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  • Writer's pictureGary Holpin

Getting started with Lightroom Classic

To some, editing seems like 'cheating' in photography, but as it explains in this blog on post processing, as camera sensors are not as good as our eyes, editing is a critical ingredient - even if your aim is just to re-create a realistic reflection of what you actually saw.

I've seen many debates on social media recently with some people evangelising about their photos being 'pure' because they are straight out of the camera and 'not edited'. Although they probably don't realise it, all they are doing (if they are shooting Jpegs) is simply leaving it to the in-built software to do basic post processing for them! I much prefer to shoot Raw files and then do the editing myself so that I can get the final image that I require. There is a blog here discussing the pros and cons of Raw versus Jpeg.

There are many software packages out there, but I use one of the most well known, Lightroom Classic by Adobe. Lightroom costs around £10 per month, but you can sometimes pick up a pre-paid voucher on Amazon for as little as £79.99 for a year. I use the Classic version which is desktop based, rather than the cloud based version; they have the same basic functionality but I prefer the interface of Classic, and to keep my files locally. There are many other packages available (see this blog for details of some of them); they all provide roughly the same core set of basic editing functionality covered in this blog.


Before we get started

Before we get started on how to edit, there are a few basic points to understand about using Lightroom that will prevent problems later on!

  • Make sure your files are on a local physical disk, NOT on a cloud drive;

  • Once you have imported files into Lightroom NEVER move them or rename them outside of Lightroom or else the software won't be able to find them; moving and renaming files should be done from within the application;

  • All actions that you do in Lightroom do NOT change the original file; the changes are saved elsewhere (in a Lightroom Catalogue), so you can always go back to your original file if you wish to.

  • Never move or delete the Lightroom catalogue (.LRC file), otherwise you will lose all of your editing data (but not your original images);

  • Everything that beginner or intermediate photographers are likely to want to do should be possible in Lightroom. There are some advanced functions (such as focus stacking) that are only possible in Photoshop, but this is a much more difficult software package to get to grips with!

  • As you use Lightroom more, you should start to get a feel for the style that you like; when you are starting out it is often useful to experiment with some of the preset edits so you can try out some different looks and feels to see what you like. See below where I am offering all subscribers my standard preset for you to try out.


My Lightroom workflow

When it comes to a workflow in Lightroom, there is no right answer, but for those of you who are not sure how to get started, below is a step by step guide to my standard workflow.


Import files

Start by importing the file(s) you want to work on from your local disk. Once imported, select a file to edit then go into the 'Develop' module to edit it and move to the right hand Edit panel to make changes.

How to get started with Lightroom - import files

How to get started with Lightroom - select file location

How to get started with Lightroom - enter the develop module

Select a colour profile

I usually choose between Adobe Colour, Adobe Landscape (more vibrant colours) or Adone Monochrome.

How to get started with Lightroom - select a colour profile

Modify the exposure

You can adjust the overall exposure to brighten or darken the image if required.

Getting started with Lightroom - modify the exposure

Adjust the colour temperature (White Balance)

If you are editing a raw file, you can adjust the white balance if needed, e.g. to make the golden hour light more orange.

Getting started with Lightroom - adjust the white balance

Adjust the contrast

I normally boost the contrast slightly, to around +10

Adjust the highlights

It normally helps to reduce the highlights - often adjusting all the way to the left on the slider (although I've only reduced a little in this photo in order to retain some of the glare on the water).

Getting started with Lightroom - adjust the highlights

Adjust the shadows

It normally helps to bring out more detail in shadows (pushing the slider to the right).

Getting started with Lightroom - adjust shadows

Adjust the whites

I normally increase the brightness of the whites in the image (push the slider to the right); the amount needed depends on the photo.

Getting started with Lightroom - adjust whites

Adjust the blacks

I normally decrease this slider (move it to the left) in order to strengthen the black areas. The amount depends on the photo. .

Getting started with Lightroom - adjust blacks

Adjust the presence

The presence sliders (texture, clarity, dehaze, vibrance and saturation) can be very helpful, but must be used very carefully as they very quickly produce large changes to the appearance of the image. If you adjust them, use with caution!

getting started with Lightroom - adjust presence sliders

Adjust the aspect ratio and perspective

This panel allows you to straighten the verticals and horizontals in the image. This is particularly important for photos including buildings.

Getting started with Lightroom - correct aspect ratio and perspective

Apply lens distortion corrections

This panel allows you to correct distortion caused by the lens. It's a matter of simply choosing your lens from the dropdown and the corrections will be applied.

Crop your image

Back to the top of the main panel to crop your image if required, in order to remove distractions or to ensure that your focal point is correctly on a third (using the rule of thirds composition rule).

Getting started with Lightroom - apply crop

Adjust colours (luminance and saturation)

In this panel you can change the appearance of individual colours. I would advise against adjusting the saturation as this can very quickly make the photo look fake, but tweaking the luminance of the colours (such as the blue of the sky or the green of the grass) can improve the appearance.

Getting started with Lightroom - adjust colour luminance and saturation

Apply sharpening and noise reduction

This panel allows you to sharpen the edges in the image and reduce the dappled appearance of any noise. Both should be used in moderation.

Getting started with Lightroom - apply sharpening and noise reduction

View the original and edited photo side by side

If you want to see the affect of your edits, you can see a before and after view of the image. Remember that if you don't like the edits, you can just undo them and start again as no changes are made to your original photo.

Getting started with Lightroom - view before and after

Final words

There is much more to Lightroom than I have had time to cover here, but hopefully this will provide enough information to help you get started. If you want a bit more help (and are a subscriber to my newsletter) then I can provide you with a file which contains my basic corrections that you can use as a starting point in making changes to your photos in Lightroom. If you would like a copy of this preset file, please drop me a message and I would be happy to email it to you (I will also provide instructions on how to use the file). I also offer 2-hour Lightroom training which can be done online.


Want a learn more about photography?

If you're a beginner photographer who is local to East Devon and want to learn the art of landscape photography, check out my range of local photography courses. Alternatively why not make a weekend break of it and attend one of my residential photography workshops - either my beginners landscape photography masterclass for those starting out in photography, or my intermediate photography masterclass for those who already understand the basics and want more practical help progressing their landscape photography.


A student learning photography on a Devon beach, with Devon Photographer Gary Holpin Photography

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