Before Lightroom, back in the olden days of dinosaurs and darkrooms, I would contort my hands into various shapes to manipulate the amount of projected light coming through a negative to control where it was falling on the photo paper. Not only was that hard, it was time consuming with lots of trial and error within the confines of a chemically smelly dark room. Lightroom on the other hand (pun intended) gives me instant feedback with everything I do. Whether it’s too dark or too light, Lightroom (and I’m talkin’ about Lightroom 5.6 here) gives me all the tools I need to replicate any of the hand-work that I used to do without the mess.

Lightroom Before and After

In this tutorial, I’m using this dramatic, digital photo taken just past sunset of zebras shot at an African wildlife preserve by my talented student, Shaula Yemini, shot hand held with her Olympus OM-D E-M10 and a Lumix G Vario 12-35/F2.8 Lens. (For you exposure techies out there— the camera was set to Aperture Priority, 1/80th second, F/5, ISO 1000 with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 70mm)

And although the meter exposed for the brighter parts of the scene, rendering the zebras and background much too dark, the critical saving grace was that Shaula shot using Camera Raw. It’s unlikely in a case like this a JPEG would have been able to reveal the same amount of fine detail as the Raw capture. You can read more about Raw vs. JPEG on a previous blog post.

In this tutorial, I demonstrate using multiple Radial Filters (see my post on the Radial Filter) to lighten the darkest parts of the image, while using multiple Gradient Filters (what I like to call Linear Gradients) to further bring the viewer’s eyes to the subject.

It sounds hard, but it’s not. Really.