Can you photoshop me?

Anybody who photographs “normal people” will hear this question – every single shoot!

It’s our “question everyone asks”.

People want to look their best and they put their trust in you, also a great Icebreaker. 

The answer is “Yes of course”, we always do “something” to the photograph, just how far and how long we spend on the shot is a budget consideration – and that’s the purpose of this blog to show a few things we can do.

There are LOADS of tools and techniques available to us these days:-

  • some quick “make you look amazing” filters, which are fast and affordable – but can make you look a little plastic
  • some have clever filters to find and brighten your eyes and teeth
  • some use machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence – these can do do a cracking job, but cost a fortune! 
  • Some high-end Photoshop techniques (e.g “Frequency Separation” and “Dodge and Burn”) can take a skilled Photoshop retoucher hours, with results that look amazing – it’s how cover images for fashion magazines are created

Andy Taylor Boocock

Let us have a look at the progress of this photo of Andy.

Above, straight out of the camera it is quite a dark and Moody photo. The reason is that I want the background dark and mysterious for the photo. I had to lower the power of the flashes to stop them from lighting the background. It’s one of those challenges of “location shooting”. Stopping light going where you don’t want it!

Step 1 

I send the photo to dxo photolab – I really like its lens correction and sharpening, seems more refined than Adobe have managed so far. You will not see a huge change from the original at this resolution, but the “detail” is amazing from this step – especially for prints.

Step 2

I’ve changed the background to be cooler and slightly purple using Lightroom, I thought it would contrast with Andy’s outfit. I’ve also brightened Andy quite a bit to make him pop out of the background.

Step 3

This is where we look at the skin in Photoshop.

Andi doesn’t have many blemishes, so we didn’t need the healing tool in Photoshop.  I used a technique called dodge and burn which is designed to even out skin tones, giving a natural look.

We are not “blurring the pixels” so make things softer, as many techniques do,  but hanging how neighbouring pixels are so they look more even. It’s a more natural way to soften skin – though more time-consuming.

Step 4

I returned to Lightroom to add final tweaks – if you notice I have darkened the edges of the photo a little (called a vignette), slightly lightened the shadows from his glasses on the cheeks, and sharpened up the texture on his jacket.

And that’s as far as I’d go with this one.

Jana – Dental Nurse

Here’s a shot from a busy Dental Surgery in Huddersfield

It’s taken in Reception with the company logo in the background – I positioned a couple of lights to brighten the area and light Jana.

Step 1

Straight out of the camera, the RAW file. Just the baseline.

Step 2

Send the RAW to DXO to sort out sharpness and lens corrections, again you won’t see much difference at this resolution, but if it ever gets printed, it’ll add a bit of magic to the shot.

Step 3

Basic edits in LIGHTROOM – so basics like:-

  • get the white balance correct, easy with a white wall
  • Brighten the background in this case – it’s a white wall, so make it very bright
  • Adjust the brightness and colour intensity on Jana

This is often where “basic editing” would end – you’ve got the colour, contrast and brightness correction, and the shot looks good to go for many use cases.

Step 4

Next would be to look at the skin, as with Andy above, Jana has great skin so it may be hard to compare – but I’ve applied Dodge and Burn, and Blemish removal, to this next shot – it’s subtle but does look more refined. Look at the cheeks – it’s just a little more smooth and balanced after D&B.

Step 5

So now we can “tidy up” a little – in the background, we can see a cupboard handle and the pegs that hold the sign in place. There’s nothing “wrong” with them, but we can easily remove them to clean things up.

Also, just used a little bit of “frequency separation” to soften a few smile/laughter lines – very subtle again. See if you can spot them.

Step 6

And the final step in here was to brighten teeth and eyes, we use masked Curves Layers to do this so we can finely adjust how bright they are.

Sometimes you go too far with this and they look like vampires. When you come back the next day and realise you got carried away, you can adjust the curves down to something more human!

So…. Can you Photoshop me?

Yes – and hopefully these show one of the workflows photographers can do for you. There are many, some may just use Portrait Professional which instantly makes you look like a doll (flawless skin, bright eyes and teeth etc.) or go through these more intricate techniques.

It’s all down to the budget which route you choose – some more challenging photos could take a day if you used Frequency Separation and Dodge and Burn, or a couple of minutes in other tools!

Supercharge your Editing with new LIGHTROOM MASKS

Lightroom just changed its selective editing tools into one new mega-powerful suite, called “masking”.

It’s hard to sum up how powerful this change will be for editing in future, so instead I’ve created a short video showing you to colour a specific area of a photo using two of the controls.

Sounds easy?

Well, it is now – but it’s something which may have taken hours of pain with the old tools!

Modern Property Photography

Like many people I have used HDR or purely ambient light for property photography for years, when time permitted I would use a a flash or 2 to add some light to the rooms but the results were always a little bit garish, bright and weird shadows would get in the way.

Flash and Ambient light combined

This relatively novel technique is where are you capture all the ambient shots you would normally get for an HDR and also so use some very powerful bounced flash light to 2 to create that flash image of the room as well.

I would recommend you do as many flashes as as you see fit whilst travelling around the room because the more you have to play with in Photoshop later the better the results can be

How to get Maximum Sharpness with Focus Stacking

Sometimes you just cannot get everything in Focus in one shot…

This happens a lot when you are photographing landscapes with a very close foreground, the background becomes blurry if you focus on the foreground, and vice versa.

In this tutorial I show you two photos I took of the exact same scene, all the settings were absolutely identical except in one photo I focussed On The Rock in the foreground, and the second photo was focused on the end of the rock a little bit further away.

This tutorial takes you through the process of blending the two to images, using Lightroom as your start Point and Photoshop to do all the clever blending.

All the editing before the tutorial starts was standard Lightroom tweaks, and and the tutorial leaves you in a position to do whatever you like with the image in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Make your photos SHINE with the LIGHTROOM Brush Tool

The Lightroom Brush Tool

Stand out with Selective Editing

Some images really stand out when you see them on Instagram or Facebook, parts of the shot just look so much better than you could ever achieve using normal Lightroom techniques. The secret to creating these kinds of images is to get selective using the Lightroom Brush Tool

All that means is that you apply settings to small parts of the photograph rather than everything at once. Is so you may want to just brighten somebody’s eyes, or perhaps make some rocks stand out in the foreground of Your Landscape image, this is where the Lightroom Brush Tool comes in.

In this tutorial video, we show you how to to use the Lightroom Brush Tool on a photograph taken in the Yorkshire Dales. Also, I show you how to save the settings away for another day – Lightroom allows you to keep settings safe in presets.

Have a go with the Brush yourself…

This technique is used widely in photography editing especially when using Photoshop, you can now do some really powerful things with the Lightroom brush tool so so we recommend you you reopen some old favourite photographs and give it a go. 

One example would be the sky on this photographic shoot around Leeds – it was a genuinely dramatic day but I have used the power of brush techniques to make the sky look even more impressive

Jaeda Sharman 2

A second shoot with this Morley based star of the future – a model and competition diver at 12!

This was at a ruin in a Morley golf club on a cold January day….

It’s an exposed bit of land, the lights were blowing around, Jaeda had a cold starting – it had all the hall marks of a disaster

But we battled on and created some great images – the dark, rainy skies created drama, the wind made her scarf blow horizontally… everything negative turned into a positive – well except the cold!

Click the shots on the gallery to see them really big on your screen.

How to organise your photos like a pro

Finding old photos can be a pain – if someone asks if you’ve got photos of Liverpool (or something like that) in future, how quickly could you locate them in your file system?

Or if you’re looking to create a print of Ingleborough, could you find all your photos of the hill and quickly make a decision on which to use?

Well if you’re ever in this situation, this video may help.

If not, it’s useful anyway to see how others work – and this is my workflow from getting photos off the memory card through to importing and giving the files meaningful, findable names.

NEVER use direct flash

I know – sometimes it’s too dark to shoot and you don’t have any off-camera kit, so you have to use your flash “on camera”

But the light you get off a direct flash is horrible – there’s an example in the video below. It serves a purpose, but it creates a passport photo look rather than that creative look we’re all after as photographers

So what can you do?

Well with most Speedlites, you can point the head in almost any direction, so the light doesn’t go straight to the model – that way it looks a lot better, but you do need a reflective surface for the light to bounce off.

Most indoor locations have white ceilings, so you just point the flash straight up and it’s job done.

Some have white walls, so you can point them straight at the walls instead (we demonstrate this in the video too);

But when you’re out in the open, you’ve nothing to bounce off – hence we take reflector with us, get someone to hold it next to the model and then point the flash at it.

This short video shows photos from our workshop to illustrate exactly this point – we hope it’s helpful

Leeds 2019

Leeds Architecture in 2019

Winter’s a great time for Leeds architecture photography.

The sun is low in the sky and sets around 5PM, so you’re not out waiting for ages in the evening. We’ve done this before of course, here are some shots from 2014 and some from the shopping areas in 2014

On the 7th February, I decided to capture the sunset in Leeds city centre. Sadly the sky didn’t go bright red at sunset, but we did get some clouds and a little texture to play with.

All of these photos are taken with the:-

Many are HDR, most are vertical panoramic photos using the SHIFT function of the lens – so what you see are 6-9 images blended.

All processing in LIGHTROOM, Including HDR and panoramic merging.

Crown Point Bridge

Brewery Wharf

Leeds Water Taxi

Corn Exchange Area

Call Lane

Vicar Lane

Shopping Area

Shopping Area

Shopping Area

The Victoria Quarter 

County Arcade Leeds

Victoria Quarter

Vicar Lane and Headrow

Victoria Gate

Grand Arcade

The Lounge

The Merrion Centre

The Merrion Centre

The Merrion Centre

The Merrion Centre

The Premier Inn and Student Accomodation

Leeds Arena

Millennium Square

The Light and Radisson Blu

Park Row

Dakota Deluxe

The Black House

Infirmary St Bus Station

2018 Portrait Workshop 2

Our second portrait workshop the summer was with Nicola Papperazzo, Chloe Mason and Andy Blue McLaren.

We split it into a couple of locations on the west end of Leeds city centre. Starting in the flowery Park Square, where I showed people how to use flowers in the foreground to add blurry texture – like this one of Nicola

The sun light was low and warm, so we also made use of that with shots like this one of Chloe, where she’s looking straight towards the sun

The sun soon left the square, so we moved on to a spot with some fantastic graffiti – a building which used to be the police station many moons ago!

Here’s one of Chloe, I’ve used a technique of shooting along the building, focussing on the model, so the foreground blurs as does the background. There’s a little texture added to this in post processing too, just to add to that urban feel. 

Here’s one of the front of the building with Nicola – showing how you can use the environment as the main feature and the model only forming a small part of the image.

Next we moved to the footbridige over the A58M, Leeds inner ring road. Its not the prettiest of things so not immediately obvious a location for a shoot, but I’ve always liked its long lines, hard concrete and hand rails. It lends itself to portraits – here’s one of Andy, framed in the concrete and steel of the structure

Here’s Chloe on the bridge itself

At the end of the evening, once the light had dwindled, I captured a few shots of Chloe using just street light – you need street lights to focus for starters, plus once it’s dark, it lifts the model out of the background

Then to finish the evening off, I did a flash demonstration – this used 4 speedlite flashes – compact and cheap to buy, but really effective. 

These next two of Nicola used just 1 softbox, quite high up to the right of her, so you get the shadow on the right of her face. Nearly Rembrandt Lighting. 

We then stopped Andy from leaving by putting him in the spotlight, which he loves! Here we have the same softbox, and 2 rear lights giving them a glowing “rim” light. 

And then we got all 3 together for a final few – this is my favourite of the 3 of them

Though to get this shot, we had a laugh first…. 

My Favourites from the night

Maximising your photography investment

Our little secret!

All photographers and designers know how to do this – and it is REALLY easy to do – and it really can leverage that photography investment to your advantage. 

We use Adobe LIGHTROOM to do it at McFade, but there is a free tool called “IfranView” which does it as well. 


Leverage your investment

Get 30 for the price of 10

Imagine you’ve invested in a shoot and received 10 amazing edited photos. How do you make this into 20 or 30 photos without actually “editing”*** the image? 

This video shows how cropping and saving different versions gives you dozens of extra images to fuel those social media streams and marketing collateral.


*** (Note that photographers will have something in their contract to stop you editing them – because most people make a mess and it damages a photographers reputation. Cropping is always fine with McFade, but do check first with your photographer if you’re unsure). 

AMAZING Panoramic Photos Made Easy with LIGHTROOM

Gone are the old days… 

Stitching panoramic photos used to be a pain. you’d have to do all kinds of prep on each photo in LIGHTROOM first, then export them as high res files, then create a stack in PHOTOSHOP and merge them…. and it’d probably go wrong at some stage!

The panoramic world has moved on

Happily, this has all moved on and you can stitch photos in seconds using LIGHTROOM and no other program. 

If you start off with 2 photos like these:-



Merge panoramic in seconds

Then open up Photo Merge (as shown in the video below) – Lightroom will do the rest for you. 

You end up with a large shot, pretty square in this example, which you can then use in many ways – how about a tall portrait crop, or a square, or a traditional landscape orientation… 

With the file never leaving LIGHTROOM, you can create dozens of versions if you like!

Examples of the finished shots

See how it’s done

LIGHTROOM Bright Sky Rescue!

The bright sky problem…

We’ve all done it – had a great scene to shoot but not got the right filters to balance the bright sky and land!

We end up with a boring bright sky and really dark foreground – it’s not ideal, but with most camera RAW files you can now fix this quickly in Lightroom.

The bright sky solution

In a nutshell, you can only do this with files where the sky isn’t totally blown out – there has to be some detail in there or nothing can be rescued.

The process is:-

  1. Use a grad filter in Lightroom to darken the sky
  2. Use the luminosity mask to keep the hilltops looking normal
  3. Close the GRAD
  4. Edit using your normal techniques

See it done…

Here it is done on a photo from the Yorkshire Dales – aimed at the user with some experience with LIGHTROOM.

Instant Vintage Effects in Lightroom

Age your photos in seconds!

I’ve tried using “bought” LIGHTROOM presets many times and they all seem to have one thing in common…

The secret behind most lightroom presets....
They use Tone Curves to add colours to your photos! 

This makes perfect sense to any seasoned Photoshopper or Lightroom expert – but I guessed that most photographers don’t know about this. So here’s a video explaining how you do it – a quick “how to” guide so you can start making your own toned presets for free!


Is ON1 RAW 2018 the Best Solution For Cost-Conscious Photographers?

Fed up with paying £10/month for Lightroom?

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Lightroom – but I’m not a huge fan of paying a tenner each month to use it… I used to like buying something and then being able to use it as long as I liked.

The new subscription model Adobe use is fine for businesses, but for many enthusiasts, it’s prohibitive to expect them to pay year on year for something they may use infrequently.

What’s the alternative?

There are probably many out there – I used to use Capture One, but after release 7 I found it shaky and unreliable. The results are great, but if you need a fast and efficient workflow, then it was no good.

So having used On1’s Effects for a while now, I was interested to see their answer to Lightroom – it’s called RAW 2018 and is a decent bit of kit.

The software was $99 – with an Xmas discount, I ended up paying £63 for the software, tutorials, presets and an e-book. Great value and I won’t need to pay over and over again.

I’ve recorded my first impressions on this video – take a look and see what it can do.

My conclusions

  • I do really like it – it’s powerful and intuitive
  • I will keep using Lightroom because of the “way I work” professionally – bulk files, processes and presets are all entrenched in LIGHTROOM…. for now
  • I will use Effects from LIGHTROOM a lot – that’s fantastic
  • For “fun” and “personal” projects, I’ll probably be using ON1!
  • If you’re brand new to photography – get this NOW and play with the free demo
  • File handling can be a bit slow 
  • Masking and the filters are amazing – worth the money alone


How to make a soft, dreamy, black and white waterfall photograph in LIGHTROOM

Using LIGHTROOM to make a dreamy waterfall

Here’s a shot from a recent workshop at Swaldale – it’s Crackpot Force, yes, that’s really a thing!

The shot was underexposed, but I liked the shape – so gave it a go in Lightroom anyway.

Things we explain:-

  • black and white conversion
  • basic controls like Highlights, Whites, Shadows 
  • Clarity for a soft look
  • vignetting
  • cropping
  • sharpening

Kit Used


Canon 5D Mark 4

Canon 70-200 F2.8 L

The video above shows what steps we did – and this is the before and after…

Same Photo Cooked Many Ways

Sunset at Gross Glockner – Tirol – Austria

Do you ever take a shot and never manage to settle on a final edited look?

Well this happened with this shot – it’s one of 3 brackets taken at sunset with a 17mm TSe lens… so nice and sharp, oodles of data to play with…. but what to do?

Flat HDR

First off I did a HDR blend and flattened the image out a bit…

Way too much detail in this and it looks a bit bland. But a start point to throw it into NIK plugins

NIK Efex

So I ran them in this order:-

  1. DFine – noise reduction
  2. Pre Sharpener
  3. Viveza – contrast and colour

Managed to keep the shot from burning out or going black, but still not quite there yet.

Colour EFEX

I took the above and tried a mix of filters in Colour EFEX – I think there was

  1. Detail Extractor
  2. Pro Contrast
  3. Graduated Filter
  4. something else I can’t remember

So you can see we got to a darker place and reduced the colours a lot. The process introduced a fair bit of noise in the sky, so ran it through DFine again!

Analog EFex

Had a go at taking the Viveza output through Analog EFEX this time…

Not sure it worked as well as the colour efex version. Analog is better for quirky portraits and city shots than landscapes.

Rewind – HDR EFEX

So for this one, I flattened the original RAW files, selected all 2 and exported them to HDR EFEX.

I’m not a massive fan of this plugin, it tends towards the unbelievable end of the HDR spectrum, which is no good commercially.

But for landscape… well here’s where I got to, after a while meddling. It’s definitely a powerful tool.

MINIMAL with the dark HDR RAW

So after all the detail, how about making something dark and menacing.

The dark shot had the most potential – with fleeting light, deep reds and the snow just about poking out of the gloom.

So this is the darkest of the 3 HDR shots – the shadows lowered and colours upped a little. The highlights and white clip were meddled around with in LIGHTROOM ever so slightly to get texture – and we’re done!

Silver EFEX

No photo is complete till you’ve tried shoving it through Silver EFEX. This one looked pretty good with it’s bold textures in the foreground.

Well there you go – you can throw your files through any number of filters for many effects.

It’s down to taste which is best – I like the black and white, was a bit disappointed with what Viveza gave out for a rare change.

The power of Lightroom is that you can get lost, then just “create a virtual copy” and start afresh and see where it takes you



Tell us in the comments

How to fake an ND Grad filter with LIGHTROOM

Flash of inspiration

This technique came to me one night – just watching sunset on a road bridge and thought about it. It applies to Tilt Shif lenses mainly – but I’m sure you can do it with a normal lens, or telephoto. Maybe not an ultrawide 16mm though.

The Problem

So you invest £2000 on a 17mm TS lens and realise you can NEVER use an ND grad on it… the end of the lens is like a tennis ball, you just can’t fit the darn things on.

So you have to use HDR to get balanced shots, which can mean using 6 or 9 shots once you’ve done your shifting. The problems are, when shooting with a 5D4…

  • Masses of hard drive space – 6 or 9 40Meg RAW files, ouch
  • Need to use HDR – can introduce problems if you don’t know what you’re doing
  • Time… wow, even on a powerful computer you’re waiting around

But yeah – I’d been doing this ever since I got the 17mm TSe

The Idea….

It’s far from genius really.

But I found this whilst shooting light trails over the M62 – the camera levelled on a tripod.

  • I could get the whole scene in 2 shots – a low shot and a high shot
  • The low shot was dark mainly – had the road in it
  • The high shot was bright mainly – had the sky in it.
  • I WAS taking HDR brackets at the time then thought…

Would LIGHTROOM stitch 2 shifted shots at different exposures… and would there be a tide mark?

The source files

The first shot is the lower one – this is 30 seconds, so you get long light trails – and lots of them

LIGHTROOM Grad - how to fake it using 2 photos in lightroom

Next, I shifted the camera up to get mainly the sky – but leaving a bit of road for Lightroom to blend with. This was just 6 seconds long so we got a nice dramatic sky.

So here goes – highlighted them both and did a Panoramic Blend.

I’ve obviously done a few tweaks with lightroom to get it a bit brighter.

So here is the unedited blend

As you can see – lightroom just did its thing and got it right!

A video on how it’s done

Super-Fast Spot Colouring in LIGHTROOM

Learn Spot Colour in Seconds

Using Adobe Lightroom

Spot Colouring is where you make a black and white photo but leave a part of it coloured. You may see it in wedding photography, and most famously in the film, Schindler’s List – a girl in a red coat dominates one scene.

The technique used to involve masks and photoshop – and a certain level of understanding for it to work.

However, with a few seconds tweaking, you can create the same effect without opening Photoshop or learning about layers and masks

Here’s the example of spot colouring

In this street scene the red coat really stands out, but the shot it pretty ordinary – so to try to make it more interesting, we made a spot colour with just the red coat

Here’s how we did it – in 3 minutes!

The spot colouring technique is very easy for this shot where the coat is bright red. It may be a bit more involved for different colours…. but hopefully, this 3 minutes will show you the basics of spot colouring so you can try it yourself.

Sleeklens Lightroom Workflow – First Impressions

A New way of working with LIGHTROOM?

Here’s a video of how I found using these LIGHTROOM Presets and Brush settings to edit a few photos

The company who created them are called Sleeklens – and can be found on the following links:-

Main Website



I think the video says it all – but in a nutshell, the presets are split into 6 types – from some all in one presets which give you a final result, to some specific ones which change clarity, colour and brightness.

These pre-defined settings have nice, easy to understand names, which definitely makes editing workflows easier for new people to follow. If you want it to look warmer, click on the “warm it up” preset – and hey presto, it’s warmer.


Did you know you can save presets for brushes, grads and radial filters?

That little box of sliders can be set and saved, just like a preset – and that’s the second part of the set you get from SLEEKLENS. These are shown in the video too, and are all about localised editing – so you can change the colour of a sky or the darkness of some water. It’s again very handy as you don’t have to think too much about sliders – just pick one which sounds right (e.g. Add Golden Sun) and draw.

Here’s the video



There’s a lot work gone into these and it shows. They are not the silver bullet which makes perfect photos with one click – but they’re not that far off! Use them as a start point for your editing workflow and you’ll save lots of time.

How to edit a light painting photo FAST using LIGHTOOM

Lightroom edit of our Night Photography Workshop – Roundhay Park, Leeds

Here’s a shot from our light painting workshop in Leeds – a small but perfectly formed group of intrepid photographers gathered to paint the park red, blue, green and any other colour we had in the bag.

This photo had 3 of us with torches – blue to the left, red behind, and yellow to the right.

Luckily we had perfect skies – a decent wind with sparse clouds blowing past, this gives us a great sense of movement and they leave their trail over the sky.

The settings were :-

  • ISO 400
  • F4
  • 30 seconds

The Lightroom Video

Here’s a video showing the end-to-end edit of the photo, lots of cool tips too.

LIGHTROOM TUTORIAL – French Street Scene

Anonymous Edits

Here’s a lovely street scene from what I guess is France – again, I’ve no idea who’s shot this one is, it’s uploaded to DROPBOX with no name attached so I can be totally impartial. A bit like the STIG was on Top Gear.

This edit creates a couple of results – one is a muted colour, with warm tones and a vignetted finish

The second is a black and white – more contrasting result. 

LIGHTROOM tutorial – Landscape – Swaledale Waterfall

Is Swaledale the best Dale? 

There are so many dales, all with different character, all with different features. 

Swaledale is known for its steep sides, lead mines, waterfalls and 1000 barns – so lots to go at for the photographer

We went up there yesterday – Richard Spurdens with his new Canon 5D mark 4 and me with the huge 500mm lens. Boys and their toys. 

Here are a few from a quick play in LIGHTROOM – you can see the autumn colours were strong, and we found some really dramatic view points. That’s at the cost of being knackered after a long walk of course. 


The tutorial bit

Here’s the before and after of the photo we edit for you

At the end of the shoot the light died pretty fast and there was no sunset – so we found this waterfall. 

The sky and water were really bright compared to the surrounding leaves and rocks – I purposely shot the shot to keep detail in these bright areas, at the cost of underexposed “everything else”.

In this tutorial we explain

  • how to recover hightlights and dark areas
  • how to quickly and easily enhance areas with the RADIAL tool 
  • why it’s worth underexposing in these situations
  • why you should think VERY CAREFULLY before handing out your RAW files. 

The Video


Lightroom and Photoshop – Focus Stacking Tutorial

Front to back sharpness

Here’s how it’s done!

Even at F16 with a wide lens, you can struggle to get everything sharp in a photo. If you like getting a foreground object such as a boulder or stream in your shot – the background may get blurry – of the foreground may get blurry… it depends on where you focus.

How about doing 2 shots, 1 focussed on the background and the other on the foreground?

That’s what we did here – the video takes you through how to automatically blend these 2 shots in PHOTOSHOP.

The Source Images

These were taken on a tripod with the exact same settings – just the focus point changed. I used LIVE VIEW on a canon 5D mark 3 – moving the little focus box from the leaves in one shot to the actual waterfall in the other. Hopefully, you can see the focus difference on these 2 shots


The Result

This looks pretty much the same as above, but on closer inspection, you see both the back and foreground are sharp


See how it’s done

Lightroom Tutorial – Landscape – Ribblehead Viaduct

Yorkshire Dales Lightroom Tutorial – Ribblehead Viaduct

A sunset shot – without a great sunset

So you’re driving up a long country road with no real signs of life apart from the odd farm or bird of prey, then all of a sudden this massive viaduct pops up!

That’s Ribblesdale – it’s full of stuff to photograph, and here is the best bit, right at the top of the valley.

In the summer the sun sets over the back of Whernside, so not so good for sunsets – but in the darker months, you get the sun setting behind the actual viaduct – so far more effective.

Tutorial Contents

It’s a full LIGHTROOM workflow – quite long and discusses how to make something quite overcast and disappointing into something a bit more exciting.

We go through each of the DEVELOP panels showing you ideas and even use NIK Silver EFEX to do a final mono edit.

Sepia Conversion – Silver EFEX Pro


The Video

Lightroom Tutorial – Landscape – Wilder Kaiser in Austria

Lightroom Landscape Tutorial – from Austria!

The Wilder Kaiser, Tirol

Here is a full editing Lightroom tutorial of an Austrian landscape – it’s the Wilder Kaiser range, which loom majestically over the farm we stop at on the McFade Austrian holiday which runs every October

At the top of the ski slopes they have these little lakes which store water for the snow-blowers. If there isn’t any snow, they just make it from these reservoirs!

So at sunset we didn’t ge the most incredible colours in the sky – but we can show you a few steps on how to get from a cold looking scene, to something a bit more dynamic.

Before and After

The Video

Editing a Landscape in LIGHTROOM – Zell am See, Austria

Lightroom Edit of Zell Am See – Austria

Real-time Lightroom editing tutorial

Here’s a 10 stop shot – taken with a very dark ND filter which makes the exposure 1000 times longer. This one has a 30-second exposure.

The filter has a blue cast, so we show how to correct this – and work through each step describing “why” we make each change.

Before and After

The Video

Here’s the video with all the steps and discussion for you to learn from


What else would you like to learn about?

We hope that was useful – we’ll be doing more videos to help boost your processing, so let us know it the comments below what you’ve been struggling with.


Summer Nights Workshop – 2016 Review

McFade Summer Nights Workshops 2016

A look back over 12 fantastic evenings – but first some background

Where did the idea of Summer Nights Workshops come from?

Ever since I took Photography seriously I’ve regularly gone out for smaller outings – usually with 1 or 2 friends. We’d find places to go, new things to try out and gradually get loads of ideas and locations to return to.

I found that it broke the weekend up and gave us something to look forward to. Gets you out of the “office mindset” too.

But also, if you just do “a bit” at a time, then built on it regularly – your skills just blossomed and grew.

What are McFade Summer Nights Then?

When I started McFade Training I did lots of weekend trips, bigger outings which cost more and were less frequent. This is probably what most trainers do – more people are free on weekends and you do make more money!

But I’d find that if you saw people every few months, they’d probably not have had reason to go out and practice what they’d learned at the last workshop. In fact, you’d be going over the same ground again to refresh their memories.

So it gave me the idea of re-creating what I’d done with John and Dave in the “noughties” :-

  • a regular evening to look forward to
  • a different location for each session
  • a load of different skills – from towns to landscapes, people to porches.
  • a gradual build up of skills and confidence in the regulars who came

How do you get the most from these nights?

Both financially and in learning, the people who booked the whole series got the most. The evenings were over 33% less – meaning that even if you missed a few, you were still “quids in”.

Also I get to know where people’s skills lie if I see them regularly – I can introduce new things each session which build on the last session.

It also gets people out regularly – people may not go out on their own, but if they’ve got a group session each fortnight, it’s in the diary and they turn.

Obviously, those who just “dip in” to the odd workshop that appeals have a great time too – it’s just they don’t get all the benefits of regular training.

It’s a bit like a personal training session for your creative side! 

In 2017, we’re seriously considering offering this just as a “12 workshop series” – with no individual bookings. We’d love your feedback on that.

What do we do on these nights?

It’s relaxed and fun – that’s the main thing.

There are no egos or know it alls – no competitions or kit envy. It is usually people with basic DSLR cameras who just want to get better at taking photos. We’ve had a 15 year old and a few in their 70’s – there’s no age restrictions.

We try to cover a lot of ground between May and September, a comprehensive series giving people exposure to many topics, each building on the basics of photography – we usually start in towns in May, this year it was York.


We usually start in towns in May, this year it was York. Towns offer a bit of cover if it’s raining, some cool places for sunsets and they’re easy to get to and park. Also I think people rarely photograph towns – it’s a bit scary on your own – so going in group really helps people relax.

It’s dark by 10PM in May too – so you get your first taste of low light photography, which usually is a paradigm shift for most.

We also went to Saltaire – terrible weather meant we stood under a bridge for a while, but a series of creative challenges kept everyone motivated till we could shoot the weirs.


In June we did portraits. All in Leeds, all on location and with a mix of flash and natural light.

Portrait is tricky to get right when you’re new – you have someone rather than an inanimate object to photograph. Do you talk to them or what?

Well the main emphasis on the first one was using long lenses and wide apertures to avoid really busy backgrounds. That’s often the main issue with portrait – the person has all kinds of stuff going on behind them. So stand back, zoom in and blur the background was a great start.

Next was The Blues Brothers – Brian, Chris and Gareth were fantastic but the weather was appalling. We retreated to the Dark Arches and got flashes out – which wasn’t at all planned, but was “real”. Stuff like that really happens – a lot.

The group had a fantastic few hours whilst I changed batteries in the flashes as they faded!


We are in Yorkshire so Landscape is all around us – it made sense to do lots of Landscape workshops. We went to :-

  • Harewood and Almcliffe
  • Burley and Ilkley Moor
  • Pontefract, Ferrybridge and the A1 Bridge
  • Beal and Eggborough

It’s fair to say the weather was mixed for these – and Landscape really does depend on good light.

The Ferrybridge and A1 Workshop

These are all locations the people can return to on better days – but even on a grey night we got 3 great locations and proved that even a fading blue hour sky can look amazing when you know how. The pond shot below was taken on a virtually pitch black lake side!

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Beal and Eggborough

Another location roadtrip which I first did in about 2005 – this was about fields, crops and their interaction with the canals and power station.

Again, not the greatest light for it – we learned about foreground interest, balance in composition, reflections and a cool trick at sunset where you make anything you can find into a silhouette with the sky colours blurred behind it – see the thistle below.

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Harewood and Almscliffe

At last a sunny night – though it was cold on the boulders later on.

A 2 stop workshop where we showed everyone a bridge and weir we found by accident in 2008, then up to some iconic boulders near Harrogate.

Here we looked at the 10 Stop Filter, using boulders foreground interest, finding names and pools rocks and exposing for bright sun

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Burley and Ilkley Moor

This was a very unusual evening – where the sun actually created lots of problems by the weir. The sky was cloudless and therefore boring, and the sun was going stright into people’s lenses creating all kinds of flare.

A nice problem in a way I guess – a little patience and it became less of an issue. Everyone got to try the 10-stop filter for themselves, getting a very smooth water flow over 30 seconds.

The cow and calf was pretty windy and cold – we showed the team how to create great sunset silhouettes again – this time with huge boulders rather than thistles. On top of the rocks are lots of names carved into the rock so we showed how to capture those with ultra wide lenses.

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We met at a lovely golf club to take photos of the TVR club’s wonderful cars – but it poured down, a washout.

Tricky suggested we rescue the night by going to the IKEA car park – so over we went, only 10 minutes away. Unfortunately it was pretty busy in there – so I had to get everyone a safe distance away with long lenses.

Gradually the customers disappeared and we got more and more space – the cars spread out and we had a final hour of sci-fi magic. The curvy cars and ultra austere concrete of the car park made for some of the best shots we’ve made over the years.

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Bonus at Brimham Rocks

A final landscape workshop up at Brimham rocks followed. We went armed with all the night painting equipment as it’d be dark by 8:30PM.

It was a good job as the sunset never happened and the rocks were not hugely inspiring as the sky went grey. But as soon as it went dark we found our stride and introduced everone to light painting, sparks and light graffiti.

It was great fun getting everyone involved – we had red boulders, stick men and all kinds of ideas flowing.

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2 Towns to Finish Off


It’s most famous for Mother Shipton’s Cave and the railway viaduct – we photographed the latter, the cave was shut!

The Nidd was perfectly stil that night, so giving fantastic reflections for everyone. The start was at a road bridge where we had lots of boats for foreground – so the challenge was to use the boats in the composition.

After that we captured street scenes and the viaduct before climbing up to the castle – a very steep stairway which was pretty tiring, but we all got great photos of the bridge and its mirror reflection.

To end the night we had an hour of Pixel Stick fun – some Pac Man ghosts on the bridge then lots of other interactive stuff, with silhouettes and rainbows!

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Salford Quays and Media City

To finish off is a place went to photograph first in 2004 – The Lowry as it was then, but it’s graduated into Media City now.

A pastel sunset gave a lovely salmon sky as the sun set, then we were into night photography of all the amazing structures and rainbows of colour.

We actually finished at 11:20, an hour and 20 later than usual, as there was so much to shoot – a few left earlier – no one’s obliged to stay till the end!

So That’s All Folks

Summer is now over – we’ll be running weekend workshops over the winter in 2016-2017 and rebooting the Summer Nights again next year – so keep your eye out for them.

Lightroom Recovery – Transforming a Dull Day Landscape

Sky-Rocket Your Editing With LIGHTROOM GRAD Tool

Want great results FAST?

Need to prep some preview images but don’t have time to go to town?

With most landscape photos, you’ve got the sky and the foreground – and other great elements like foreground interest boulders, trees, water…

So editing that lot individually can take a long time.

How about splitting your shot into 2 areas :-

  • The Sky
  • The Foreground

If you could quickly make an amazing sky, then use the same technique to edit the foreground, would that speed your workflow up? Well here’s how we do it…


Super-Charge your Editing with Lightroom Presets

Lightroom Presets – Work Smart!

Do you always do the same editing steps?

Have you created a fantastic shot, and want to re-create it in future?

Do you want to spend less time editing and more shooting?


Well if you’ve said yes to any of those, then Lightroom Presets are perfect for you.

The Develop Module lin LIGHTROOM has lots of sliders and tools for you to play with – all Lightroom Presets do is record settings for you to use later.

It really is that simple. So if you have a landscape “look” you really like, maybe lots of blues and greens with a bundle of clarity and subtle vignette, instead of adding this to each shot,

So if you have a landscape “look” you really like, maybe lots of blues and greens with a bundle of clarity and subtle vignette, instead of adding this to each shot, one by one – you can save that setup forever and apply it with one click.

Here’s a video about how I use LIGHTROOM Presets

The Great Photo Watermark Debate

Why do people get so angry about photo watermarks?

You’d be amazed how polarised opinion is on photo watermarking is.

  • Many think it pointless, and will fight to the death to convince everyone so.
  • Others think it idiotic to post anything without the protection of a watermark

What is a photo watermark?

It’s a logo, text or some other “mark” you apply to a photo – in this example, the McFade watermark in the bottom right is a watermark.

leeds river 2015_12 HDR 105_6_7

In  this image, the watermark is very discrete – it has an opacity of 8% and fills the full width of the image.


Purpose of watermarks


In the photo above, the watermark identifies the image as a “mcfade photography” image. People seeing this will then know who the photo was by and if they wish to use it legally, they can google “mcfade photography” and contact us.

We can then work out a price for usage, invoice them and deliver the images.

The first image above, with the small bottom right logo, would be ideal for this.


Watermarks discourage malicious usage of an image – people may pass the image as their own, or use the image without permission on websites. This robs the photographer of potential earnings for commercial usage, or credit for amateur usage.


This isn’t something I’d really thought of till reading a thread on Facebook – but some would argue that putting your name across a photo is a form of “ego boost”.

Arguments against watermarks

They ruin an image

Indeed, they can, and often do, spoil the viewer’s pleasure.

This is an example of a watermark which ruins the image – it’s a full-screen logo at 76% opacity, and the colour tone (white) contrasts hugely against the darker background.

New Dock Leeds WY-8-2If you are posting images like this, then I think anyone would agree that you are looking firstly at the logo, and secondly, struggling to see the actual photo

A 5% opacity version of the exact same image/logo reverses the effect.

Here you see the image first, then the logo. New Dock Leeds WY-8

Logos can be easily removed

This is true for small identity logos, like in this street scene.

Anyone could easily crop the right side and get rid of the logo, or “clone” out the logo, by copying a section of pavement over it.

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However, if we return to this image…

New Dock Leeds WY-8

  • The logo covers a huge proportion of the image so cannot be cropped out
  • The logo overlaps many things – like the railings and bridge tower, so is challenging and time-consuming to remove.

Whilst you can photoshop this logo out, it will take time – would the malicious photo thief want to take time doing this, or just move on to a different image?

Make it hard for people to steal, and they are less likely to do so.

If you upload at low res, they are no use to anyone anyway

It is true that a low-quality, low-resolution jpg file will look terrible in print. It’ll be pixellated and look horrible.

So this argument holds for things like weddings, where people want prints, but don’t want to pay you for them.

It also holds for flyers, magazines and anything else in print – where the low resolution will not look good.

However, most businesses use images online – for any number of uses. Any image you upload can potentially be used – no matter what resolution you use. If you upload anything, you want it to look good (otherwise, what’s the point?), so it will look just as good on an image thief’s site as it does on yours.

So should you add photo watermarks?

If the photo has any “potential future value“, then I would always watermark it.

If it’s a photo of my family around the dinner table at Xmas, then I’d not really be bothered – but the images above may all have some commercial use.

For example, the ironmongers shop may want a photo for a flyer. If they see that image and like it, but there is no watermark, then they don’t know who to contact for a high-resolution print version.

  • They lose – they can’t use that image as it’s too low res
  • You lose – you could have negotiated (say) a £100 fee

Which watermarks should you use?

Logos are better than text – they sell your brand and build familiarity.

If you don’t have a logo, then text will do – but make it interesting, use a nice font, place it cleverly.

How to I apply watermarks?



Lightroom’s “export” process has a “watermarks” section at the bottom. This allows you to choose:-

  • the logo file (use png if you can)
  • size
  • placement
  • opacity

Then you can save those settings for future use. Very powerful.

So why do people get so upset?

Who knows – photography appeals to an unusually wide range of people, from teenage girls making beautiful floral images of their friends to pensioners photographing puffins on the north sea islands.

More than any hobby, you’ll find hugely polarised opinions on just about every subject!


2015 Photography Review 1 – January

2015 – January’s Photography

We kicked off the year with workshops in Leeds and the Dales, shot lots of fitness and training for clients, interiors of event spaces, huge office spaces and a couple of gigs with the Chicago Blues Brothers

Here are just a few memories of January

See the rest of 2015…

Read about January
Read about February
Read about March
Read about April
Read about May
Read about June
Read about July
Read about August
Read about September
Read about October
Read about November
Read about December

Car Photography Workshop – TVR and Porsche

Grand Finale Car Photography Workshop for 2015


We’ve done 3 great Car Photography workshops this summer, the final one was at Temple Newsham in Leeds – where we have a huge car park full of puddles and a gritty feel. Something to contrast to the other workshops.

The cars were

  • TVR T350
  • TVR Wedge – 2 of these
  • TVR Tuscan
  • Porsche 911 – 2 of these

A great mix of colour, style and shape – all organised by Richard Lee, who runs the TVR club of West Yorkshire.

Photography Stuff…

Porsche at out Car Photography Workshop

Porsche at out Car Photography Workshop

The night was…

  1. demonstration on how to shoot cars from different angles (1/3 – 2/3 splits, front shots, low and high angles, etc.)
  2. use of polarisers
  3. group shots of the cars – see the 2 porsches and TVR groups
  4. single car shots at sunset – especially the Tuscan and T350
  5. Flash – full demonstration on setting up 3 modified flashes (softboxes)
  6. Flash shots for everyone – using long exposures, we had 8 lenses pointing at the cars, each getting a “burst of flash” ! 1 Trigger, 8 photos
  7. Reflection shots – Tuscan and Wedge by a huge pond, with 3 flashes lighting it
  8. Spark shots – same as the reflection shots, but with me creating “katerine wheel” sparks with wire wool in the background
  9. Light Painting – finally, a very quick demo of using torches to light subjects at night, with red and blue coloured “gels”

An awful lot of content and I’m hope it’s whetted people’s appetites for more night photography over the Autumn and Winter.


The Photos

Here they are…. a small selection from the 140 shots I got.


HDR Photography is DEAD!

Is HDR Photography Dead?

In many situations, new cameras do indeed render HDR Photography redundant.

We use HDR to increase the “dymanic range” of our work – capturing extra detail in the highlights and shadows. Older cameras had a limited range, was was proved by lightening an under exposed shot. The “noise” would be intolerable, making a mosaic like pattern in the dark areas.

However, newer cameras allow you to brighten darks areas, and to an extent, recover burned highlights sufficiently to get away with just 1 exposure of most scenes.

In this tutorial we shoot a traditional HDR subject, a cathedral interior in Manchester. The shadows and bright windows usually have a huge dynamic range which HDR was perfect for.

It only applies to RAW Images by the way – if you’re still shooting JPG, you are in the wrong place;-)

The photo was taken, hand held, with a Canon 5D Mark 3 – watch and see how much detail we can rescue using just LIGHTROOM and no other tools

Full Video Tutorial – HDR without HDR….

Creating Vintage Photos Made Easy in LIGHTROOM

How to Create That Vintage Look in LIGHTROOM

In this short tutorial video, we look at editing a beach shot at Alnwick, Northumberland. It was a bright day with strong clouds, so lots of mid tones and some crisp shadows to play with. There are many ways to process such a shot, in this session we’ll take you through the whole process of using Split Toning to add that lovely vintage feel, a process that is surprisingly easy in Lightroom.

The Vintage look can be added to any kind of photo, not just landscapes. Many fashion images will have cool or even green tones added to create a light, pastel feel.

Here we add yellows to the highlights and blues into the shadows – this makes a beautiful effect which you can add to any image.

Vintage Effects in LIGHTROOM…

How to get from this RAW file:-

before the vintage lightroom effect

To this classic “vintage” look in under 5 minutes

vintage lightroom effect


Here is how to apply a Vintage look in LIGHTROOM

Bookings “go though the roof” with McFade Photos

A New Look Pays Off!

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Having recently opened an events space in Leeds, our client needed some fresh shots to promote it.

So we created some of our “special HDR images” of Lambert’s Yard – using a mix of angles and styles to show the features, and sell the place as a modern, warm, fun, city centre venue to hold your events.

041 rare location shotsAnd2more

Since releasing the photos their hit-rate on google has “gone through the roof”, they have taken on an unprecedented 25 new bookings in a week.

We’re obviously delighted to have such a great impact on a new venture’s fortunes, and are looking forward to giving many other venues the same treatment next week!

032 rare location shotsAnd2more


What difference could new images have on your business?

You may not have cool city centre venues for hire, but most of us do have images on our websites and social media – ask yourself…

  • What are my current images saying about my business?
  • Do they have the right “message” to my clients?
  • Are they just filling the site, or are the enhancing the site ?

The Main Event!

Photography can be so much more than a “website filler” – it can totally transform how people view your business and attract a whole new demographic; they are the main event on most websites!


If photos of you, your team or your business in general are looking dated – don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0776655 83 75 or drop us a line at – if we can help, we will!

Why you should “Shoot to the Right”

Shoot to the right… what’s that then?

It’s a technique to get better image quality… simple as that really.

Why does the “shoot to the right” technique give you better image quality?

Well the science is pretty complicated and all to do with how a sensor captures light. Digital cameras sensors are more efficient at capturing the light in the “highlights”, and less efficient at capturing “shadows”, so by getting the exposure more to the highlight end, we are getting the best out of the sensor.

Obviously you need to shoot RAW files for this to work, as you will need to correct (usually lower) the exposure later in a RAW convertor. Shooting jpeg means you thrown the baby out with the bathwater and lost all that great exposure info.

How do you do it?

The main thing is to get the exposure “to the right” not “totally blown out.

You need to get good with histograms – which are really simple, honest. It’s just a graph which shows you how your photo is made up – in terms the brightness of your photos. The left end is the shadows and black, middle is mid tones, right is highlights and white.

Here is one way to do it:-

  1. First, as normal you need to compose your image and meter the exposure.
  2. Take the shot at the metered exposure and check the histogram – what you are aiming for is to most of the exposure on the right side of the histogram, but none of it clipping off the right side – blowing the highlights.
  3. If most of your histogram is to the middle or left of the graph, then you just increase the exposure – doubling your shutter speed will move the graph along to the right a fair way.
  4. If the histogram is already off the right side, clipping the highlights and need to reduce the exposure to bring it back. You are aiming to have the highlights just inside the right side of the histogram.

Just keep taking photos and tweaking till you get it right – on a day with pretty consistent light, you probably only have to change the exposure when the sun goes behind a cloud.

A modern way…

If you have a camera with “live view” there is a good chance that it has a “live histogram” too. On a canon 5D mark 2, this is accessed by switching live view on – then pressing the “INFO” button over and over to cycle through the display settings. Eventually, you get to the little live graph.

All you need to do now is :-

  1. set your shot up as usual –
  2. maybe ISO100, F16 for a landscape –
  3. get the filters in place –
  4. Now just look at the graph and adjust the shutter speed till the right side of the graph touches the right end of the histogram.

It really is that simple

Why Bother?

Here’s a little video of 2 shots of the Humber Bridge – one is “over exposed”, the other “under exposed”

Both are not “correctly exposed” – but when you recover them  – the results are quite different… as you will see!

Sopot, Poland

Poland’s Blackpool?

Sopot is a resort in Poland with a pier, sand and seagulls – yes, it’s just like Blackpool!

Actually, it’s more like Penarth in Wales – a more subdued, classy affair than the coastal towns of northern England.

Its centre street is spotlessly clean, lots of bars and shops with a bustling student vibe towards to the top end of town.

Chicago Blues Brothers Tour

The purpose of the visit was to play 2 arena concerts, at Lodz and near by Gdynia – an amazing experience for all the band. We’ve played many UK theatres and corporate venues, but never one where you can drive your tour bus to the stage!

New LIGHTOOM Presets

Whilst editing these shots of Sopot, I found a common theme – grey dull skies & flat light. It’s something we get all over Europe in winter, so decided to start creating Lightroom presets to make the shots a bit more interesting. These are the first few – a warm, soft summery glow. A greeny, blue cool hue and soft spongey look. A massively detailed, grainy colourful vibe.

In time we’ll develop more and have them on sale from the McFade Shop

Here are the photos – click one for the lightbox and they’ll pop out.

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 11

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 11

This weeks Lightroom tips….

This week we have a night photo, castle, lake and canal.

Main tips are on composition, cropping and focussing. It’s not easy focussing on dark subjects at night – so there are a few tips on how to do this.

Here’s the video !

Free, anonymous Lightroom Tips – Submit now for next week

This is currently a free service for people wanting to improve their photography.

To join in do the following:-

  • email us at
  • tell us who you are (if we don’t know)
  • let us know which email address you use for Dropbox – usually the one you use for every day use
  • we’ll invite you to the folders
  • copy in a high res completed version of your photo into each future folder

And that’s it – we’ll include these in the future critiques!

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 10

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 10

This weeks Lightroom tips….

This week we’ve got Lindesfarne, a fountain, some cool shallow depth of field effects with a toy car and much more. If you want to join in – just send me your email address via any means you can, email to works best, and you’ll get a link to Dropbox so you can add your shots


Free, anonymous Lightroom Tips – Submit now for next week

This is currently a free service for people wanting to improve their photography.

To join in do the following:-

  • email us at
  • tell us who you are (if we don’t know)
  • let us know which email address you use for Dropbox – usually the one you use for every day use
  • we’ll invite you to the folders
  • copy in a high res completed version of your photo into each future folder

And that’s it – we’ll include these in the future critiques!

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 7

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 7

This weeks Lightroom tips….

Welcome to the 7th instalment of video critique – this week we have a set of 7, from a TVR to portraits, beach huts to classic architecture.

As ever, these are uploaded to DROPBOX anonymously and imported into Lightroom so we can talk about AND illustrate ideas for edits we’d make

Here’s the video – enjoy!

Free, anonymous Lightroom Tips – Submit now for next week

This is currently a free service for people wanting to improve their photography.

To join in do the following:-

  • email us at
  • tell us who you are (if we don’t know)
  • let us know which email address you use for Dropbox – usually the one you use for every day use
  • we’ll invite you to the folders
  • copy in a high res completed version of your photo into each future folder

And that’s it – we’ll include these in the future critiques!


Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 6

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 6

This weeks Lightroom tips….

This week we had 5 photos uploaded, a nice mix of subjects including a lancaster bomber, river and York scene.

Main tips are on image editing and losing quality through excessive noise reduction, cropping and vignetting.

Free, anonymous Lightroom Tips – Submit now for next week

This is currently a free service for people wanting to improve their photography.

To join in do the following:-

  • email us at
  • tell us who you are (if we don’t know)
  • let us know which email address you use for Dropbox – usually the one you use for every day use
  • we’ll invite you to the folders
  • copy in a high res completed version of your photo into each future folder

And that’s it – we’ll include these in the future critiques!


Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 5

Free Lightroom Tips and Photo Critique – Week 5

This weeks Lightroom tips….

Week 5 – Elephant, Dogs, church and a huge fountain

This week we have a great mix where we see some ideas on:-

  • burning to reduce background distractions
  • alternative crops
  • ideas on processing/sharpness/noise reduction
  • discussion on composition

And much more, 19 minutes in total.

Free, anonymous feedback – Submit now for next week

This is currently a free service for people wanting to improve their photography.

To join in do the following:-

  • email us at
  • tell us who you are (if we don’t know)
  • let us know which email address you use for Dropbox – usually the one you use for every day use
  • we’ll invite you to the folders
  • copy in a high res completed version of your photo into each future folder

And that’s it – we’ll include these in the future critiques!

GOOGLE NIK EFEX Guide – 3 Viveza

NIK EFEX VIVEZA – it’s just curves, right?viv 2

NIK EFEX Viveza is, on the surface, a very simple NIK EFEX plugin, and when compared to Silver EFEX, it looks trivial!

But with its 4 sliders and curves control, it is extremely powerful!

Add to that the ability to create as many “control points” as you like, you can get very selective with your editing – for example, add a NIK EFEX control point to your sky and make it dark and brooding. Or maybe add a control point to a stream and make it very textured and high contrast… This is all do-able in Nik EFEX Viveza.

Landscape in Viveza

In this video we show how we used viveza to boost a flat-light landscape scene. It takes you through both the generic settings, which affect all the scene, and how to add and use control points. Here we lighten a river and make a sky more dramatic.

The Next Step

After Viveza, your options are thrown wide open with the 3 major effects in the NIK suite

  • SILVER EFEX – the best black and white option available
  • ANALOG EFEX – accurately simulate film cameras – you can spend hours tweaking and playing with sliders, it’s very addictive
  • COLOR EFEX – wide range of colour plugins, including dramatic Bleach Bypass, contrast, high key, indian summer… AND stack several filters on top of each other for amazing “recipes”


GOOGLE NIK EFEX Guide – 2 DEFINE Noise Reduction

NIK EFEX Define – the best Noise Reduction Software Available?


There are a lot out there, Lightroom and Photoshop have filters to do this for you, so why use NIK EFEX version?

One reason I use NIK EFEX it is the extra control you have in choosing “noise”. On the screen shot above, you’ll see a little box on the left – I’ve “selected” that area with my mouse as it was noisy – then told DEfine that it was noise. This allows the program to learn what is noise and what isn’t. Powerful stuff

Also, after you’ve run the NIK EFEX Pre Sharpener, you may introduce a bit of unwanted texture and noise – clouds particularly – so you can select these and let DEfine sort it out for you.

Let our video show you the way we used it on a landscape from the Lake District. We’ll take you through how to open the filter from lightroom, choosing which option (Edit original, edit copy or edit with lightroom adjustments) to choose and how the controls work.

The Next Step

Once you’ve done your noise reduction with NIK EFEX DEfine – it’s time to boost that contrast and play with local contrast, brightness and saturation with Viveza. A fast, refreshing and selective way of boosting your images

GOOGLE NIK EFEX Guide – 1 RAW Pre Sharpen

Sharpening with GOOGLE NIK EFEX

Google Nik has to be one of the best suites of plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop available. Many of our McFade Training customers use it, so in this mini series, we’ll introduce the workflow NIK recommend, showing you how we’d use it on a Landscape photo of the lake district.

The photo at the head of the page is a close up of a brocade waistcoat and pocket watch. The left is the RAW file opened in NIK EFEX with no sharpening, the right is the sharpened effect that the Pre Sharpener creates.

The Google Nik EFEX Workflow

Nik EFEX suggest you use the filters in the following order :-

  1. RAW Pre Sharpen
  2. Dfine noise reduction
  3. Viveza for brightness, saturation and contrast

These 3 steps can be performed on any image as preparation for one of the advanced creative filters:-

  1. Silver EFEX – the best black and white plugin available, simulating old black and white film, and much more
  2. Colour EFEX – a suite of creative filters which enhance colour, detail and quickly give powerful images
  3. Analog EFEX – simulate vintage, toy, wet plate and multi-exposure cameras with this creative photographer’s dream plugin.

Then when you have finished – there is an “output sharpener”, which has lots of presets for all your print and display needs.

Step 1 – The Sharpener

sharpener windoe

All RAW processing programs have sharpeners, lightroom and capture one have powerful options, this plugin step replaces the need to sharpen in software.

Why Bother? Well some times I’ve seen Lightroom sharpening create strange “powdered” effects around edges, a grainy feel between edges. That seems to be more controllable in RAW Pre Sharpener. You can certainly over-do the effect, but in general, it’s great at pulling detail out of flat scenes.

In this short video, we show you

  • How to open the NIK EFEX Sharpener from Lightroom
  • A quick overview of the NIK EFEX window and some short cuts
  • The 2 sliders – it is pretty simple!

Next… DeFine

Coming next – zap that noise with NIK EFEX DeFine!

Does your “editing” change over the years?

Just having a look for some shots and came upon a sunset at Semerwater – which I photographed in January 2008…. 6.5 years ago. 

2008 Workflow

Back then my workflow was a little different :-

  • Shoot RAW files
  • Copy files onto hard drive after a shoot
  • Import RAW files into Capture One – Version 3 I think
  • Make minor and “global” tweaks there
  • Export as TIFF
  • Edit and sharpen etc. in Photoshop CS (2/3/4)
  • Use action to resize and water mark if going to use it online

All in Lightroom in 2014

These days a huge amount, if not all, is done in Lightroom 5 – it’s more for speed and convenience than anything. The newer versions of Capture One produce fantastic results, but the interface isn’t so great, the workflow is slower and the program is full of bugs.

So I thought I’d import the CR2 files from 2008 into Lightroom and edit them as I do now, then compare to what I did in 2008.

Here we go…

The Gate in the Water

This was my favourite from the water’s edge – the RAW file is pretty blue, I was using Cokin P ND grads back then and they did give you a slight blue cast sometimes.

The first shot is a 2014 edit.

Looks like I preferred the blue hues today, though i did make the orange slither in the backgroud more pronounced. Also, the magical clarity slider helped with the cloud shapes, making them more textured,

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Silhouetted Sign and Gate

So with this, I edited the wrong shot – though it’s pretty much the same scene shot from different sides of the gate.

Pretty much the same edits in both eras.


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The Mobile Jetty

So this is a platform they put in the water in the summer for boaters to use. Loved the worn textures and bolted washers, so got up close with the wide lens and made that a huge foreground.

So in 2014, I’ve warmed the scene up and hugely increased the impact of the wood. Using mainly the brush tool in Lighroom I added clarity, highlights and sharpness. Looking back at the more restrained 2008 version… did I overcook the new one? Does the ease of adding clarity etc. risk pushing byond the boundary of realism? Borderline here….



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The Farewell Shot

And finally, the parting shot, taken from the car, looking back over the wider scene of Semerwater

I’ve definitely gone for a different crop here, and also using teh Shadows slider, the foreground grass has a bit more texture than 2008. There seems to be a lot more going on in the new edit.

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So if you’ve stuck with this very self indulgent blog, you’ll see that despite 6 years passing and a load of new tools in the photographer’s virtual tool case, I’ve been reasonably consistant.

Lightroom has made things easier and quicker,though not always better. Clarity looks great when zoomed out to full screen, but at 100% it can look a mess. It creates halos, adds noise and ruins fine details.

In Capture One 5 there was a Structure slider which did a better job.

I’d certainly recommend editing a couple of shots you edited a few years ago – see how different the results are. Especially if you’re relatively new – you should see some big leaps forward!