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  • Writer's pictureEvan Ruffell

3 Quick Lightroom Tricks

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

1) Straightening The Horizon

Many photographers view a tilted horizon as a cardinal sin. While this should be an easy fix, Lightroom’s tools often fall short. The Crop Straighten tool does not provide a zoomed in preview window (like the White Balance picker does). It also does not allow you to use the tool while at your preferred magnification (like basically all other settings allow). This creates a situation where you are denied any ability to zoom into the nitty gritty details and act with precision.

Fortunately, I’ve found a work-around. Opening the toolbar (shortcut “T”) allows us to overlay our image with a grid. Now that we have perfectly straight lines for reference, we can zoom into whatever section we believe should be straight and line up the grid. The final step here is to open the Crop section and manually adjust the Angle. Fortunately, once an angle is set the image will snap back to our original zoomed in spot. This allows us to bounce back and forth, subtly dialing in until everything lines up beautifully.

Below is a great example of how this can be used in practice. The scene we have to straighten is difficult. The subjects are all at different distances, leaning, and on a slope. The background is a mountain range which, while beautiful, provides very little in the way of a usable horizon. However, the chair lift provides a nice reference point to help out. Presumably, the tower is straight vertical or at very least our eyes expect it to be. Using the nice clean lines of that tower we can get a relatively straight image without even having a horizon to work from.

2) Rein In Colour

I read once that while the human eye is very forgiving of significant luminosity edits, we demand much more subtly for changing hues. Anything more than 5% - 10% of a shift and our mind yells “fake!”. I don’t know about those exact percentages but I have to agree with the overall sentiment.

One of the problems with editing colour is our brain is amazing at normalizing something we have been staring at over time. Imagine wearing ski goggles or sunglasses. When you first put them on a heavy orange filter covers the world. Yet within minutes you hardly notice. When you take them off everything is suddenly shockingly blue but only for a few seconds. This same phenomena occurs when editing and means you can't always trust what seems balanced now will look good later.

Fortunately there is a quick and convenient way to create a touch point. Create a Snapshot before making colour edits. Right-click the Snapshot and select "Copy Snapshot Settings to Before." Now whenever you hit "\" as a shortcut it will show you what the image looked like before colour edits. A simply and easy way to ensure your not going to wild with any changes.

3) Alternative Fix to Dust Spots

Cleaning up your photo is an important step everybody should incorporate into their workflow. For an image that is only getting posted to social media, a quick pass eyeballing distractions is plenty sufficient. However, dust spots have a nasty habit of becoming more visible once a photo is printed out. If somebody is paying for your prints, seeing flaws and spots is a quick way to undermine the experience for what would have been a happy customer.

The Standard Method

Fortunately, Lightroom comes with a wonderful little tool called the Spot Healing Tool. This one-click flaw remover even comes with a handy mode called Visualize Spots. The view inverts the image and highlights areas of contrast, revealing dust spots as little rings.

The Alternative Method

While Visualize Spots mode is incredibly easy to use, it doesn’t catch everything. A much more revealing method is to create a custom curve which is often referred to as a Solarization Curve. This will turn your image into a kaleidoscope of colours. Simply create the curve pictured below and save it as a preset for future use!

Comparison Time

So why use this different method? Well below are some example images where I have applied both techniques. First, Visualise Spots mode with the sensitivity dialed to where I felt it best reveals the flaws. Second, the one-click Solar Curve preset, no further edits made.

Make your own conclusions but I believe the results speak for themselves.

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