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How Resident Photographer Brian Fulda Uses Lumen

Lumen is a completely new kind of editing tool that’s unique to L16 photography. Even if you’ve been shooting and editing photos for years, you’ve most likely never been able to edit depth of field or fine-tune focus after capturing your images. The magic is all in our computational algorithms: when the software combines the L16’s 10+ images, it forms a depth map for each of your photos, which allows you to alter and adjust bokeh as you wish. Here, resident photographer Brian Fulda shows us how he uses Lumen to compose some of the beautiful photographs you’ve seen around our site.  

Depth Effect Tool

By default, the L16 captures all images with the widest depth of field possible. As a result, the foreground and background of every photo you edit will start out as sharp and as focused as it can be. The depth effect tool is used to give your photos the silky, soft blur of a shallow depth of field. Some call this aesthetically-pleasing blur “bokeh,” which, in Japanese, means “haze.” Photographers use bokeh to emphasize certain aspects of their photos.

To add depth, I click and drag the slider to the right. The closer I get to the right side of the slider (measured in aperture values), the more out-of-focus the areas in front of and behind my focal point will be, simulating the shallow depth-of-field effect of a wide-aperture lens.

This effect works particularly well on portraits. With bokeh, I can blur distracting backgrounds, drawing the viewer’s eye to my subject.

In other circumstances, like when shooting landscapes, I want as much of my image to be in focus as possible. In this case, I simply leave the Depth Effect at its default, or minimum setting (the left side of the slider).

Pro tip: With Lumen, you can create different versions of the same photo. Try a shallow depth of field (more Depth Effect), and export it. Then try exporting the same photo with less depth of field to achieve a completely different final photograph.

Editing Depth

After applying depth effect, I can use the other depth tools to refine specific areas of my photo.

Note: You must first adjust the depth effect past its default value to unlock these other tools.

As I mentioned above, the fusing together of the L16’s 10+ images creates a depth map that aligns all of the objects in your photo. Occasionally, these depth maps contain inconsistencies, especially when there are similar colors or patterns that overlap. In these cases, Lumen’s algorithms have difficulty determining what should be in focus and what should be blurred. We’ve found that there are three types of inconsistencies you might run into, and it just so happens we have a tool for each. Let me show you how I use each one.

Blend Area

What it’s used for: This tool is especially useful for repairing areas with inconsistent blur. This is common in photos of roads, walls, tables, and other planes that have transitions from sharp to soft depth. The Blend Area tool smooths this transition between the different depths, giving the inconsistent region a more fluid appearance that looks natural to the eye.

How to access it: Apply some depth effect to your photo and then choose “blend area” on the lefthand side to activate the tool.

By reading the depth variations of each part of a selected area, this tool applies the average of those depths, creating a smooth blur instead of a hard cutoff between sharp and soft areas.

Notice how, in the image above, the wood surface has a hard cutoff between the sharp and blurry areas. To fix this, I simply paint over the part that I want to blend and the adjustment should apply automatically. You can see how the depth looks evenly blended in the corrected version below.

Refine Edge

What it’s used for: This tool works well for fixing jagged edges on larger, in-focus objects. I find this tool extremely helpful for things like hair and other areas around a clearly defined subject.

How to access it: Apply some depth effect to your photo and then choose “refine edge” on the lefthand side to activate the tool.

Unlike the Blend tool, which averages two areas with varying depths together, the Refine Edge tool creates a more definitive and accurate separation between two varying depths along an edge. If there are parts of an edge that are missing, this tool will smooth over the uneven areas to create a smooth line. The Refine Edge tool is best used on in focus solid objects against an out of focus background, particularly with contrasting colors or shades. It is not well-suited to be used on hair, antennae, or other thin objects.

Notice in the image above that the edge of the branch around the person’s feet and the branch have uneven depth. To use the tool here, I simply drag the brush along the edge of the branch and the adjustments apply automatically. Lumen has a much easier time calculating depth when you give it more information. Though it might seem counterintuitive, it’s actually easier for Lumen to fix edges if you paint equally over the sharp area and the blurry area. In the example above, I painted a generous amount around the area of the edge. Here’s what the finished result looks like:

Pro tip: I’ve found that this tool works best when the background color is different from that of the foreground, or where there is good contrast separation between the two areas. If you aren’t seeing the results you want with the Refine Edge tool, try using the Match Depth tool mentioned down below.

Match Depth

What it’s used for: Match Depth is the easiest tool to highlight or blur larger parts of photos. It essentially allows me to match the depth from one area of my photo to another.

How to access it: Apply some depth effect to your photo and then choose “match depth” on the lefthand side to activate the tool.

In the image below, I’ll show how I used Match Depth to blur out the background of an image I took in Death Valley, specifically the sand dune on the right side of the frame. Notice how it is sharp - I would like to blur it out to accentuate my subject, which in this case is the person. Doing this draws the viewer’s eye straight to my subject.

When I click on the Match Depth tool, the first thing I do is choose which type of applicator I would like to use: Quick Select, Brush, or Lasso, which can be accessed by clicking the small arrow on the lefthand side of the toolbar. I personally prefer to use the Brush tool, but the Quick Select applicator is also an easy option, and the lasso tool is great for selecting broad areas or geometrically-shaped selections.

Next, I choose the size of my brush by dragging two fingers up or down on my trackpad. (For those with a mouse, just scroll your mouse wheel up or down.) 

Then I paint over the region I would like to change. Once I release the cursor, a pink mask will appear. If I’ve selected too much, I can click the minus brush in the toolbar to take away certain areas. Or, to add more to my selection, I can click the plus sign and keep painting.

Pro tip: If the toolbar is getting in the way of your selection, click and hold the toolbar to drag it to a better location.

If you aren’t a fan of the Brush or Quick Select, try the Lasso tool. It uses a number of different points to create a polygonal shape around your selection. To use it, simply click around your desired region to create a border, and then close your polygonal selection by clicking back to your first point.

Now that I have my selection (in pink), I choose the eyedropper icon in the toolbar. I then click on a specific point in the image where I would like to draw the depth from, which is indicated by a small white target. For my target, I’ll choose the dune above the quick select mask because it is a slightly blurrier area than the foreground. Once I’m ready, I click apply on the far right side of the toolbar to apply this depth to my image. Notice how in the final version below, the more distant dune is blurred out, which keeps the viewer’s eye drawn to the foreground dune.

Remember: You can always hit undo (or even reset all depth edits) in the Edit menu if you decide you don’t like the results!

Exporting Images

Once I’ve adjusted depth and I have selected my favorite images, I export my photos by clicking on the arrow icon in the bottom right corner. Here you can rename your file, choose the type (JPG or DNG) and size of file you’d like to export, and select where you’d like to save your image.

For quick and easy sharing on social media or email, choose the JPG option. Pick which size you want your JPG to be, as well as what quality (in percentage) you want the file to be exported at. The smaller the size you choose, the lower the resolution and quality it will be. Smaller is better for sharing on social media, where hi-res photos aren’t necessary, especially for Instagram and other mobile-based apps. When you’re planning to print your photos, choose to export JPGs at full resolution and size.

Personally, I like to export my photos as DNGs (digital negatives). A DNG file (non-compressible) retains the absolute maximum amount of information that can possibly be stored in an image, resulting in a super high-quality photo. Plus DNG is a type of RAW file, so I can import my photos into other imaging software like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop for advanced editing like exposure adjustment, color correction, and so on.

Pro tip: Since DNG files are usually very large, I generally only export my very best photos to save space on my computer, or I transfer everything to an external hard drive.

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