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  • Basics of Post Processing in Lightroom

    This article explains the editing workflow in Adobe Lightroom Classic. Adobe Lightroom and its Mobile version offer almost all of the same features but with a slightly different interface. Lightroom’s Develop panel is mostly the same as Adobe Camera Raw that can be accessed from Photoshop, so all the editing concepts will also be useful for users of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Adobe Lightroom.

    Table of Contents

    Lightroom is one of the most widely used raw processors and image editors out there. It can be used from basic to advanced edits and it is loved by many beginners and pro users. It’s also likely to be the first photo editor that most people experience.

    Lightroom is great for cataloging photos. I, for instance, keep a catalog that spans several years back to when I started with photography. Each year is organized by months and each month by either day or trip.

    There are different ways of organizing photos in Lightroom and it’s up to the user to choose one. Once chosen, it’s a good idea to stick to it to keep the catalog consistent.

    Of course once the photos are organized, Lightoom lets you search and filter the photos within the catalog. This can be very useful once the number of photos grows.

    Apart from all the organizational features Lightroom is a raw photo editor and it is a non destructive, non linear one, meaning that all the edits can be changed and reverted separately regardless of the order they were applied to the original file.

    Creating a Lightroom Catalog

    The first thing to do in Lightroom is to create a new catalog. This is something you’ll have to do once, and afterwards just keep using the same catalog. Creating a new catalog is as easy as:

    File -> New Catalog

    Enter a new name, and done! Lightroom will restart and open the newly created catalog.

    How to import files into Lightroom

    Importing raw photos into Lightroom is the next step. My workflow usually consists in copying the raw files from the camera’s SD card into a folder on an external drive where all the original files are. This is done outside of Lightroom. After that, in Lightroom I go to File -> Import Photos and Videos. This opens a new window:

    First in Source (left side panel) navigate and select the folder where the raw files are. The middle section will display previews of the raw files. I usually just choose Add. This option keeps the files in the same place physically and only adds them to the Lightroom Catalog.

    The right side of the window has a number of options of things Lightroom can do during and after the import:

    By clicking on Import the process starts. It will take from a few seconds to a couple of minutes depending on the number of photos and once it finishes you are ready to start with the edits.

    The Develop Panel

    How to apply global edits

    Lightroom’s main view is divided into separate tabs or panels. The first one is Library. This is a great way to go through the photos and quickly preview them. But in order to work on a photo you’ll need to go to the Develop panel.

    First find and select the photos(s) you want to process and click on Develop panel.

    On the right you will see all the tools that can be used for editing grouped in panels. The first one is the Basic panel.

    The Basic panel is usually the first approach. The changes here will affect the image globally (as opposed to local adjustments that can be done with masks). It is however a good starting point for any image:

    Using local adjustments

    Not all parts of the image require the same adjustments. By selectively applying edits it’s possible to emphasize certain parts and bring attention to what is important. Local adjustments are the key to a successful edit:

    The latest versions of Lightroom offer great masking tools, some are color or luminance based, some are simple radial or gradient masks and we even have AI powered options, I’ll try to explain them here:

    Working with color in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw

    Lightroom also allows us to work with color. It’s possible to color grade by introducing a certain hue into the highlights or shadows to adjust separate colors.

    Color Mixer

    The color mixer tool displays a number of colors that can be adjusted individually. By selecting a color we can adjust its Hue, Saturation and Luminance. This can be useful if we want to achieve a certain style or just to fix some colors that might be over-saturated in the image.

    Color Grading

    Color grading is a way to assign colors to bright or dark parts of the image. It can be used to create color separation, color contrast or just achieve a certain “look” in the photo. With color grading you can introduce a certain hue into highlights, shadows or midtones. A popular color grading technique is orange and teal, where the highlights get a bit of an orange tint and shadows teal or blue. This however, will depend on the image, and the effect that you are trying to achieve.

    There are other panels in Lightroom but the ones mentioned above are the most important and the ones that you will need most of the time.

    Exporting an image in Lightroom

    Once you are happy with the edit, the last step is to export the image and produce a jpg file that can be shared online. Exporting is as easy as right clicking the image and selecting Export -> Export...

    This will open a new dialog with a few options.

    The main sections are:

    Done, by clicking Export you will have the finished image in JPG format that can now be shared and viewed on any computer or mobile device.

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