Laura Shoe's Lightroom (and Occasionally Photoshop) Blog for Digital Photographers

Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Simulating Shallow Depth of Field with the Lens Blur Filter

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2008 at 1:05 am

Let’s create the perception of a shallower depth of field in this image, with the police cars sharp, and the background more out of focus.



Duplicate the background layer (Ctl/Cmd-J), and add a layer mask to it ( circle-in-a-square symbol at the bottom of the layers palette.) We will blur the duplicate layer, and then mask off the foreground that we want to keep sharp.

This particular image has alot of noise, as the close up below shows. It was shot at ISO 800.

Close Up Showing Noise

Close Up Showing Noise

If we blur the background, the blur will eliminate the noise and look unrealistic against the foreground unless we bring the noise back. Notice also in the full size image that there are blown out highlights in the background neon lights. Because blurring is done by averaging pixels with neighboring pixels, a simple blur would dull these areas as highlights are averaged with shadows. The lens blur filter will allow us to retain the blown out highlights and also add back noise.

Click on the image thumbnail on the duplicate background layer.

Go to Filter>Lens Blur.

Lens Blur Filter Dialog Box

Lens Blur Filter Dialog Box

­Set the Radius to the amount of blur that you want, or slightly more than you will likely want, planning to reduce the layer opacity to fine tune it.

The Specular Highlight section allows you to retain specular highlights that otherwise would be end up dulled to light grey. Your goal is to retain the blown out highlights without making them bigger. Brightness values in an image range from 0 for pure black to 255 for pure white. In this section, all brightness values brighter than the Threshold will be brightened, by the number of values specified in Brightness. It is best to start with the Threshold at 255 and Brightness of zero, and adjust from there. Set the Brightness somewhere around 5, and watch the areas that you know should be blown out as you slide the Threshold slider down. Stop when you are on the edge of making the specular highlights bigger than they were. Then fine tune the brightness slider. Turn the preview on and off to compare. In this case I settled on brightening all values over 238 by 5 points.

Add noise back in with the Noise Amount slider if needed. Leave the distribution on Gaussian, and check Monochromatic. Hit OK.

This blurs our entire picture. Now we will mask off the blurred layer where we want the sharp image below to show through. Click on the blurred-layer layer mask, and paint in black over the foreground cars. If the blur is too much, reduce the opacity of the layer.

Layers Palette After - Layer Mask on Blur Layer, Adjust Opacity if Needed

Layers Palette After - Layer Mask on Blur Layer, Adjust Opacity if Needed



Of course I recommend spending more time painting your mask than I did for the example — my edges still need some work.

Admittedly, this was a straightforward example, with only two planes — a foreground, and a background. In other situations you may need different amounts of blur for objects at different distances from the foreground. For this you will need to create a depth map. The depth map tells the Lens Blur filter how sharp each part of the image should be. Perhaps this will be a topic for a future post — leave me a comment if you have an interest in this.

Deals on Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 2

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I would be willing to bet quite a bit that Adobe will not be offering anything in terms of Black Friday sales, but you can still save: if you buy the full or upgrade versions of Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 at the same time through, Adobe will give you 30% off of your Lightroom purchase.

If you are a member of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) you can save an additional 15%. First go to the NAPP site and in the Discounts for Members section under software get your promo code. Then enter this promo code when you purchase the software from

Speaking of NAPP, in my opinion being a member is well worth the annual $99 annual membership fee. Not only do you get their magazine, training videos and tutorials, as well as help desk support, but many companies provide discounts to NAPP members: Dell, Apple, Office Depot and the makers of the Drobo to name a few. And best of all in my opinion: free shipping from B&H! Check them out at

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy and be safe.

Learn from My Dusty Mistake

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2008 at 1:21 pm

In my last post I showed you how to remove spots using the spot removal tool in Lightroom and Camera Raw. After I made the video, it occurred to me that I didn’t show you my most horrifying example of dust on the camera sensor. I took this image in 2004 shortly after I got my first digital SLR. (Click on the image to see it larger — there is much more dust than you can see in this small version!)


Dust on the Camera Sensor

I didn’t realize back then that it is a very bad idea to change lenses without turning the camera off — the camera has a charge that draws in dust.  So learn from my mistake on this one! I was able to clean up the image, but it took hours.   These days I turn off the camera, and also turn the camera downwards as I replace the lens so that no dust inadvertently falls into it.

Using the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom and Camera Raw

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2008 at 11:52 am

Here’s a video in which I demonstrate the spot removal tool in both Lightroom and Camera Raw. You may have to turn your speaker volume up all the way … bear with me as I continue to work on this issue. watch video

Why Can’t I Rearrange My Images in Lightroom?

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2008 at 10:58 pm

I thought I would address this commonly encountered issue as I am learning to do videos. Sorry it is a little repetitive, they will get better. Bottom line if you don’t have time to watch the video: make sure you are in a bottom-level folder, and also that you are not in a smart collection. watch video

If you have any issues watching this video, please shoot me an email — I would appreciate hearing so I can make future videos better.

Painting Back What You Take Away

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Sometimes you want to make an adjustment to your image almost everywhere. You could use the adjustment brush and paint almost everywhere, but that could be slow. Instead, make the adjustment everywhere, with a global change in the Basic panel, and then use the adjustment brush to change back the area you didn’t want to affect. This works in both Camera Raw and Lightroom. Here’s an example. I want to give this portrait image that glow that is popular these days, but I don’t want it to affect the eyes or the mouth.



I will give the image the glow by reducing clarity to -60 in the Basic panel. I also boosted contrast and vibrance.

Clarity at -100 Plus Boost Contrast and Vibrance

Clarity at -60 Plus Boost Contrast and Vibrance

With the adjustment brush set to +60 on clarity (the opposite of the global change I made), I would then paint over the eyes and mouth to reverse the negative clarity change. That is the idea — but to make the change obvious to you in this small image environment, I actually painted with +100 clarity, to accentuate the eyes even more:

Paint +100 Clarity over the Eyes and Mouth

Paint +100 Clarity over the Eyes and Mouth

Note that with this technique, Lightroom (or Camera Raw) isn’t blurring the eyes and mouth and then sharpening what it has blurred — that would not in fact work. It is only applying one change to these areas — the cumulative effect of the negative and positive clarity.

Another example of applying a change everywhere and then painting back with the opposite effect where you didn’t want it is an image that needs to be brighter almost everywhere — brighten it globally, then paint back the areas that you didn’t want brighter with negative brightness. Depending on what type of adjustment you are making, you may find that the amount that you need to paint back is not exactly the opposite of your global change … after you paint with the adjustment brush, adjust the slider until it looks good visually.

Finally, note that this will not work when you want part of your image in color and part in black and white — you can’t desaturate the image (saturation of -100) and then paint color back in with +100 saturation. In this case instead start with the color image, and with the adjustment brush set to -100 saturation, paint the areas that you want to be in black and white.

Lightroom on Two Monitors

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2008 at 11:07 am

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have your thumbnails on one screen, and your full size image on another? Lightroom 1 users thought so and pressed Adobe to provide this functionality. Adobe did so in Lightroom 2. It is very easy to set up: In the Library and Develop modules, on the left side just above the filmstrip, you will see icons for screen 1 and screen 2:

Dual Monitor Buttons

Dual Monitor Buttons

Click on the 2 icon, and a second LR window will open that looks like this:

Secondary Monitor Display

Secondary Monitor Display

Drag this to your second monitor and size the window to fit.

Your keyboard shortcuts (G=Grid, E=Loupe, C=Compare, N=Survey, D=Develop) still control what you see on your primary monitor.

In the secondary display, in the top left are your options for this display: Grid, Loupe, Compare or Survey. If you choose Loupe, you will see three options to the right: Normal, Live and Locked. Normal works as expected — when you click on an image thumbnail in your grid or filmstrip, the image is displayed on the second monitor. With Live, as you hover over a thumbnail, the image is displayed on the second monitor — you can quickly review one image after another by moving the mouse over each thumbnail. With locked, the image displayed will stay on the screen even when you then choose another one for your primary screen. This is useful for comparing images — for example, on your primary screen you may be working on an image in Develop, and you want to make sure that you set its white balance to have a look consistent with another image. To set it up, select the second image, and on the secondary monitor choose Loupe and Locked. Now select the one you want to work on in Develop for the primary screen.

For those of you who calibrate your monitors (hopefully all of you!), be sure it is your primary monitor that is calibrated, and make all judgments on color and tone from this display.

Moving Lightroom Work Between Laptop and Desktop Computers

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2008 at 4:21 pm

You’re on vacation, at a workshop or shooting on location commercially, loading your images onto your laptop and working them in Lightroom 2. Will you be able to successfully and easily transfer all your Lightroom work to your desktop Lightroom catalog? Absolutely!

Let’s say your folder of images on your laptop is named “Vacation”. In the Library module in Lightroom, right-click on the folder name, and choose Export This Folder as a Catalog. Choose a location to store this temporary catalog. I recommend the desktop because it will be easy for you to find. Another option is to save it directly to an external hard drive that you can then use to transfer the catalog to your desktop. Choose a name for the catalog, like Vacation Catalog. Checking Export Negative Files will bundle a copy of the originals with the catalog so that you don’t have to move them over separately to your desktop and then have to have LR find them. I recommend that you do choose this option. Checking Include Available Previews will save and transfer the jpeg previews that have already been built. If you don’t, LR on your desktop computer will simply regenerate them — it just takes time that you have already spent for them to be generated on your laptop. Finally, click Save.

This process generates a folder called Vacation Catalog that has all the components in it. Move the folder to an external hard drive and connect it to your desktop computer. (Another option is to save the folder to a DVD and then insert this in your desktop computer.) In the Library module of Lightroom, in the menu bar go to File>Import from Catalog. In the dialog box, navigate to the Vacation Catalog folder on the external drive or DVD, double click on it to open it, and select the Vacation Catalog.lrcat file (it will be the only file that is not in a subfolder). Click Choose.

In the Import Dialog that then opens, under File Handling choose Copy Files to a New Location and Import, click Choose and navigate to the folder you want to store the images in permanently (like 20080701 New Mexico Vacation within the folder 2008). Click Import.

Done! Assuming everything went well with the import and your images and LR enhancements are there, you can go back to your laptop and remove the Vacation folder of images from the LR catalog and the hard drive. In the LR Library module, right click on the folder and choose Show in Explorer (Finder on a Mac). In Explorer or Finder, delete the folder. Back in Lightroom, right click again on the folder and select Remove, to remove it from the catalog.

Happy travels!

A Few Days Off

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2008 at 9:46 pm

I’ll be out of town for the rest of the week teaching a Lightroom 2 workshop in Eugene, Oregon. Please check back on Monday for my next post. Remember, if there is a topic or question you would like me to address, click on “Submit a Question” to the right, and email it to me — I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for dropping by!

What is that cool color? Find Out Using Photoshop

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2008 at 8:29 pm

I was creating a web gallery in Lightroom today for a friend, and I wanted it to look as consistent with her website as possible in terms of colors and fonts. The issue I faced was how to determine what the website background color was. Here’s how to do it:

  • Open up Photoshop, open any image and make sure you have the background layer highlighted in the layers palette.
  • Resize the Photoshop window so that the web page (or any other document) you want the color from is next to it.
  • Grab the Eyedropper tool (shortcut I), click anywhere in the image, and then drag over onto the web page color you want. As you drag around, you will see that the foreground color in Photoshop’s tool palette changes to reflect the color you are over. Let go when you have sampled the color you want.
  • Click on the foreground color swatch in the tool palette to open the Color Picker dialog. Write down the 6 digit hexadecimal color code (circled below):
Photoshop Color Picker Dialog Box
Photoshop Color Picker Dialog Box

Here is how to use the color in a Lightroom web gallery:

  • In the Web module Color Palette, click on the background color, and when the color dialog box opens, click in the hex box and type the new number in. That’s it!
Changing a Lightroom Web Gallery Color
Changing a Lightroom Web Gallery Color

Once you have your web gallery designed, don’t forget to create a template, so that you can use the design again without having to start over from scratch. More on that in another post.