Saturday, September 5, 2020

Making Water Wet

It's been a while since I posted to this blog, by "a while" I mean more than a year.  Lots of reasons, but I'll skip those and get right to the subject of this post: Making Water Wet (in Lightroom).

Why in the world would I need to make water wet, it is that way naturally, isn't it?  Looking at raw images, apparently not always.  Water in a RAW image can look flat and dull.  For that matter sometimes pavement or rocks would look better with a bit of a moist glisten. 

I just picked up a technique courtesy of Scott Kelby in one of his videos that literally can make water (or stones, or pavement) look wet. 

(tl/dr summary) -- Use local adjustment brush and set contrast and clarity to 100 (yes, pin to the max) and brush on the adjustment.

Now for an Example

I have a rather boring looking image of a sailboat on the eastern mediterranean seen from one of Tel Aviv's beaches.  

Other than its location (Tel Aviv is a once in a lifetime for me) and subject (my honey likes sailboats) this image has no reason not to hit the bit bucket. 

Making the Water Wet

My first adjustment to this image was to use a local adjustment on the water to set the contrast and clarity to maximum (100).  I painted it on the majority of the area with a large brush, staying away from the sky, boat, and breakwater.  Then I turned on masking, reduced the brush size and finished up the areas near other things. 

This simple change really changes the water and, I think, makes it look very much wet.

The image still looks underwhelming.  That sky is nearly a monotone of cloud.  It doesn't look like I remember seeing.  So, I'll take a swing at that.

Addressing the Boring Sky

I remember seeing a beautiful blue sky with thin wispy clouds.  Looking at other images shot that same day in Tel Aviv, one stood out to me as representative.

To make this change, I swapped into photoshop with both images.  The key steps in the transfer:
  1. Duplicate Layer... from the "good sky" image into the sailboat image,
  2. Create a layer mask to reveal the boat, water, rocks, and that annoying pole
  3. Move the masked "boat" layer above the "sky" layer in the layer stack,
  4. Use Free Transform (⌘T) to move and resize the "sky" layer so that the clouds look good and other elements are hidden, 
  5. Save the image and return to Lightroom.

Cropping the Image

Now my really rather awful image, falls into the not so bad bucket.  But still, it doesn't excite me.  The most obvoious issue at this point is the three places my eye wants to go when looking at the image.  
  • The Boat (Yea!  That is what I wanted),
  • The annoying vertical pole on the skyline (boo),
  • The out of focus foreground wave (yuck).
This is directly addressed with a simple crop [R].  The image below shows the crop in progress, I have eliminated the foreground wave and the vertical pole while aligning the subject and horizon with "rule of thirds" guides provided by the crop tool. 

Digression: Lightroom offers a variety of overlay guides in the crop tool, some of them are: Diagonal, Triangular, The Golden Mean, The Golden Spiral. You can toggle between them with the "O" key while inside the crop tool.
Committing that crop yields the following image:

Final Adjustments

I am much happier with the image as it now stands, but I think it could use a bit more pop. I made the following additional tweaks:
  • Basic:Dehaze +8 (crisps the clouds just a tad),
  • Basic:Vibrance +8 ( a bit more color),
  • HSL:Saturation:Orange +20 (warm up the sail and rocks a bit),
  • HSL:Saturation:Yellow +10 (same as orange),
  • Effects:Highlight Priority:Amount: -11 (a very subtle Vignette),
  • Radial Filter:Exposure -0.2 covering the sail boat (darkens everything but the subject a tiny bit).
My final image:

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