The Magic Wand

I though I should write about one of my all time favourite editing tools, the Lightroom Brush tool. This is not only my favourite Lightroom tool (closely followed by the camera calibration colour panel), but is the main reason I stuck with Lightroom after looking at some contenders.

This is my "hands on" tool. It is, for a self confessed computer shirker, the closest thing I have at hand to a real darkroom manipulation. 

Why do I like it?

One of the strongest weapons we have in photography to get our artistic point across is selective focus and subject placement. Lens focal length and aperture selection, focus point and Bokeh rendering, with some other factors will determine the starting point, but when the image hits our screens the quality needed to really bring out the best in the image, to really push home our intent is often the difference between "just ok" and better.

I find the brush tool while powerful, to be quite gentle and natural looking, where global settings can look harsh very quickly. Even tools such as Clarity and De haze look less aggressive when brushed on selectively. It may be that selective application, but even in direct comparison of areas sharpened globally or brushed, there seems to be (to my eye) a subtle difference.

My work flow has come to the point where I rarely do anything to an image with global tools other than a pre set, relying on a little light brush work to give the image the right emphasis. I would love to say i can do this with perfect camera control, but the reality is I often shoot with a little caution in fast moving scenes, needing to add the fine balance later in post processing.   

 The original file with my "Gentle +" pre set (+ contrast, whites and shadows, - blacks and highlights). The pole is clearly the central subject, but it does not jump out from the background. The 17mm lens used has excellent Bokeh coherence and micro contrast, but it's wider focal length can still make things too close in focus plane to work.

The original file with my "Gentle +" pre set (+ contrast, whites and shadows, - blacks and highlights). The pole is clearly the central subject, but it does not jump out from the background. The 17mm lens used has excellent Bokeh coherence and micro contrast, but it's wider focal length can still make things too close in focus plane to work.

 Pleasant but not punchy.

Pleasant but not punchy.

 After "Gentle Push" and "Soft Bokeh" applied. "Gentle Push" adds only about +10 contrast, sharpness and clarity and Soft bokeh subtracts about the same, but the effect is obvious, like a veil of clarity.

After "Gentle Push" and "Soft Bokeh" applied. "Gentle Push" adds only about +10 contrast, sharpness and clarity and Soft bokeh subtracts about the same, but the effect is obvious, like a veil of clarity.

 Detail crop showing the natural looking sharpening and softening in harmony. Notice how the woman in the background is less obtrusive, as is the drink machine on the other side.

Detail crop showing the natural looking sharpening and softening in harmony. Notice how the woman in the background is less obtrusive, as is the drink machine on the other side.

 The same base image with the global settings applied the same as "gentle push" brush settings. The image has more punchy colours and contrast, but is still a bit (or is more?) busy to the eye.

The same base image with the global settings applied the same as "gentle push" brush settings. The image has more punchy colours and contrast, but is still a bit (or is more?) busy to the eye.

 A crop showing the slightly harsher and harder detail also applied to the background.

A crop showing the slightly harsher and harder detail also applied to the background.

It is subtle I know (the effect in editing looks stronger tan the blog post shows), but subtlety is good.