Rescue & Enhance your Lantern Festival Photos

 In LEARN, Lightroom, Tutorial

If you haven’t yet been down to Gardens by the Bay to see this year’s Lantern Festival, treat yourself to a lovely evening walk and some beautiful photography.

The lantern scenes are gorgeous, but particularly difficult to photograph because of the high dynamic range of tones in the scene.  You’ll typically capture overly-bright highlights that dominate the photo and any areas that aren’t lit by the lanterns appear way too dark.

The photo below was taken at 7pm just after the lanterns came on and already we see the issues with dynamic range.  The buffalo’s chest is too bright, the trees behind him are too dark, and there’s an annoyingly-bright reflection in the water below.

Step 1:  Shoot in RAW

To be able to rescue those bright highlights, you’ll need to set your camera’s file capture format to RAW.

Step 2:  Move to improve the composition and get rid of the bright reflection in the foreground.

The muddy channel leading to the bull in the first photo was unattractive and distracting, especially with the reflection.  I moved a little to the right to make the channel narrower, with a nice leading line coming in from the bottom left, and I got rid of the reflection.

Step 3: Crop, enhance colour, lift shadows & darken highlights

The scene was quite cold because of the blue-tinted evening light so I warmed up the White Balance temperature and then adjusted the other sliders in Basic panel to lift shadows, darken highlights, increase clarity and colour.

Step 4: Use adjustment brush to darken the highlights on the buffalo’s chest

Using a brush size of 17 with 54 feather and 16 flow I brushed over the bright areas on the chest to bring back colour and detail.

Step 5: Increase contrast using Tone Curve

I prefer using the tone curve instead of the contrast slider, but you could use either to achieve your desired level of contrast.

Step 6: Enhance the blue sky and green vegetation

Finally, I lightened the greens, saturated them and shifted the hue a little more to green (instead of yellow).   I darkened and saturated the blues to enhance the night sky and make the rice farmers stand out more.

If you’d like a bit of help with camera settings and creativity as you capture the lanterns at Gardens by the Bay, come join our 2.5hr Photo Walk tomorrow night, 5 Oct 2017, 6:45pm.  Click here to register.

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