Chances are you’ve heard the old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” which means two can accomplish more than one alone. Interestingly, I’ve found that this concept holds up when it comes to using photo editing software. With powerful editing tools like Lightroom and Luminar 4, for example, photographers can now create masterful, complex edits in seconds. Literally.
In this video, I’m going to walk you step-by-step through one of our signature, “twice-baked” environmental portrait edits using Luminar 4 and Lightroom to achieve amazing results. Thank you to Skylum Software for sponsoring this video so that we could bring this editing technique to you! You can get your free trial and buy Luminar 4 here and use the coupon code SLRLOUNGE to get an extra $10 off!
Video: Twice-Baked Editing with Luminar 4 for Unreal Results
The process of twice baking your edit can be broken down into the following three basic steps:
- Apply a Look to Your Image
- Replace the Sky with Luminar 4
- Bring the Image Back into Lightroom
Download this exercise file to follow along as we guide you through the entire post-production process for this image!
First Things First: Prep the Image for Processing
Before we officially start the edit, we’ll run through some quick, basic steps to get the image ready to bake. Let’s get started!
Open Your Image in Lightroom’s Develop Module and “Fix” the Horizon
After you’ve imported your image into Lightroom, press “D” to open the Develop module. Then, press “R” to bring up your cropping tool. You’re going to use the cropping tool to level the horizon, which is especially easy to do in an image with such a pronounced horizon. The simplest way to do this is to click on the “Level” button in the “Transform” box (see the image below). This will automatically adjust the image to straighten the horizon line.
[Related Reading: Lightroom Develop Module Basics | Quick Reference]
Add Profile Correction
The Visual Flow Retouching Toolkit includes a Profile Correction preset, but all it’s doing is enabling profile correction, which you can do yourself. You only need to check the “Remove Chromatic Aberration” and “Enable Profile Corrections” boxes in the “Lens Correction” Panel (see the image above).
Create a Virtual Copy for Comparison
Press “Ctrl/Cmd+'” to create a virtual copy of your image. We’re doing this so that we have something to compare the new edit to. Depending on how deep into the edit you go, you might lose perspective on what the original image looked like and you then risk over-editing the photo. The virtual copy helps keep tabs on your progress throughout the edit.
Step 1. Apply a “Look” to Your Image
Now, with the image prepped and ready to go, we can apply a look to our image in Lightroom. Basically, you can use any presets that you’ve either purchased or created yourself to set the foundation for your edit. We’re going to use Visual Flow presets, but we’ll show you how you can complete the edit without them.
1a. Expose for Skin Tones and Adjust White Balance
Before you apply a preset or get too far into the edit, start by exposing for the skin tones and adjusting the white balance. We applied the HDR Natural (Environmental) Pastel preset to this particular image, but we’ll walk you through making those preset adjustments below. For this image, we increased the exposure by 1/2-stop (+.5) and set the Temp to 6700 and the Tint to +2.
1b. Adjust Other Basic Sliders, Tone Curve, HSL, Split Toning, Detail, and Calibration
For your reference, here’s a quick overview of the adjustments we’re going to make (see the image above). The points below will briefly explain why we made these adjustments.
- Basic Panel
- Reduced Highlights and Whites, Lifted the Shadows and Blacks: This typically helps retain more detail in the brighter areas and darker areas, but it still wasn’t enough to recover details in the sky in this photo.
- Tone Curve
- “S” Curve: This heavily modified “S” curve is adding brightness and contrast to the highlights and pulling down midtones and shadows. Turn the tone curve on and off to see what it is adding to the image.
- Pastel Tones: We’ve shifted the tones to create a more pastel look. A big part of these adjustments is the reduced saturation across the board.
- Split Toning
- Added Color for Highlights & Shadows: With split toning, we’re adding back warmth and color to the highlights and adding blues to cool the shadows.
- More Pastel Tones: Again, we see a color shift to bring in more pastel tones.
[Related Reading: How to Create Presets to Quickly Edit Your Photos in Lightroom]
Step 2. Replace the Sky with Luminar 4
It’s hard to overstate the effectiveness of using Luminar 4’s AI Sky Replacement tools. It has never been easier to quickly and effectively replace the sky in your images with seamless transitions for a stunning, believable final image. What used to take several minutes in Photoshop can now be done in seconds with Luminar 4. If you prefer Photoshop, however, you can still use it to get to the final image; it’s just going to take you a considerably longer amount of time.
2a. Open Luminar 4 from Lightroom
If you have Luminar 4, go ahead and open it up. You can do that from Lightroom by clicking on the image and selecting “Edit in > Edit in Luminar 4” (see the image above). This will open Luminar 4 as a plug-in and bring up the preferences block for Luminar 4. See the image below for which options you should choose.
Again, if you’d prefer to use Photoshop, by all means do so. Just remember, we’re talking about a matter of minutes (with Photoshop) vs. a matter of seconds (with Luminar 4) when it comes to changing out skies.
2b. Load the Creative Palette in Luminar 4
Once your image opens in Luminar 4, all you need to do is open the Creative Palette and then select a sky from under the AI Sky Replacement list (see the images above). It’s really very simple. Pick the “right” sunset and Luminar 4 will automatically blend the sky into your image for you. Just sit back and enjoy the results (see some sky options below applied to our image).
2c. Make Adjustments in Advanced Settings
Open Advanced Settings and make adjustments to taste. Here are the adjustments we made for this photo:
- Atmospheric Haze: I like to start with Atmospheric Haze, and I tend to go heavy on it (all the way to 100). This tool allows you to blend the opacity of the new sky layer over your original sky.
- Flip the Sky: The light in the sky was coming in from the left while the light in the scene where the sun fell across the rocks, was being lit from the right. If this happens, just check the “Flip the Sky” box and you’re good to go.
- Sky Exposure: I brightened the sky just a bit (to 51) in order to match the sky to the bright and airy look and feel of the rest of the scene.
- Sky Defocus: We didn’t adjust this slider, but it’s one to pay attention to so that the focus of the sky on the horizon matches the level of focus in your image. You don’t want a tack sharp sky over a defocused background, for example.
I encourage you to experiment with other sliders until you find a blend that works best for your taste.
2d. Click Apply to Save the Image
When you’ve finished editing in Luminar 4, click the “Apply” button to save it out.
Here’s the before and after that resulted from making the above adjustments in Luminar 4:
Step 3. Bring the Image Back into Lightroom
This step is the reason we call this editing method twice-baked. We’re going to bring the image from Luminar 4 back into Lightroom to add our final touches.
3a. Apply a New Look
Once you’ve imported the image you edited in Luminar 4 back into Lightroom, it’s time to apply a new look. I opted to use a new Visual Flow preset called “Crush” to add a bold pop to the look of the image. You can see the basic preset settings below.
It’s important to get the skin tones right when making your adjustments.
3b. Make Local Adjustments
After you’ve applied a new look and dialed in your skin tones, you can start to make local adjustments. With this image, for instance, the preset added more sharpening, but the image had already been sharpened, so I deselected the sharpening for this round of editing.
I also added a graduated filter to even out the tones across the image and a radial filter to draw more focus into the couple (see the image above).
I hope you found these tips helpful for how to twice-bake an edit using Luminar 4. You can get your free trial and buy Luminar 4 here and use the coupon code SLRLOUNGE to get an extra $10 off! If you’re interested in learning more about Visual Flow presets or how to edit in Lightroom and Luminar 4, be sure to check out our Facebook group for Visual Flow presets and Lightroom Education. We’d love to see your work and see how your twice-baked edits came out.