Ice Butterfly & Lightroom 4 White Balance Adjustment Brush

My earlier Ice Butterfly post was an image I was pretty happy with, but I really felt it could be improved with a warmer white balance on the birch leaf. The shaded conditions had been perfect for creating a beautiful blue reflection in the ice, but the same shaded conditions had given a strange colour to the birch leaf, a really awful colour in fact.

I could have created two versions and adjusted the layers in Photoshop Elements to fix that ….. but there was a new version of Photoshop Lightroom (my main editing software) coming out soon, and the blurb mentioned it would have white balance adjustment brush options. So rather than make myself lots of work I decided to hang on and see how I could use the adjustment brush in Lightroom 4 to try to fix that. I have many, many, many ice shots that have the same problem, and the idea of creating two images at differing white balances for each and merging them in PSE was frightening to say the least.

Finally the software has arrived, and I was keen to check the possibilities of the white balance adjustment brush. For those without experience of Lightroom, the basics of the adjustment brush is that you click on an area in an image that you want to alter, and then you paint over the area you need to fix. Then you can tweak various settings to change that area. You can change all sorts here, exposure / contrast / saturation / sharpening / noise; but then new addition to LR4 that interested me was white balance.

So I gave it a go, and was immediately disappointed.  Why? Because it doesn’t let you paint a particular white balance. If you have a area in the image that needs a warmer white balance, you can’t just choose cloudy or shade, you have to tweak the colour temperature and tint from a setting of zero. Now if it was a colour temperature setting in degrees kelvin (say 5500 for daylight) I could move it to cloudy (6500) or shade (7500). All you can do is move in numbers from + or – zero. What does that mean? I downloaded the manual, totally useless, doesn’t even tell you that your options are above or below zero.

So what to do? Play with the controls, and see what you get!

Here’s the shot processed in Lightroom 3 as per my original post of the ice butterfly.

LR4 DaylightYou can see that the blue sky has given the ice a lovely reflection, but you can also see that the leaf has also taken on the blue, creating a cool colour cast.

So what does this shot look like with a shade white balance setting?

LR4 CloudyYou can see that the blue sky colouration has faded , removing the cool blue feel on the ice. But, you can also see that the leaf has lost the blue, creating a more natural colour.

Now, at this stage you could be forgiven for thinking that the cloudy white balance has a more natural feel to it. And, to be honest, you are forgiven. However, I do like the extreme of the blue in the daylight image, and would like to keep that. It is what I felt I saw when I was looking at the subject, and on the LCD screen on the back of the camera. When I took this shot I saw blue ice. No argument as far as I’m concerned.

So, lets play with the adjustment brush in the Develop module in Lightroon 4 and see what we can achieve.

LR4 Wb Adjustment Brush.OK, for me this works! The ice has the blue, and the leaf has the shade white balance look – not the insipid cool blueish tint of the first frame. Job done.

Now, I know that people like to know a bit about settings when converting photos, so I think I should share them.

First, the original image was tweaked in LR3 in the develop module to get the result I was looking for. I was happy with the overall contrast and exposure for the shot. But the leaf colour was way off what I would call a natural result.

Second, the same image was made into a virtual copy in LR4, and the white balance was changed from As Shot (Temp 5150 / Tint +6) to Shade (Temp 7500 / Tint  +10).

Third, another virtual copy was made, and left at the As Shot white balance. Now I had to start playing in the Develop module. I selected the adjustment brush and painted over the leaf  using the following brush settings: Size 3 / Feather 66 / Flow 55 / Density 64 with the Auto Mask option ticked. Obviously this will depend on the file you are using and the camera the original image was taken with. I can’t pretend to understand that side of things, and there can not be a recipe to follow from what I understand, so will move on.

I now played with the Temp and Tint sliders to try to replicate the leaf colour of the Shade image. I found by using the left and right arrow keys to swap between the 3 images, tweaking the adjustments, the leaf colour of the As Shot image could be changed to almost match the leaf colour of the Shade virtual copy. The Temp setting ended at +70, and the Tint ended at +28.

Well I expect I can now copy these setting to every photo I have of the same type of subject and get a perfect result. Or maybe not.

It would certainly be a lot simpler to be able to adjust the white balance settings in the camera style settings of daylight, cloudy, shade, etc.. But LR4 doesn’t work that way.

I wish it did, but it doesn’t – so I am slightly disappointed that Adobe call this a white balance adjustment. That’s not how I read the blurb.

But I think the possibilities for adjusting differing white balances within scenes is incredibly useful. I will certainly be thinking differently about what Lightroom can do now, and once you try it yourself, I’m sure you will too.

This entry was posted in Close Ups, Computer Help, Fishpool, Ice, Lightroom, Software and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ice Butterfly & Lightroom 4 White Balance Adjustment Brush

  1. yes I miss the temp/Kelvin slider, thie -/+ is pathetic and should be reintroduced ASAP..

    • Marsh says:

      I think the temp option is still available for adjusting the overall RAW file in develop, it’s when you use the adjustment brush you need to play with the +/- sliders. And in that case they do not relate to white balance such as daylight or shade etc..

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