Learning Adobe Lightroom for beginners?
Perfect! You’ve found part 2 of an amazing, in-depth free tutorial series.
For an introduction to the basic functions and layout, you should first read What is Adobe Lightroom?
In this lesson, you’ll learn basic photo editing:
- Editing White Balance
- Adjusting Exposure
- Adjusting Contrast
- Editing Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks
- The Clarity Tool
- The Vibrance Tool
- The Saturation Tool
- Previewing Before-and-After Photos
Click the links if you wish to jump to a specific section.
This series was graciously provided by Udemy‘s expert instructor Phil Ebiner and updated by my Lightroom expert Angela in April 2021.
How to Use Adobe Lightroom Basic Photo Editing Tools
You’ve arrived at the section we’ve all been waiting for: editing. In this section, you’ll learn about all of the basic editing tools that Lightroom offers.
First, click on the Develop module to open up the editing panels.
On the right side are all of the panels with different editing tools.
The first panel is the Basic panel. For all of these tools, there is a slider that you can move from left to right to make adjustments. You can also click the number to the right of the slider and type in a precise number of your liking.
To reset an individual slider, just double-click the name of the slider on the left For example, if you’ve moved the exposure slider to the left and want to bring it back to zero, just double-click the “exposure” text.
Editing White Balance
The first two sliders in the Basic panel have to do with white balance: temperature and tint.
Move the temperature slider to the left to add more blue (cooling down your photo). Move it to the right to add more yellow (adding warmth to your photo). Compensate with the tint slider to add more green or pink.
Another way to quickly get the correct white balance is by using the white balance selector (the eyedropper tool).
Click the tool and then hover over your photo in the preview panel.
Click on something in your photo that is supposed to be white (for example, a cloud or a white T-shirt).
Your photo will automatically adjust. Then use the sliders to fine-tune it.
Shortcuts to edit White Balance
|Auto white balance||Ctrl + Shift + U||Command + Shift + U|
|Select White Balance tool (from any module)||W||W|
The exposure slider changes the overall brightness of your photos.
Slide it to the right to increase brightness. Slide it to the left to make your photo darker.
Notice what happens to the histogram while you adjust the exposure. Remember that a well-exposed photo doesn’t have any large peaks on the right or left sides of the histogram (and at the very least, the main subject of the photo isn’t too dark or too bright).
Shortcuts to adjust Exposure
|Match total exposures||Ctrl + Alt + Shift + M||Command + Option + Shift + M|
The contrast slider makes your photo more or less contrasted.
What does that mean? Contrast has to do with how bright the highlights are, and how darks the darks are.
Increasing contrast will make the darks darker and the highlights brighter. Decreasing the contrast will make your image appear flatter.
Typically it is good to have some contrast. It makes your image pop. However, some people like having a flat-looking image. It has become a popular style.
Also know that when you add contrast to your image, it also increases the saturation.
Editing Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks
This next set of sliders is what makes Lightroom so powerful. Especially if you shoot your photos in RAW format, using the highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks sliders allows you to really get in there and fine-tune different parts of your image.
All of these sliders work the same. Moving to the left will make the corresponding parts of your image darker, and moving to the right will make them brighter.
If you have an overexposed image, which means it is too bright, decreasing the highlights slider will add more detail to the highlights.
If your shadows are too dark, move that slider to the right.
The Clarity Tool
The clarity slider quickly sharpens and adds contrast to your image.
Use this tool sparingly with photos of people, as it intensifies people’s blemishes and wrinkles. A good time to add clarity is with photos of landscapes and nature.
If you’re looking to do a quick HDR effect in Lightroom, slide the clarity slider all the way to the right.
The Vibrance Tool
The vibrance and saturation tools do a similar thing to your photos: they add more color. However, they work very differently.
The vibrance slider is a smart tool that adds saturation to desaturated colors, while leaving the colors that are already saturated unchanged.
The vibrance slider doesn’t increase saturation in skin tones, which is great because adding a lot of saturation to normal skin tones will make them look unnatural.
The Saturation Tool
With the saturation tool, you are adding or decreasing the saturation of all colors in your photo.
Adding a little bit of saturation can make your photos come alive. However, be careful not to add too much saturation.
To quickly create a black-and-white photo in Lightroom, drag the saturation slider all the way to the left to -100.
Shortcut to adjust Saturation
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Saturation adjustment||Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S||Command + Option + Shift + S|
Previewing Before-and-After Photos
After you’ve edited your photo, it might be helpful to see a side-by-side comparison of before and after.
To do this, click the side-by-side button at the bottom of the preview window. Click the button again to cycle through different before-and-after views.
Basic Photo Editing in Lightroom
Now you know the basics! Pin the image below to refer to later.
When you’re ready, return for more advanced Adobe Lightroom tutorials:
→ Intermediate Photo Editing Tools
→ Advanced Photo Editing Techniques
→ Using Adobe Lightroom Presets
This Adobe Lightroom tutorial, Adobe Lightroom for Beginners: Basic Photo Editing Tools, originally appeared on Udemy and is used by permission.
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