Last weekend, we spent a little time at the playground and park/path of the elementary school near our home (which Olivia and Leo will presumably some day attend). It was around 6 in the evening, so the sun was getting a little lower in the sky, a giving off a nice warm light – but it was still direct enough to make many shots very challenging for one reason or another. As always, neither the kids nor the playground could be adjusted, and unlike one dad I saw today holding a reflector/diffuser in one hand and a camera in the other, I still don’t ever head out of the house with equipment to bend the sun to my will. Valerie reminded me, as I pointed out the reflector dad, that she will pretend not to know me if I ever head out that conspicuously. Reflector dad did joke to me that it was easier to hold both camera and reflector himself than to give instructions (his wife was standing next to him); in my case, I’m pretty sure handing over a reflector disc to Valerie would result in it being repuropsed as a frisbee!
This post is essentially yet another appeal to other non-photographers shooting their kids to shoot RAW and use Lightroom 4. The new local adjustment features really help a lot, and compared to something like Photoshop, Lightroom is pretty simple and fast to learn and use. But rather than write an 8,000 word post about this, I’ll just share 8 pictures (4 before & afters) that say it better. These are 4 shots I’d probably have discarded, but even my amateur level of skill with Lightroom was enough to make them worth keeping (to me).
Example #1: I may have overdone this a little – it almost looks HDR-ish – but the new shadow slider (both the global one, and the one on local adjustments) really make it easy to make simple adjustments like this. The nice thing about something that’s too dark against a light background is that when you do local shadow adjustments on it, even if you aren’t precise with the area you select, it doesn’t spill over and create a halo. Likewise with highlight adjustments.
Example #2: I’m always astonished at how much the D7000 captures that can’t be seen by default. With the sun directly behind her, salvaging a shot like this seems hopeless, but ultimately winds up being possible. No adjustments to a JPG could possibly have worked here.
Example #3: The whole original was too bright, and with no cloud cover, the original shadows were very harsh. But it was really easy to selectively bring down the highlights on the ground while pushing up the shadows a bit, preserving more or less what Olivia looked like. I like the picture mostly because the sun makes the fern Olivia is carrying look like some kind of magic wand. The original framing was terrible, but I was far away and that was the longest my lens could go (70mm). This is one of those cases where more megapixels helps.
Example #4: Shooting towards very strong light from the sun totally destroyed contrast in the original, but with some adjustment, things worked out in the end.
It’s still true that the best shots seem to come when little to no adjustments are needed; in the last shot of the evening, there started to be some cloud cover softening the light, and I had to do almost nothing to the following shot. Too bad I can’t control the clouds at will!