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Category Archives: Photo Editor

Category Archives: Photo Editor

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Develop Module Straightening photos Computer recommendations Importing Photos >] will increase the settings by 1/3rd of a stop for exposure, or +/- 5 for the other effects. 

This panel is mostly useful when reviewing pictures side by side. If the images are part of a set, like a print album, this can help you see which images are not the same white balance as the others. 

Using Lightroom catalogues

The Lightroom Catalogue is a file that stores all of the information related to every photograph you edit in Lightroom. It is possible to make more than one catalogue, although it’s not always advisable. Before you import your first photo, every catalogue is over megabytes in size! So these files will take up a lot of hard drive space. For reference, my current catalogue has over 48, photos and is only Gb, just over the size of empty catalogues. 

As well, if the catalogues are not properly named, they can be confusing and cumbersome to use and backup. There are times and places for when to use new catalogues, though. If you transfer your files between editors, having a catalogue with smart previews solely for specific sets of images can be extremely powerful. That said, you can also import photos and their edits from another catalogue, and export a set of images as it’s own catalogue for these purposes. 

To make a new Lightroom Classic Catalogue: 

  1. Open Lightroom Classic
  2. Under file, click New Catalogue
  3. Give a descriptive name to the Catalogue, and press Create

Lightroom will then automatically open the new catalogue so you can begin editing. 

Importing and Exporting catalogues

To export a set of images as a catalogue: 

  1. Open Lightroom Classic
  2. Select all images in the set you’d like to export using Ctrl+A (Cmd+A on mac)
  3. Under file, click export as catalogue, give the file a descriptive name, and click Save

Additional options that you’ll be given when exporting a catalogue:

  1. Export Negative Files &#; means that Lightroom will copy a new set of Raw files into the catalogue folder. This will increase the folder size by the same amount as the raw files.
  2. Build/Include Smart Previews &#; This option will build smart previews or include the ones that were built previously. Smart Previews are lightweight image previews that are editable like raw files, but without taking up much extra space. This is an extremely handy alternative to sending raws over the internet. 
  3. Include Available Previews &#; Lightroom will package the previews your computer-generated on import, and while editing the images. These can help the other editor save a slight bit of time, but will add additional weight to the files you’re sending. I personally don’t recommend this. 

Importing from another catalogue will bring those raw files or Smart Previews and their edits into your catalogue. This way you can keep your own organization while working with another person’s files. 

  1. Open your Lightroom Classic Catalogue
  2. File, Import from Another Catalogue
  3. Find the unzipped file on your computer, and click Choose

And that’s it! After this, you’ll be an expert at collaborating on sets with other photographers. This is especially useful if you’d like to outsource your own edits or become a freelance image editor. Bonus tip: You can leave quick notes for your editor with the brush tool. Make the brush as small as possible without feathering, bring blacks and exposure all the way down, and write away.

Using the Develop Module

The Develop module is where most of the editing magic happens. This part of the guide is meant to show you the different tools and functions that are available to you. Every editor will have a different workflow, so some of these tools will be more useful to you.

If you want to get into the weeds of editing, click here to go to the editing section. 

Las vegas photography spots


Navigator, and zooming in on your photo in Lightroom

The Navigator is the smaller image in the top left corner of the Develop Module. This image will always stay the same size, adjusted for your screen, and helps you see where you’re zooming in on your image. The further you zoom in to edit or check a photo, the more likely you are to get lost. When you’re zoomed in, the white outline on the navigator will show you which part of the photograph you’re currently looking at. 

One frustrating thing about Lightroom is that you can only zoom in by three variable numbers that you can set yourself. By default, Lightroom automatically sets these values to fit, %, and %. But it can be changed to zoom in as much as 1,% for the pixel peepers out there. If you press the spacebar in the Develop Module, you will zoom in on the middle of your image to the larger percentage value. Press the spacebar again, and you’ll zoom out. Double click on a specific area of the image, and it will zoom in where you click. 

You can also look around the image by clicking on different areas on the navigator, or by clicking and holding while moving the mouse. To change the amounts that you zoom in on an image, click the set of arrows on the right side where it shows the percentages above the navigator. Choose the zoom level you’d like to use from the drop-down list. And next time you double click, it’ll go in by that prescribed percentage. 

History and Snapshots

The history options in Lightroom let you see exactly what edits you’ve made to an image. This can let you see how an image has changed at every single change. If something went wrong, you can go back and fix it at a moment&#;s notice, but you’ll have to give up all of the history states that came after that edit. 

You’ll find the history panel on the left side of the develop module, just underneath the Navigator (description above). 

Snapshots allow the editor to save and label different states of the editing process. Once you get to a point that you like, you can save a history state so that if you go off and make some crazier changes to the colors and contrast, you can always get back to where you were. Create a snapshot by pressing the plus button next to the Snapshot title, found on the left of the Develop Module underneath Presets, and above History. You’ll have the option to give your snapshot a descriptive name before saving it. 



Presets are one of the most powerful tools available in Lightroom. They can reduce your editing time by hours with just a single click! It’s one of my favourite things to show new photographers because these can help show you want your images can look like. Over time, I always suggest experimenting and developing your own presets, as these will help you build a cohesive body of work. 

There are two places to apply presets to your photos: 

  1. On the right side of the Library Module. in the quick editing. Here, you can add a preset using the drop-down menu. 
  2. On the left side of the Develop Module. Here, you can mouse over presets to see a preview on your image. Click the preset to apply the settings changes. 

If you recently bought presets, you can import them into Lightroom using these quick steps:

  1. Go into the Develop Module in Lightroom
  2. On the left-hand side, click the Plus Button next to Presets
  3. Scroll down and click Import Presets
  4. Find your preset pack in a .zip folder, and click Import

Of course, there’s a lot more to learn about using Presets in Lightroom. If you’re ready to learn more, I’ve written an in-depth article about using and creating presets here. Or, if you’re interested, I’ve created a set of my own presets that I’m giving away! Take a look at these free presets that I’ve used for many of my own award-winning fine art landscape photographs.

Using the Histogram

The histogram is your best friend. In Lightroom, you can see the histogram in a very prominent position in the Develop Module. It’s the waveform diagram in the top right, just above the editing panel that shows you exactly which parts of the image contain the most information. 

This piece of technology works just like an audio waveform. If it’s too far to the right, the image is overexposed and might be losing detail in the brightest parts of the image. Too far to the left, and you’ll have all of the highlight information, but you’ll be sacrificing a lot of shadows. The general rule is underexposed images can be brought back, although they’ll be noisier, and have less detail. But if an image is overexposed, there’s no saving it. Overexposed highlights cannot be brought back by turning down the exposure, highlights, or whites sliders in the basic editing panel &#; they’ll simply come out grey. 

So the histogram is an especially useful tool when you’re out in the field. If you keep an eye on the one built into your camera, you’ll be sure to always come back with the best exposure for each situation. Learn more about reading the histogram in this quick, handy article.

Getting started with Photo Editing

Here’s where the magic happens. In this section, I’ll be going over the basics of editing in Lightroom. These are the steps that you’ll be doing on nearly every photo, even if you’re using presets! All of these edits are simple, and fun to experiment with.

Basic editing panel

The basic editing panel is where all photo manipulation starts. This panel, on the right side of the Develop Module, is where you control effects like exposure (how bright an image is overall). The basic editing panel is divided into three sections: White Balance, Toning, and Presence. 

White Balance

The white balance section controls the overall temperature and the tint of a photo. The temperature will control how yellow (hot) or blue (cold) an image is, and the tint controls how green or magenta. Both of these controls work in tandem to produce different effects, like a cold, winter day, or a hot, sunny evening. 

You can also choose a white point in the photo, which will make Lightroom automatically adjust the white balance to make that object white. To do this, click the White Balance Selector tool, or press W, then click on the part of the image that you’d like to be white. On the top right of the White Balance section, there is a drop-down menu that will let you choose between white balance as shot, auto, or custom. If you move the sliders or choose a white point yourself, Lightroom will automatically change the white balance setting to “Custom.” To reset any white balance settings, double click the word Temperature or Tint. 

Learn more about these controls, and how to use them to correct inaccurate color casts, like those from Neutral Density filters in this article.

Click this image to find out why RVing is the best way to travel for landscape photographers!


The toning section has sliders for exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks. Pull the sliders to the right, and different parts of the image will become brighter. To the left, and they will become darker. The only exception is the first section is the contrast slider. If the image is overall dark, increasing the contrast by moving the slider to the right will darken the image, and will brighten it by moving it to the left. 

You can increase the dynamic range to see every detail in your photos by pulling the shadows slider to the right, and the highlights slider to the left. But be careful, digital photos have a lot of detail in the shadows, but not as much in the highlights. If you&#;d like to learn other methods on how to increase the shadows without ruining your images, take a look at this guide. 

Just like with White Balance, and any slider, if you double click the name of the effect, it will go back to zero. 


This is where you control how saturated, sharp, and punchy an image is. Be careful, though, it’s very easy to overdo it with these sliders and create unrealistic looking images. When used effectively, these will liven up dull images, or decease the punchiness if you’re looking for a film effect. 

The texture slider affects only the texture, but not the sharp lines of an image. This is a perfect effect for subtly softening part of the image to make it stand out less, or reducing the texture of the skin. Next is clarity, which will sharpen every existing line in an image, and can bring out grain or ISO noise. While the clarity slider is promising, it cannot save an unsharp image. You can also have more control over the sharpness of an image in the Detail, Sharpening, and Noise Reduction settings. 

The Dehaze slider affects multiple settings in both the Presence and Toning sections. Using this slider will increase contrast, saturation, and clarity while reducing the shadows and blacks. The effect of the dehaze slider brings more punch to cloudy, hazy, or slightly blurry sections. This effect can be used to effectively reduce smog or other atmospheric conditions that blur a section of the photograph. 

Last on the list is the Saturation and Vibrance sliders. These affect how strong the color is. Vibrance will only affect the duller, muted colors to bring them to the same level as the punchier tones in an image, while Saturation affects all colors equally. For more advanced color management, you will have more control over saturation and vibrance in the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance (HSL) panel.

Turning Photos Black and White

At the very top of the Basic Editing Panel is a control, called treatment, where you can choose if your photo is color, or black and white. By default, all photos use the Color treatment. To make your photo Black and White, simply click the words, Black and White. A black and white preview file will then be generated in front of your eyes. 

Once a photo is Black and White, you’ll have access to an additional panel below the Tone Curve called B&W. This panel has a set of RGB sliders that will adjust the Black and White image by the color data from the original color images. For example, if you slide the green slider to the left, all of the parts of the image that were green in the original will become darker. This can be used to create contrast, as well as effects like filters in Black and White Film. For example, you can darken the sky by pulling the blue slider down — just like using a red filter in B&W film.  

There is also a picker in the top left corner. If you click that icon, you can click any spot on the photo, and drag to the left to darken their respective colors. This is a very powerful tool for creating unique B&W contrast. 

Sync, autosync, and Previous

These are tools that you’ll need for batch editing. The Sync/Autosync, and Previous button is located at the bottom of the editing panel on the right side of the Develop Module, just above the film strip. These buttons are used to synchronize your edits between photos. 

The Previous button synchronizes every edit made on the image before it. If you’re batch editing, making quick changes to every photograph, this can be very useful for ensuring each image has the same contrast. However, once you start cropping, straightening, and applying local adjustments, the previous button will apply those to the next image, which could take more time to fix than starting fresh. 

In that case, it can be useful to use the Synchronize button, which will allow you to choose which edits are applied to the synchronized photographs. To use the Sync button: 

  1. Click the photo with the edits you’d like to synchronize onto other photos.
  2. Holding Ctrl (Command on Mac), click each other image that you’d like to synchronize the edits onto
  3. Click the Sync button at the bottom of the editing panel
  4. Check the boxes next to the photos that you’d like to apply the synchronizations, and uncheck the settings that you don’t want to be applied
  5. Press Synchronize

But what if I need more synchronization power?

Okay, but what if there was a button that would allow you to simultaneously edit an unlimited amount of photographs? Would that be too much power for one man? According to Adobe, no, it’s just enough power for one wo/man, and it’s called AutoSync. 

To turn on AutoSync, hit the light switch on the left side of the Sync button, and you’ll see the text-transform. Now, select all of the images that you’d like to AutoSync, and start editing to your heart’s content. Be sure to turn AutoSync off when making local adjustments or cropping! 

AutoSync isn’t used all that much for normal editing. But it is an especially useful feature when making overall adjustments to presets. 

Cropping and straightening to follow composition rules


Straightening, Cropping, and Composition Rules

I almost never take photos that don’t need some kind of cropping. Even with zoom lenses, it can be difficult to properly compose an image using such a small viewfinder. Luckily, with large sensors and modern technology, cropping and re-composing in Post Production is an easy, and necessary task for every photographer to learn. 

The crop tool is at the top of the editing panel in the Develop Module. On the left side, just below the histogram is a square with the Rule of Thirds drawn inside. Click this square or press R to begin cropping an image. By default, you’ll see the Rule of Thirds overlay on the image. Press O to see different composition Rules overlays, and hold Shift + O to rotate or adjust the overlays. 

While the crop tool is open, click and drag the overlay from the sides to crop the image. Press enter or click Done at the bottom right corner when you’re finished cropping. 

By default, Lightroom will allow you to crop to any aspect ratio. Hold shift while cropping to maintain the aspect ratio, or click the padlock in the editing panel to lock the aspect ratio in. If you want to crop to a specific aspect ratio, like square, or the cinematic aspect ratio, click the drop-down menu where that says “Original Ratio” (beside the padlock) and choose your desired ratio. 

To rotate an image, hover your mouse just outside the corners of the crop overlay, and click and drag to rotate the image. You can also automatically level, rotate, or align the images in the Transform panel. 

Learn more about cropping, rotating, straightening, and flipping images in this helpful article. 

Japanese Maple Before Dodge and BurnDodge and burn made this photo

Dodging, Burning, Brushing, and local adjustments in Lightroom

Some of the most powerful tools in Lightroom can be found in the local adjustments section. This is all the tool to the right of the crop tool, just below the histogram in the editing panel in lightroom. The local adjustments include the Adjustment Brush (K), Radial Filter (Shift + M), and the Gradient Tool (M). 

All of these tools can be used to add any of the basic editing effects to different parts of the image, instead of making overall adjustments. In many cases, these can make it unnecessary to even open Photoshop! 

Both the Radial (Shift+M) and the Gradient (M) filters feather an effect across an area. The gradient tool can be used to burn (darken) a sky or dodge (lighten) a foreground. The Radial Filter tool can be used to make a vignette. 

Learn more about how to use adjustment brushes to make fine-art landscapes easily in Lightroom in this handy guide. 

Tone Curve

Have you ever wanted control of not just the highlights or shadows, but a very specific region of those tones? Well, the tone curve is exactly what you’re looking for. In some of the latest updates, Lightroom has changed curves to give you control of the overall exposure, and the exposure of the RGB spectrum. 

If those sentences have you frothing at the mouth over the power of curves, you’re not the only one. This is one of those editing methods that once you know how to use, you’ll never be able to go back to regular sliders. 

When you open the Tone Curve Panel just under the basic editing panel, it will look very foreign. There is a square panel with a histogram and a line running at a degree angle from bottom left to top right. This looks like something nerds came up with in But like most things nerds made in (cough, Microsoft Excel, cough), there’s tremendous power underneath that horrendous graphical user interface. 

Blacks -> Shadows -> Midtones -> Highlights -> Whites

The simplest way to explain it is the highlights are on the top right, mid-tones in the middle, and shadows on the bottom left. If you click the line, you’ll make a point that can be dragged upwards to increase exposure, or downwards to decrease the exposure. 

So, the first experiment should always be to add a bit of contrast. Since contrast is the difference between highlights and shadows, you can increase the shadows by bringing up the highlights section and decreasing the shadows section. This is called an S-Curve. If you want to learn more, I’ll be writing an advanced guide on curves coming up soon. 

Color contrast making the composition


Hue, Saturation, Luminance

The Hue, Saturation, and Luminance sliders are one of the most powerful tools for color grading in Lightroom. These sliders allow the user to selectively alter each color in the spectrum, to make them brighter, more saturated, or different colors altogether. These are used in almost every preset pack out there because they are the key to getting the kind of look you’re going for. Here’s how they’re used. 

Getting started with HSL

The Hue section selectively changes the color tones. If you don’t like the way greens look on a digital sensor, you can bring them more into the blue or the yellow spectrum. Say your image has a lot of teal and red, you can get that cinematic Teal and Orange color profile by bringing the reds more towards the oranges. When you need to learn a bit more about color theory, adobe has some amazing resources on it at 

Saturation is how vibrant the color is. These sliders make the individual colors in the spectrum more or less vibrant depending on which way you move them. The reason this is so powerful is it you have a unique landscape photo, but there’s one jarring red object that’s taking away from the image, you can desaturate that color to take attention away from it. 

Luminance is how bright a certain color is. With these sliders, you’re able to make greens darker or brighter to suit the image. As well, if you’re photographing people and you like having a dark background, bringing up the orange luminance slider can bring most skin tones out of the shadows without doing much work. 

This tool also has a color picker in the top right corner. If you click this and then choose the color that you’d like to increase luminance, saturation, or change the hue, you can change it simply by clicking and dragging left or right. The HSL panel is a brilliant place to learn how to color grade, and use color contrast to make your images stand out. 

Detail, sharpening, and Noise Reduction

The Detail panel is broken down into two sections: Sharpening and Noise Reduction. 

Sharpening in the Detail Panel will give you more control over which lines are sharpened, compared with just increasing the Clarity slider in the Basic Editing Panel. The sharpening section is broken down into four sliders:

  • Amount &#; move this slider to the right to increase the amount of sharpening
  • Radius &#; the number of pixels that will be sharpened next to the hard lines. By default, Lightroom will sharpen 1 pixel on each side of the lines, but you can increase this as desired for a more or less subtle look. 
  • Detail &#; controls what lines are being sharpened. The default values will only sharpen large, contrasty lines, but high values will sharpen smaller lines in the image. If this is increased too much, it can result in some extra image noise. 
  • Masking &#; works the opposite as detail. Increasing the masking will only apply sharpening to the boldest edges in the image. Hold Alt (Option on Mac) while dragging the slider to see which lines are being sharpened. 

Sharpening with this tool will allow you to sharpen only the in-focus areas, leaving the bokeh soft and beautiful. 

How Noise Reduction in Lightroom works

Noise Reduction

Noise reduction comes in two sections. Luminance and Color, both with the same controls. Luminance reduces the overall noise in an image, but moving it to far to the right will reduce the solid edges of the image, making it look unrealistically soft. To fix this, Lightroom added the detail and contrast sliders. Moving these sliders to the right will reduce the luminance effect on the sharp edges of an image, but can also reduce the overall noise-reduction effect. 

Using a combination of the three sliders will help to reduce image noise, but it cannot save an overly-noisy image and retain the details that the image holds. 

Color noise reduction setting decreases the effect of color noise in the image. This will reduce the bright red, blue, purple, or other pixels that happen when images are shot in the dark using a high ISO setting, without affecting the overall sharpness of the image. Learn more about using Noise Reduction in Lightroom here. 

Lens and Chromatic Aberration corrections

Lightroom makes Lens distortion and vignetting Corrections and Chromatic Aberration fixes an absolute breeze! Both of these can be done automatically with the click of a button, or if that’s not enough, the program has additional ways to help reduce or fix the issues. Lightroom has a library of almost every lens ever made and has programmed in automatic distortion and vignetting (darkened corners) for all of them. Enabling profile corrections will remove the vignetting and the distortion in just a single click!

In the Develop Module, scroll down the editing panels until you see Lens Corrections just below the Detail panel. Click the second checkbox from the top to enable profile corrections. Lightroom may not automatically be able to make the corrections if you’re using certain lenses or lens converters that don’t communicate electronically with the camera. In that case, you can select the lens Make (or brand), then the model (usually the focal length and aperture), and finally the profile if there were different versions. 

Bonus tip: put profile corrections and defringing into a preset to make this process even faster.

When automatic isn’t enough.

If profile corrections don’t have your lens or didn’t do enough to fix bad Chromatic Aberrations, those red, blue, green, or magenta lines on the sides of sharp lines, simply click the first checkbox at the top of the Lens Corrections panel. If that doesn’t completely solve the issue, you can fix the problem manually. On the top of the Lens Correction panel are the words Profile > Importing Photos >>. The outside arrows [<< Curves

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