Rescue & enhance a Night Scene in Adobe Lightroom

 In LEARN, Lightroom

If you don’t happen to have a tripod handy when photographing Singapore’s iconic skyline at night, look for something solid you can rest your camera on e.g. wall, bin, table. Here I used the stone wall along the water’s edge to rest my camera so that I could shoot at a long exposure of 30 seconds.

I over-exposed by 2/3 stop to try and get more details in the buildings and sky. I used a 2 second self-timer since I didn’t have a cable release and, after focusing on the Merlion using a moveable AutoFocus point, I switched the lens to Manual Focus and enabled Live View to reduce the risk of any vibrations that might reduce sharpness.

RAW Photo before any editing.  Camera Settings: Aperture Priority, ISO 125, f16, 30s.

It’s not a bad shot, but the colours are quite bland and because I shot in RAW it doesn’t have much contrast or saturation. It could be improved a lot with some simple adjustments in LightRoom.

1) CROP

I use the Crop tool to get rid of the stone wall and the floating platform.

2) LENS & PERSPECTIVE CORRECTION

You’ll notice that the buildings in the middle of the scene look straight upright, but the buildings to the side of the frame lean inwards. To correct this, go to Lens Corrections and first tick Enable Profile Corrections. If your lens exists in the LR database, LR will automatically try to correct any distortions associated with your lens, e.g. barrel distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting, etc. If your lens doesn’t exist in the database, do a search online to see if there is a download available since the release of your LR version.

Next, click on the Manual tab and adjust the Vertical perspective correction tool by dragging the slider left or right until all the buildings are straight up.

3) Get rid of Sensor Dust

Unfortunately there is dust on my sensor and this shows up as a grey dot in the water which is more visible now that I’ve cropped, and only shows up when shooting at narrow apertures like f16.

Use the Spot Healing Brush to get rid of any spots.

4) BASIC ADJUSTMENTS TO ENHANCE THE SCENE

  1. Adjust the Temperature and Tint sliders of White Balance so that there’s more of a Blue Night Sky and less of a green tint
  2. Increase Vibrance and Saturation to enhance the colours
  3. Increase Clarity to add more definition to the shapes of the buildings, clouds and reflections
  4. Decrease the Highlights all the way to reduce the glaring effect of the Overexposed areas like the HSBC sign.
  5. Increase the Blacks a little to see more details in the darker areas of the buildings

5) Adjust the Tone Curve to add Contrast

Lastly, to make the photo pop, I prefer to adjust the Tone Curve than to adjust Contrast as you can selectively tweak the Highlights, Lights, Darks and Shadows by either dragging the sliders or clicking at points along the curve and dragging up or down to push the curve into your desired shape. Here I’ve created a slight S shaped curve.

Voila!  A beautiful photo of Singapore’s CBD at night, taken without a tripod and just a little bit of work in Lightroom.
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