Whatever you choose to shoot, there are certain Lightroom tools an options that will prove indispensable. In this Adobe Lightroom tutorial we will show you six essential edits in Lightroom’s Develop Module that will benefit almost every image you take.
Just like a camera that’s crammed with lots of features and settings, we like our image-editing software to come with a multitude of tools. But one of the biggest stumbling blocks for beginners, whether learning about new gear or new software, is figuring out which features are vital from the get-go, and which can be left to explore another day.
As a case in point, take the Lightroom Import Dialog. After conducting research, Adobe found it to be a big stumbling block for beginners, so it recently released an update that simplified the Import experience.
The changes were met with outrage from seasoned users, who dubbed it ‘Lightroom for Dummies’ because many tools and settings they used daily had either been removed or hidden behind sub-menus. Such was the vitriol that – after a grovelling apology – Adobe promptly performed a U-turn and restored the old settings.
The point is that pros and experienced users love Lightroom and all its intricacies for the way they integrate with their own particular workflow.
But for beginners, all those tools and settings that seasoned users find so useful can crowd out more basic and essential features.
So in this Adobe Lightroom tutorial we’ll cover just the essentials: those indispensable Lightroom editing features you’ll need to use for practically every image.
The bulk of image editing in Lightroom is done in the Develop Module, so we’ll focus on that here. We’ll guide you through the process of importing an image, fixing white balance, applying essential tonal tweaks, cropping, sharpening and exporting.
This is a workflow that, regardless of the image content, you’ll find is the backbone of most Lightroom image-editing tasks.
The essential Lightroom Develop Module workflow
01 Download and import
Go to the Library Module and click Import. Navigate to your image or images. If they’re already copied to your hard drive set File Handling to Add, but if they’re on a memory card you may want to set File Handling to Copy, and choose a destination folder. Hit Import.
02 Fix the white balance
Choose the image you want to edit, then click the Develop Module. Go to the Basic panel and start by fixing the colours. Click the Eyedropper tool that’s beside the Temperature slider and click on an area that should be neutral, like the grey bit of the wall here.
03 Set white and black points
Work down the sliders to adjust the exposure and contrast, then set the white and black points: hold Shift and double-click on Whites and Blacks to do this automatically. To boost colours either use Saturation, or increase Vibrance to target just the paler colours.
04 Non-destructive cropping
Take the Crop tool from the toolbar. A menu will appear below the toolbar where you can choose an aspect ratio for the crop. As with all Lightroom edits the crop isn’t set in stone, so you can go back and tweak the crop at any time by selecting the Crop tool.
05 Sharpen the details
To sharpen an image, go to the Detail panel (for a tidier interface, right-click any panel name and enable Solo Mode – all the other panels will auto-collapse). Amount controls the strength of the sharpening, and Radius the width of the edges that are sharpened.
06 Presets and export
Presets enable you to save settings you’ve applied to one image for use on others. Open the Preset panel, and click the ‘+’ icon to add a preset. Finally, to save a new version of an image, go to File>Export, choose a destination and file format, then hit Export.
For a before/after view of a slider’s effect, alternate between a single and double click on the slider without moving the cursor
When you import an image into Lightroom its location on your hard drive is logged in the catalog, which is why Lightroom struggles to find images if you move them around your drive or rename them later.
And remember that when you adjust an image you’re not altering its pixels – you’re simply changing the way Lightroom displays the image, with your edits stored as additional data in the Lightroom catalog.
Beginners may be confused into thinking the catalog is an image library, but it’s not (the file size is usually not more than a gigabyte); it’s simply a log of where images are, and what has been altered.
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