Moonrise Composite Edited on the iPad Pro

December 17, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

30 mm, 1/50 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 (Moon shot at 50mm, 1/160 sec)

This image is a composite: the scene was captured at 30mm but the moon is from a photo taken a few minutes earlier at 50mm. When we view a scene like this in reality, we perceive the moon as being much larger than it actually is (the Moon Illusion). I like to replace the moon with a slightly larger moon when it is close to the horizon in an image so that the photo appears more like the scene I remember. But as a rule, I only use a photo of the moon that I captured at the same time (give or take a day or so) and place-I never simply drop a moon into a landscape image when it was not actually there.

I have been saving the processing of this image for use as a challenge to learn the ins and outs of processing exclusively on the iPad using Lightroom and Photoshop. I am a completely new iPad user, so I had more of a challenge just learning how to do basic tasks on iPadOS than using Lightroom. Photoshop on the iPad is a little more complicated because the interface is so completely different than desktop Photoshop.

Coming from a photography workflow based on Lightroom Classic, the first hurdle was to get the original raw files to the iPad so that I was editing a full resolution version of the image rather than a downsized Smart Preview. Although this process could be made easier by Adobe, it turned out to be really simple and straightforward.

Primary photo. Note how the moon is almost pure white with no detail and appears really small. This is not at all how it looked when I was standing there next to the camera.

Next, I separately edited the source images in Lightroom before bringing them into Photoshop to be merged. Lightroom and Photoshop now have the ability to directly send images back and forth on the iPad with the limitation that only one image can be sent from Lightroom at a time. So I was confused by how to actually open both images in Photoshop at the same time. The Photoshop app includes a Place Photo tool, but it does not have the ability to import images from Lightroom. The current options are Photos, Files, Libraries, and Camera. I expected the Libraries option to include Photoshop cloud documents, but on my iPad it is empty. Hopefully support for importing multiple images from Lightroom is coming soon.

Moon photo. This photo was captured about 2 minutes before the main photo using a focal length of 50 mm rather than 30 mm, so the moon appears to be 2/3 larger which is more in line with how we perceive the moon to look.

In the meantime, I exported the moon photo from Lightroom as a JPG and opened the main image in Photoshop. Then I used the Place Photo tool to add the JPG copy of the moon photo as a new layer. From there, it was a typical Photoshop workflow to create a local selection of the moon and surrounding sky, cover up the blown out small moon in the main photo, then reposition the larger moon image to the correct location. The blend mode on the moon layer was changed to Lighten to seamlessly merge the moon into the sky. I also used Photoshop to clean up a large smudge in the upper part of the sky (dirty lens) using the Spot Healing Brush tool, and the work in Photoshop was done.

Editing in Photoshop for iPad. Just tap “Send to Lightroom” when finished.

Back in Lightroom, I made a few final adjustments and was done. I opened up Lightroom Classic on my desktop computer (which is actually a laptop), but the Photoshop image did not sync. So then I opened Lightroom (non-Classic), and the image appeared. When I switched back to Lightroom Classic a few seconds later, it was also there. I opened up the Lightroom sync folder in Explorer on Windows, and the folder contained a 400MB PSD file of the composite image.

To complete the process of bringing the edited Photoshop file out of Adobe’s cloud and onto my local hard drive, I moved the file in Lightroom from the iPad folder to the folder containing the raw files from the shoot. This caused the photo to appear in the All Sync Errors collection, so I selected the option to remove it. This in turn prompted a warning that the photo would be removed from all synced collections, but not deleted from the desktop catalog (which is exactly what I wanted). To get the image back on my iPad, I just had to add it back into the synced collection in Lightroom Classic.

The key to understanding Adobe’s mobile workflow when starting from Lightroom Classic is to remember that Classic only syncs Smart Previews-all original files whether raw photos or Photoshop documents have to come from one of the new Lightroom apps regardless of the direction of transfer to or from a mobile device.



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