PPSDC Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Workflow Workshop - September 30 @ 12:00PM - 5:00PM

What you've always wanted to know about Adobe Lightroom is one click away!

September 30 @ 12:00PM - 5:00PM

I'll be coming to George's Camera store (Kearny Mesa location) to give a half day workshop on working with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Don't miss it!

As photographers, a big part of our workflow is done in post-production. Let's face it, most of us use Adobe Lightroom, but are you getting the most out of this amazing software?

How many times have you searched YouTube on how to do this one thing only to find the tutorial to be badly done, incomplete, or just not what you were looking for?

Learn how to:

  • Create, import, and manage catalogs
  • Import and export images
  • Backup your images
  • Customize Plates in LR
  • Date/Time/Client sorting
  • Filters to find photos
  • Custom renaming
  • File handling in LR
  • Virtual copies, collections
  • HDR and Panoramic image handling
  • Archiving, backup, and file sharing
  • LR Mobile tools
  • So much more...

Plus, Crewe will give us a detailed review of how to use the powerful image editing tools in Lightroom, as well as working back and forth with Photoshop.

David Crewe packs a lot of great information, tips, and tricks into his workshops and we're lucky to have him for a whole afternoon. Don't let this opportunity pass you by.

Digital Noise & HDR Photography - Via Macphun

Here's another from my series of Educational blogs with Macphun!  Be sure to check them all out on

Noise is nearly unavoidable in digital photography unless you’ve got the absolute perfect lighting conditions and you can use the absolute lowest ISO setting on your camera possible! This is due to the sensor design of digital cameras, and in bad light or high ISO situations, will leave you with grainy or strangely colored dots and patches throughout your whole photograph. Simply put, the higher your ISO, the stronger the presence of noise in your image.

Here are two BEFORE photos:

So how does this apply to HDR images? The very nature of Tone Mapping and HDR tends to amplify existing noise in your image. So if you’ve got a few high ISO brackets, the resulting HDR image is going to be exponentially noisier than your starting points. Using 3 brackets that are 400 ISO each on their own, we'll get pretty clean images. 

However, when merged, the darker or noisy areas of the image will start stacking and will “grow” in relative ISO in multiples. It’s confusing, but tone Mapping will often take little bits of grain and stray light, and treat them as fine details. And, since HDR is all about enhancing those details, you get what you get!

Here are two HDR photos with much noise in the sky:

The most important trick here is to reduce your ISO to as low a level as possible. Use a tripod, and try to get as clean a shot as possible. But keep in mind, using long exposures will also generate noise. We’ve got to find that happy medium. Shooting a scene with 3 brackets at 100 ISO will leave you with a much cleaner image than when shot at 400 or higher.

You’ll want to shoot enough brackets at as low an ISO as possible to properly capture every detail in the scene. This means in a lower light or very high contrast situation, you’ll want to shoot more than just 3 exposures. Typically we’ll shoot at least 5 in these situations and we’ll set the EV to +/- 1 step. This means very subtle differences from exposure to exposure, but we’ll have a lot better information in the selection of RAW files for Aurora HDR to work with.

Watch your blues! Digital camera sensors have a strange quirk about them where they are about 50% less sensitive to Blue Channel light than Red and Green. This means that Blue sections have to be enhanced or amplified to be exposed correctly compared to the reds and greens. 

Since blues will often be darker than the other areas of your image, and more dark = the more noise when brightened. This is the reason why your skies tend to be super noisy when you merge and enhance a landscape image with HDR. As mentioned above, it’s super important to expose properly for every step possible to help reduce these noise situations.

Create an HDR image in Aurora HDR Pro:

Create a new layer and select one of presets, here we have a Dramatic preset:

What’s a way to help reduce the amount of noise in our blues and overall? You can use Noise Reduction before hand. Aurora HDR has a built in, and absolutely incredible denoise tool, but if you’d like to take matters into your own hand first, you can use Noiseless or other Noise Reduction options before you merge your brackets. Just remember to not overdo it and use an app where you can apply your noise reduction in selected areas.

TIP: Use the ZOOM tool when you’re applying noise reduction. Why? Well, noise reduction tools have a tendency to completely smooth out and soften your images. This will pretty much ruin an otherwise incredible photograph and make it look like a cartoon or painting rather than a super cool landscape scene. When you zoom in, you can see precisely how the noise reduction is taking hold of your image and you can adjust accordingly. 

One of the great things with Aurora HDR is its ability to use layers and masks. We can apply noise reduction to an entire layer so the area we want looks great, and then paint it in selectively to ensure the rest of our image still looks sharp and fantastic.

Here's how we can adjust noise reduction selectively:

And here we have a smooth and denoised sky and a sharp water and grass:

Remember that while Aurora HDR comes loaded with an absolutely fantastic noise reduction tool called HDR denoise, you can work with the NR tools found in Noiseless to complete your image with much more power and control. Either way, the key to remember for perfect HDR images is to plan ahead and shoot with as low an ISO as possible!

Get more creative with presets & textures - Via Macphun

Here's another from my series of Educational blogs with Macphun!  Be sure to check them all out on

If you’ve ever opened an app from Macphun before, you know that many of them come pre-loaded with a treasure chest full of presets to show you the power and versatility of each application. Aurora HDR Pro is no different. Out of the box it comes with over 60 Presets including some unique originals from Trey Ratcliff, the HDR Master himself. You also have the option to get many more from the Macphun Store.

You might be wondering, though, how do you import these new presets from the industry pros, and how can I create and save/share my own? Well, the process is actually quite simple! First we’ll explain the process of creating, modifying, and saving your own presets.

Once you’ve loaded an image into Aurora, make edits using the Adjust panel on the right side of your window. To keep these settings as a preset for you to use later or to share you simply have to click the + button next to the Presets field. This will prompt you to save your settings and assign a name to it.

Type in your new Preset name and click Create New Preset. It will be automatically added to the USER PRESETS category of the Presets panel and available for use on any other images you work on with Aurora.

But wait! What If you made a mistake or want to make changes to the preset? Maybe adding some Denoise or a little Glow? You can actually update your preset by first making your changes in the Adjust toolbar and then right-clicking on the preset. Then select “Update with Current Settings”. This will save your adjustments to the original preset.

By using the same Right-click menu on a preset, you can also Rename your preset (in case you made a spelling mistake or want to make a change), Delete to remove completely, Export it (to save as a file that you can share with others), and Show in the Finder.

The latter reveal the location in the Mac Finder.If you’ve downloaded a bundle of presets from Macphun or one of our partners, adding them to your library is super easy! Open the FILE menu from Aurora HDR and scroll down to “Add Custom Presets Pack” and then just select the presets file you’ve downloaded! They’ll immediately be copied to your Aurora HDR Presets Folder and added to your Presets menu to bring you even more creativity to your HDR workflow!

The next amazing feature of Aurora HDR Pro is the ability to import texture files to use as layers and overlays in your images. What is a texture? They are digital images representing a surface, a material, a pattern or even another picture, that can be used to give an ordinary image more of an artistic edge.

Download some free textures from Macphun. Some examples of texture files), are concrete, floorboards, frost on a window, rusted metal, or even something as plain as a sheet of paper! You can take these “texture” files and then cycle through the Blend Modes to see and choose a new and unique transparency view. Choose the blend mode and opacity that works best for your creative direction!

How do you import and use a texture?

Well, once you’ve created your HDR image with Aurora, add a new layer using the + button and name it.

From there, right-click on the layer and select Source Image > Custom Texture.

Now you navigate to where you have some texture files stored on your computer, and select the one you want to create your catching masterpiece!

This is where Textures differ from Presets with Aurora. Presets live within Aurora’s folder and file structure, whereas Textures are only loaded into the app on a per use basis! Why? Well texture files are images, and as such, can be very large! Including them in the installation and application folders would cause serious bloat! Even if the files are smaller, they can still bog down the installation folder. This is why it’s up to you to keep your files wherever you like and load them into your images as needed!

BONUS INFORMATION: Blend Modes Revealed

Aurora HDR Pro comes with 8 ways to blend your layers, each of which can be ultra-fun.

  1. Normal blend modes will display your image exactly as it was shot.
  2. Overlay combines Multiply and Screen blend modes where light become lighter, dark becomes darker.
  3. Hard Light combines Multiply and Screen blend modes but with the bottom and top images & behavior swapped.
  4. Soft Light blend mode is a softer version of Hard Light.
  5. Screen inverts both layers, multiplies them and inverts that result.
  6. Multiply simply multiplies each component in the two layers.
  7. Color (or color burn) divides the inverted bottom layer by the top layer, and then inverts the results. This darkens the top layer, increasing contrast to reflect the colors of the bottom layer.
  8. Luminosity preserves the hue and chroma of the bottom layer while adopting the lumo of the top layer.

Depending on the color and type of texture file you use, and the colors of the image below it, the blend modes will have VERY different results! Mix and match them in your own images to see what you get and be sure to share them with us on theAurora HDR Facebook Group!

One final tip: Don’t forget that you can also change the opacity as well as mask your textures & layers to do creative and selective edits to your images. Talk about maximum creativity!

Tips for Better Landscape Photos - Via Macphun

Here's another from my series of Educational blogs with Macphun!  Be sure to check them all out on

A truly compelling landscape image should captivate anyone who catches a glimpse of it. Every landscape photographer wants to create images that are breathtaking and epic. But how do we capture amazing landscape images, and how do we make them our own? It’s not as hard as you think, it just takes a bit of practice and a lot of adventure! Here are some tips that will have you on your journey...

Max your Depth of Field

This could be the most important part of landscape photography. The depth of Field can be a tricky subject to master since it takes into consideration aperture, focal length, and your subject distance. A smaller aperture (f/5.6 or lower) means only the area you focus on will be sharp, where a larger aperture (f/8 or higher) means everything from the foreground to the background will be sharp (or in focus).

Sometimes a narrow or small Depth of Field can create an interesting or beautiful story, but normally a good approach is to make sure as much of your scene is in focus as possible. Keep in mind that a higher f-stop means less light is hitting your sensor, so you’ll need to pay attention to your ISO or shutter speeds to ensure you capture enough light.

If you run into problems with digital noise - speckled or grainy patterns that arise in low-light shooting conditions - turn to  Noiseless to clean up your images with a click or two, while maintaining details!

Use a Tripod

Often times with landscape images you’ll be shooting in challenging lighting situations. By challenging, we mean you’ll be shooting with slow shutter speeds and/or HDR brackets to ensure you capture all the details you need. During this you’ll need to find a way to make your camera completely still during the exposures. Even if you’re able to shoot a fast shutter speed, the practice of using a tripod can be beneficial. You may even want to use a cable or wireless shutter release/remote to add another level of stability to your shot.

Capturing the best image you can gives you more options to stylize and make the photo truly your own. Tools like  Intensify, which will let you selectively emphasize fine details. Or a black and white conversion app like  Tonality, will let you achieve a unique look — even a fine art vision — for your photo.


Composition / Find a Focal Point

Just like Depth of Field, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to lining up and framing your shot. The important thing is capturing the look of the scene that matches your creative vision. However, it’s still best to go into your shoot with a few guidelines in mind.

All shots need something to pull them together, a focal point that draws your eyes to it. A landscape photo without a focal point feels empty and leaves your eye wandering around the image looking for something that catches your attention.

Your focal point can be anything from a building, a tree, a mountain, or even a silhouette! The point is to have one thing that catches your attention, and then frame that properly. Place your subject following the “rule of thirds” (or crop afterwards) and you will find yourself with a much more compelling image. Find a leading line that will make the viewer follow you to your true subject matter. Include a foreground that emphasizes the point of interest of the shot.

*TIP* Even when shooting at a high aperture, you should still manually select a focus point to ensure you really focus on what’s captured YOUR interest. This way you can be sure the autofocus isn’t accidently selecting something closer or further away.

Change your Point of View

Changing the point of view, or perspective, that you shoot from can help you create a much more interesting photograph. Capturing your scene from a view that’s not normally seen, making it your own view or vision, can help you draw your viewers in.

To make a scene even more interesting in post, use a tool like  FX Photo Studio to apply creative color effects with one click.

Look Up!

Another element to consider is the sky in your images! Most landscapes will have a dominating foreground or sky... and unless you have one or the other, the image can be pretty boring. If your sky is bland and boring, don’t let it dominate your shot and place it in the upper third of your shot. If your sky is far more interesting than your foreground, then do the opposite and place your horizon lower.

You can enhance your skies with filters (polarizing or neutral density) at the time of your shoot, or with Aurora HDR later on in the post-processing part of your workflow.

Capture Movement!

When most people think of landscapes they think of calm, static, serene or passive environments. But the truth is, landscapes are rarely completely still and often are rife with motion and weather. Sometimes, that drama and anger of the elements can add an incredible feel to your images, so don’t let the bad weather stand in your way.

Wind pushing trees, waves on a beach, water flowing through a stream, clouds flowing through a city, all are great examples of motion that can enhance a landscape image. Capture them using a longer exposure to create something soft and serene, or use a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion.

With all that motion, sometimes unwanted objects can enter a scene - trash, birds or natural elements that simply distract from the photo you’re making. Use  Snapheal to easily get rid of objects from a scene in seconds. Simply brush over (or “mark”) those items you want removed and click the “Erase” button - it’s that easy.

Do The Right Thing!

A simple thing that often gets overlooked, but is super important, is to always shoot in RAW. This lets you capture as much light and information as possible for your final image. Having the RAW image data will give you the flexibility to let you truly customize your image once you get home.

All of the Macphun apps found in Creative Kit open RAW files directly, or you can use them as plug-ins within your favorite host software such as Photoshop or Lightroom.

*TIP* Bring Neutral Density and Polarizing Filters with you also! These tools will help you control the way the light hits your sensor without the loss of color or sharpness in the scene. Think of them as sunglasses for your camera.

Planning and Patience

Landscape photography takes far more planning and effort than most will lead you to believe. Sometimes you have to camp out a spot for hours and hours over and over again, just to get the light or clouds the right way.

There are so many factors that can get in the way of your dream shot. So it pays to do some research before you travel and make sure you get the right shot.

Check the weather to ensure you get the scene you want: Clouds, rain, storms, or clear blue skies. Be mindful of sunrise & sunset times, as well as the phase of the moon. The amount of time you get for golden hours, as well as the light (or lack of) the moon bounces back can have major impact on your shots.

Keeping all of these things in mind, along with having a healthy dose of patience, will help you get some incredible shots for your portfolio. So, get outdoors, seek adventure, and have fun!