Wednesday, April 18, 2012


SNOOTS are a classic photographic light modifier used to narrow a beam of light and is first cousin to the GRID and BARN DOORS.  It creates directional lighting that essentially increases contrast and can better define a subject.  Yousuf Karsh used all kinds of light modifiers and Rembrandt lighting.

Underwater photographers have been adopting the technique in recent years.  While they can be effective, you can sometimes add a "snoot effect" to a photo AFTERWARDS, when you are back in the digital darkroom.

I shot this nudibranch (pronounced nude-ih-brank), Nembrotha chamberlaini in the Philippines a couple months ago.  It is "nice" but that is an awful word to describe a photograph.  You are looking for WOW!  The photo is colorful but flat against the sand bottom.  Rembrandt Lighting with a soft fill make for a potentially compelling photo.   Here's how to improve it.

We want to add a darkening effect that replicates the same effect as a light modifier had I used one.  I use a number of software packages in the digital darkroom.  I have found that the best tool for this effect is the ADJUSTMENT BRUSH using Adobe Lightroom.  Lightroom 4 is a recent upgrade and corrects Adjustment Brush significantly.  Prior versions spewed horrible, grainy artifacts liberally when you used higher levels of correction.

To start Adjustment brush from the Library Module, hit the K key.  Click on the icon from the development module.  It toggles to turn on or off.

Start using a COPY of one of your files.  This is automatic in Lightroom if you are shooting RAW.

In the Adjustment brush panel, you will want to set the following parameters.
1. Brush size, start around "25"

2. Click off the Check box Auto Mask if it is on.  You are looking for smooth blending.

3. Exposure.  Start at minus -20.  Using this value, you can adjust the darkening effect later.   Improved in Version 4, there used to be two sliders, Exposure and brightness.  The latter is gone as the distinctions were overcomplicating. Draw around the perimeter of where you want to see a classic vignette.  Since the eye is attracted to brightness, you are aiming to darken the corners and draw the viewers eyes to the most important part of the photo.

4. Adjust the Exposure value until it "looks plausible."  Turn off the Adjustment Brush to 'Keep the Setting."

5. If it needs more correction, Turn on Adjustment Brush again and go back and add another layer.  Adjust exposure and brush size as needed. Turn off Adjustment brush again.

6. Repeat as many times as you need until you are happy with the result.  You can always delete History if needed.  Lightroom uses non-destructive editing.

This will not replace the snoot or other light modifiers, it's not the Ken Burns effect,  but the "John Ares effect" will enhance many photographs that might have been overlooked.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

LIGHTROOM 4 - First Impressions

Upgraded to Lightroom 4 this weekend.  So far, so good.  Here is a first look.


Seems as if there are two notable fixes.  First, the Adjustment Brush SEEMS as if it is throwing fewer artifacts at the photo when you use the tool to darken.  In a future post I will do a thorough comparison.   Second, the File Counter is working again.  In the last version, the root folders had counts of "0."

We now have the ability to directly e-mail from Lightroom.  This is time and mind saver.  No longer do you have to Export, switch to mail, remember the file name and search for its location.  On my Mac, Lightroom 4 defaults to going to Apple mail.  I configured it to go to my Gmail account and it seems to work with Firefox.  Chrome did not display the photos!  One downside is that Lightroom 4 does not connect with the Apple Address book so addresses need to be typed in manually.

There is a new BOOK assembly Main Menu pick that allows you format for self publishing.  I don't do this frequently, so it is a nice to have.

I still want features like displaying my existing Folder Color Labels coding and similar keystrokes as Bridge when doing common tasks like going to Photoshop to edit, and using the L keystroke to go back to Library, Autosynch for the Catalog, and auto default Import Presets.

You get a 15% discount this year if you are a NAPP member and purchase through the NAPP Website.