Tag Archives: lightroom techniques for safari photos

Lightroom Color Correction: Beyond White Balance

The morning light on this nyala  is a nice touch, but the image could use a bit more contrast and the warm light is making all the colors in the image a bit off.  The White Balance tool in Lightroom will help, but using a few more advanced tools will really make this image look great.

The original image before adjustments
this image needs midtone contrast and removal of a color cast

I want to fine tune the exposure and true up the colors while keeping a little bit of the warm character of the light on the nyala.   I always work on the exposure first.

Fixing Contrast and Exposure

From the histogram we can see a pretty good spread of tones from dark to light, but there is no pure black to serve as the darkest point. histogram

To help me evaluate the image exposure without distraction from color I temporarily desaturate the image with the Saturation Slider (move to -100)

Adjusting exposure
Selecting areas to darken to black

I picked two spots I thought should be the darkest in the photo: under the nyala’s chin and under the trees in the background.   I will use the Curves Tool because I can use the target tool right on the spots in the photo I want to darken.   Next I want to bring out details in the fur.  Using the same target tool under the Tone Curve Panel, I concentrate on the different tones of fur on the neck: drag the tool up to brighten some  of the darker tones in the neck.  Now there is more detail.  Now to brighten some of the lighter tones such as the fur fringe on the back.  Use the tool to push these tones brighter.  The over all result is the “lights” and “darks” of the curve have both been brightened.   A final touch is to increase the Clarity slider a little bit. This will pop out the details in the fur.

adjusting the midtones
Adjust the midtones

Now there is more details on the subject and the grass it brighter.  The adjustments to exposure are done so it is time to turn to color.  Place the Saturation slider back to 0.

Adjusting the White Balance

The color cast is still present. First I will try some adjustments with the White Balance tool.  The grass is way too red  and the leaves on the trees are not a nice shade of green so this is my clue to start with the Tint slider .  I move it left away from the red end and toward the green.  While I slide it I am watching for a realistic color in the grass and trees.  Now I want to take some of the warm yellow tones away – just enough to give a more accurate color to the fur without loosing the morning light  feel to the light on the face.  I move the Temperature far enough to the left to make the fur less red but not too much as to make the foliage go blue green.

White Balance adjustments in Lightroom
Reduce the red cast by adjusting the Tint slider

Now the colors seem accurate but the white accent fur on the nyala’s back is very blue looking – the result of being in the shadows.  I can use a more advanced tool to target and correct this area.

Refining the Color Correction

Scrolling down to the HSL/Color/B&W panel, I like to set the panel by clicking on Color then selecting All to show all the attributes under each color.   In this photo there is no other area with blue tones other than the shadow area we are wanting to alter, so I can use the Color panel tools to globally eliminate blues from the whole image.   I move the Saturation of both Blue and Aqua to -100 and it clears up the cold shadow tone nicely.  Nothing else in the photo seems to be negatively impacted by this change.  I can also add more subtle color changes such as darkening the Luminance in the Yellow tones to restore a touch of the warm morning light.

using the color adjustment tools
Desaturate the blues and aquas from the shadow areas of the photo

If this image had other areas that were blue that we did not want to alter, I would have to use the Adjustment Brush  to do a spot White Balance or Saturation adjustment or for more exact control bring it into Photoshop to correct it. Luckily this image  works well just in Lightroom. The image  now has improved contrast and color while still preserving some of the morning golden light qualities.

adjusted with Lightroom
The image after adjustments

Creative Black and White Treatments


With the right image, black and white and monochrome effects can take the image to levels more striking and full of impact than color.  African animal portraits are often perfect candidates for experimentation and statement through black and white.

Black and white can envoke the classic and romantic notion of African safaris, but there  are some attributes that make some images better fuel for black and white than others.

Low Color Contrast:  Many animals have coloration that blends them into their surroundings and to be successful they must use this effectively.  An image of a lion in dry grass can be flat, but when treated in black and white, shape and texture that was previously washed out comes to life.

Neutral Color Subject: Elephants and rhino are more or less grayscale naturally and it is hard to make them pop out as a subject when surrounded by flashier colored skies and vegetation.  In monochrome they can stand out.

Animals with texture: Fur detail, skin texture, whiskers, and face features are often more apparent in a black and white. Details lost to our eyes because of color variations are easier to interpret.

Images with color or lighting issues: In many cases images with great composition and content that suffer from some lighting  or severe color cast problems can show better in monochrome.

Below I present 3 creative ways to use monochrome each of which goes beyond the desaturate slider.

Enhanced High Contrast Portrait

This style is characterized by  detail presented in an aged, almost studio style with a historic feel.

Features of this style include:

Portrait style subject with lots of texture and detail

Burnt edges

High contrast subject

Dark textured background

Start with a portrait with a neutral background.  Open in Lightroom Develop Mode.  This technique works easily in PS using layers and masks, but I will work on this in Lightroom.



Crop if your subject’s face needs to be repositioned. Mostly desaturate the image with the Saturation slider and add high contrast using the Tone Curve or the other tone sliders.   We want a dark background so lower the Exposure a little bit and add a pretty large Vignette.

There are a few different ways to darken just the background: Using the Graduated Filter Tool to draw in from each edge toward the middle, or using the Radial Filter Tool  centered over the subject’s face.  Shape it to fit the face so the most possible background is set to dark tones.  On the tool settings, setting Exposure down while keeping Contrast high and Highlights way up will keep some texture in the darkened areas.

high contrast black and white safari image
image after applying a vignette and curve settings

Now we need to finish darkening the background and refine the  “spotlight” onto the subject so it pops.  Use the adjustment brush with a large feathered brush set at a low flow to darken background around the subject.  Decrease the brush size to get in close to the subject while leaving a slight halo effect around.

Click New to start an adjustment brush to brighten the subject.  Paint all over the face and use the sliders to intensify the effect.  Add final touches like a crop, Dodging effect on the eyes and nose and it is finished.  Use Split Toning to add a color tint to the monochrome.


Duo Tone /  Split Tone

A duo tone image is one in which is printed in 2,3, or 4 colors. It is a way to get subtle richness to a monochrome image.  Lightroom supports using two tones (under Split Toning). The control allows you to set one tone for the Highlights and another for the Shadows and then lets you control  the balance between the two.  In Photoshop  the Duotone option lets you choose up to 4 colors.

In Lightroom, desaturate and correct the contrast of the image.  Under Split Toning , select a highlight color or use the Hue slider to set the Highlights. Saturation will control how subtle the effect is.   Next select a color for the Shadows.  Play with the saturation sliders and Balance until you are happy with the results.

duotones in lightroom
applying a duotone in Lightroom – this is overstated so that you can really see what this technique is about – you can make the effect much more subtle or dramatic

In Photoshop, open the tonally corrected image either already in black and white or in color then convert to grayscale.  Make sure the image is in 8bit mode then the option under Image – Mode – Duotone will be available.

In the control box you can browse through  the preset to get ideas or find one you like.  Make your own or begin with a preset and modify it.  To switch to 3 tones or 4 change the value in the Type box.  The curve will control which range of tones is affected.  The possibilities are endless.  When you find one you like you can save it for easy reuse.

using tritones in Photoshop
creating a quad tone combination in Photoshop – Again,  over stated with shocking color choices to demonstrate how it works
quad tone image
Final effect using quadtones with subtle effect  in Photoshop

Hand Tinted Effect

Start with a image and convert it to black and white.  For this technique I prefer a conversion to black and white that is lower contrast.  I like the Lightroom preset called Creamtone” .  It uses a range from a dark in the the gray-green range and a light tone in the beige range.  Open the image for editing in Photoshop to finish the hand tinting.


For this effect you will want to use just a few highlight colors applied to areas that are part of the subject.

In Photoshop, create a new layer for each color you will use.  Create the layer and rename it for the color.  You will want to keep the original luminosity fo the image as you add color so a good way to do this is to put each layer in Color blend mode.  This will ensure that you wont get any hard-edged opaque looking patches of color. You might also want to start with each layer at less than 100% opacity. Use the airbrush tool or a soft edged brush at low opacity: you can overpaint to add intensity.  Perfect application is not the style here. Use the eraser if you make a mistake.

For the final balancing you can change opacity, add a saturation layer,  even do a bit of dodge and burn to the color layers.

In the finished image I used one shade of red to color the meat, a bit of pink on the tongue, yellow in the eye, and two shades of green lightly applied to the grass in the foreground.

hand tinted effect
Final hand tinted image