At the center of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there are hundreds of photos taken daily of the Dragon on top of Gringotts Bank. About every 15 minutes, the dragon breathes fire over Diagon Alley and the crowd stops, waiting with cameras in hand to catch a photo of ferocious beast.

If you’ve looked up tagged photos on instagram for Gringotts Bank, you will see numerous identical and average photos of this dragon. Today we are going to change it up and create a unique photo from a boring one. Below are 11 steps and a video on how to use Lightroom to edit an average dragon photo from Diagon Alley into a cinematic masterpiece.

1. Open the Image in Adobe Lightroom

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot

This photo was a taken in the middle of the day with the Sony A7 body and Sony GM 24-70mm F2.8 at ISO 320, 70mm, f/2.8, 1/4000. Import this image into Adobe Lightroom and click the “Develop” tab.

2. Crop the Photo

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot cropped

The image includes other distractions, like people’s heads and the other buildings. The subject of the image is the dragon, so I cropped the dragon on 2/3 of the right side for a closer and tighter composition.

3. Add a Radial Filter

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot radial filter

Add a radial filter around the flame and make sure the feather is at 50.

4. Invert Radial Filter and Edit Tones

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot radial filter

Invert the radial filter so that the tone changes will be made around the flame. To create a night time effect, decrease the exposure, highlights, whites, and blacks until the remaining part of the photo is almost all black.

5. Add Adjustment Brushes To The Body

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot
Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot

Using the Adjustment Brush tool, brush along the body of the dragon. You will increase the the exposure of the dragon and start to bring the dragon back into the photo. You should use several brushes to create a gradient in exposure. The brightest part of the dragon should be the face, since it is light by the flame. The exposure down the neck to the tail should decrease and can be created by adding multiple brush patterns with decreasing exposures.

6. Add An Adjustment Brush to the Building

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot

Repeat the same process for the building beneath the dragon. The top of the building should be brighter since it is closest to the light source. You can use one brush to reveal the lighting on the building by decreasing the flow to 60 and the feather to 45. The flow is the intensity of your brush strokes, so you can add more brush strokes to the top of the building and sweep a few at the base of the building to create depth.

7. Contour the Face

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot

The dragons’ face can look a little flat when you increase the exposure from step 5. Using the adjustment brush, add contour to the face by using brush strokes with increased and decreased exposure.

8. Check Clipped Highlights

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot Clipping

Clipping happens when a part of the photo is not showing any information, also known as “blown out” areas. When there is no information available, the area with will be either pure white (clipped highlights) or pure black (clipped shadows). For this photo, we don’t care if the shadows are clipped. They will be since we are creating a dark, moody photo. To check to see if the highlights are clipped hit “J”. “J” will warn you of clipped highlights in red and clipped shadows in blue.

There may be some clipping in the flame. To add information back into the photo slide the whites to the left until the red is no longer in the photo. Hit “J” again to your current edit.

9. Sharpen

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot

Sharpen the just the dragon and the building by first adjusting the masking. In order to see what parts of the image will be sharpened, (on a PC) hold down the “ALT” key while sliding the masking bar to the right. You will see what will be sharpened by what is highlighted in white.

Set the masking to about 70 and slightly increase the sharpening amount to 25.

10. White Balance

Dragon Edit Lightroom Screen Shot

I only wanted to adjust the colors in this photo by using the white balance. I wanted to photo to feel warmer due to the breath of fire, so I made the temperature warmer at roughly 7476.

11. Final Product

Universal Studios Breathing Fire - dragon photo from diagon alley

Viola! With these simple 10 steps, you can take an average photo of the dragon from Diagon Alley and transform it into a cinematic masterpiece.

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