Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Workflow Techniques #112

Why is Selective Editing so important?

Part 1

Oak Hills

essay by Uwe Steinmueller



At our last summit November 2006 in Page Arizona I was multiple times confronted with the desire of the students to perform all image corrections in their RAW converter of choice. They were right that often more simple editing can lead to better results than over-cooked corrections. But in any of these cases I could demonstrate with their own images that selective editing (we used LightZone) can help to improve an image a lot.

All master photographers we know use Photoshop layers to perform selective corrections to their images. A friend of mine even stated that he feels "guilty" if there are only a few layers in the file because then he thinks he may not have gotten the most out of the photo.

Now with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 out in the market (2/19/2007) many ask why they would need Photoshop and/or LightZone in addition to Lightroom. The short answer is: Because many images benefit from selective editing. Lightroom 1.0 and most other RAW converters do not support layers or selective editing.

Note: Yes, we know Nikon Capture NX can do this too but right now we find the workflow in NX a bit too tedious.

This new series of articles will show cases where selective editing can help to improve photos.

The Photo

Our original image

Of course all decisions on photos are highly subjective. I think the slightly hazy area in the background is less than optimal. This is clearly a case where global corrections won't work. We want just to correct the problem area. This is what selective editing is all about.


Principal Workflow in Photoshop

Section using the Polygon Selection tool

First we select roughly the area which we like to darken a bit. This selection is of course way to harsh and we need to feather it. Here is a technique by Ben Willmore how to feather a selection.


Actually we change the selection to Quick Mask mode and soften the selection with Gaussian Blur:

Quick Mask (hit key "Q")

Gaussian Blur

Now we use Curves in an adjustment layer (which uses this selection, don't forget to switch back from Quick Mask mode, hit "Q" again).

The final image looks like this:

Final image

This is not about dramatic differences but they work to improve your results.


Workflow in LightZone

Read our LightZone review here.

Start in LightZone

In LightZone we use a ZoneMapper that is restricted to a region:

ZoneMapper and Region

The feathering is very easy to adjust (area between the inner and outer triangle). Also to note is that changing the selection and feathering range can be done any time later. This is quite a bit more work in Photoshop.

In LightZone we can also link other tools to the same region (Linked copy). We used this feature by also using two other tools for the same region:

ToneMapper (Region active but hidden)

Slightly warmer White Balance (again Region active but hidden)

Here is again the final image:

Final image


With Photoshop we learned how to use selective editing and would never like to miss the power of using layers. LightZone implements layers and selective editing 100% non-destructive. This invites you to experiment with all sorts of selective corrections because all of them can be tuned or deleted in a non-linear order.

If you have not used layers in the past you should do it now. It is far easier than you think (especially in LightZone).





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