What a difference!

I am frequently asked what source I use to edit my photos. The two programs that I use are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Most people hear the word photoshop and freak out. I don’t blame them…photoshop is very difficult and I am still learning new things about it. I mainly use Photoshop to do retouching (blemishes, hair, eyes, etc..) However, the majority of my work is done in Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is a great tool to edit your photos because it is easy to use and it delivers great results. In Lightroom you can adjust your color temperatures, hue & saturation, correct your white balance, and adjust shadows and highlights. There are a lot of other tools that can make your photo look great as well. You may be thinking, “that’s great, but I don’t really feel like spending $300.” Good news! You can download Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta trial version for FREE here. Wahoo!

By using a photo of the wonderful Stephanie Tomba & Lightroom 3 Beta, I am going to show you an example of how to edit a photo using Adobe Lightroom. (Click on the photo to view larger)

First, open the unedited image in the “Develop” section of lightroom.

The image is a little bit over exposed, so I’m going to adjust the exposure by moving the exposure slider under the “Basic” tab. You don’t have to move it a lot, just enough to balance the photo. I’m also going to adjust my blacks slightly to darken the shadows a bit. The picture on the right shows the change in exposure.

I decided that the temperature of the photo was too cool, so i’m going add warmth by adjusting the temperature slider.

The next step takes a little bit of practice. I want to adjust the colors hue and saturation. Under the HSL/Color/ B&W tab I can adjust these things. Since I want this photo to be in color, I’m going to ignore the B&W tab. In the HSL & Color tabs I can adjust hue, saturation, and luminance according to specific colors. For instance, I think that the leaves are a little bit too saturated so I’m going to de-saturate them by clicking saturation under the HSL tab, and adjusting the green slider, because the leaves are green. If I wanted to de-saturate or adjust the luminance(lightness) on her shirt I would adjust the orange and red sliders. It seems complicated, but if you practice and play around with the adjustments you will get the hang of it.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at what we’ve got so far. By clicking the double frame icon underneath the main photo you can see your before and after images. See how much this photo has improved just by adjusting a few things?

The next tool I’m going to use is one of my favorites. It is called the vignette tool. Under the “Lens Correction” tab, there are sliders to adjust the lens vignetting. Now, what is a vignette? By adding a vignette you can darken or lighten the corners of your photo. (I almost always darken the corners. Rarely do I lighten them.) I want to darken up the corners on this photo so I’m going to adjust my sliders to the left. See how just by simply darkening the corners of a photo can really make the difference?

Make sure that you take a break and come back to your photo during the editing process. Sometimes you will see the photo differently the second time. I decided that this photo was a little bit too warm and orange, so I’m going to go back to the “Basic” tab and adjust temperature and tint a TINY bit. Now the photo isn’t so orange.

Finally, I want to bring out some of the highlight’s in Stephanie’s face so the image isn’t so flat. I’m going to go to the “Tone Curve” tab and adjust the highlights slider just a little bit so that her face really lights up.

Here are the before and after images — What a difference! Yay for Lightroom!


Other Editing Tips…Things NOT to do:

Over Exposure: very rarely does an over exposed photo look good. You want your photo to look balanced and natural. This photo is way too over exposed and blown out. Her face is too white and her features are getting lost.

Too much contrast/shadows: By adding to much contrast or shadows, the photo becomes way too dark and her features become hidden in the shadows. Like the over exposed example, the photo just looks too harsh. You want to add just enough contrast to give the photo depth.

Extreme color temperatures: Making your subject look like an Oompa-Loompa or a Smurf is a big NO NO. Make sure that when you adjust the color temperatures you don’t go too extreme. You don’t want to drown the photograph in orange or blue.


One final tip:

The best way to get better at editing your photos is to PRACTICE. You won’t become an amazing photo editor over night. Practice editing any photos you can find. Also, research other photographers and see how they edit their photos — it will inspire you to try different editing techniques.


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