Super-Powerful Lightroom Adjustment Brush Tips to Make Editing Easier

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Our Lightroom Local Adjustment presets are designed to be strong enough to handle most photo editing situations that you can throw at them.

We have local presets in the following Lightroom preset collections:

Odds are, there are some photos that the default settings of our presets will be great on, and others that our local presets will be just too strong for. That’s why saving a low opacity soft brush in Lightroom is so handy. With one click, you can change your brush from one that paints at full force to one that allows you to paint on the effect gradually, building it up from a lower strength to one that’s just right.

Lightroom Adjustment Brush Tips

To save a low opacity brush, activate your Local Adjustment brush in Lightroom (next to the arrow in the screenshot below).

 

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Next, click on the letter B (circled, near the bottom of the screen shot above). Select the settings YOU would like to memorize for Size, Feather and Auto Mask.  Remember, you can make this customizable for your style!

  • For me, the size I program in here doesn’t matter, because I change it frequently by using the keystrokes on my keyboard [ to make it smaller and ] to make it larger.
  • Feathering is usually best for me somewhere between 50 and 75.
  • The Flow slider is key for this tutorial. Flow works like brush opacity in Photoshop. A flow of 16 will apply your effect in an amount equal to about 16%. You can apply additional brush strokes to an area to increase the effect in increments of about 16%. So, two passes with a 16 Flow brush will equal about 30% coverage.

When I activate my A brush, rather than the B brush we’ve just programmed, Flow is set to 100. I use that for areas that need strong edits. And whenever I click on B, my settings change to those that you see in the screenshot above.

Want to change either your A or B settings? Click on the letter and then adjust the sliders. Lightroom will remember your last used settings until the next time you change them.

Those of you who use Lightroom’s adjustment brush frequently probably know that typing the letter O while using it will show a red overlay on your image to indicate where you’ve painted. If you’ve used a low Flow brush, this red will be lighter.

 

It is Time to See This Example In Action

Taking this photo, for example, I used MCP’s Dodge Ball, from the InFusion collection of presets, to lighten his face and eyes. You can see the faint red overlay on his face, where I used a brush with a flow of 16.  On his eyes, however, I used a Flow of 100 and the red is much darker.

 

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These settings produced this before and after:

Remember, in order to get the most out of the efficiency that MCP’s presets offer, make sure you know how to get the most out of Lightroom’s tools! Using your A & B brushes will not only be a big time saver, but will also give that much more flexibility to your edits.  Enjoy!

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A Quick and Fabulous Color to Black and White Photoshop Conversion

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Before and After Step-by-Step Edit: A Quick and Fabulous Color to Black and White Photoshop Conversion

The MCP Show and Tell Site is a place for you to share your images edited with MCP products (our Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, textures and more).  We’ve always shared before and after Blueprints on our main blog, but now, we will sometimes share some favorites from Show and Tell to give these photographers even more exposure.  If you haven’t checked out Show and Tell yet, what are you waiting for?  You’ll learn how other photographers are using our products and see what they can do for your work.  And once you are ready, you can show off your own editing skills using MCP goodies.  You might even make new friends or gain a customer…. since you get to add your website address right on the page. Bonus!

Here is a recipe on how to get rich black and white images with MCP Photoshop Actions.

Today’s Featured Image:

By: Cheryl Hubbard

Equipment Used: Nikon D7000 , Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

Settings: ISO 100, f/2.2,  1/1250

Software Used: Photoshop

Here is the straight out of camera image.  Beautiful!

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MCP sets used: Inspire Photoshop Actions

  • Edited with Inspire Brilliant Black and White Base with the BW layer on, brighter in the middle and fill flash off. The only other thing was a quick sharpen. I have almost all of MCP’s action sets and love them all but my favorite is the Inspire set.

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Stop Following the Rules of Photography to Start Capturing Photos You Love

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If you ask someone how to get the perfect photo, you might get a response that includes information about exposure, posing, and lighting. Books you read might warn against chopping limbs, using wide angle lenses when photographing people, or failing to follow the rule of thirds. You might end up scared that other photographers will judge your photos and notice when you have broken “the rules,” making you nervous to step outside the box and get creative sometimes.

Even worse, you might try so hard to follow the rules that you leave every photo session stressed, exhausted, and disappointed–like I did, before I redefined perfection.

I did all of those things. When I first started trying to learn more about photography, I read a ton of books. I talked to a lot of photographers. I read a lot of tutorials, watched a lot of videos, and studied a lot of photographs to determine what I had to do to take “perfect” photos. In the process, I learned more than I thought possible about the technical side of photography, but I became so insecure and critical of my own work that I was not having fun.

I was not getting images that I absolutely loved.

For me, the sessions that stressed me out the most were always my own sessions with my two children. By the end of an attempt to get perfect photos with my sons, Gavin and Finley, I was usually ready to quit photography, my husband was usually ready to send me packing, and Gavin and Finley were usually crying because I kept trying to make them be still, look directly at my camera, and smile, when all they wanted to do was play or explore.

The turning point came for me when Finley was close to his first birthday.

I had planned out very specific shots that I wanted to get of him for his one-year photos, set aside a weekend to do them, and gathered together all of my props. I got a few cute photos with perfect smiles, perfect eye contact, and imperfect exposure (I only had a few months of experience with professional shooting), but I essentially ended each session with tears—either mine or Finley’s…and sometimes both.

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When Finley’s second birthday rolled around recently, I had already made the decision that I wanted to capture his true personality and the things he loves most, not try to get perfectly posed photos with perfect eye contact and perfect smiles.

You see, Finley is the ultimate reason that I learned to embrace imperfection in my photography.

Finley has always been a difficult subject to photograph. He never reacted to my crazy sounds and pleas to look at my camera and smile. He never stayed still longer than a second. He never focused his attention on taking photos long enough for even one great shot of the four of us smiling and looking at the camera. After my experience with his first birthday photos, I gave up on getting “perfect” shots. And when we tried to get family photos a few months later using a friend as a human tripod, I didn’t get upset when this was the end result.

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Even though people still make repeated comments like, “It’s too bad Finley isn’t looking at the camera,” the canvases I had made of this photo are hanging on my wall, my parents’ wall, and my father-in-law’s wall.

Why? Because he’s Finley. He would rather study a branch than smile for a photo or even look in that general direction. And you know what? That’s okay. In March, we got the official diagnosis that Finley is one of a growing number of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and although it explains why I always had such a difficult time getting his attention in photos, it doesn’t change the fact that my entire idea of perfection in photography has been redefined. Finley’s photos that I took for his second birthday are perfect examples of my idea of perfection.

Perfection is capturing Finley’s love for drawing.

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Perfection is documenting Finley’s habit of exploring textures by rubbing things on his cheeks.

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Perfection is showing Finley’s love for horses (and wearing nothing but a diaper and cowboy boots).

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And sometimes, perfection IS a photo of Finley smiling and looking directly at the camera, but not because it’s “perfect” by any definition of the term.  I’s perfect because it shows the sweet spirit he possesses.

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When I was stressing so much over getting my subjects in the perfect position or trying to make them constantly look at the camera and smile, I missed amazing shots of my boys being themselves.

I decided it was time to loosen up a little. Instead of planning out sessions with my kids, I started leaving my camera in the living room where I could grab it quickly if I saw an opportunity for a cute photo of them. I broke a lot of rules in those photos, and some of them are not very sharp or exposed very well. But some of those photos are my absolute favorites. Some of those photos, in fact, are the ones that I know my children will still treasure when they are adults.

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By loosening up, I discovered that those photos were the ones I always considered perfect. I started to fall completely head-over-heels in love with lifestyle photography, and when I did, I rediscovered my passion for my hobby. Instead of trying to capture perfect smiles, I started trying to capture the love my subjects have for each other and the personalities that make them unique. As a result, my skills and the quality of my photos started improving because I had more room in my head to think about exposure and using available light to my advantage.

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Getting correct exposure is critical, and there are some “rules” that have their place in your work. I would never want to use a wide angle lens to take a serious portrait of a bride, for example, or make my subjects look like they are sliding off the edge of the photo. However, it’s okay to chop a limb sometimes, if necessary. It’s okay if my subject is not looking at the camera. I even read once that you shouldn’t have your subject looking off camera unless you can see what he or she is looking at. But does that make this a bad photo?

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Here’s my point—If you are one who absolutely, positively, LOVES perfectly posed photos where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling, then that’s perfectly fine. Those types of photos are perfect—for you.

However, if my experience raising an autistic son has taught me anything so far, it’s that what is considered perfect for one is not necessarily perfect for another.

Just as Finley is perfect in my eyes, the photos I take that show who he is and what he loves are perfect in my eyes as well.

If you find yourself stressed, exhausted, and insecure like I was every time you attempt to get great photos and want to redefine your idea of imperfection like I did, here are a few tips to help.

  1. Get a good grip on exposure first, if you don’t already have one. No amount of emotion or personality in your photos is going to matter if you can’t see it because your photos are completely over or under exposed. There are tons of MCP tutorials here on the blog that can help with that.
  2. Stop scouring Pinterest and trying to replicate the images you see. Getting inspired by photos you see is one thing, but trying to make your subjects do exactly what you have seen done before in those photos will usually only end in frustration. I once spent two hours creating a backdrop of newspaper pages to use in photos of my boys only to rip it down five minutes later because neither of my boys would cooperate at all.
  3. Decide what you truly want to document. Is it a relationship between two people? An aspect of someone’s personality? A hobby or interest? A particular emotion? Once you decide, make sure your exposure is solid, and then solely focus on capturing what you are setting out to capture.
  4. Relax about the “rules.” Don’t toss a photo that cuts someone off at the knees if that photo shows genuine emotion. Use a wide angle lens, if you like the look it gives your photos. Relax. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken…if breaking them results in a photo you love.

Now, grab your camera and go take a photo YOU think is perfect. Don’t worry what the books say. Don’t think about what other photographers might think of it. Take a photo you love, and love the photos you take.

Period.

Lindsay Williams lives in south central Kentucky with her husband, David, and their two sons, Gavin and Finley. When she isn’t teaching high school English or spending time with her quirky little family, she owns and operates Lindsay Williams Photography, which specializes in lifestyle photography. You can check out her work on her website or her Facebook page.

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Why You Might Need a Mirrorless Camera in Your Camera Bag!

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What is a Mirrorless camera?

In the past few years there has been a buzz in the photography industry. A new kind of camera has come out which promises fantastic optics, at a lower price, smaller form factor and has really started to gather momentum.  Some of the leaders in the Mirrorless segment are Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, Canon, Samsung, and Nikon.

These cameras are physically smaller than the traditional DSLR because they don’t have a mirror that reflects what the lens sees up through to the viewfinder. By getting rid of the mirror you not only get the benefit taking up less space, but it also means that the sensor is placed closer to your lens. Most of the Mirrorless cameras out there are not equipped with full frame sensors. Most are crop sensor or 4/3s sensors. The Micro 4/3 cameras offer a 2x crop factor vs the 1.5x on many other mirrorless cameras.

The sensors are larger than a point and shoot, and that equates to better image quality. In addition, many of these systems require their own lenses for optimal performance. But, these lenses are smaller than those for dSLRs and are usually the same price or less expensive to other comparable lenses.

Vacation snapshot in St. Maarten taken with Olympus Micro 4/3 OMD EM5 and Panasonic 12-35mm lens.

Who benefits from a Mirrorless camera?

  • Mirrorless cameras are fantastic as they can suit a variety of purposes. Given the size and image quality they produce many full time photographers are choosing one of the Mirrorless systems as their walk around camera. Many claim that when they are not working for a client it can be burdensome to lug around a lot of gear and often times find themselves leaving their heavy gear at home.
  • For street photographers many of these cameras are a dream come true. Prior to Mirrorless you either had to deal with a small manual focusing camera, a point and shoot or a large DSLR, but it seemed like there was always a compromise. There are even a few models that have a fixed lens built into the camera and offer silent shutters. So if you’re looking to be discrete might be time to check them out.
  • In the last couple years a lot of wedding photographers have turned to Mirrorless to be discrete and to be used as a companion camera. Ever been in a church and found your Full Frame camera to be really loud? Or maybe you’re witnesses a personal moment during the getting ready part of the wedding day and don’t want to be intrusive. There are some photographers who have actually changed all their DSLR gear in favor of a light, high quality and discrete Mirrorless system.
  • Newbie photographers nowadays are faced with so many options of cameras. There is the big question of whether to go with Canon or Nikon, but Mirrorless is also a fantastic choice for your first high end camera. Many are very intuitive and help you “see” in manual mode better. Also, Mirrorless cameras are generally 40% less expensive to mid to high end DSLR and still produce fantastic images. So if you’re new, want to learn photography and are on a tight budget these could be just right for you.
  • Anyone who loves photography and has to have a camera with them everywhere. They know their cell phone isn’t quite good enough and a DSLR is just too much. They don’t want to compromise on image quality, but want something capable in a variety of lighting conditions and easy to carry around.
  • One perk with the micro four-thirds cameras by Panasonic and Olympus, for example, is that you can use the lenses interchangeably.  (Jodi, MCP, has both brands for her Olympus OMD EM5)

 

Taken with Olympus OMD-EM5 4/3 Camera with 60mm macro lens. Edited with MCP Enlighten Lightroom Presets.

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Taken with Olympus OMD-EM5 4/3 Camera with the Olympus 45mm 1.8 lens (Jodi’s favorite!). Edited with MCP Inspire Photoshop Actions.

What are limitations of Mirrorless cameras?

Of course there are some limitations of Mirrorless cameras. You must remember that they are only a few years old and although this generation is much better to last year’s offerings there are a few things that could be better.

  • AF – Autofocus has to be one of the big concerns regarding Mirrorless cameras. In the end technique will trump inexperience, but most Mirrorless cameras aren’t as quick to snap into focus as high end DSLRs. This is one area that has improved drastically and there is no reason to believe that it won’t improve incrementally with each new model release. Low light AF is a struggle at times, but then again DSLRs also struggle in low light.
  • Tracking subjects – This is related to Autofocus, but it goes a step further. Many sports photographers and similar will most likely stay away from Mirrorless systems, for now, as their tracking of moving subjects is still slower than most DSLRs. Although Mirrorless cameras do excel in the manual focusing department offering a variety of assist modes. But, even still, they can’t be relied upon for very demanding photography.
  • Replacing your camera system – Given that some of these systems aren’t very old their equipment and lens offerings are still pretty limited. So if you’re looking to make the switch make sure you are content with their current line-up of lenses. Of course, over time this will all improve. Some of the more eager manufacturers are producing up to 4 lenses a yr.
  • Battery life – When you have a Mirrorless camera you will instantly notice the difference in battery life to you DSLR. Mostly this is due to the smaller form factor and available space on the camera body. Most of these cameras average around 300 images per battery charge compared to around 900 photos (in RAW) on your DSLR. Some of the newer models are offering battery grips so you can have two batteries accessible at all times. Of course this adds to the bulk of the camera, but is a very useful add-on.
  • LCD/Viewfinder – Although there are some amazing things to say about the LCD screens and Viewfinders on the Mirrorless systems there are also some things to get accustomed to. A handful of these cameras have no viewfinder and only an LCD screen. For people transitioning from a DSLR this will be a disappointment. On most of the other Mirrorless cameras you are treated with an electronic viewfinder which is essentially a mini screen in the viewfinder. This will take getting used to as you’re not looking through a mirror, but instead you are seeing what the sensor sees. Although this sounds fantastic, and I agree that it is, these small screens suffer from lag and in some cases very low refresh rates. This is also an area that continues to improve as each new camera rolls out. But, there are tons of benefits to having an electronic viewfinder, but of course, it’s not for everyone.

There are a variety of differences to a DSLR so it’s hard to describe some of these as limitations. Instead we should see them as a completely different kind of system with its own quirks and way of using them. For anyone going to a Mirrorless system, there is a learning curve. But, like with any new piece of gear, once you learn it you’ll be amazed. I see a really good future for Mirrorless cameras as they continue to be innovative in ways a DSLR can’t. Their small form factor will appeal to many and the image quality has been said to rival many full frame cameras. I see this as only the beginning.

Taken with the Fuji Mirrorless. 

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Recent developments that show Mirrorless cameras are here to stay.

  • They have developed weather sealed Mirrorless cameras and lenses.
  • Some Mirrorless cameras have a leaf shutter which will allow you to sync with flash up to 1/4000 of a second!
  • More and more photographers are publicly writing/blogging/talking about their experiences and excitement over their Mirrorless cameras and how they are shooting more.
  • Several Mirrorless cameras are winning awards by major publications as the best camera of the year. And are quickly becoming trade show favorites. They’re even making magazine covers!

Using a mirrorless camera is challenging, fun, inspiring and most of all, it’s exciting to see the future of Mirrorless. As each manufacturer keeps improving others follow suit. Competition drives innovation and I’m excited to be a part of it. If you can borrow or rent a Mirrorless camera. Who knows you might find a place in your kit for it.

 

Taken with the Fuji Mirrorless.THPL1382 600x400 Why You Might Need a Mirrorless Camera in Your Camera Bag!

Tomas Haran is a Candid Style Wedding Photographer based out of Worcester, MA. He is also an educator and mentor. You can find him on his blog or on Facebook.

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Make Your Outdoor Maternity Sessions Pop with Color

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Before and After Step-by-Step Edit: Photoshop Actions to make those Moms-To-Be Glow

The MCP Show and Tell Site is a place for you to share your images edited with MCP products (our Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, textures and more).  We’ve always shared before and after Blueprints on our main blog, but now, we will sometimes share some favorites from Show and Tell to give these photographers even more exposure.  If you haven’t checked out Show and Tell yet, what are you waiting for?  You’ll learn how other photographers are using our products and see what they can do for your work.  And once you are ready, you can show off your own editing skills using MCP goodies.  You might even make new friends or gain a customer…. since you get to add your website address right on the page. Bonus!

Here is a sample on how to make your maternity session photographs come alive with MCP Photoshop Actions.

Today’s Featured Image:

By: Andrea Stovern

Studio: Daisy Digital Photography

Equipment Used: Canon EOS 7D24-70mm lens

Settings: ISO-100, F4, 1/200

Software Used: PS Elements

MCP sets used: Inspire Photoshop Actions

  • Steps Taken with the Inspire Set:
    • MCP Increase Exposure in Lighting Fixes
    • MCP Brilliant Color Base in Base Actions
    • MCP Epic (Cool Fall Tones) in Custom Effects
    • MCP Drama (Dark & Intense) in Custom Effects

All steps were slightly tweaked based on personal preference.  The wonderful thing about the Inspire set is it is so easy to use and the steps tell you what you can expect to happen before you even run the action.  It’s a wonderfully creative staple in any photographer’s arsenal. 

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