atlanta · lightroom · nik collection · oakland cemetery · photography

Before and After: Angels and Lilies

The four photos I have experimented with in this post are from Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Here I take two passes at each of the original photos, the first to make initial improvements using Adobe Lightroom, and the second to have my first experience with a set of plugins that can be used to apply creative effects to images, described below.

In Lightroom, I emphasized the angel statue by working on the background first: reducing exposure, clarity, and sharpness using graduated filters; and reducing saturation in some of the background colors. I then added a little light and a bit of sharpening to the angel faces using a radial filter. Removing spots followed that and was quite a challenge in these photos; but by zooming into sections of each image, I could eventually differentiate spots of debris from texture in the statue’s plaster, enabling me to remove those that created bumpy shadows or were a distraction to my eye. Lightroom does an awesome job with spot removal, and even though it took a while, the effort did seem to improve the photos while retaining most of the detailed texture of the statue — without damaging the structural smoothness of the angel, her wings, or her gown. As the last step, I adjusted overall sharpness then removed a final few spots that only popped out at the higher sharpness level. I applied similar effects to the single photo of the lilies; though it was the foreground that I de-emphasized since the flowers are set toward the back.

Click the first image to begin a slideshow showing the original, unprocessed images followed by the Lightroom edits described above.

I’ve been wanting to learn more about the Nik Collection 2018 plugins for Lightroom and Photoshop for a while now, ever since I read about them here: Bluebrightly Wanderings and Observations — so yesterday I watched these two YouTube videos about the software. The first one provides an introduction to the seven tools in the collection, and the second a more detailed overview and demonstration of the individual plugins:

Nik Collection Plugins Review

Introduction to the Nik Collection

There are an enormous number of functions in the collection, and I’ve barely scratched at the surface, but the two videos gave me an idea of the workflow for using it and enough information to get me started, so I downloaded a 30-day trial of the plugins from the DxO website, here: Download the New Nik Collection by DxO.

Given their relative simplicity, the angel statue photos seemed like good candidates for this experiment. To produce the after-results in the slideshow below, I applied several filters to one of the images, including a soft focus filter, a darkening filter, and a whitening filter. One of the powerful features of this software is that you can apply the filters to the entire image, then pick “control points” to reduce or eliminate the filter effects selectively from parts of the photo. In this case, I applied the soft focus filter to the whole image, then removed it from the angel’s face. The effect, of course, should be to draw your eye to the face as the intended focal point of the image, while further de-emphasizing the background yet still keeping it as part of the character of the photo. Once I was satisfied with one photo, I used the plugin’s “save recipe” function — which saves all the filters and settings — then applied the recipe to the other photos in this set.

Select the first image below to compare the images as edited in Lightroom with the effects I applied using the Nik Collection plugins:

The effects, of course, create a completely different kind of image, and the creative options provided by the collection seem to be pretty close to endless. I only used three or four of about 60 effects available … in only one of the seven plugins. Select the image below to see larger versions of the end result (or, the end result for now until I learn more!)

Thanks for reading and taking a look!


2 thoughts on “Before and After: Angels and Lilies

  1. A well-thought-out and nicely done post! Thank you for the mention. 🙂 I’m glad you’re experimenting. You didn’t go too far with changes like spot removal, which is impressive – it’s tempting to take those tools too far, and to my mind (and I imagine to yours), one loses something when one tries to make an image too “perfect.” You worked with admirable subtlety.
    You may already know this, but maybe not: in a case like the first photo, where you want to de-emphasize the background and emphasize the face a bit, you can use the radial filter for it all. Just uncheck the “invert” box towards the bottom, and instead of things inside the filter circle being affected, things outside it will be affected. In NIK Colorefex, the Lighten/darken filter can be really helpful in a simialr way, helping to emphasize one area over another.
    The NIK soft filter effect was a great choice for your subjects, especially the flowers – the poignancy of the flowers in that setting really sings in the last shot!


    1. Hello, and thanks for the great feedback and comments. I sure agree that using these tools can become an obsession, so this was a good exercise for me to figure out (spot by spot!) which ones actually needed to be removed. Once I realized that the ones I should remove had certain visual characteristics, it became a whole lot easier.

      Regarding your comment on the invert checkbox … I always forget that! I think it should be a bigger box, possibly flashing. : ) Excellent tip; I hadn’t thought of it the way you suggested, and I could have used one filter instead of multiple, saving some time and creating a consistent look with less effort.

      I’m glad you mentioned the Nik tools on your About page. I know now there’s a whole long history around them, but hadn’t heard of the software until I was browsing your site, wondering how some of your images were created, then saw that you used that sometimes. There’s a lot to explore in that tool, but I also think I can use its capabilities to help me consider composition, color, and focus when I’m out taking shots. So thanks for that!!!

      Bye for now,


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