Announcing The Dark Image System For Lightroom

Announcing The Dark Image System for Lightroom

What would you say if I told you there may be a better way to edit with Lightroom?

For a long time, I’ve approached my RAW photo editing by trying to produce a good-quality starting image. This means removing problems like deep shadows and poor exposure. I’ve then used that image as a starting point to hop into Photoshop or Affinity Photo for further editing. I’ve now changed this approach for some of my images, and it’s allowing me to inject drama and mood.

Dark Image System Examples

Here’s a good example, shot in a woodland area of the Peak District called Wyming Brook.

Dark Image System for Lightroom example 1

This type of image is perfect for applying the Dark Image System. Had I processed the original image, which you can see on the left with my old approach, I wouldn’t have been able to create the mood and atmosphere in the image on the right. This was all done using a few controls in Adobe Lightroom. I only used the Linear and Radial Gradients and the Brush Tool for making selective adjustments.

I then took the image into Photoshop to apply finishing effects, producing the following shot.

Dark Image System for Lightroom Finished example 1

I’m sure you will agree this is a substantial improvement on the original.

Having achieved a good initial result, I wondered if this was a fluke, so I tried other images. Here’s another example, this time from the Hall of Mosses trail in the Hoe Rainforest, USA.

Dark Image System for Lightroom example 2

This was an interesting test as I had tried to process the image on the left many times. Each time, I failed to reproduce the mood of the forest I had experienced at the time. This time, I created the image on the right following my Dark Image System. I could have taken this further, but I decided to jump into Photoshop to complete my Dodging & Burning. Here’s the result.

Dark Image System for Lightroom Finished example 2

After this, I knew I was onto something, but I still needed to develop this into a system that could be widely applied.

Developing the Dark Image System

At this point, most of my processing was of woodland images. When you find something that works well with one photo, it tends to work well with other similar photos. I now decided to try the system with a different type of image.

Dark Image System for Lightroom example 3

On the left is the original RAW file, while on the right is the image following editing in Lightroom. As before, this doesn’t use any complicated tools. The only selection tools are the Radial and Linear Gradients and the Brush Tools. And here’s the image following the finishing touches in Photoshop.

Dark Image System for Lightroom Finished example 3

Since then, I’ve tried the Dark Image System with many images. It hasn’t worked with all of them, but for many, it’s completely transformed my results.

Would You Like to Learn This System?

Using what I’ve learned, I have decided to develop a video course and eBook for the Dark Image System. I don’t know the timescales, but If you would like to stay informed of developments, let me know using the form below.

Everyone registering an early interest will receive a launch discount.

I am also running an early live training session to teach the Dark Image System to a small group of photographers (max 5). This paid workshop will take place on 15th January 2024 before the video and book is launched. Attendees will receive a recording together with the course and book when available.

If you are interested in attending, see my booking page. Booking is closed.

February 2024 Update

If you read my newsletter at the weekend, you will know I’m progressing well with developing my Dark Image System for Lightroom. The workshop teaching it to five photographers are complete and the system was well recevied. My target to have the book and video course ready is late March/April.

My Inspiration For The System

Following feedback, I know that it can help to understand my inspiration for the system, as this can give something to aim for when editing.

For a long time, I’ve been inspired by two art schools. The first is the Baroque School of Painting from around 1600, and the other is the Hudson River School from around 1825. In particular, it’s the use of shadow and light in the Baroque School that I’m trying to reproduce. You can see three examples of paintings in this style below.

Dark Image System for Lightroom Inspiration

Notice how much of the painting is dark, but then objects are thrown into sharp contrast by light appearing to fall on them. This is the effect the Dark Image System seeks to reproduce in photographs.

Now, compare these examples to my sample photos below. I hope you can spot the similarity in the approach.

Dark Image System heading image

If you break the Dark Image System into its simplest components, the approach is to create a dark version of the image first. You then reintroduce light and colour to areas you want to highlight. We use this to capture and guide the viewer’s attention as they look at the image. But they then become drawn in, looking at the detail, especially in the shadows.

That’s all for now. I’ll share more in March.

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