Editing in Lightroom (Part 2 in Series)

It’s no lie that Lightroom is amazing for photographers. Of course it’s not the only software but I highly recommend it. I also cannot emphasize enough, how important it is to have a good structure for data management. This includes keeping files organized, archives, and backups of all your images. This is the second post in a Lightroom Workflow Series (Part 1 can be found here). I created this series to give you a quick overview of the process I go through when editing pictures.

Below is a before and after of an image from this past fall. In the end, I did not like the harsh contrast of light on his face and did not use this image. The after image shows usage of changing the white balance, muting colors, modifying exposure, and lens correction.

Riding Firetruck BeforeRiding Firetruck After

Within Lightroom the Develop Tab is where the magic happens. Below is a screenshot that shows what you’ll see when you switch to it. I’ve hidden the film strip at the bottom as well as the menu on the left showing presets and history. Hiding these menus will scale the image size accordingly. Even if you’re working with presets, you don’t really need those windows open when editing.

Lightroom Develop Tab

The first and most useful tool is the histogram. Even if you’re monitor is not calibrated, the histogram will give you a good overview of the exposure of your image. Technically you should be using the histogram on the back of your camera as you take pictures and you’ll already know what to expect. In a theoretical sense, a perfect exposure looks like a bell curve, producing a good tonal range. When using solid white or solid black backdrops the curve will be shifted in one direction or another. In a high contrast image the curve may appear flat with spikes at both ends.

Each part of the histogram represents different tonal values. From left to right: blacks, shadows, exposure, highlights, and whites. You can click and drag on a region in the histogram and it will move the sliders below the histogram in the Basic tools.


Below the histogram, are the tools for cropping, spot removal, red eye correction, graduated filter, radial filter and adjustment brush. Most often I find myself using the adjustment brush. The nice thing about the adjustment brush, is the ability to save your settings to presets. All of the tools are useful and you’ll being using them all.

Lightroom tools

Below the first set of tools is the first of several drop down menus, labeled Basic. Besides the exposure settings, I am usually adjusting the white balance sliders and the clarity slider. For guy’s senior pictures, I love the look of increasing the clarity.

Basic Panel in Lightroom

I’m not going to talk about all of the menus but of the other drop downs, Lens Corrections is very useful. It’s simple to use as well, especially if you’re using mainstream lenses. It’s a simple as checking the box. You can of course adjust the amount of correction applied if necessary. All of the tools in Lightroom are excellent about allowing you full control.

Lens Correction Panel

One key note to remember, when converting to black and white use the HSL/Color/B&W tab. That is the best way to convert an image to black and white. You’re given the control of lightening or darkening specific colors. If you saturation the image you lose control of editing specific details.


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