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!