Adobe Light­room is one of the most, if not the most pop­u­lar pho­to edit­ing soft­ware. Under­stand­ing how to prop­er­ly use this post-pro­cess­ing and edit­ing pro­gram will help you take your work to the next lev­el.

How­ev­er, like learn­ing any new soft­ware, Light­room can seem intim­i­dat­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to use at first glance. Where to start? We’re going to take you through ten basic pho­to edit­ing steps in Light­room to help you get the hang of the pro­gram and get you the basics right before you dive into more advanced edit­ing tech­niques.

1. Import and organize files

The first thing to do to get start­ed in Light­room is to import your pho­tos. To do this, find the Import… but­ton in the Library tab in the low­er left cor­ner.

This is the sequence of actions we get:

Library > Import > Select Your “From” Source > Select Your Images > Select Your “To” Source > Add to Col­lec­tion > Name New Col­lec­tion > Import

After the nec­es­sary files are import­ed and orga­nized into one col­lec­tion (it will be called Col­lec­tion), you are ready to start the most inter­est­ing part. Click the Devel­op­ment tab to start edit­ing.

2. Set the settings in the Profile tab

The slid­ers in the Pro­file tab are like pre­set set­tings. How­ev­er, unlike actu­al pre­sets, set­tings in the Pro­file tab are made in Light­room’s inter­nal inter­face. Here you can adjust set­tings that help max­i­mize col­ors, dynam­ic range, and contrast—they mim­ic your cam­er­a’s pro­file.

Whether you choose a pro­file that reflects the style of your cam­era or one of the Adobe pro­files, it’s impor­tant to famil­iar­ize your­self with all pro­files and set your pre­ferred one before you begin. This will be the basis for all fur­ther edits.

3. Edit the main settings

The Gen­er­al Set­tings Pan­el is the first option in the Devel­op­ment side­bar. Here you can work with three para­me­ters: White Bal­ance, Tone and Pres­ence.

  • White Bal­ance adjusts your cam­er­a’s set­tings in degrees Kelvin. You can give future images a cold­er or warmer tone, and choose between green­ish and magen­ta tones.
  • Tone set­tings include para­me­ters such as expo­sure, con­trast, high­lights and shad­ows, high­lights and shad­ows.
  • Pres­ence allows you to work with the styl­iza­tion of the image, name­ly with the set­tings for tex­ture, clar­i­ty, haze removal, juici­ness and sat­u­ra­tion.

It is impor­tant to first under­stand, learn and mas­ter these basic set­tings before delv­ing into col­or grad­ing, details, effects and more.

4. Edit the Calibration settings

A com­mon mis­take is to start work­ing with the HSL/Color set­tings before look­ing at the Cal­i­bra­tion tab. The cam­era cal­i­bra­tion set­tings are crit­i­cal to deter­min­ing the over­all RGB (Red, Green, Blue) col­or set­tings in your image.

The set­tings in the Cal­i­bra­tion tab affect the entire RGB spec­trum, while the HSL/Color set­tings affect indi­vid­ual col­ors in each col­or pro­file. You have the option to adjust red, green and blue hue and sat­u­ra­tion lev­els. You can also adjust the over­all shade shade between green and magen­ta, which plays a huge role in the over­all look and feel of col­or edit­ing.

Focus on the set­tings in the Cal­i­bra­tion tab first, and then move on to edit­ing indi­vid­ual col­ors in the HSL/Color set­tings pan­el.

5. Change the HSL/Color settings

The HSL/Color pan­el is for col­or man­age­ment and col­or cor­rec­tion.

In turn, HSL means Hue, Sat­u­ra­tion and Lumi­nance:

- Hue affects the hue of the col­or; — Sat­u­ra­tion is respon­si­ble for the inten­si­ty of the col­or; — Lumi­nance affects the amount of light.

You can expand your col­or con­trol in the Col­or Cor­rec­tion pan­el by adjust­ing the shad­ows, mid­tones, and high­lights, but the most impor­tant thing is to get com­fort­able with the HSL/Color pan­el.

6. Adjust sharpness and noise reduction

After col­or grad­ing, it’s time to move on to the Details pan­el. Here you work with sharp­en­ing and noise reduc­tion, which is espe­cial­ly impor­tant when you work with an image at high ISO.

7. Add Lens Correction and Perspective Changes

Once you’ve dealt with col­or grad­ing, expo­sure, and the over­all look of your image, you’ll need to adjust the size, per­spec­tive, and work with dis­tor­tion cor­rec­tion.

If there are any notice­able issues such as warp­ing, vignetting, or chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion, you can eas­i­ly fix and tweak them in the Lens Cor­rec­tions pan­el.

You can do this with auto­mat­ic pro­file adjust­ment or addi­tion­al man­u­al over­ride, which gives you more con­trol over all changes. This pan­el is espe­cial­ly use­ful when shoot­ing with an ultra wide-angle lens, where dis­tor­tion and oth­er lens prob­lems can occur.

Once you’re done with the Lens Cor­rec­tions tab, you can go to the Trans­form pan­el to tweak the final per­spec­tive set­tings.

Final­ly, you are ready for the final edit­ing step.

8. Use the Mask and Spot Removal Tools for the Finishing Touches

The lat­est changes you can make to your image will be dis­played above the main set­tings pan­el. There are four of them, we will focus on two of them — the Mask and Spot Removal tools.

The Spot Removal tool is suit­able for remov­ing any small details in the frame that you do not like. Small spots, pim­ples, or even a bot­tle on the side of the road — in gen­er­al, every­thing that dis­tracts atten­tion from the main object in the frame. This tool uses sim­i­lar pix­els in a frame to mask unwant­ed details.

Final­ly, we move on to the Mask tool. It’s one of the most intu­itive yet pow­er­ful tools in Light­room.

Recent­ly, even more pow­er­ful smart masks have been added to the Mask options, such as Brush (Brush), Lin­ear Gra­di­ent (Lin­ear gra­di­ent) and Radi­al Gra­di­ent (Radi­al gra­di­ent), such as Select Sub­ject (Select an object) and Select Sky (Select the sky). They can pre­cise­ly select spe­cif­ic parts of your image for easy, tar­get­ed edit­ing.

Both Spot Removal and Mask help you edit your image with­out hav­ing to export to Pho­to­shop.

9. Resize, save and export

If you have reached this stage, then by now you already have an image ready for pub­li­ca­tion.

Depend­ing on which plat­forms you plan to share the image on, you can cre­ate final edit copies by right-click­ing the image and select­ing Cre­ate Vir­tu­al Copy. Then go to the top pan­el where the Mask and Spot Removal but­tons are locat­ed. Select the Crop tool to fit the size of each copy you have for export.

Be sure to save all your work, then go to File > Export and export your image to the export fold­er spec­i­fied in the set­tings.

It is impor­tant to take the time to famil­iar­ize your­self with the export set­tings. They help deter­mine the loca­tion of the export­ed files and file options that can be use­ful for shar­ing on social net­works.

10. Save user presets for the future

Final­ly, if you like the result of your work and want to use the same set­tings in the future, save them as a user pre­set. This allows you to copy and paste a set of spe­cif­ic set­tings into oth­er pho­tos quick­ly and con­ve­nient­ly. In addi­tion, cre­at­ing your own pre­set is the start­ing point for devel­op­ing your own per­son­al style.

Go to the Devel­op but­ton in the top left cor­ner of the menu > New Pre­set > select all the image set­tings you want to include in the pre­set. Then, to use the pre­set on a new image, select Library > Quick Devel­op > Saved Pre­set > then scroll down until you find the one you want. Select it to paste the set­tings into a new image.

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These ten basic steps for edit­ing pho­tos in Light­room will help you sort through what may seem intim­i­dat­ing and com­pli­cat­ed at first glance. Try Light­room and start your jour­ney to pro­fes­sion­al pho­to edit­ing!