Tag: Noise

Why You Should Use High ISO for Night Photography

When talking about ISO, people tend to be scared of using high ISO settings. It is understandable and usually, it is advisable to use the lowest ISO that is allowed during the shooting condition, and there are reasons to support that.

First, lower ISO producing lesser noise in your photo compare with higher ISO. The Higher the ISO, the more noises that generated and up until certain ISO setting, the photo can become unusable due to the overwhelming noises.

Second, every camera’s sensor has its own Dynamic Range, which is about the range of the exposure (measured by Exposure Stops) that your camera sensor able to cope with. If your camera sensor having a 12 stops Dynamic Range, it means that it is able to capture the darkest exposure value from 1 stop up to the highest exposure value at 12 stops. However, if you try to capture a scene beyond than that, your photo will experience details lost in either the shadow or the highlight, or both, depend on your exposure setting. Other than that, this Dynamic Range does not stay unchanged following different ISO settings, it performs the best at the lowest ISO and can drop dramatically when you exceed a certain ISO setting.

DX0Mark DR

Here is a photo screenshot from Dx0Mark website, the graph shows how the Dynamic Range drop following the increase of the ISO setting. At ISO 75, the Dynamic Range is 14.5, but when the ISO goes up to 25,600, the Dynamic Range is plummeted to around 7. That’s around 7.5 exposures that are lost. Overall, a higher ISO will have a poorer Dynamic Range.

Although it is true using a lower ISO help preserve the best image quality that your camera can offer, there are several reasons that you should make a good use of high ISO settings, or at least not being afraid in using them.

1 – Noise Control is much better now

Technology keeps improving, now a day, a DLSR camera can provide a far better image quality and a much-improved noise control if compare to the DSLR camera in the old days. At the same ISO settings, you would be able to get a photo with lesser noise now, and that allows you to easily push the ISO up to 800, 1,000 or even 6,400, depending on your shooting environment. Instead of avoiding using higher ISO, you should give it a try, for yourself to understand your camera capability more and also knowing how high the ISO your camera can go up to before the photo becomes unusable.

2 – Speed up your camera setup process

For landscape photographers, we often have to shoot in the dark, whether is to photograph the Milky Way or Sunrise (because you need to be at the shooting spot before the dawn). So, finding the composition sometimes can be very tricky and time-consuming too. Imagine that, you have to use camera setting at maybe ISO 400, Aperture f5.6 and 30 seconds Shutter Speed to do a test shoot between each adjustment of your composition, that would need a total 5 minutes for 10 photos and that still haven’t including the time that you spend on moving around the place for different angles. In this case, I would suggest you boost up your ISO to 6,400, 12500 or higher, which help to greatly reduce the shutter speed to only 1 or 2 seconds and speed up your overall composition finding process. On top of that, this allowed you to do a faster test shot to check on your focusing too. Once you have completed the setup, just switch back to the ideal exposure setting with much lower ISO that you want. Oh yeah, don’t forget to delete those test shot photos afterward. 😉

3 – Using Expose To The Right (ETTR) technique

Usually, noises tend to be more in the shadow area than in the highlight area, which is why this ETTR technique come into mind. Instead of having an underexposed photo, it would be better to use a higher ISO. In layman’s term, if you view your photo in the histogram, just ensure most of the tone (or you can say the “peak”) as far as to the right side of the histogram without touching the edge. If it touches the edge, it means that your photo is losing the detail in the highlight area.

ETTR Histogram

Above photo showing the histogram using ETTR technique.

Let’s get into more detail on this. Here is the comparison of two photos with and without applying the ETTR technique.

ETTR Comparison

Photo A was taken using ISO 6,400 and Photo B with ISO 25,600. Both are using the same shutter speed but the original result of Photo A was much darker and underexposed, which the brightness and the shadow were then adjusted to achieve the same brightness as Photo B. Obviously, you can see the noises appeared to be much more than Photo B even though using a lower ISO.

4 – Doing Noise Reduction

It can be a huge difference between a photo with Noise Reduction applied and without. There are many Noise Reduction techniques available and most of them can easily found and learned from the web. Overall, the more time consuming the technique is, the better the Noise Reduction result. One of my favorites is doing an Image Stacking Noise Reduction. It is a technique that required you to take multiple photos without changing your camera settings and composition. All these photos will then import into Photoshop and merge into a Smart Object. After that, you just need to apply the Median Stack Mode (Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode > Median), then wait for the process to finish. You will realize the result can be a huge difference once it is completed and the more photos that are used, the better the result. I would advise you to start with at least 5 photos (personally, I would prefer going up to 20 photos, but that depend on the how high the ISO I’m using).

Before After NR
Above photo is the before and after comparison and the result is evident.

The only drawback of this technique is that it will blur out the sky, due to the clouds and stars moving constantly throughout the series of the photos that are taken. Also because the technique is actually comparing the differences between each photo and eliminate them.

Blur Sky

The solution is simple, just use the sky from any one of the photos that are taken and blend it back into the processed photo.


Although it is still advisable to use the lowest ISO as possible as the condition allowed but then as you can see, in some certain situation, using a higher ISO is able to give you some benefits. I hope you all enjoy the article. Happy shooting!


Experimenting fearlessly with higher ISO settings


When I was an inexperienced photographer, I feared that setting. To me, ISO seemed like the equivalent of unflattering, irreparable noise: the complete opposite of a great photo, especially a portrait. As I familiarized myself with different photography genres, I came to realize the appeal in the grainy shots of film photographers. I even discovered the beauty of adding grain digitally in editing programs like Lightroom. When I dared to increase the ISO number during my own shoots, I discovered that the resulting grain was far from destructive. When it came to cozy outdoor shots taken at night, I found much creativity in purposely creating grain.


ISO 1250

While there are photographers who prefer not to work with higher ISO numbers for understandable reasons (retouching skin in a well-lit environment may be a hassle if the grain is ever-present), experimenting with it is certainly worth a try. When I was just a beginner, I found a lot of comfort in the knowledge that I could take photos whenever I wanted and still produce interesting results. I knew that even if I shot at midnight, my little camera could capture something eye-catching thanks to a high ISO number. It’s important for all kinds of artists – especially enthusiastic, budding photographers – to find creative potential in people and places regardless of weather conditions or time. Here are some tips on how to make the most of ISO.

Consider these points before you begin

Be aware that there are several factors you must consider before you experiment:

  • If you’re shooting for the sake of printing your results later on, keep in mind that extreme ISO will be very visible. If this is the look you’re going for, your photos can be as grainy as you like.
  •  In the editing process, adding a lot of exposure to your grainy photos will highlight the grain and potentially ruin your entire shot. Thus, subtly adding exposure to your images is highly recommended.
  • In relation to the previous point, reducing grain is possible using a number of handy editing programs like Lightroom, Photoshop, and Noiseware. If you plan to edit your shots more, reduce any unnecessary grain first and then proceed to color correct and/or retouch your results.


ISO 4000

Understand your camera’s ISO settings

The ISO settings in cameras may vary, but the general sequence ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. Thanks to improved technology, full frame cameras like the 5D Mark II are capable of capturing great photographs whilst reducing unnecessary color noise, even if the ISO is high. If you don’t own a full frame camera, don’t lose hope! Research your specific camera online and find out what users have to say about its ISO limitations. Even phone photography enthusiasts can benefit from this research. Most importantly, experiment and remember that your creativity and imagination are what matter most. When I first began shooting, I had a very old phone with a seemingly incompetent camera – this didn’t stop me from taking photographs and embracing curiosity. In the long run, persistence taught me to value photography no matter what camera I was using.

// ISO 2000

Embrace your creative side

When it comes to creativity, nothing is impossible. Keep this in mind as you experiment with your camera’s various ISO numbers. Grain can serve as a useful texture; alternatively, it can simply give your photographs a film-like atmosphere. Combining it with other kinds of textures – like dust and scratches – will make your photos stand out. The vintage photographs in the book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs are a fantastic example of dust, grain, and other textures being used to create compelling works of art.

If you’re in a situation where using a flash isn’t acceptable (for example, in a church), or if you simply don’t wish to use one, ISO will be your greatest tool during the shooting process. Similarly, if you can’t use a tripod in a certain situation, a higher ISO will prevent you from taking unclear photographs. A photo with a slight amount of grain is far better than a blurry image. Combine this with a touch of creativity and you’ll find yourself fearlessly experimenting with ISO no matter how challenging your environment may be.
Happy shooting!


How to Adjust ISO in Manual Mode

Becoming a good photographer takes practice, but also requires immense technical understanding. Among the 3 basic pillars to master, along with Aperture and Shutter, is ISO. As a beginner, you most like are shooting in Auto ISO. This is a great starting point to get right out and shoot. After some practice, you’ll want to begin experimenting in full manual mode. This will allow complete control and understanding of your equipment. Even if you plan to shoot in Auto all the time, you’ll want to understand how it works.

On a sunny day, you can shoot ISO 100, shutter speed at 1/100 – 1/125 and f16. This is referred to as the Sunny 16 rule

How Does ISO Work?

ISO controls the amount of sensitivity to light your camera displays. This can range from 100 (least sensitive) up to 25,000+ depending on your camera. The settings increase in powers of two, meaning from 100 to 200, 200 to 400, 400 to 800, and so on. Each increase of the setting is doubling the sensitivity of your sensor. Which means the higher the ISO, the better it will perform in low lighting. Lower ISOs are better for higher amounts of light. It also means the higher the ISO, the more grain you’ll see in your images. But more on that later.

There are a handful of common ISO values, which you can fall back on when shooting in manual mode:

On a sunny day, you’ll want to shoot at or around ISO 100.
On a cloudy day, you’ll want to shoot at or around ISO 400.
If you are inside, you’ll want to start around ISO 800 and work your way up if needed.

In concert photography, I am usually shooting at ISO 1600 – 3200, higher if needed.

Remember, this is all based on your camera’s sensor. Some are more sensitive than others. You’ll need to experiment to see what works best for the image you are capturing. Above is a general starting point to follow when learning manual mode. Use these values as a guide and adjust from there if needed.

This scene is more cloudy than the one above. Here, you should adjust to ISO 400, while adjusting shutter and aperture accordingly to achieve the desired effect.

How Does ISO Work With Aperture and Shutter Speed?

It’s important to understand how ISO relates to Aperture and Shutter Speed. All three interconnect and a change to one affects the others. You’ll need to understand when to change ISO and how to adjust Aperture or Shutter to compensate.

The larger the ISO value means the smaller the shutter speed needed for the image. This means: When in ISO 100, your camera sensor needs 1 second to capture the image. But as you increase ISO, your camera sensor will need less time to get the shot. It increases by a power of two, so from 100 to 200. 200 t0 400, 400 to 800 etc. As this doubles, the required shutter speed halves. So at an ISO of 1600, you’ll need 1/16th of a second to get the same shot as ISO 100 at 1 second.

So, say you are shooting outside at ISO 100 and 1 second and are happy with the image. But, the clouds start to roll in. You’ll need to adjust ISO, but you want to maintain the same image. Increase ISO to 400 and increase the shutter speed to 1/4. You’ll achieve the same image as before, but now you’ve exposed for the clouds. All while keeping aperture the same for both images.

Increasing aperture lets in less light. This means if shutter and ISO stay constant, but aperture increase from, say, 3.5 to 8, the image will be dark. This is because less light is coming in through the lens. If you want to increase your aperture to allow more of the image in focus, you’ll need to increase your ISO. Because you increase your ISO, you’ll need to decrease your shutter. If you want to maintain the same image exposure and focus.

To figure out the correct settings, begin with identifying the desired outcome. Are you in low lighting? Or are you outside looking to freeze the subject? Identifying that outcome will confirm which pillar (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) to set first. If you are shooting low light, you’ll want to start with a low aperture and high ISO. Then you can determine shutter speed. If you are attempting to freeze motion, set a high shutter speed. From there, determine ISO and aperture needed.

If you are unsure which ISO you need, follow the general guideline above. It’s always best to start low and increase as needed. If your shutter and aperture are at an acceptable value, but the image is still too dark, turn up your ISO.

This is a low light image, shot at night. You’ll need to increase ISO, start at 1600 and adjust from there. You’ll need a tripod here, as this will mean slow shutter speeds to maintain the exposure and open aperture.

ISO and Noise

When you take a picture and notice a lot of grain in the image, that is the noise. You will see noise in your image if you are using too high of an ISO setting for the light required; however, too low ISO values don’t always guarantee proper illumination, which can translate in blurry images. For example, the below image, taken at ISO 200, has a lot of imperfections, as the lighting was too dim to allow for a proper exposure under such ISO values. The same image, if taken at ISO 800, looks much better. As I adjusted ISO, I also adjusted shutter and aperture to allow for the same exposure.

Noise can be subjective based on the photographer and type of image they are creating. In some instances, a gritty image is what you are looking for. And you may adjust your ISO for this. It will all depend on your desired outcome. This is another example of why understanding this pillar is important. In auto ISO, your camera will adjust for the perfect exposure. If you do not want a perfect exposure, you need to know how to get there. How to manipulate ISO to achieve this more or less noise is a great skill set to have as a photographer.

The process of manual ISO control will take time. But you will gain a better understanding of your camera. It is important to work towards having complete control over your images. This way, you will understand the appropriate adjustments to make, to get the image you want.

Because of the extremely low lighting, I had to shoot at ISO 6400. Because of the limitations of my camera, I could only shoot at f4 and therefore 1/50 shutter. You can still see a lot of noise in the image, but given the subject, it seems to work ok
Because of the extremely low lighting, I had to shoot at ISO 6400. Because of the limitations of my camera, I could only shoot at f4 and therefore 1/50 shutter. You can still see a lot of noise in the image, but given the subject, it seems to work ok

How to Reduce Noise/Grain in Photography

Image noise is defined as the presence of pixels in an image which does not represent the scene being photographed. Also known as grain, it’s recognizable by the appearance of what looks like dust, spots or speckles over the chosen photograph.

Needless to say, this is very undesirable for a professional photographer, so today we’ll be looking at how you can reduce and even eliminate its appearance in your work.

Causes of Noise

Noise is caused when you take a photograph where the camera could not accurately capture all of the pixels correctly, representing the true colors they should be. Low light levels can cause this because the camera won’t be able to actually pick up the real color properly, causing some of the pixels to be inaccurately represented.


This is easy to spot for the human eye, but not so easy for your camera to pick up on as it takes the shot, although modern technology sometimes offers ‘noise reduction’. With this technology the camera attempts to pick out pixels that are differently colored and surrounded by non-matching pixels, then eliminates them. It works well for getting rid of a lot of the specks but isn’t 100 percent foolproof.

Slow shutter speeds can also cause increased noise for similar reasons, as it allows more light to be pulled into each pixel and can thereby cause distortion in the final picture. Putting the camera into a high sensitivity setting also has the same effect, since the camera can’t actually add more light to the picture than what is naturally present. These settings can instead magnify and increase the likelihood of noise when it might not otherwise have been present.


ISO speeds are another cause of photo noise. ISO is a setting which marks how sensitive to light this particular shot will be and is usually available on an auto setting with modern cameras. The auto setting isn’t perfect though and might not be ideal for either what you’re shooting, or the style you want to shoot it in.

For that reason, many photographers will use a manual setting instead, adjusting the ISO based on how much light is available for their shot. Additionally, lower ISO settings are usually considered to give higher quality pictures, though higher ISO settings are needed if the lighting levels are low, so it’s a tricky balance to strike and there are no hard and fast rules here, other than trying to capture your shots with the lowest ISO settings possible.

Reducing the Presence of Noise in Your Shots

We’ve already covered ISO settings

and how you should be using the lowest possible setting to retain the best possible photo quality. Shutter speeds can often be adjusted in a similar way to make them faster, though this might not always be possible depending on the situation, just as you might need to use a higher ISO setting than you would like to.


The light levels present are one of the hardest things to adjust in many situations, since you can’t ruin a shot of a landscape at sunset by adding a variety of bright lights – this just destroys your photo subject instead.

Protecting your camera from heat and also ensuring there’s no heat or mist between you and whatever you’re photographing can also help to reduce noise, since it reduces distortion. This even extends to storing your camera at a reasonable temperature since heat can distort its sensors and how it captures the details of images.

If your camera has the option to shoot using the .raw file format instead of .jpeg it can be an advantage to switch to that mode instead. Jpeg images already have compression applied to them in order to keep file sizes down and save space, something that can actually increase noise. Raw formats do not do this, not to mention that they are often more flexible when it comes to editing with the use of computer software.


Speaking of software and editing, this is another great tool for getting rid of unwanted noise. Good software will allow you to manually remove noise and match pixels to those that surround them, giving you much smoother finishes when required. This is especially great if the noise is on areas that should appear close to uniform in color, and works very well to get rid of lesser amounts of noise when combined with the previous techniques.

It can be quite time consuming if you ignore the above tips and try to do it all at the editing stage though, so try first to prevent the noise from occurring with our suggested techniques. This way you can get rid of the stray bits using editing software and save yourself a lot of time and hassle.

Capturing images with less Digital Noise

In this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to talk about an issue with which all photographers are well familiar, or they should be – if they capture their images under high ISO settings and low light conditions.Digital Noise – What is it, and best practices for reducing the effect of it. Let’s first talk about what Digital Noise is. (please follow the links for more in-depth technical reading)As you may already know, today’s cameras come equipped with two different sensors – CCD and CMOS. Although they function differently from each other, both of them produce digital noise. The CCD, the more expensively produced sensor, handles noise slightly better, compared to the CMOS, which is cheaper to produce. However, the CMOS requires around 100 times less energy to operate. In order to keep the technical part short, as it can take a long time to cover this topic in depth, I will just mention that – both types of sensor accomplish the same task – capturing light and converting it into electrical signals. During this process, varying under different conditions and settings, different types of digital noise is produced.By the way, I did not begin this post with the intention of showing you how to use Photoshop actions or filters, but instead to show you a practical way of working around this issue well before it is time to start editing your images.So, what steps do we need to take towards capturing images while reducing digital noise?Camera: full frame cameraHaving already mentioned the types of sensors found in today’s modern cameras, the very first thing I would do if I was just getting into photography, is to think about buying a full frame camera (more expensive option – but if your goal is to become a professional photographer, it is a must have). If you click on and read some of the info contained in the links provided above, you’ll find out that the size of the sensor makes a world of difference to the overall image quality – not the pixel count, as many people think. File Format: RAW file format opened in Adobe BridgeThe next step will be – setting my camera to capture images only in the High-Quality RAW format. If you are serious about the photography you do, the best way to go is shooting in RAW – this way you’ll have significantly more data captured on your files, to work with later in Adobe Bridge or Lightroom. Camera Mode: manual settings cameraNow, after we have purchased our cameras and have them set to capture images in RAW format – the very next thing we need to start getting into the habit of is to not use our cameras in Auto mode. You, as a photographer, need to be in full control of the camera when taking pictures, not the camera taking control and leaving you with whatever it thinks were the best settings for the particular situation, especially regarding the use of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.Tripod: tripodNext up is, have your tripod or monopod handy for situations where it would be most useful. Depending on the subject and style of the photography we do, very often we’ll need to use tripod or monopod for longer shutter speed, instead of cranking up our ISO settings. This is particularly helpful if the subject of our photographs is static scenes or objects. However, when we need to capture scenes with moving objects and capture them sharply, not in blurred motion,  then we really can’t avoid using higher ISO settings.Speedlights: speedlightSpeedlight – If the scene you’re photographing is too dark, especially with regards to the level of ambient light, the proper use of Speedlight will help you lift up the shadow areas, overall illuminating the scene. This will result in a lot less visible noise. You can perform your own small experiment by photographing the same scene with the same ISO settings, once without a flash, then again with the flash, comparing the results. Lenses: lensesUsing fast lenses, with a wide aperture, can also be added to our arsenal in the fight against the digital noise. Fast lenses will allow you to capture the image in low light situations with lower ISO settings. For example, you can set up the aperture of your lens to F/2.0, or less if you have this option,  which will allow more light to come through the lens and be recorded by the sensor.


And finally, at this point, we are ready to open our images in Adobe Bridge or Lightroom. We use these two versions of software as our main portal in accessing all of the data that we managed to capture in RAW format and then move on to making further refinements in Photoshop.

I have provided two snapshots bellow of how the Sharpening/Noise Reduction options work, which is a very simple but powerful way to edit your uncompressed RAW images. I won’t be going in depth over what every slider does, as it is quite self-explanatory.  However, I will say that when playing with the sliders in an attempt to reduce noise, make sure to double check your changes by zooming in on a specific region of the image. For example, zooming in on an area of shadows, where noise is very noticeable, using that as the main point for your adjustments.

Image with heavy digital noise – Default RAW settings, inside Adobe Bridge.

noise image bridge

Image with heavy digital noise – Noise reduction applied.

noise reduction


Recovering blown out images in Lightroom

Fall can be a great time to capture many different looks, because of the constant change in weather and colors. On the day of the photo, I wanted to be able to move around quickly and did not want to lug around a bunch of equipment that would get wet and dirty, so all that I used was my camera and tripod. Only using natural light saved me from having to bring extra gear, but also presented a problem. On this day it was very rainy, misty and foggy which gives me the atmosphere I am looking for, but it often times looks washed out in the raw file. If you have ever shot in fog, you know that it can be hard to capture enough detail in the distance and keep your subject properly exposed. All of the moisture in the air catches the light and often times gives you blown out the part in the image.

In this tutorial I am going to walk you through what you need to know to be able to recover an image in Lightroom, that may be blown out.

1. Temperature

This is what the RAW file looks like straight from the camera. The only difference I made was turning down the temperature slightly, as I had my original at around 5500. Now you may be wondering, how do you know where to set the temperature and in reality I don’t. All of these adjustments are not in an exact order, there is a lot of jumping back and forth, from section to section and tweaking until you find what you like. I turned down the temperature knowing that I wanted a cooler and more moody feeling to the image. I wanted to bring out the cold and lonely feeling of someone in a world of their own.

Before we go to the next step take a look at the Histogram and notice the lack of detail in the sky portion of my image.


2. Exposure

This is where we are going to make the adjustments to be able to recover some of that sky. I mentioned earlier that shooting in this kind of weather becomes hard to expose properly because the dynamic range can be so vast. When I was shooting, my objective was to set my camera so that I could get as much information in one exposure as possible. There were other ways I could have set the camera (like boosting the ISO) to capture more info, but I kept getting the little island blown out, so I stuck with the settings you see (right under the histogram).

I boosted the shadows/blacks and brought down the highlights/whites. I normally would not do such harsh adjustments, but I needed to in this situation, to achieve my end result. If you compare the histogram of the 1st image with the one below, you will notice that not as much of the right side (white/highlights) of the histogram is clipping.

We can now see that there are some clouds in the sky (slight as they may be) and it is not all white, with no information. This is not enough, though, we have information in the sky, but the image looks bland and the color still does not fit the mood we set out to create originally. The next few steps will be more about editing the color.


3. Color

Steps 3,4 and 5 are a peek into some of the color editing decisions I made to pop the subject out at the same time as showing some of the background information we recovered, using the previous steps. I will be doing a color editing tutorial in the future, but in the meantime check out our tutorial for giving your photos a retro feel. In the previous step we recovered the highlight and shadow details, but in the process, we flattened out the image. To fix those adjustments one way to add contrast and color adjustments to your photos, is to use the Tone Curve.


4. Color

Next, I played around the HSL (Hue/Saturation/Luminance), again just a peek at your own photos will ask for different settings.


5. Split Tone

Then I added more of a cool color to my shadows, using the Split Toning.


6. Final Steps

After getting the color  I was going for, I did some light spot removal and added some noise. I do have to mention that for the color work mentioned above, I did use a preset as a starting point and then tweaked it to fit my needs. If you want some presets to speed up your process or to just get you going in a direction, check out the presets available by Sleeklens.

7. Additional Tips

Like many things, when it comes to editing photos in Lightroom/Photoshop there are many ways to get to the final result. If you need to be more precise using tools like the adjustment brush or graduated filter, it will help you get results to specific areas and not have to worry about affecting the whole image.


8. Conclusion

Remember, the best way to set yourself up for success in your post processing is to have an idea of what you want your final image to look like. Shooting to capture all of the information in the raw file will help you later.

A Guide to Using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom

Correcting exposure, color balance, and contrast are likely how you begin editing the majority of images in Lightroom presets. Often, it might be all that is required to finish editing the image; however, to take your images a step further Lightroom has given its users a tool called the Adjustment Brush. It allows for photographers and retouchers to localize their editing by carefully selecting specific parts of the image to enhance, hide or correct. The Adjustment Brush is a fairly easy tool to master, but it comes with a few settings that need to be understood, to use this tool well. This is the complete guide to using the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom.

The Adjustment Brush tool is found in the Develop module of the Lightroom panel which can be found if you have an installed Lightroom presets.  You can quickly access the Develop module by using the keyboard shortcut ‘D’. The Adjustment Brush tool is marked as a dotted circle with a brush coming out of it – make a habit of using keyboard shortcut ‘K’ to access the tool, to save time when retouching.

Adjustment Bursh

Once the tool is selected, you will see that the mouse pointer turns into a circle. It marks the area affected by the Adjustment Brush. Further, you will notice that it opens a number of options that change what affect the Adjustment Brush will have on the image.

The first two sliders control the temperature and color tint of the image. These, in short, control the white balance settings of the Adjustment Brush. For example, you could use this tool stylistically to add a complimentary color in the shadows of an image for a more saturated photo.

Adjustment Bursh2

Moving forward, the next six sliders control the exposure and tone settings of the Adjustment Brush. Exposure will change the overall tone shift of the area affected by the Adjustment Brush. The contrast will control the ratio between the black and the white values of the image, which can be the further adjusted by the last two ‘Whites’ and ‘Blacks’ sliders. The Highlights slider will control the extent to which the Adjustment Brush affects the brightest sections of the adjusted area, while the Shadows slider will control the darker areas. Adjusting these settings can help you bring certain parts of the image forward or hide other areas in shadows.

Adjustment Bursh3

The next section allows for changes in clarity (one of the features you have to consider for rating system in Lightroom), which controls the contrast of the lines in the image, and saturation, that affects the intensity of the colors in the area of the adjustment brush. Often clarity can be great in revealing the amount of detail present in the image; however, usually you want to avoid adding it to faces as it will accentuate lines and creases in the skin – to avoid that we can use the Adjustment Brush tool to only increase clarity outside those areas.

Adjustment Bursh4

The next section is responsible for correcting the issues caused by the camera sensors. First, are the Sharpness and Noise sliders that can be used to make parts of the image stand out from the rest or used to reduce noise and grain caused by the camera sensor. The Moire slider is there to compensate for the Moire effect that occurs when a frequency of pattern in the image aligns with the pixels of the sensor, resulting in a distortion of that pattern. The Defringe slider reduces the chromatic aberration caused by lens shortcomings.

Adjustment Bursh5

Further, the Color option of the Adjustment Brush allows you to select a color cast that the brush will add to the affected area of the image. Last part of the Adjustment Brush options controls the Size, Feather, Flow and Density of the Adjustment Brush. A quick way to adjust the size of the brush while retouching is to use the keyboard shortcut ‘[‘ to make it smaller and ‘]’ to increase its size. The Feather of the Adjustment Brush controls how quickly the Adjustment Brush will fade into the rest of the image. The larger the Feather level – the more gradual the fade will be.

Adjustment Bursh6

Flow affects how quickly the Adjustment Brush is applied to the image. If it is set to 100%, it means the Adjustment Brush will affect the area to a maximum level. If it is set to 50%, only half of the effect of the Brush will be seen.

The Density slider is similar to Flow and controls the amount of change that can be applied by the Adjustment Brush; however, unlike Flow, it will limit the effect indefinitely, meaning that once it is set to a specific value that area will always remain affected at that percentage, unless the Adjustment Brush settings are changed.

Last, the Auto Mask options attempts to guess, which parts of the image you aim to be affected by

the Adjustment Brush. It does so by checking for contrast ratios between pixels, meaning that if you have a subject in the image that clearly stands out from the background, it should be able to easily identify that you only want the subject affected; however, if the background is very cluttered, likely, it will not be able to distinguish the subject well.

Adjustment Bursh7

If you are finished with the first set of adjustments, you can create a new brush. Simply click the ‘New’ option in the Adjustment Brush settings panel, set the new settings for the Adjustment Brush and start applying it to the image. Note, that you will be painting on top of the first Adjustment Brush that you used. A quick way to undo the changes made by the Adjustment Brush is to hold the ‘Alt’ key while brushing the areas you want to be undone.