Beginner The reluctant family photo... could anyone give me some advice please?

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Justine
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I went to stay with my brother and his family for a few days last week, I was hoping to take some photos when I was there but the weather was unbelievably dreadful and we had 5 very grey, very wet days. I like to take landscapes really, I enjoy taking them in manual and spend ages fiddling around with my camera and really take my time. I don't like taking portraits and I'm not very good at it at all so when my sister-in-law asked me to take a 'formal' family photo when we visited Brigham Rocks I didn't have a good feeling about it.

To cut a very long story short, I was having an extremely bad day/year, which resulted in me just putting the camera on autofocus (which isn't as good as manual on my camera) and preset it to 'portrait' and just took a few snaps. There was only so much I could have done given the weather but unsurprisingly, I've ended up with some very flat, dull photos.

I tried to jazz them up a bit in Lightroom but I've only been using it for two weeks and I'm really still finding my feet with it so I feel like I'm fighting a bit of a loosing battle.

I've copied one of the photos below (they're all like this) so you can see what I mean, any suggestions as to what I could do to them to make them look 'better' would be very very much appreciated. I took them all in RAW format so I can tweak the exposure a it but I don't know how to 'lighten' isolated areas or anything.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/NLPDBT]IMG_3227 by Justine Edwards, on Flickr[/URL]
 
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Applemuncher
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Justine
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Actually- thus probably wasn't the best example to post, this one's a bit darker than the others.
 
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Ian
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Is this the original you've posted, Justine? Doesn't look that bad to me and I'm sure something could be salvaged given it was taken in RAW.

Biggest detractor for me is the blown sky in the BG in contrast to the rest of the frame. Sure that could be addressed though.
 
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Applemuncher
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Justine
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No- I've already lightened the overall exposure. The colour of the sky is the actual colour that the sky was, it was dreadful but I don't know how to tweak it to make the sky blue.
 
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The colour of the sky is the actual colour that the sky was, it was dreadful but I don't know how to tweak it to make the sky blue.
Might be worth listing what you'd like to achieve, as the above detail was missing from the opening post ;)

Do you only have LR out do you have software available that will let you work with layers? although personally adding a blue sky to a grey day isn't something I'd do with this shot, it's playing with people's memories of the day.
 
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Clint
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Try using the highlight recovery slider to see if there is any detail in the sky. Use the brush with a bit of shadow recovery to just touch up the ones at the back. Otherwise I think it is quite a good informal family portrait. The family are all relaxed and even the dog is looking at the camera so the important bit are all there. As you get more familiar with LR you can go back and re edit it.
 
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Selected Auto WB (white balance).
Increased exposure slightly.
Reduced shadows slightly.
Increased blacks slightly.
Auto-fill blue colour to replace blown sky (just illustrates, needs more care and if able you could replace it with a sky from another photo using layers).
Adjust levels.

Just a rough and ready example of possible ways to go. :)


30699633965_0e5d0516ec_z.jpg
 
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Applemuncher
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Justine
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Thank you for your advice guys, it's very much appreciated. I think I'm slightly annoyed that I didn't take much effort in taking them but it was a very bad day. Gramps - thank you, that's a really blue sky - I think I'll try and go with a mid-range one, there were sunny intervals in the day when the sky looked a bit brighter, unfortunately, this wasn't one of those moments.
 
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Adam
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To be honest I'd just accept that it's a perfectly nice family snap. I'm not saying that as a negative, quite the opposite. It's sharp, they're all smiling and look happy and it probably tells their story as a family quite well. Wet dreary weather walking the dog.
 
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Simon
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To be honest I'd just accept that it's a perfectly nice family snap. I'm not saying that as a negative, quite the opposite. It's sharp, they're all smiling and look happy and it probably tells their story as a family quite well. Wet dreary weather walking the dog.
This!

Please don't put a nuclear blue sky in, there's just no need. The sky isn't the problem so much as the fact that the subject is too dark. If you lift the shadows a bit further then the blown sky won't look so out of place.

Either use the shadows slider in LR or use the tone curve - click the little box next to it so you can drag the curve round all over the place, then lift the bottom third up a bit. Perhaps add another point at the halfway mark to stop the upper midtones getting too bright. You'll get better results than this by working on your raw file.

You can make the same adjustment to all your files in one go - look up how to use the sync settings button.

Lighter.jpg
 
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Phil
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To be honest I'd just accept that it's a perfectly nice family snap. I'm not saying that as a negative, quite the opposite. It's sharp, they're all smiling and look happy and it probably tells their story as a family quite well. Wet dreary weather walking the dog.
This^
This!

Please don't put a nuclear blue sky in, there's just no need. The sky isn't the problem so much as the fact that the subject is too dark. If you lift the shadows a bit further then the blown sky won't look so out of place.

Either use the shadows slider in LR or use the tone curve - click the little box next to it so you can drag the curve round all over the place, then lift the bottom third up a bit. Perhaps add another point at the halfway mark to stop the upper midtones getting too bright. You'll get better results than this by working on your raw file.

You can make the same adjustment to all your files in one go - look up how to use the sync settings button.

View attachment 76585
And this.
 
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Applemuncher
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Justine
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That's great guys, thank you so much for your help, I really really appreciate it and I think that you're right. I think I'm annoyed that I spend 5 days hoping to take photos and it rained every day the more I think about it.

I feel a bit better about it all now- I think I just need to keep plugging away at LR trying to learn the basics. I've only had it for 2 weeks but I'm learning as fast as I can. :)
 
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That's great guys, thank you so much for your help, I really really appreciate it and I think that you're right. I think I'm annoyed that I spend 5 days hoping to take photos and it rained every day the more I think about it.

I feel a bit better about it all now- I think I just need to keep plugging away at LR trying to learn the basics. I've only had it for 2 weeks but I'm learning as fast as I can. :)
Lightroom takes a lot longer than two weeks to learn - but worth the effort.
 
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Name
Viv
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I'd open it in camera raw and use the adjustment brush that way you can lighten and darken different areas of the image.
 
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Paul
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To be honest I'd just accept that it's a perfectly nice family snap. I'm not saying that as a negative, quite the opposite. It's sharp, they're all smiling and look happy and it probably tells their story as a family quite well. Wet dreary weather walking the dog.
+2 (or maybe 3) now to this. Yes there is a rather blown, featureless sky, but you have all 5 looking at the camera and smiling, a very rare event in my photography. Everything else is somewhat incidental to this.

If it makes you feel any better I set up my home studio kit last week (nothing fancy, backdrop, 2 lights, softbox) and took over 300 photos, there's is not 1 I would consider good. Seems the scatter gun/machine gun shooting approach is not the best after all!
 
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