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February 26, 2019

When you’re a photographer, a photograph is so much more than a simple image taken with a click of a button. It’s an art form, and type of expression, a visual way of storytelling. Digital photography and post-processing has opened the door for so many additional possibilities when crafting an image but learning the ropes can be overwhelming.

While we could never get to the bottom of all the functionalities of Lightroom in a single post, it’s important to know the basics to help get you started. Before you dive into our beginner tips, make sure you’re shooting your images in RAW. This will give you maximum capabilities in post-processing without compromising the quality of your image. And because we love winter, our post-processing tips are specifically for winter scenes. Ok, let's get to it!

Organization is key:

Lightroom has a lot of room for organization. Seriously, a lot. If you like order and structure, you’ll feel right at home. There are hundreds of tips for the best ways to organize your photos so while we won’t get into all of them, there are a few key things you should do to make your life easier down the road.

Import your photos to Lightroom and save them in a “collection.” Collections are essentially folders that allow you to organize groups of photos together. You can rename the folder to describe the photos inside or you could name by date. I tend to name mine based one where I took the photos but you can organize them in any way that makes sense to you.

Collections in Lightroom

As your going through your photos initially, you can rate your photos from 1 star to 5. I tend to use a three-star system. I use this tool to weed out any photos I know are junk and to select photos I definitely want to keep. (Go through quickly and rate 1 to 3. Ditch the 1’s, leave the 2’s alone, and only edit the 3’s.)

Star system on lightroom


From there, I add keywords to my photos so in three months (or three years), I can search for the keywords I tagged and my photo selection will pop up. Later, when I want to find a photo of a snowy mountain for a blog post, I can type in “snowy mountain” and all of the photos I keyword tagged will pop up. Key working can take a long time so I try to do them in batches. I’ll upload a set of photos and select all and tag them with “Iceland Photo Workshop 2019.” Next, I’ll select all of the photos that are similar and batch tag them “Iceland waterfall” or something relevant to the photos. For the photos you really want to be able to find, add more specific tags (portrait, landscape, falling snow, name of the subject, etc.)

Adding keywords to lightroom

Lastly, back up your photos. You’ll want to back up your Lightroom catalog but also your actual photo files. Lightroom does not store your photos, rather, it locates them in their original place. Backing up both is the best option and if you can back them up on more than one device, that’s even better.

See what I mean? Tons of organizational options and we only scratched the surface, so go ahead and get your Marie Kondo on. Clutter be gone!

2. Determine what you want the end goal to be

With the vast capabilities of Lightroom, the room for altering a photo is essentially limitless. Many photographers leave their images exactly as is, fully untouched. On the other end of the spectrum, some photographers edit past the point of recognition, altering the photo with a variety of selections or heavily using masks. Some even switch the image over to Photoshop and use layers to create their vision.

I tend to fall somewhere in between. My goal with post-processing is to present the image of how it exists in my memory. When I’m sharing a photo of a wintry landscape, I not only want to portray the image as it was but also to create the same sense magic and surrealism you felt when you took the photo, completely overwhelmed by such a beautiful landscape.



Lightroom before and after photo
The way my camera saw the image vs. the way I remember the image in my head.


While a lot of post-processing is trial and error, having a good idea of how you want the end product to end up will help make your editing a smooth and efficient process.

3. Use the clone feature to remove dust spots

Dust spots or often inevitable. For most amateur photographers, dust spots are not that important but as soon as you find one, you won’t be able to look at anything else in the photo. Luckily, Dust spots are an easy fix with the clone tool. Click on clone or heal (clone is a copy of the pixels, heal takes into account the textures and colors of the destination and blend the edges), select the spot you want to correct and then choose the source to match it. A few clicks and your dust spots will completely disappear.

Clone button lightroom
The clone/heal buttons are essential tools for quick fixes.

4. Embrace the bright whites, but don’t overdo it.

Exposing for snow is a difficult task. The reflectivity of the snow tricks your camera meter into underexposing your shoot but luckily this is an easy fix. Simply bump up the exposure slightly. You’ll want to find that sweet balance between brightening the snow without losing all detail in the textures of the snow. Too much exposure will leave everything bright with but too little exposure will turn your white snow dingy and grey. Expose for the snow and if you lose some detail you want to regain in the sky, you can get that back with a graduated filter, which we talk about below.

Exposure adjustment in lightroom for snowy pictureThe exposure is slightly increased in each photo and you can see the detail of the snow being lost as a result. 

 

5. Adjust the white balance

The tint and temperature dials in Lightroom will allow you to get the exact shade of white you’re looking for. For wintry scenes, you’ll want to err on the side of cooler blue tones instead of warmer yellow tones. You can also click the drop-down next to “WB:” to give you a starting point from which you can fine tune your white balance.

Temperature and tone sliders in lightroom
This image was too warm for my liking so I brought down the temperature and changed the tint until I got a color scheme that was more wintry.

6. Use radial and graduated filters

Changing the exposure and tint will blanket your entire show with the edit, and while that’s okay in some scenarios, it often causes you to lose detail or color in a certain part of your photo but don’t worry, edit small parts of a photo is easy using filters.

Select the graduated filter tool and click on the photo to drag the filter where you want. A narrow graduated filter will give you harder graduation, the change between the filter and the photo will be more apparent. The wider the filter, the more gradual and blended the changes will be. Once you have your filter in place, you can edit your selection as normal, adjusting the temperature, tint, shadows, highlights, etc.

Graduated filter use in lightroom
I used the graduated filter to enhance the color of the sky.

Radial filters work the same but instead of being linear, the radial filters work in ovals and circles. Select the filter, click and drag the filter where you want it and adjust like you normally would. As a default, Lightroom applies your changes to the outside of the circle. If you want to edit what’s inside the circle, simply click “invert mask”.

Radial filters lightroom
Radial filters are great for brightening a face. You can select "invert mask" to edit everything outside of the circle too. 

7. Don’t overdo it on the saturation but if you’ve got some color, don’t be afraid to make it pop.

New photographers are often too heavy handed when it comes to the saturation slider but it’s important to remember that over saturated photos are not necessarily good photos. Often, oversaturation is too distracting from the overall image and gives the image and “fake” aesthetic. Some of the most interesting photos have muted or subtle color schemes. Play around with the slider until you find something you’re happy with, keeping in mind the vibrance slider might actually be a better option. While the saturation slider will affect ALL of the colors in your photo, the vibrance slicer only increases the intensity of muted colors and leaves the already saturated colors alone.

With that said in snowy photos, increase the saturation or intensity of a certain color slightly could be advantageous. If you have a photo with a wintry scene like the one below with singular, bright subjetct, increasing the saturation slightly for red tones will bring your subject even more in focus.

Red cabin in mountains lightroom edit
Increase the red tones in this photo creates a nice contrast between the snowy landscape and the subject. 

Get started!

Lightroom is an extraordinarily comprehensive tool allowing for endless post-processing capabilities. We have barely just scratched the surface but learning these basic post-processing tips will give you greater control in how you want to present your images to the world. If you want to learn more Lightroom tips, leave us a comment below!

 


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