me to give you a few examples from my trip to Zimbabwe so that you can see some new photos instead of ones you may have already heard me talk about from the lake.
Below is a photo of wild lions I saw while on safari, an extremely rare site in the Zambezi National Park and something that nobody has seen since January.
Coming around the corner and seeing this pride of lions was truly epic, but when I went back and looked at my photos, none of them really captured what I was feeling. I thought that this was the best photo I had taken, and yet, it is severely lacking. The water in front of them is clearly man-made for a campsite, the lion on the far right looks out of place, and the color and sunlight look bland and washed out.
So, I put the photo into Lightroom and made dozens of minor adjustments and came out with this:
Immediately, you can see the difference. Besides the obvious crop to eliminate the man-made pool and the awkward lion on the right, I made many other adjustments which I will try to briefly explain without boring you. Using a gradient filter, I created lines that ran parallel to the water in order to have the top of the photo and the left corner fade into focus, drawing your attention to the lions.
I increased the warmth of the photo to make the lions look a bit more golden and then highlighted their sides facing the sun with a brush and increased the vibrancy of the photo to make their faces look like they are in soft, natural light. Lastly, I brushed the entire bodies of the lions, particularly the young male looking in the opposite direction, and increased the clarity, reducing the crop blur and making their fur slightly sharper.
All of these small adjustments keep the photo looking real because if I hadn’t shown you the original, you probably would not be able to pick apart exactly what I did. These edits allow the photo to invoke an emotion of wonder (I hope) that I felt when I saw the lions.
There is so much more I could say about Lightroom and perhaps I will in future blog posts with new images from around the lake, but for now, I think this blog post has already gone on too long.
Until next week,