Tutorial – Lightroom Rapid Editing System for Cityscapes

Landscapes and Cityscapes are two most important components of my travel photography. In my previous tutorial, I outlined in details how I apply Lightroom Rapid Editing System to my landscapes and today I want to demonstrate how I approach the process of editing of cityscapes.

When you shoot landscapes, the main components of the composition are natural elements. They also serve as the reference for people who looked at you photos and as the result create the boundaries for your art. For example, everybody knows the color of sunset and if you make it warmer and richer when editing, it enhances the impact of you work but if you change its color to green it often evokes a negative response.

The city photography is different. When architectural elements are predominant factors of the composition, the latitude on how you can push the reality is much wider. You have much more freedom for an artistic expression.

The mechanics of applying the Lightroom Rapid Editing System to cityscapes is not that different from landscapes, but the artistic aspect of the STYLES and the LOOKS you create is way more distinctive.

The logic behind the Lightroom Rapid Editing System is straightforward; you create multiple editing versions of the same capture and later select the one that reflects your artistic style or your taste.

You will learn:
  • How to install STYLE and ADJUSTMENT presets to Lightroom
  • How to apply presets to a photograph
  • How to use TOOLKIT to fine tune the photo after applying one of the presets
  • How to read Lightroom Preset Editing Formula

 

Installation

If you have a problem installing the presets, I have a simple tutorial on how to install the Lightroom presets in just a couple of minutes. How to Install Lightroom Presets

Setting up the Lightroom

After you installed my Lightroom Presets and restarted Lightroom, you need to switch to the DEVELOP module of the Lightroom by selecting the DEVELOP option from the top menu.

When you are in the DEVELOP MODULE, on the left SIDE, select the PRESETS PANEL and open it.

Inside of the PRESETS PANEL you will find two new preset folders:

  • PhotoTraces Vol.3 – Cross Processed
  • Photo Traces TOOLKIT

To start, open the PhotoTraces Vol.3 – Cross Processed folder.

 

Tutorial Images

For today’s demonstration, I selected three different cityscape photographs.

Please note that everyone who purchased my Lightroom Rapid Editing System for Cityscapes has access to the original source images, the same images that are used in this tutorial.

Demo Photo 1

The first photo I used in this tutorial I took in Ottawa on Christmass Eve. This is a typical cityscape photo with the architectural elements as the main point of interest and the open sky in the background.

The main issue with this capture is it is too contrasted. We have a very bright area along the horizon and a very dark shadows in front of the buildings. When I was taking it, I purposely set the exposure for the brightest area of the scene – the sky – making sure I captured its details and as the result the details in the foreground are lost.

The goal of Lightroom editing is to revive this photo by recovering the shadows, by making it brighter in general and by bringing back the rich colors of the sunset and its reflections on the water.

To apply the preset to the selected image all you have to do is click the name of the preset in the PRESETS Panel.

 Jones Beach Preset

I start with Jones Beach preset, which shifts colors to a warmer tones, recovers shadows and adds some green hues to the darker areas.

This image is a perfect demonstration that in general presets do not work our of the box. When working with the presets, in 90% of cases we have to compensate for different lighting conditions of the scene, exposure of the photo and general contrast.

This is when the TOOLKIT comes into play.

The TOOLKIT is the collection of 40 Adjustment presets. Each adjustment does not create any specific look or style, but it helps us to fine tune the photo after applying one of the presets.

  1. To make the image brighter, all I have to do is to apply 01. EXPOSURE + adjustment and the photo looks much nicer.
  2. I also want to open up the shadows by making only the dark areas of the image brighter. This is a trial and error process. I start by applying the OPEN SHADOWS adjustments from #07 to #10. I can see that 08. Open Shadows ++ is a bit too dark and 10. Open Shadows ++++ is a bit too bright, which means that 09. Open Shadows +++ is the right adjustment for this particular image.
  3. Also, I want to increase the contrast in midtones. I apply 16 Clarity +
  4. At this point, I am satisfied with the final result and all I have to do is to add vignetting. Once again, I use a process of a trial and error by applying adjustments 31 Vignetting +, 30 Vignetting0, 32 Vignetting ++. The adjustment 31 Vignetting ++ produces the best result so I keep it.

Below is the final look:

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Jones Beach preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 09 Open Shadow +++
  • 16 Clarity +
  • 31 Vignetting +

Here is the Lightroom Editing Formula for this shot: Jones Beach (1, 9, 16, 31).  It starts with the name of the STYLE preset and follows with the numbers inside the brackets, where each number represents a specific ADJUSTMENT preset from the TOOLKIT collection.

When I am happy with the final result, I use the Snapshot functionality of Lightroom and save my editing steps as a new Snapshot. For the name, I use Lightroom Editing Formula.

If you want to learn more about the Lightroom Editing Formula, please read Introduction to Lightroom Rapid Editing System article.

 

Now I am going to give you a few creative options for the same capture.

Preset: Montreal

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Montreal preset
  • 13 Contrast ++
  • 18 Clarity +++
  • 31 Vignetting +
  • 39 Sky Blue Darker ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Montreal (13, 18, 31, 39)

Preset: LaSalle

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • LaSalle preset
  • 10 Open Shadows ++++
  • 13 Contrast ++
  • 18 Clarity +++
  • 20 Vibrance +
  • 31 Vignetting +

Lightroom Editing Formula: LaSalle (10, 13, 18, 20, 31)

Preset: Gentle Wave

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Gentle Wave preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 18 Clarity +++
  • 24 Saturation +
  • 31 Vignetting +
  • 38 Sky Blue Darker +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Gentle Wave (1, 18, 24, 31, 38)

Preset: Sunblast

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Sunblast preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 9 Open Shadows ++
  • 14 Contrast +++
  • 22 Vibrance +++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Sunblast (1, 9, 14, 22)

Preset: Desert View

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Desert View preset
  • 17 Clarity ++
  • 31 Vignetting +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Desert View (17, 31)

Preset: Country Road

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Country Road preset
  • 12 Contrast +
  • 16 Clarity +
  • 30 Vignetting 0
  • 39 Sky Blue Darker ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Country Road (12, 16, 30, 39)

Preset: Paraglider

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Paraglider preset
  • 16 Clarity +
  • 22 Vibrance +++
  • 23 Saturation 0
  • 30 Vignetting 0

Lightroom Editing Formula: Paraglider (16, 22, 23, 30)

Preset: Plastic Beach

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Plastic Beach preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 17 Clarity +
  • 30 Vignetting 0
  • 39 Sky Blue Darker ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Plastic Beach (1, 17, 30, 39)

Preset: Heat Wave

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Heat Wave preset
  • 10 Open Shadows ++++
  • 18 Clarity +++
  • 32 Vignetting ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Heat Wave (10, 18, 32)

 

When I am done with the editing, I have the Snapshot Panel of Lightroom filled with 10 editing versions for this particular photo.

As you can see, we managed to create 10 distinctive looks for the original capture. Now, all we have to do is to select the version you like the most. There are no right or wrong selections here because photography is a visual art where all choices are purely subjective.

Please note, in the real life scenarios I normally do not create 10 editing version of the same image. It is total overkill. I did it with the purpose to better demonstrate the power of my new system. Normally, I create 2 or 3 versions before I am ready to make a selection.

Demo Photo 2

The second photo was one I took in New York. Once again, this is a typical city capture when you shoot from inside the city, pointing a camera up and capturing converging lines of the buildings.

The first goal of the editing is to balance the light at the street level and sky. The second goal is to emphasize the patterns and the colors of the city architecture.

Below are a few ideas and techniques on how to improve the capture with the help of Lightroom Rapid Editing.

Preset: Country Road

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Country Road preset
  • 08 Open Shadows +++
  • 20 Vibrance +
  • 25 Saturation ++
  • 33 Vignetting +++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Country Road (8, 20, 25, 33)

Preset: Eclipse

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Eclipse preset
  • 32 Vignetting ++
  • 38 Sky Blue Darker +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Eclipse (32, 38)

Preset: Hawaii Sunset

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Hawaii Sunset preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 10 Open Shadows ++++
  • 21 Vibrance ++
  • 32 Vignetting ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Hawaii Sunset (9, 17, 24, 20, 32)

Preset: Seattle

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Seattle preset
  • 8 Open Shadows +++
  • 31 Vignetting +
  • 35 Sky Darker +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Seattle (8, 31, 35)

Photo 3

The last demo image is the photo of Pointe-à-Callière museum in Old Montreal. This us an abstract photo where architectural details of the building serve as the main elements of the composition.

My initial motivation for this shot was to capture the signed that was left illuminated during the day, probably by accident.

The goal of editing here is to emphasize the architectural detail, the reflections and at the same time to balance the bright sky and the dark shadows.

 

Boston

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Boston preset
  • 15 Clarity 0
  • 33 Vignetting +++
  • 38 Sky Blue Darker +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Boston (15, 33, 38)

Hawaii Sunset

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Hawaii Sunset preset
  • 8 Open Shadows ++
  • 33 Vignetting +++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Hawaii Sunset (8, 33)

Sunblast

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Sunblast preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 33 Vignetting +++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Sunblast (1, 33)

Haze

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Haze preset
  • 33 Vignetting +++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Haze (33)

Conclusion

As you can see the Lightroom Rapid Editing can help you to drastically speed up the process of photo editing and to improve your photography at an accelerated speed.

If you are interesting in an adoption of Lightroom Rapid Editing System for Landscapes into your photography workflow, check my Lightroom Mini Course which is completely free to all subscribers of my blog.

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