Pink Mallow

Flowers, Lightroom, Macro, Photoshop

(1/250, f/7.1, ISO 100)

I was given a pink mallow not knowing when I planted it what it is was or would eventually look like. It started to bloom in July and instantly became a bee magnet. When it wasn’t full of insects seeking its pollen, it became a great model for test photography. I used it to learn more about aperture settings, flash use, Lightroom adjustments, and Photoshop editing.

(1/125, f/32, ISO 400)

The mallow produces many clusters of four- or five-petal flowers. It looks decent from distance but the closeups of the individual flowers were more interesting.

(1/125, f/13, ISO 250)

(1/320, f/2.8, ISO 100)

They don’t all unfold like this. In fact this was the only flower I saw that opened up this symmetrically. You probably wouldn’t recognize it as a mallow. I returned later to take more shots but it had already completed its debut.

(1/250, f/5, ISO 100)

(1/250, f/5, ISO 100)

Presence > Clarity > -60

I usually move the clarity to a positive number (20-30), but in the negative numbers, it softens the image and makes it sort of misty.

(1/320, f/5.6, ISO 100)

The shape of the flower and the way the light caught it made this one stand out.

(1/200, f/4, ISO 160)

(1/200, f/22, ISO 4000)

A light rain created small water drops, the ideal effect for the subject. Additional extra effects were produced in Photoshop by Gaussian Blur on the background plus Layer Effects on the flowers to make the glow. ISO 4000 was an issue, so the flowers were rephotographed three hours later using a flash.

(1/200, f/25, ISO 200)

Soft drop shadow and new background color in Photoshop, followed by editing in Lightroom to brighten the center and replace brown spots with off white.

Cluster of three with water drops (1/200, f/22, ISO 200)

The flash on the camera didn’t create very bad shadows of the central parts. One of the advantages of flash besides making the subject brighter is making the background darker. Flash exposure had to be maxed out at 2 on my T5i for the higher apertures (f/22 and f/25); it struggled to get enough light at f/32.

Some of the drop shots were taken in the rain. If you wait too long after it has started raining, the water gets absorbed into the petals, and leaves a dark mark there that weakens the image. Several were removed in Lightroom.

Depth-of-Field Editing Post Capture: Isolating and Blurring a Flower’s Background in Photoshop

Flowers, Irises, Photoshop, Software, Tips

1/320 f/5.6 ISO 100

The background of this image isn’t terrible, but it’s not great, either. After a recent post-capture edit of a background to isolate the subject and make a pure, one-color or block color background, I decided to try the other most popular look, i.e., blurring. This is typically done to make it appear as if the photographer used a high depth of field (DOF).

It’s a common problem in garden photography to have a ‘junk yard’ behind flowers. Sometimes you can take the picture with the right settings so it’s not an issue, but this will often require blurring on part of the image. Your choice then it to either blur when you shoot or afterwards.

When the subject has edges with high contrast beside the background, that is a decent invitation to blur the background, because you can be confident it will be quick and easy to select the entire area in Photoshop.

Wand > 50 selected most of the area instantly. Quick Mask Mode showed a few spots it missed. Lasso finished the job. Note: QMM missed a few small areas. It was necessary to inspect the entire photo at 100% size to see what was omitted.

Gaussian Blur 100

Without feathering, using just what the wand and lasso had selected, a high-level Gaussian blur cleaned up the background, making the flower stand out more, and enhanced it with a soft glow around the edges.

Gaussian Blur x 12

Taking this a step further as an experiment, the background that had just been blurred once with Gaussian Blur 100, got the filter effect 12 times. (Each additional time increased the glow a little.) This extra step takes the image from a photo to fine art. It no longer looks like a realistic context.

(There were a few minor tweaks such as growing the selection +1, +2, and then +2 with a feather of +1 to deal with the fringe around part of the iris).

A dozen more shots of the same filter on a copied layer applying GB in the last dozen applications, after continuation of the same approach, and most all the fringe along the edge of the top white part of the iris has been removed. Furthermore, more of the green stems have been replaced with purple from the flower, accentuating the subject.

Salvage Operation: Is There Any Hope for an ISO 6400 Image?

Insects, Lightroom, Tips

Before (1/100, f/22, ISO 6400)

The extreme ISO 6400 maxed out my camera, as I wasn’t using flash, and wanted a high aperture to make sure everything was in focus, front to back, top to bottom. However, after downloading the picture and seeing the poor image quality, it looked as if there was little chance of redemption. I usually avoid ISO higher than 200 if at all possible, because I hate the low quality pictures it can produce, but I wanted to see if Lightroom can, when pushed to the limit, correct the problem, at least to an extent where it makes the image acceptable if not ready for sale.

(1/100, f/22, ISO 6400)


Original: 3456 x 5184
Cropped: 2500 x 2500




The sharpness was cranked up high, but not to the limit.

Noise Reduction


Noise Reduction at its limit.


Post-Crop Vignetting

Dazzling Dahlias: Lightroom and Photoshop: Tips for Centering Crops, Image Isolation, and Color Consistency

Flowers, Lightroom, Software, Tips


Dahlia (1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100)


1. The Best Crop Guide for Centering

2. Subject Isolation Surprise in Photoshop

3. Removing Red to Make a Clean Pink in Lightroom


In 2013, for the first time I wanted to try growing dahlias, possibly at the advice of my gardener (I forget). On October 23, 2013 I ordered several different kinds of dahlias from Veseys. I got the Red Jill Pompon Dahlia; Mom’s Special; Wizard of Oz; Santa Claus Dinner Plate; Babylon Bronze Dinner Plate; and Brigitta Alida.

On Sept. 1, 2014, I photographed the ones that grew well and looked good. In 2017, I wanted to edit two or three dahlia pictures to put up for sale on In my image library, I saw a pink dahlia, but its ISO was higher than I wanted, so I looked around and found an ISO 100.

(1/800, f/5.6, ISO 320)

(1/800, f/5.6, ISO 100)

The photoshoot wasn’t too serious; the dahlia had been placed in a glass. However, the background was mostly light, in high contrast with the flower’s edges, so not a likely problem to isolate. Even so, this edit had some surprises, and a few things to learn.

I used to try and do entire isolation edits in Lightroom (LR). Now I use Photoshop (PS) for the speed and flexibility it allows for tonal editing in Lightroom.

1. The Best Crop Guide for Centering

In Lightroom I used to eyeball an image when cropping to get it centered. But this time I happened to have the guide set to the busiest grid, instead of thirds, and as I cropped, I noticed it evenly spaces the outermost lines, enabling the centering process to be more accurate and faster. (Keep pressing the ‘O’ key to cycle through different grids to get this one; it’s the last one, “Grid Pattern.”)

2. Subject Isolation Surprise in Photoshop

The Wand tool selected what appeared at first to be almost everything in the background, but using the Quick Mask Mode (toggle “Q”) showed it missed a few parts on the edges. That wasn’t a surprise.

The surprise was two chunks by the lower left part of the flower background had not been selected and they weren’t visible. The Brush tool cleaned this up quickly. It seems the Quick Mask Mode check is essential to guarantee reliable quality to the final edition.

3. Removing Red to Make One Color Consistent in Lightroom

For some reason during editing, the central part of the flower looked slightly red while the rest was dark pink. The color difference didn’t help the image; some buyers might have noticed whereas others might not. In any case, the fix was simple: isolate and block the red. Color > Red > Hue -100.

Editing Flowers in Lightroom: Before and After: Cleaning the Border and Fixing Petals

Flowers, Lightroom, Software, Tips

After: Macro of yellow flowers in naturally elegant floral arrangement (1/200 F/7.1 ISO 100)


Unedited, this macro has a decent crop, but still isn’t great. Further cropping would be too tight, so the choices are to make the crop less tight, or edit the edges. I didn’t want the subject to be further away, so I opted for editing, especially when there wasn’t much to edit. The bottom in the middle has a blurred yellow section which got removed by a stroke of the brush using the Healing tool (K). Same again on the left side near the bottom.

The spider’s web disappears quickly with three strokes, using a small brush size, and sourcing from image just beside the web. The bright spot on the lowest petal of the entire picture is gone by one edit to match surrounding color. The toughest editing challenge is the petal that has parts cut out. You could probably edit this in Photoshop, copying, pasting, and rotating a similar petal from elsewhere in the shot, but I didn’t plan to try and sell this. I wanted to see if the photo would look acceptable by blending the edges.

Lightroom edit points


Butterflies, Insects, Lightroom, Nature

Orange monarch butterfly on pink flower in garden (1/500 F/5.6 ISO 400)

June 2006 in my late mother’s epic garden, one of the biggest and best private gardens in the greater Ottawa area.

Yellow butterfly on purple iris

Macro of orange-and-brown butterfly (1/800 F/2.8 ISO 125)

Four consecutive times on the same day the first thing I saw when I went outside was this butterfly. He was virtually begging to be the nature model of the day. It’s the first time he showed up this summer. Very impressive insect thanks to the Canon macro lens.

Brown butterfly with yellow edges and blue dots (1/800 F/5.6 ISO 250) F/L 55 mm

The background got a cleanup in Lightroom.

Isolated brown butterfly with gold edges around black dots with white dot at center (1/800 F/5.6 ISO 2000)

This beauty had a part of its wing (a little chunk) missing. She could still fly, but got fixed in Lightroom with the Healing Brush.

“I fix butterfly wings… what do you do in your spare time?” :-/

The original background was the wall of my house, which was okay for a photo, but not great. Out of curiosity, to see how easy or difficult it would be, the subject was isolated using tonal adjustments and then a new technique I learned on this edit. Using the Mask tool in Lightroom (K), sections were “painted” white. The pure white part (J) showed what else if anything needed to be done.

One key (H) shows you the handles when you need to edit tone, etc. The Mask option is a very powerful tool that keeps you from having to import into Photoshop and make new large files when you need to do local editing.

Small orange butterfly

(1/125, f/22, ISO 3200)

This butterfly parked for about half an hour on a big rock. Although she gave me a lot of time, she only offered one ideal pose (classic overhead shot, perfectly even background), but only for a moment, and not long enough to capture.

(1/160, f/16, ISO 1600)

I used the time to test different aperture settings and shutter speeds as well as ISO numbers. It occurred to me that you can get away with high ISO speeds like 1600 here when the background is speckled or full of detail, because you won’t or are less likely to notice noise. (The background is already noisy.) The same holds true when the subject like this butterfly itself naturally looks grainy.

The closer you get to the subject when using a macro lens, the higher the aperture needs to be to keep everything in focus. This butterfly was smaller than previous ones, so it was a challenge to make it sharp while trying to fill the photo frame.

(1/400, f/2.8, ISO 100)

This photo was a test of both low aperture and higher-than-usual shutter speed. Previous shots in this shoot were at f/22-32, which is essential to capture full detail on all parts of the butterfly in focus.

It’s a different look than usual, because only a very small line or space is in focus, but it’s the most important parts (front and eyes), so it is tolerable. The center of the butterfly got an interesting effect; it looks as if it’s getting hit by a gust. It was a windy day, so I’d normally shoot at 1/800 sec, but 1/400 was sufficient.

Post-Crop Vignetting in Lightroom: Instantly Clearing Photo Background

Flowers, Lightroom, Software

Example 1

The foliage around this flower has elegant symmetry, but the best crop is insufficient, leaving background noise. The quick fix is in the Effects widget of Lightroom (Command-7).

Style: Highlight Priority
Amount: 78
Roundness: 0
Feather: 50
Highlights: 0
Grain Amount: 0

The setting here is the same as with the white vignetting except the amount is -78.

Example 2

Even if there is no background problem by distracting elements, the same technique can enhance the image, especially, in this case, if your camera angle captures an oblong shape.

Style: Highlight Priority
Amount: 40
Midpoint: 0
Roundness: 0
Feather: 100

Highlights: 0
Grain Amount: 0

Style: Highlight Priority
Amount: 100
Midpoint: 50
Roundness: 0
Feather: 100

Style: Highlight Priority
Amount: 100
Midpoint: 0
Roundness: 0
Feather: 100


Amount: -100
Midpoint: 6

Midpoint: 0


The instant transformation to make the daytime outdoor photo look like a night-time indoor image was surprisingly convincing. It also creates a mood that was never there before.

Note: the spider’s web makes these images unfit for commercial use but effective for teaching.

Example 3

Yellow star flower with vignette style

Amount: 54
Midpoint: 8
Roundness: 0
Feather: 50

Example 4

Yellow-and-pink dahlia (1/800 F/5.6 ISO 250) (100,29,0,50)

The Aqua and Green Saturation in HSL (Command-3) were set to -100 to remove all background color (green foliage).

Example 5

Large red-and-white dinnerplate dahlia (1/500 F/5.0 ISO 125) (100,29,0,50)

Copy Settings > Effects > Post-Crop Vignetting

Using this path, the previous setting was copied and pasted. Half the image background was pure white; the quick PCV trick made it an entirely white. There remains a very slight drop shadow to give the flower a look of suspension.

Dark Purple Iris Isolated: Simple Technique for Quick Photo Editing After Outdoor Capture

Flowers, Irises, Software

Top view of purple iris with white background (1/320 F/5.6 ISO 100) ^ 1200 x 1200

The first main photoshoot of the day was virtually a total washout. I could hardly find an image I liked. There was just much background “noise” (elements that compete and distract). It prompted more aggressive editing of background space.

This small purple iris was still in good condition, so I wanted to get a good picture; I removed weeds around it and other stuff beside it. But it still didn’t look very good, so I sliced part of the stem. Even then, it wasn’t enough, because I wanted a higher f than 2.8, which meant more competition with anything and everything on the ground. Solution?

I simply took a clean sheet of 8.5×11″ paper, cut it in the middle past half way. It surrounded the iris.

It didn’t create a perfectly white background instantly, but it made editing in Lightroom much quicker. After global editing mostly by Whites moved to +48, local editing was only required in two or three spots.

Lightroom Software to Give Nature Photography a Natural Look


Adobe Lightroom can work its magic in remarkable ways. It can make outdoor photos look like they were shot in a studio. I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.4. It’s not the latest version but it still has tremendous power. I used to edit in Photoshop, but now only in Lightroom, except when I very occasionally find it quicker (or easier) to edit in Photoshop via Lightroom. It has to be the best photo-management software I have ever used. Even though my photography skills gradually improve, I rarely take a picture outdoors that needs no editing. Lightroom lets you make great global and local improvements, e.g., to brightness, contrast, and color saturation. The main Lightroom categories are:


Here is an example with Before Lightroom and After Lightroom pictures: