This Is How I Do: Editing In Lightroom 3

I’m going to show you all today how I edited this picture in Lightroom 3…

The image on the left is SOOC (that means straight out of camera.. I shot this in RAW). The one on the right is my final edit.

To start, here are my camera settings for this image: 1/250 shutter speed, f/ 2.5 aperture, ISO 800, taken with my 30 mm 1.4 lens on my Canon T2i.

This is what I began with, to give you a better view:

Compositionally, not the best (hello tiny bird house coming out of her head), but I love her expression and the colors.

I had the shutter speed relatively high because I knew I wanted to capture her in action while playing with the ball popper. To compensate for the high shutter speed, I had to shoot with a lower aperture and a higher ISO to get enough light into the picture.

Even still, it was a bit underexposed. So I started by bringing the exposure of the image up +1.30 (by moving the exposure slider to the right under the tone panel).  I noticed the image was still a little too cool (or blue) for my liking, so I warmed the image up just a very little bit by moving the Temp slider (found right above the Tone panel on the right side of the Develop module) over to the yellow, making sure not to turn her skin yellow (except for the GIANT BRUISE in the middle of her forehead, which I assure you is actually yellow in real life… toddlers).

That brought me to this:

I like to decrease the clarity just a bit in most of my images. I feel like it helps my skin tones look more even and fades some major blemishes. It even helps your carpet and counters look cleaner and decreases the visibility of dog hair! Be careful not to decrease clarity too much, though, or things/people will start to glow and look like ghosts, in my opinion (and based on my own experiences and mistakes). For this image, I decreased clarity -10 (in the Presence panel, under Tone).

Then I bumped the middle of the upper right hand quadrant of the Tone Curve panel up just a little to make the colors a little more bright. I know there’s probably a more technical term for this. I have no idea what that is.

I zoomed into her forehead next because I wanted decrease the visibility of that giant bruise. I did this by using the heal brush (a large circle with an arrow coming out of it, found right below the histogram), set to 100% opacity. I didn’t completely eliminate it, that’s a job better suited for Photoshop, or even someone more skilled in Lightroom, but I took it down a few notches, I think.

That brought me to this:

Next, I used the Luminance sliders in the HSL panel (right below the Tone Curve) to remove some of the red and orange from the picture. This helped make her skin look a little more creamy. I increased both the red and the orange slider over to +18. I learned this trick from an awesome editing skin tones in Lightroom tutorial by Sarah Wilkerson on Clickin Moms. 

To finish up, I sharpened the image by moving the Amount slider in the Sharpening panel to 50. Then, because it was taken with a high ISO and I underexposed, the grain was pretty noticeable. I can’t completely get rid of it, but I can clean it up a little, so I moved the Luminance slider on the Noise Reduction panel over to 50, as well.

Finally, I love giving images like this just a little bit of a vignette (meaning making the edges darker than the center). I feel like it makes my subject pop. So I took the Amount slider under the Post Crop Vignetting panel down to -25.

This is my final image:

For those of you who don’t have Lightroom, I know this was basically gibberish, but I highly, HIGHLY recommend Lightroom (you can get a free 30 day trial through Adobe) if you’re in the market for editing software. It’s much less expensive than the full version of Photoshop, and I’ve found it to be very easy to learn to edit in. It really can do a lot, most definitely enough for what I need right now.

This? Everything I just shared? Basically the extent of my knowledge in it up to this point. I almost hate to share because I feel a bit like the blind leading the blind, but so many of you have asked how I’ve learned to edit photos and what I do. I’m self-taught, based on probably 60% what I’ve learned on the Clickin Moms forums and 40% from trial and error and error and error. I may be technically doing some things wrong, but I wind up with a result that I like, so I think that counts for something.

My biggest advice would be to spend a lot of time in Lightroom (or Photoshop, if that’s what you work with) and just play. Move every single slider and notice what it does for your images.

I’ve still got a lot to discover and hope to take a class for Lightroom editing soon. I’ll share more with you as I learn.

Please feel free to chime in with any questions or suggestions! I’m certainly not a pro, but I know a lot of you reading this are. If you can help, offer some gentle guidance or answer any questions, go for it.

  • Angela - Thanks for this. I got Lightroom a few weeks ago on a whim thinking it might help my pictures. I don’t have a fancy DSLR camera yet, but I got the software in hopes that one day I’d get a DSLR. Anyways, I haven’t had a chance to play around in it yet, but would it work for photos from a point and shoot camera?ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Thanks for this! I have signed up for a Lightroom workshop next month, but I’m excited to learn a few tips and tricks before the class starts! I love your photos and editing. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Sharon {Grumpy, Sleepy, and Bashful} - After reading your blog for a while, watching your photography journey with Clickin Moms, I now am a Lifetime member of Clickin Moms and have Lightroom 3.

    I couldn’t agree more – Lightroom is amazing for me. I am in the same boat as you when it comes to editing. I have learned a lot, and I know I have a long way to go. I love your tutorial. You do pretty much what I do. I like clean edits, and I tend to edit bright.

    I was taught in a photography class (not sure about the why behind this!) that it’s better to use brightness rather than exposure to lighten up an image, even in RAW. Other than that, I would have written a similar tutorial. I also really like the graduated filter. Being able to lighten up only part of an image is fun.

    Thank you for this!ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Good to know, Sharon! I’ll try that next time. Though, I do think I had to bump the exposure a little bit here because it was so underexposed. But I will definitely play around with brightness next time. I love that you joined CM. I love seeing your face pop up in threads. I’m like, I know her! 🙂ReplyCancel

      • Denae @ New Mom Adventure - FYI: Exposure adjust the light to dark balance. It will also decrease number of midtones the higher the exposure. Brightness keeps the same balance and jumps it up (or down) without changing the amount of highlight, lowligts, and midtones. Kinda like playing the same notes at an higher octave on a piano. Jill you actually had a pretty good balance originally. You can tell because SOOTC you can see pure white on her outfit (versus light grey from under exposure). Since it looks like she is highlighted by the window (my guess of light source), it as a dramatic lighting scheme. Possibly more contrast than you wanted. Changing your exposure down (I know counter intuitive) and brightness up would add more midtones reducing contrast while lightening the photo.

        Personally I like it w/o the vignette better because it allows the window light a path. With the vignette she seems glowy because the light does not fall to the floor. Better exposure will give your subjects pop. I would have dropped the fstop a little lower to take in more background light. You have a fast lens, it can take it. At the same time I am used to shooting in 35mm and not editing much. Still need that DSLR. You photo looks great though. Your work keeps getting better and better.ReplyCancel

  • Erin Beck - I recently joined CM per your suggestion and I am LOVING it! (It was my Mother’s Day present to myself!) I have Photoshop CS5 and I feel so overwhelmed by all of it. I want Lightroom also because I feel like it is less scary!ReplyCancel

    • Cassie - Just wanted to say that you convinced me to join CM too! I signed up for a year subscription when they had the 40% off mother’s day promo. I’ve definitely learned a ton from it and I’m so glad I joined. Now I just need to make more time to pick up my camera to practice what I’m learning and somehow get my toddler daughter to be a good subject!ReplyCancel

  • Samantha Cherry - Great post! I have PS CS2 and can still follow along with the Lightroom tuts to some extent. What a great picture, before and after 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Tracy @ The UnCoordinated Mommy - I signed up for CM because of you too and love it! I have learned so much! I do much of the same editing wise, I haven’t used some of the tone curves yet though. I will have to give them a try. I also need to pony up and buy Lightroom. Between a desktop and laptop and trials of the old and new Lightroom versions I’m about out of time! LolReplyCancel

  • Ellen - Great photography. But aren’t those ball poppers the best toys ever? My boys have never grown tired of that toy. They play with it almost every day.

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