Looking for an Adobe Lightroom free tutorial?
You’ve found not just one, but an awesome series of lessons!
Here, you’ll learn the intermediate photo editing tools:
- Cropping a Photo
- Using the Tone Curve
- How to Sharpen an Image
- How to Remove Noise from an Image
- Lens Corrections
- Adding a Vignette
- Adding grain to a photo
Read them all, or click a link to jump to a specific section.
How to Use Lightroom Intermediate Photo Editing Tools
This next set of tools gives you more editing control to make your photos look even better. Most of these tools are in the panels below the Basic panel.
The crop tool is an exception and can be found by clicking the Crop button right above the Basic panel.
Be sure you’ve covered the basics of the program in the article What is Adobe Lightroom?
Not ready for intermediate? For an introduction to photo editing in Adobe Lightroom, read about Basic Photo Editing Tools.
These lessons were graciously provided by Udemy‘s expert instructor Phil Ebiner, and updated in April 2021 by my Lightroom expert Angela.
Taking photos that are perfectly composed is difficult. That is why we crop photos after the fact.
To crop a photo in Lightroom, click the Crop button, which is between the histogram and Basic panel on the right side. You can also press the keyboard shortcut R to open the crop tool.
Quickly crop by clicking on one of the sides or corners of the new outline that appears around your photo in the preview window.
To rotate your image, hover over the outside of a corner of your image, click and drag to the left or right.
You can also click and drag the photo itself, moving it within your new crop bounding box.
Once you are done cropping the photo, press return on your keyboard or click the crop button to close the crop panel.
There are also a number of options in the crop panel that appear after clicking the crop button that affect the way you crop your photos.
First is the Aspect. Click in the Original text to the right of the text Aspect: to bring up different aspect ratio options. The aspect ratio of your photo is ratio of width to height. Choose one of the included aspect ratios or create one of your own.
Use this if you want to create a very wide or square photo. A square photo would have an aspect of 1:1.
To quickly create a custom aspect, click the icon to the left of the Aspect: text, and then click and drag in your preview window to create a custom aspect.
Lock and unlock the aspect ratio by clicking the lock icon on the top right of the crop panel.
An easy way to rotate your image is by adjusting the Angle. Move the slider to the left or right to rotate.
To quickly rotate your image so that the horizon or a particular line in your photo is level, click the level icon to the left of the Angle slider. Then click and drag, drawing a line in your preview window, along the horizon or the line in your photo that you want to be straight.
Switch the orientation of your crop by pressing X on the keyboard.
Tip: Use the lines in the crop editor to help compose your image using the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds states that images are more appealing when the focal point (the main subject) sits on the intersection of the third lines.
Keyboard shortcuts for Cropping
|Select the Crop tool (from any module)||R||R|
|Constrain aspect ratio when Crop tool is selected||A||A|
|Crop to same aspect ratio as previous crop||Shift + A||Shift + A|
|Crop from center of photo||Alt-drag||Option-drag|
|Cycle Crop grid overlay||O||O|
|Cycle Crop grid overlay orientation||Shift + O||Shift + O|
|Switch crop between portrait and landscape orientation||X||X|
|Reset crop||Ctrl + Alt + R||Command + Option + R|
The tone curve is another way to adjust the exposure and contrast of your photos.
In the Tone Curve panel, there is a box with a diagonal line going through it. Clicking and dragging anywhere on the line will create a new point in the line.
You can also adjust the line by using the sliders beneath this box.
Again, you can adjust the highlights, lights, darks, and shadows of an image with the tone curve.
You might have heard of the “S-Curve” when it comes to photo editing. This is the type of curve that adds contrast to your photo.
To get an S-Curve, drag the highlights up and drag the darks down. This makes the line in the Tone Curve appear S-shaped, adding contrast to your image.
Shortcut for using the Tone Curve
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Tone Curve adjustment||Ctrl + Alt + Shift + T||Command + Option + Shift + T|
Below the Tone Curve panel is the HSL / Color / B&W panel. Click on the respective text to open up the editing module in that panel.
HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance.
- Hue changes the color tones of a photo.
- Saturation adjusts the saturation of specific colors in a photo.
- Luminance adjusts to the brightness of a specific color.
With the HSL panel selected, and the Hue tab selected within that panel, you’ll see a variety of color sliders. Dragging any of these sliders to the left or right will change the hue of the respective color range.
For example, dragging the Orange slider to the left will make the orange-colored part of your photo more red. Dragging to the right will make those parts more yellow.
The Saturation and Luminance tabs work the same way.
In the saturation tab, dragging the Blue slider to the left will desaturate just the blues of your photo.
Using this tool, you can desaturate your entire image except for one color. To do this, drag all of the color sliders to the left. Then choose the one color you want to remain saturated, and drag it to the right.
You can use this tool to make blue skies look more blue without affecting the rest of the photo. Another example would be making a red flower brighter in a field of green grass.
Another way to use this tool is by clicking the little circle icon on the top left of this panel. Then click any part of your photo in the preview panel and drag it up and down. This will adjust the Hue, Saturation, or Luminance of that color, depending on what tab you are in.
Shortcuts for Lightroom HSL
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Hue adjustment||Ctrl + Alt + Shift + H||Command + Option + Shift + H|
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Saturation adjustment||Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S||Command + Option + Shift + S|
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Luminance adjustment||Ctrl + Alt + Shift + L||Command + Option + Shift + L|
The Color tab in this panel is actually the same as the HSL tab. In the Color tab, you are just viewing each color, one at a time with all three options: Hue, Saturation, and Luminance.
The Black-and-White tab is just for adjusting the luminance of individual colors. Since with a black-and-white image there is no color, you can’t adjust the saturation and hue of those colors.
NEW: Color Grading Tool
One of the new features added to Lightroom is the Color Grading Tool. This replaces the Split Toning Tool.
The Color Grading Tool lets you introduce a specific color to your photos. You can add it into shadows, midtones, or highlights. Or across the whole image.
Two sliders let you control how it is added. This includes things like heavier in the darks or brights or how much overlap there is.
The color wheels allow you to select the color for the three areas and there’s an eye icon to let you toggle this on or off.
There are also blending and balance sliders. As with most things in Lightroom, simply give them a try to see how they work.
Color Grading Shortcuts
There are a couple of basic shortcuts that work when you are using this section:
- Shift – adjusts only saturation
- Command/CTRL – adjusts only the hue
- Option/ALT – makes controls less sensitive and easier to use for more accurate results
You can also combine them so Option/ALT + Up will increase saturation by 1 while Option/ALT + Shift + Up will increase it by 10.
One of the most popular questions about editing a photo is: How do you sharpen an image?
Luckily, Lightroom has some amazing sharpening tools. You can access the sharpening tools in the Detail panel.
The Amount slider adds more or less sharpening.
If editing a RAW image, the default setting will be 25. If editing a JPEG, it will be set to 0.
Be careful when sharpening an image. It is very easy to over-sharpen. This will create harsh lines at the edges of objects. Sharpening will also add noise.
The Radius slider adjusts the size of sharpening around edges. What the number corresponds to is how many pixels from the edge is being sharpened.
1.0 means sharpening spreads 1 pixel from the edges in your photo. It is recommended to keep this number below 1.5.
The Detail slider adjusts how much sharpening happens around the edges of a photo. Setting Detail to 0 will only sharpen very large edges. A higher value above 75 will sharpen even small edges. A higher number means more noise, so try to stay around or below 50.
The Masking slider decreases noise created by the amount and detail sliders. This is a great tool for photos with blurry backgrounds or lots of negative space that doesn’t need to be sharpened.
Like everything in photography, sharpening is a delicate balance between all of these settings.
When you shoot a photo in a darker situation with a high ISO, with most cameras the photo will end up having digital noise.
First, you have to know what type of noise you have.
Zoom into your photo where it is very noisy by clicking on the image in the preview panel at that spot. Is the noise a bunch of multicolored pixels when it should be a solid color? Or are the pixels less colorful, looking more like grain?
Decrease noise in your photos by dragging the Luminance or Color slider to the right.
Start around 25 and see how it looks. Sliding it too far to the right will make your images look fake. Use the before-and-after views to see how the noise is being reduced.
The Detail slider will adjust the noise threshold. Sliding to the right will allow more detail, which might mean more noise. Sliding to the left will decrease the detail, and therefore decrease the noise.
Under the Luminance slider is the contrast slider. Decreasing the contrast will create a smoother image, but will also decrease the contrast of your image.
Under the Noise slider is the smoothness slider, which will try to smooth out any color splotches/pixelation that occurs with the noise.
The Lens Corrections panel contains a lot of advanced editing tools that we won’t go into in this tutorial. The main thing you’ll want to know about is enabling profile corrections based on your lens.
Each lens is different. Because of the shape and quality of lenses, you might end up with curved or vignetted edges.
To correct for these and other lens differences, Lightroom allows you to automatically adjust what your photo looks like based on the lens you shot with.
Open the Lens Corrections panel. Click Profile. Check the box next to Enable Profile Corrections.
If you used a lens that Lightroom recognizes, choose Auto from the Setup dropdown menu. Otherwise, choose Custom. Then choose the Make, Model, and Profile of your lens.
Once you’ve done this, your photo will adjust. Typically the edges of your photo will warp to make your photo flatter without any edge distortion. Any vignetting due to your lens might be brightened.
Obviously, this isn’t a necessary adjustment. Most photographers choose a lens because they like how it looks. They like the natural vignetting. So, this is by no means an adjustment you’re required to make.
One of the last editing panels is the Effects panel. In this panel, you can add post-crop vignetting.
What does post-crop vignetting mean? It means that you can add a vignette to the cropped edges of your photo, and not the pre-cropped edges.
First, choose the Style of vignetting.
- Highlight Priority allows the highlights to show through a vignette. This is good for images of bright skies or other images with bright edges.
- Color Priority won’t adjust for the highlights of your photo.
- Paint Overlay is basically just adding a vignette layer to your photo without adjusting for anything in the photo.
Highlight Priority creates a more natural vignette.
Next, move the Amount slider to the right or left. Sliding to the left will add a dark vignette. Sliding to the right will add a light or white vignette.
The Midpoint slider increases or decreases the size of the vignette. Slide to the left to make the vignette bigger (closer to the center of the image). Slide to the right to make the vignette smaller (closer to the photo edges).
The Roundness slider changes the type of vignette from a round to square vignette. Dragging to the left will create a more square-like vignette.
The Feather slider adds more feathering to the vignette. Drag all the way to the left to create a solid frame. Drag all the way to the right to make the vignette fade softly from the midpoint to the edges.
Lastly, the Highlights slider allows or disallows the highlights to shine through the vignette. Dragging to the left will block the highlights from coming through the vignette. Dragging to the right will allow the highlights to show through the vignette.
Another effect you might want to add to your photos is grain.
Drag the Amount slider to the right to add more grain to your image.
Drag the Size slider to the right to make the grain particles bigger.
Drag the Roughness slider to the right to make the grain more jagged and contrasted.
There are more Adobe Lightroom free tutorials!
You’ve finished lesson three on intermediate photo editing tools.
We covered a lot. Pin the image below to Pinterest so you can return for a refresher!
You might want to jump into Using Adobe Lightroom Presets next.
Or perhaps you’re ready for Advanced Lightroom Photo Editing Techniques.
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This lesson, Adobe Lightroom Free Tutorial: Intermediate Photo Editing, originally appeared on Udemy and is used by permission.