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A Southern mama of two well dress gals, with a home that's always a bit of a mess. 

Meet Ellen

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small child sitting in a pile of pumpkins

Editing in Lightroom is the easiest way to take your images from wow to WHOA. I like to think of photography as a cake: you need a good cake as your base (photo), then you jazz it up with the icing (editing). There is a steep learning curve to editing. The first time you open Lightroom, there are sliders, graphs, effects, and so many buttons that honestly, I just shut it down. But editing is one of those things (like many things) that gets so much easier the more you do it. We’ve talked about camera gear and a bit about taking photos. I’m chatting today about my workflow in Lightroom and how to make it just a bit easier. 

Software Recommendations

There are so many options for photo editing. My favorite is Adobe Lightroom, which has a desktop and mobile version. The mobile version has a free option and a paid version. If you are going to be editing photos often, I highly recommend the paid version. You get access to additional tools that I use regularly in my workflow, like masks and healing tools. Additionally, if you have easy and reliable access, I prefer using my tablet or computer for editing. The Adobe Lightroom app on a tablet like the iPad (and Apple Pencil) is pretty fantastic to edit on and was my primary editing workstation for over a while.

If for some reason you don’t want to use Adobe Lightroom, other options for mobile editing are VSCO and Snapseed. I haven’t used either very extensively, but there are definitely other options out there!

jpeg versus RAW images

If you are using your phone as your camera, your images are most likely in jpeg format. If you are using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you can choose the type of file that your camera saves your images – jpeg or RAW. RAW image files are big (therefore eating up your storage), but they contain much more “information” so that you can make many more adjustments during the editing process. One isn’t right or wrong, but I would recommend if you are using a camera with the capability to shoot in RAW and you have adequate storage on your phone, tablet, or computer (or an external hard drive), shoot in RAW!

What are Lightroom Presets

Lightroom presets are pre-saved settings that you apply to an image with a single click to use as a starting point for your finished image. I honestly love LOVE presets, especially if you are just starting out figuring out how to edit photos. It gives you a consistent starting point for your images, so your family photos/albums/feed have a cohesive look. Lightroom presets are typically sold in collections that contain multiple options that all flow together. Because there are so many variables to photography and capturing an image, there is never going to be just one single preset that works for everything. A collection of presets tends to compliment each other and work on different types of images so your photography overall has a cohesive look.

Lightroom Terminology

I am self-taught, so there definitely are things I don’t know the correct terminology for, but these are a few terms that are helpful to understand when learning about editing.

Exposure: adjusts the overall brightness of the image. 

Contrast: this changes how much ‘pop’ the image has. slide the contrast slider left if you want a softer image, slide the contrast slider right if you want a more punchy/bold image. 

Highlights & Shadows: the bright and dark areas of your photo. 

White Balance: changes the color in your image to make it look more natural. The temperature slider makes your images more blue (cool) or yellow (warm). The tint slider adds green or magenta. 

Vibrance & Saturation: vibrance enhances the less saturated parts of your image – if it doesn’t already have a lot of color, it will bring enhancement to those areas. Saturation enhances the color of everything. 

My Editing Workflow

This is my editing workflow and what works for me. I find that editing in Lightroom, much like everything else in life, gets a lot easier and familiar the more you do it. Once you start editing your images regularly, you might find that you like to do things a different way. Ultimately, there isn’t one way to go about the editing process, it all is up to you!

  1. Import your images, select your favorites, then add to an album. It may seem like an unimportant step, but start creating albums and folders for your photos now. In two years from now, when you have 75,000 images, you will wish you had some sort of organization so that you can easily locate the images you are looking for.
  2. Open the first image to edit. First I will use the crop tool to straighten the horizon and crop anything out of the image I don’t want there. Next, I adjust the exposure and white balance if needed. Sometimes things look okay, but most of the time, I have to adjust these three things to my liking.
  3. Click through my preset options to see what I like on the image.
  4. Once the preset is applied, I make a few more adjustments in Light and Color panels. Sometimes it is nothing, but most of the time, I will adjust highlights and shadows and tweak the white balance again. Use the heal tool to clean up your image as necessary.
  5. Copy edit settings and paste on to the next image (as long as it is a similar lighting situation).

That’s it! It is a pretty easy process once you do it regularly, but it is fun to play around and adjust the settings to make your photos look different. I find I edit my images a bit differently in the spring versus the fall. I love that really, there are no rules.

Happy Editing friends!

P.S. visit my preset Instagram to watch some editing videos with my preset collection to see my editing workflow in action! 

Visit the Preset Shop here

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