In part 1 of this series on my edit for my recent Peggy's Cove image, I showed how the original unedited raw file looked on import and what I adjusted globally within Lightroom. That had the image well on its way to looking good, but I felt that there was still more I could do to take it to the next level. First I performed a couple of local adjustments within Lightroom, and then I finished the image in Photoshop.
I wanted to add some drama to the sky in this image, so I used the graduated filter to perform several adjustments. I wanted to accentuate the warm-cool look, so I shifted the white balance slightly cooler and adjusted the tint toward magenta. While these values are only -6 and +2 respectively, a little goes a long way when it comes to the local adjustment settings for white balance.
I remember that I tried darkening the sky with negative exposure, but wasn't happy with the results. Instead, I reduced the shadows and the blacks while increasing the contrast and saturation. This change made the clouds much more ominous while maintaining the brighter parts. As you can see in the screenshot, I pulled the filter quite far into the image, but then I used the brush to mask out the parts of the image I didn't want to be impacted. The masking brush is a fairly recent feature in Lightroom, and it makes the graduated filter even more useful.
The graduated filter did a lot to help the sky, but I wanted to highlight the warm sunlight even more, and I used the brush to achieve that. In this case, I just used a bit of a warmer white balance and some extra saturation. It may look like I'm using a relatively high setting on the white balance, but this is in the same area that was already being cooled by the graduated filter, so I had to use a higher setting to bring back the warmth along the horizon.
After completing the local adjustments, I was feeling quite happy with the image, but I knew that there were still a few things I wanted to clean up. I initially attempted cleaning up the distracting spots in the water with the spot healing tool in Lightroom, but there were just too many of them, and it wasn't practical to do it in Lightroom. I opened the image as a smart object in Photoshop and then used the spot healing brush in Photoshop, with content aware fill to clean up the spots. I almost always send my files to Photoshop as a smart object so that I can get back into camera raw and modify those settings if I want to. Sometimes after making further adjustments in Photoshop, I'll see something that I need to change in the raw file adjustments, and this saves me a trip back into Lightroom. I performed the healing on a separate layer so that I could maintain a non-destructive workflow.
After completing the healing, I decided to crop the image to cut out some of the distracting seaweed at the bottom of the image. I'd tried cloning it out, but it was proving time-consuming, and I didn't feel like I was losing much by cropping it out. You do get a little less of the reflections in the water, but I felt this was an acceptable compromise in this case.
I created a new smart object from the healing layer and the raw file's smart object. Having one smart object of all of my combined edits allowed me to apply smart filters to the entire image. It can get a little confusing with nesting objects like this, but I find the extra flexibility to be quite valuable. I used Macphun's Intensify CK to apply effects to the whole image; Detail Extractor and Landscape Enhancer. Unfortunately, this is one aspect I can't show in this tutorial. While Intensify can be applied as a smart filter, it doesn't work correctly. I've reported this as a bug to Macphun. It will look like the smart filter is applied, but if you edit your smart object, or otherwise try to modify the smart filter settings, you'll lose whatever effects were previously applied. I do remember that I reduced the opacity for both layers, I think one was 40% while the other was 70%. Apparently, only Luminar and Tonality currently support being used as a smart filter. I've briefly tried out Luminar but haven't quite warmed to it yet. At some point, I'm planning to try recreating some of my favourite images in Luminar, or Tonality if they're a black and white, to get smart filters working properly and to update them to the newer software.