Final image of the family barn.

The Photo Backstory: The Family Barn

Photo Specs

ISO : 500
Aperture: 2.2
Shutter Speed: 3200


The family barn image before editing.I’ve previously posted a Backstory article on an image from the family farm; this is of the barn. When I took the previous image, I was actually set up right in front of the barn here. In any case, this is a structure that has stood on the farm for as long as I can remember. When he was alive and keeping cattle, my grandfather would come out here everyday and feed the animals. This was also where he kept all his farm equipment. Most of that is gone now, which is too bad, as they would’ve made great photographic subjects.

The Image

I tried to frame up several interesting elements for the image. Besides the barn, you can see the woodshed, which is used to store wood and random farm tools. The beehives in front of the woodshed are currently unoccupied, and I’m undecided as to whether or not their modern construction makes a nice contrast or simply looks out of place.

The Process

I took the photo on our last day, walking around the property. It was a sunny day, our first of the whole trip, and I didn’t use a tripod or anything else. This was a point-and-shoot sort of moment.

In full color, this is actually kind of a boring image. It’s taken from somewhat far away, it’s a pretty standard view of a bunch of old wood and the winter has robbed the landscape of a lot of bright, vibrant coloring. Given that, I figured this would make a great black and white photo, but I wanted to emphasize the barn and not lose the interesting reds in the roof. This is not really my usual style, but I thought it’d be fun to try.The family barn mid-edit.

For simplicity’s sake, I used Lightroom’s brush tool set to desaturate. Once I’d carefully eliminated the color from everything but the barn, I went about doing other, more standard, tweaks. I punched up the Clarity and Contrast significantly, to 37 and 54. I added a 1/3 stop of exposure and a little bit of vibrance. I used the “Sharpen-Scenic” setting, but didn’t really need to do any noise reduction. And I finished off with a light vignette, which really goes well with this sort of image.

Lessons Learned

  • I wish I had gotten multiple angles—some with the beehives, and some without.
  • Also composition related—the sky kind of sucks. The vignette helps to distract from what an incredibly boring sky it is, but it’s not exciting. I would like an image with almost no sky in it all, just trees.
  • By leveraging several Lightroom presets, I saved a ton of time tweaking.
  • Although I was ultimately happy with the B&W parts of the photo, if I use this effect again, I’ll need to spend some more time doing that. I should invest more time learning LR’s brush tool.


Overall, I feel like this was actually a pretty successful image. While there is a bit to be desired when it comes to the composition, the post production work went quickly and resulted in a much more interesting image that I had originally shot. Be careful with this technique—it’s easy to overuse and get kitchy—but for a shot where I knew pretty specifically what I wanted to emphasize while keeping the context, I think it worked pretty well.

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