7 Best Lightroom Tricks and Tips. Get Familiar With The Tools!

Lightroom is an amazing platform that can be utilized for efficient and unique photo editing. It took me a long time to get started, because I started off with Photoshop, and appreciated the manipulation of photos. Instagram gave rise to the “uniform” gallery look, and so a lot of influencers began the chase of that ultimate well-put together look that is on brand with who you are.

This is a quick course to get you started with very very easy tips and tricks that will help your photos stand out.

Please remember: the only way to learn is to …..do! Play around! Take lots of photos, and get inspired! Don’t simply look at tutorials. Upload a handful of photos and get down to experimenting.

For these tips, I used my presets : Soft Vintage, and 90’s Summer .

What does Lightroom look like?

The two most important screens for you are the Library and the Develop tab.

To import new files, click on the Library tab, and then on the Import button on the left side. From then, you can import files from your SD card, your laptop, external hard drive, etc.

Once you imported the files, you move on to the Develop tab, which is where all the editing happens.

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1. For high quality shots, Shoot RAW and not JPEG.

RAW photos are uncompressed versions of a file. JPEG (JPEG stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”) files are typically smaller and therefore not as easy to manipulate. The quality suffers, but that might not be a big concern if you are trying to save space on your computer. RAW files typically tend to be quite large. My Sony RAW images are 25.4 megabytes, whereas the JPEGs are at 1 to 2 megabytes. Huge difference.

With perfect photos (well lit, great exposure, etc) it’s easy to edit JPEG photos. But if they are underexposed, a little blurry, or less than perfect, you might have a much tougher time.

For a longer, deeper dive into RAW vs JPEG, check out this guide.

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But look at how much better the quality is when we look at details. Note how pixelated the plant edges and the bedsheet look in the JPEG image versus the RAW photo. Both have grain added but the JPEG looks “rougher”.

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Now, for Instagram this might not matter, but if you are looking for highest quality of photos, this is the way to go. If you choose to shoot RAW, adjust the settings in your camera. (Google it for your specific camera).

2. Utalize Presets…

But understand that a preset out of the box may not work for all photos. All of the images below are edited with the same preset (Soft Vintage), but note how warm some images are, and how cool toned the rest are! Why is that?

It all depends on:

  • time of day (harsh light vs soft light of the afternoon)

  • inside vs outside

  • overcast verses sunny shots

  • colors in the photo

  • skin tone of the person

  • the camera you shoot with

  • the lens you shoot with

  • + a ton more variables

But do not worry, you have lots of control with Lightroom to edit the photos exactly how you like them best.

To import a preset,

  1. Go to: Edit • Preferences • Presets.

  2. Click on the box titled: Show Lightroom Presets Folder.

  3. Double click on Lightroom.

  4. Double click on Develop Presets.

  5. Copy the folder(s) of your presets into the Develop Presets folder.

  6. Restart Lightroom.

 

TIP An efficient way to apply a preset across all of the photos you imported is by choosing the first image, applying the preset to it, highlighting it and all of the images you’d like to add the preset to, and hitting the newly appeared button “Sync” at the bottom of the screen.

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3. Warm a photo up or Cool the Tones down

This is a super helpful and very important slider. Many of your photos (with or without a preset) will benefit from adding or subtracting warmth. Depending on when you took the photo, your images might need a little boost. If you’ve taken a photo during the evening twilight hours, or in the shade, your photo might be too cool toned and can look quite sharp. The blues and greens might stand out too much, and the photo can look less cheerful.

Worse yet, if you have tones that are too cool on a portrait, you might bring out the worst features (under-eye circles, wrinkles, skin imperfections). Think about the temperature slider like you are giving your photo a little bit more sun.

SOOC= Straight Out Of Camera

Where is this particularly helpful? This is great for when you add a preset to a photo inside , and it might be too warm so you cool it off (thus reducing the oranges and the yellows in the photo) or you can increase the warmth as you see below, to add that beautiful summer sunset look.

4. Give your skin a tan (or reduce luminance from image)

Let’s start adjusting the image to make sure the tones look natural. After we adjusted the cool tone to reduce the warmth (as there is just too much orange/ yellow going on in the photo), I want to focus on my skin. I look quite pale and that doesn’t look the healthiest. With a little bit of orange and yellow brought back, we can start to look like I’ve been outside!

What Ive done is pulled up an image, applied the Soft Vintage preset, cooled the tones down slightly to make the entire photo less warm, and then focused on making my skin look a little more tan and natural.

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If you take a look at the right side of your Lightroom platform, scroll down to the HSL section, and click on “Luminance”. This will allow you to adjust the brightness of a color. So if you wish you make orange be bolder, move the bar over to the right side, and vice versa if you wish for it to be lighter.

5. alter the colors: shift the hue, saturation, luminance

When you have a standout color in your image, you can play around and create really cool changes! That’s how people get those cool peach / turquoise edits to their photos. Look on the right side of the screen and find the Hue bars.

Which colors in your photo would you like to affect? In the photo below, I have some pink flowers, a slightly pink book, and mostly white background.

If you look at your Hue bar, the most interesting colors to change would be the red, maybe purple and magenta. Try to move the bar from left to right and see how this affects the photo. With a very simple trick, you can increase the red hue (as you can see in photo #3) or reduce the red hue in the photo (photo number 4). If the flower was more red to begin with, we can really make that red pop, but since it’s on the pinkier side, you can see just how much pink we brought out.

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Try this with photos that have water, or blue clothing. You can adjust the aqua and the blue bars to make your photos pop.
Another way to alter the colors is by shifting the saturation. This one is pretty common, and a good way to make photos moodier or more colorful.

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Lastly in this section, we can manipulate the luminance. I briefly talked about it in the previous tip, but this is an amazing resource for giving photos your unique look.

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This is a terrific section that can allow you to play around with the colors from the photo, and can help you create amazing results.

Be careful when working with portraits because you might alter the colors of a person’s face, and make them more red, orange, or reduce the yellows and make them look sick.

But through experimentation and playing around, these are some of the results you can have by messing with the hue, saturation, and luminance:

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6. Become familiar with the basics

Basics are so….basic. This is not where any of the fun stuff is but this section is the most valuable and it’s also where you will spend the most time! Let’s take a look at all of the manipulations you can make with this section.

Exposure

Helps you lighten your photos or make them darker if the photos are overexposed. A general rule is that with RAW photos, it’s best to be underexposed and bring out the light through Lightroom.

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Contrast

This helps define areas of light and dark. The more you push the contrast to the right, the more you will see a difference between the light and dark areas of your photo.

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Highlights

This is particualrly helpful for brightening up your photo, or giving it a slightly vintage hue. The highlights are also super important if you shot with an overcast sky (like you see in the photo). Drag the bar to the left, and boom- you’ve got clouds, and a background.

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Shadows

Shadows are a way for you to affect the mood of the photo. If you like bright and airy photos, move the shadows bar to the right to reduce them entirely.

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Whites

This slider will affect the white(and bright) areas of your photo.

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Blacks

Similarly to shadows, this slider will latch on to the dark / black areas of your photo and deepen or lighten them.

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7. Exporting Photos (& Converting them to JPEG)

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The last thing to do, is to export your photo! I like to filter the images I’d like to work on, and ultimately export by hitting the number pad on my laptop which helps add a “stars” rating. This can help you narrow down the photos you really like from all the ones you imported.

After I am happy with my selection, I highlight the stars, let the photos pop up, and choose all or specific ones I’d like to export.

When you made your selection, go to the top of the screen, hit “File”, and choose “Export”.

Here, you have a lot of control over how and where you wish to export your photos. To save space, I export all of my files as JPEG. To do this, scroll down to “File Settings” and choose JPEG in the “Image Format” dropdown.

 
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I hope these quick Lightroom tips have reduced your fears about trying the program out and playing around on it. The more time you put in, the more of an expert you will become.