Need Adobe Lightroom training?
In this lesson, you’ll learn advanced photo editing techniques.
This is part 4 in a fantastic series of six lessons. So if you’re not ready to tackle advanced, check out our other articles.
For the basics, read What is Adobe Lightroom?
For simpler editing techniques, try:
If you’re ready for advanced, here we’ll jump into:
- Clean up Blemishes with the Spot Removal Filter
- Red Eye Removal
- Radial & Graduated Filter
- Adjustment Brush
- Copying Settings from One Photo to Another
Ready? Let’s go!
Adobe Lightroom Advanced Photo Editing Techniques
All lessons were provided by Udemy‘s expert Lightroom instructor Phil Ebiner, and updated by my Lightroom expert Angela in April 2021.
Here are some situational edits that you might need to do to your photos using Lightroom.
The spot removal tool is the circular icon next to the crop button right above the Basic edits panel. You can also get to this tool by pressing the keyboard shortcut Q.
Choose the brush type:
Clone works similar to the Clone Stamp in Photoshop, where you will be able to copy a part of the photo to another part.
The Heal brush uses samples of the area that you select to more intelligently fix blemishes.
For fixing blemishes, choose the Heal brush.
Adjust the size, feather, and opacity of the tool using the sliders. Adjust the size so that the brush is just slightly larger than the blemish you want to remove. Add some feathering so the edges of the brush blend better with the original image.
Then hover your brush over the photo. Click the blemish. Or, click and drag to create a brush stroke over the photo. Lightroom will then try to fix the blemish by choosing another part of the image to use to cover up the blemish.
You’ll notice that once you have unclicked your mouse, a second circle with a thicker edge appears. This is the area that Lightroom has selected to heal the blemish. If this spot isn’t where you want it, you can click and drag that circle to a better spot.
To understand this practically, let’s say you are removing a pimple on someone’s cheek.
You would click the area where the pimple is. Lightroom would then choose a part of the skin that it thinks matches the pimple area.
Ideally this is a part of the skin that is close to the pimple, that will have the same skin tone and shading. You wouldn’t want to use skin from the forehead or lips to heal the pimple. So, make sure that the selected area is very similar to the skin where the blemish is.
Once you have successfully removed the blemish or blemishes (because you can repeat this process as much as you’d like while using the tool), click the Done button on the bottom right of the preview window.
Spot Removal Tool Shortcuts
|Select the Spot Removal tool
|Toggle Brush between Clone and Heal modes when Spot Removal tool is selected
|Shift + T
Lightroom makes it very easy to remove red eye caused by a bad camera flash.
Just click the Red Eye button, which is below the Histogram, next to the Spot Removal filter. Then click and drag over the center of the eye.
Lightroom will detect and remove the red eye from your selection.
The Graduated Filter is the next advanced adjustment.
Click the Graduated Filter button, which is to the right of the Red Eye Removal button below the Histogram. Or, press the keyboard shortcut M.
The graduated filter is for adjusting just one part of your image without affecting the rest.
A practical use for this filter is with horizons.
Say you have a photo of a sunset on the ocean. You can edit just the sky using this filter, adding contrast, saturation, or any number of edits.
A new panel opens up with a new set of basic adjustments. If you start adjusting these sliders, nothing will happen.
To start using this tool, click and drag across your image. You may notice that as soon as you start dragging, part of your photo changes. This is because the Exposure slider is automatically set to 1.00. You can change this later, but it is good to leave it at 1.00 so you know which side of the image you will be editing.
As you start to click and drag, you can rotate the filter so you are editing any part of the photo (top, bottom, left, right, corner, etc.). The further you click and drag, the more gradual the filter will appear from the edited part to the non-edited part of the photo.
It is generally better to have the filter be more gradual. However, if you have a horizon line or other line in your image that will mask the edits you will make with this filter, it is okay to leave the gradual transition of this filter small.
Once you have set the filter across your image, now you can make adjustments with any of the sliders in the edit panel.
You can even adjust the size, placement, and rotation of the filter line after setting it up. Click the center dot of the filter and drag to move the filter. Hover over the middle line of the filter, then click and drag to rotate. Click one of the outlines and drag it closer to or further away from the center to add a more gradual transition.
To add a new filter, click the New button at the top of the panel. Then start fresh by creating a new filter line.
To delete a filter, click the center dot of the filter and press the delete key on your keyboard.
When you are done using the Graduated Filter tool, click the Done button on the bottom right of the preview panel.
Graduated Filter Shortcuts
|Select the Graduated Filter tool
|Toggle Mask between Edit and Brush modes when the Graduated Filter or Radial Filter is selected
|Shift + T
The Radial Filter tool works very similarly to the Graduated Filter tool.
Click the Radial Filter button next to the Graduated Filter button to open up this tool and its panel. Or, you can press the keyboard shortcut Shift M.
Hover over your image in the preview window. Then click and drag to create a circular (radial) filter.
You can adjust the size by clicking the edges and dragging them in or out. You can move the filter by clicking and dragging the center button.
Make adjustments to the outside of this circle by adjusting the sliders in the Edit panel.
You can also add more or less feathering using the Feather slider at the bottom of the panel. This will make the effects appear more gradually around the circle.
If you want this filter to edit what is inside the circle rather than what is outside, click the Invert Mask checkbox.
A great practical use for this is brightening faces in a group shot.
Add an inverted radial filter mask around people’s faces to brighten them up and make them stand out. Just add some exposure and a little bit of clarity to your radial filter to make faces pop.
To create a new radial filter, click the New button at the top of the panel. Then repeat the previous steps.
When you are done using the Radial Filter tool, click the Done button on the bottom right of the preview panel.
Radial Filter Shortcuts
|Select the Radial Filter tool
|Shift + M
|Increase/decrease brush size
|] / [
|Increase/decrease brush feathering
|Shift + ] / Shift + [
The Adjustment Brush allows you to make edits to very specific parts of your image.
Click the Adjustment Brush button (to the right of the Radial Filter button) or press K on your keyboard to bring up this tool and its panel.
What you will be doing with this tool is “brushing” the parts of your image that you want to make adjustments to.
First, it will be beneficial to change the brush settings.
Increase or decrease the size of the brush by dragging the Size slider to the left or right.
Add feathering to soften the edges of the brush with the Feather slider. In most cases, it is good to have some feathering.
The Flow and Density slider adjusts how fast and how strong the adjustments take place. A Flow of less than 100 will allow the adjustment to gradually happen as you brush your photo. A Density of less than 100 will basically decrease the opacity or the strength of the effect.
Once you have set your brush settings, click and drag across your photo to “brush on” your edits. You can then adjust the edits of the brushed area by moving the adjustment sliders.
This could be used to edit very specific parts of an image (someone’s eyes, lips, teeth, etc.).
Adding saturation to lips will make them look more lush. Desaturating and brightening teeth will make them look whiter. Brightening eyes makes them look great.
Or, you could use it to create a custom vignette around a subject.
Once you are done with one brush, click the New button at the top of the panel to add a completely new adjustment brush effect.
When you are finished using the Adjustment Brush tool, click the Done button on the bottom right of the preview panel.
Adjustment Brush Shortcuts
Mac users, Alt=Option and Ctrl=Command
|Select the Adjustment Brush tool (from any module)
|Switch between local adjustment brush A and B
|Temporarily switch from brush A or B to Eraser
|Show/hide local adjustment mask overlay
|Cycle local adjustment mask overlay colors
|Shift + O
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Tone Curve adjustment
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + T
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Hue adjustment
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + H
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Saturation adjustment
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Luminance adjustment
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + L
|Select Targeted Adjustment tool to apply a Grayscale Mix adjustment
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + G
|Deselect Targeted Adjustment tool
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + N
One of the best reasons to use Lightroom is to expedite photo editing. Being able to quickly copy and paste the editing adjustments you’ve made on one photo to another makes photo editing more efficient and fun.
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer that is taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos on one day in only a few different locations, it would be painful to have to edit each photo individually. With Lightroom, you can make adjustments to one photo, copy and paste those settings to another photo, and make small adjustments if necessary.
To copy the settings of a photo, click the Copy button on the lower left.
A Copy Settings window will pop up. This is where you choose which types of adjustments you’ll want to copy to the next photo.
Select them individually, or click the Check All button on the bottom. Typically you won’t want to copy over Crop, Spot Removal, or Local Adjustments because these have to do with only that specific photo.
Once you have checked all of the settings you’d like to copy, click the copy button in the lower right side of the window.
Note: You can also open the Copy Settings window by pressing Command C (on a Mac) or Control C (on a PC) on your keyboard.
Next, open to the photo you would like to copy the selected settings to using the filmstrip. Then click the Paste button in the lower left or press the keyboard shortcut Command V (on a Mac) or Control V (on a PC).
To copy settings to multiple photos at once, select all of the photos you want to edit in the filmstrip. Use shift-click to select a series or command/control-click to select multiple photos not in a series.
Right-click one of the selected photos. Hover over Develop Settings. Then choose Paste Settings.
This will paste the settings that you previously copied to all of the photos.
Copt Settings Shortcuts
Mac users, Alt=Option and Ctrl=Command
|Copy/paste Develop settings
|Ctrl + Shift + C / Ctrl + Shift + V
|Paste settings from previous photo
|Ctrl + Alt + V
|Copy After settings to Before
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Left Arrow
|Copy Before settings to After
|Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Right Arrow
I hope you enjoyed this lesson on Lightroom Advanced Photo Editing.
Pin the image below to return later!
If you need a refresher on other editing techniques, click back to one of the other articles listed at the top, or learn How to Use Adobe Lightroom Presets.
Session 4, Adobe Lightroom Training: Advanced Photo Editing, originally appeared on Udemy and is used by permission.