Video: Developing a Bird Photo in Lightroom

We have an incredible number of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) in San Diego County right now, and they visit our backyard to drink water and feast on the berries of Brazilian Pepper. It’s quite enjoyable and while I’m not really a bird photographer, I do like to observe and document what’s happening in our backyard. :)

While I was working on this photo, I realized that I can show a couple of techniques that I use in Develop often, so I hit “Reset” in Lightroom and started from scratch with one of the photos, recording my screen as usual, and explaining what I’m doing. Namely:

  • using negative Clarity to reduce sharp highlights
  • cropping to “DX” (crop sensor equivalent) by rotating the crop twice (helps to know where I’m at, resolution-wise)
  • amending a partial Subject selection with an Object selection & refining with the Brush
  • brushing in more negative Clarity and reducing Highlight and Exposure to further decrease distractions
  • brushing in a selective “vignette”, only where it is needed

I’m sure this is, as usual, a bit fast for following along easily, but the video came out at almost 15 minutes already. I was aiming at staying under 10 minutes for this stuff and realize, now that I’ve done a “more complete” edit, that’s probably not realistic because this is just simple stuff! 😅 When I do this with a landscape photo it’s probably going to get much longer…

This video really needs to be viewed on a larger screen; on a phone you probably won’t even see the mouse pointer, making it harder to follow what I’m doing.

If pausing & rewinding doesn’t work to untangle what I’m showing combined with my mumbling, please drop me a note with any questions and I’ll explain, of course! And I did NOT forget to do a before/after comparison this time, in the video. 😁

If you’d like to learn more about Developing photos in Lightroom, I’d be happy to work with you! Please take a look at my Lightroom Services page if you’re interested.

DX Crop

Addition 2/2/2023: I should elaborate this “DX crop” thing. “DX” is Nikon’s term for an APS-C sized sensor, ie. a “cropped” full-frame sensor. The size of a full frame sensor is 36x24mm. The size on an APS-C sensor (“DX”) is 24x16mm. In other words, the height of the full-frame sensor equals the length of the APS-C sensor.

From these sizes, we can calculate the size and difference in surface area of the two sensors: full-frame has a surface area of 864 mm² while APS-C is 384 mm². So the full-frame sensor’s surface area is 2.25 times larger than the APS-C sensor’s.

My full-frame D800 sensor has 36 megapixels. If I divide that by 2.25 I come up with 16 megapixels that are left after “cropping to DX” (ooops, not 15 megapixels as I said in the video!😅).

Video Workflow

For anyone who’s interested: in the past I was using Premiere Rush and it was nice while it lasted! Now that Adobe has made the 4K and audio optimization features of Premiere Rush paid, I’m using the software that comes with macOS, and the free Audacity audio editor instead. Adobe’s pricing is completely absurd: an additional US$10/month for audio optimization and 4K export? There’s just no way to justify that when it only saves me 3 minutes per video, and I only do so very few of them…

So anyway, what I do now is to use Quicktime Player first, for an initial trim of the recorded video (it’s very fast because it doesn’t re-encode the whole thing when saving). Next, I export the audio track via Quicktime, and use Audacity to Normalize and add a 2:1 compressor (meaning: the loud parts get quieter so that the quiet parts can get louder, without clipping). Once I have the audio optimized, I load the trimmed video into iMovie, separate & delete the original audio, and load my normalized & compressed audio track. If necessary, I do further trimming in iMovie, and last not least export to 4K for uploading to YouTube.

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Alexander S. Kunz is an expert, tutor and teacher for Adobe Lightroom in San Diego, California. His services are available both in person and online, using remote assistance/screen sharing software. Whether you're stuck with a problem in Lightroom and need help, want to learn Lightroom from the ground up, or need assistance setting up your computer, storage and backup for your photographic workflow — Alexander can help you. Please get in touch if you are interested!

All images and content © by Alexander S. Kunz, unless otherwise noted. No re-use without express written permission.

8 thoughts on “Video: Developing a Bird Photo in Lightroom”

    • Thank you, Shelly. I always found Lightroom much easier and intuitive to use. The precision of Photoshop can be useful, but it’s more technical. Most of my photos are only developed in Lightroom.

  1. Nicely done, Alex. There are so many nuggets in this video, especially for folks like me who often tend to learn just enough to get by. That negative clarity technique looks very useful. And I still have much to learn about the upgraded masking that I found in the updated Lightroom after getting my new computer. I very much like what they’ve done with that.

  2. Thank you, Alex, there’s always something new to think about in your videos. This time it’s the flow in the brush, which I forget to consider. Good idea to use a big brush with low flow for a putting a vignette just where you want. We’ve been seeing lots of robins, too, but there are no Brazilian pepper bushes for them to feast on! Plain old worms will have to do. ;-) .

    • We’re having SO many of them! Since they like the water so much, we put out an extra bird bath and this morning, there were ten of them (out of a flock of 40-50) visiting and drinking. Together with some Cedar Waxwings! I know that American Robins are very common, but we never had them in our backyard, let alone in these numbers, so it’s a lot of fun for us.

      I’m happy to hear you found something new in the video! Thanks! :)

    • Oh, “DX” is the term for “APS-C crop sensor” in the Nikon world. I guess I should have made that clearer! :P To me it’s just a good anchor, knowing quickly that, if I crop that way, I still have a photo with enough resolution to produce a medium size print from it.


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