In less than a year since we met, Sami and I have hit the beach three separate times for photos. I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of it and I hope the regular visitors to this website don’t either. On a separate occasion when we made boudoir photos, I detailed my Lightroom workflow to show you how I work with images from start to finish. Today I’m going to show you how I processed a single image from our most recent beach photo shoot using Adobe Lightroom. If you’d like, you can skip to the bottom to see the tutorial right away.
Although we went to the same beach I normally go to for most of my summer photos, Hanlan’s Point Beach, we avoided the clothing optional beach until the very end of our journey. We started at the edge of Gibraltar Point Beach, and even though it was sweltering, Sami put on this leather jacket for her first look. She described this as her standard bar outfit, though that’s with the bralette included. The jacket alone (minus the bralette) isn’t appropriate bar attire, though she’d certainly turn more heads than usual.
In addition to the leather jacket, I’d asked Sami to bring a denim jacket as well. We found a spot with tall grasses and other shrubbery and dove right in as the sun began to get lower. One thing we didn’t anticipate: red ants. As Sami knelt down for these photos, her legs were being eaten alive by red ant bites. I love a model willing to do anything to get the shot!
We decided standing would probably be best for the remainder of our photos, to ward off any other creatures looking for a meal of human flesh. Armed with a flower crown from Claire’s and a cheap lace top I picked up somewhere, Sami became a bit of a forest fairy.
Finally we made our way to the beach just barely in time to catch the most amazing sunset. Truly stunning sunsets never seem to present themselves to me when I’m shooting, but they did on this magical day.
I won’t lie — these last three photos below took a fair amount of post processing in Adobe Lightroom to make them what they are. When it came to the sunset colours, contrast, and tones, they needed a decent bit of work to realize their full potential. First, the images. Then I’ll explain the process.
I shot purposely underexposed (which I’ve covered here on the blog previously) to retain the highlight details in the image. Here’s the original image I started with:
Next, I applied corrections to the entire image using Lightroom so that the sky and the water would look amazing. However, because I wasn’t using any additional lighting, Sami still appears quite dark. I could have made the entire image brighter, but then I would have lost some detail in the sky.
Below are what my panels looked like in Lightroom. I chose the Adobe Vivid profile to give the image a little more punch, and then brought the Exposure slider down ¾ of a stop to ensure no highlight detail would disappear as I applied other corrections. Since the Adobe Vivid profile is very contrasty, I had to bring down the Contrast slider a lot to bring it back to a more neutral place. I was then able to adjust the contrast more to my specific tastes with the Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks sliders, as well as the Highlights and Lights sliders in the Tone Curve.
So the magic that takes this image to the next level is the Auto Mask feature of Lightroom’s brush tool. I used it to select only Sami and apply additional corrections to just her without impacting the rest of the scene. Here’s what the initial mask overlay looked like:
After the mask was created and cleaned up, I applied these adjustments below to the mask: Exposure, Shadows, and Whites were all increased to make Sami much brighter. As a result, this also caused the appearance of more digital noise, so I had to correct for that as well with the Noise slider.
After adjusting the mask, the entire scene looks perfect!
Before and after again:
And that’s how my images go from dull to delightful in a few easy steps. If you like Sami and want to see more of her, you can follow her on Instagram.