Photo editing can be long and arduous or it can be quick and easy. For most images, the latter is preferable.
Because a lot of the photos we take can use a little sprucing up, I think Lightroom is a great place to do that. Lightroom is equipped to handle many photos at once so I think it’s a great option for many photographers, amateurs and pros alike.
I wanted to share my 4-Step Editing Process with you to hopefully help you get on the road to faster editing.
1. Fix the Exposure
Fixing the Exposure in Lightroom’s Basic Panel. Photo: Kim Olson
After you’ve opened Lightroom, go to the Develop Mode and start in the Basic Panel. These adjustments will help you fine-tune your exposure.
- Auto Adjust – Click on the “Auto” button. The results aren’t always perfect, but often will give you a good starting point. If you like what you see, leave it. If not, simply click “Reset” and your image is back to the state it was in when you imported it.
- Manually Fix the Exposure – Whether or not you kept Lightroom’s Auto adjustments, it can help to tweak the exposure by hand. Lightroom has a slew of different sliders that help you make specific adjustments based on what you want to fix:
Most likely each image will require different adjustments so there’s no one way to move these sliders. In general, though, I tend to bump up Highlights and Whites, while decreasing Shadows and Blacks.
Tip: use the “\” key to toggle between before and after edits.
2. Work with the Color
Adjusting the White Balance and Color in Lightroom. Photo: Kim Olson
After you have the exposure looking the way you want it to, you can fine-tune the color.
At the top of the Basic Panel you’ll find the White Balance controls. I like to do this step after the Exposure adjustments because I can get a better feel for the color now that the exposure is more accurate.
The last thing in the Basic Panel is Presence. Here you can play with:
- Clarity – adds a bit of grittiness to your images
- Vibrance – less harsh color adjustment
- Saturation – bit stronger color adjustment than Vibrance
Of these three options, I typically only adjust Vibrance, if I use it at all. But boosting Vibrance does tend to add a good, subtle dose of color.
3. Crop & Clean Up
Using Lightroom’s Toolbar to crop, clean dust and do minor spot adjustments. Photo: Kim Olson
There’s a little toolbar that sits below the Histogram and above the Basic Panel and it’s at this stage you can start to use them.
Here are the tools available to you:
- Spot Removal
- Red-Eye Correction
- Graduated Filter
- Adjustment Brush
The tools I use the most are the Crop (to straighten horizons or go tighter), Spot Removal (take out dust, etc.) and the Adjustment Brush (apply targeted enhancements like exposure or saturation).
Applying Sharpening, the final Lightroom adjustment. Photo: Kim Olson
If you’re done editing and don’t intend to work on this image any further, you can apply some sharpening in Lightroom’s Detail Panel.
Sharpening is typically the last edit you’ll want to apply to your images and that’s why I save it for last.
The beauty of Lightroom is that whatever you do can be undone. It’s a non-destructive editor that allows you to go backwards if you decide later that you don’t like what you’ve done.
I think you’ll benefit, though, from keeping your edits pretty simple and straightforward. And once you get the hang of Lightroom and learn what adjustments you like to make to your own images, it’s a good idea to apply them in the same order every time.
The last thing to keep in mind is to go easy with your edits (less is better). A good rule of thumb is to move the slider to where you think it looks good, then back it off just slightly. That typically gives you a better, and more even, result.
I hope that helps and remember to have fun with it and make your style your own. Happy shooting!