Lightroom 101: 3 Post-Processing Tips to Make Your Photos Pop

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(Editor’s Note: Pei Ketron is Product Marketing Manager of Photography at Adobe.)

When getting started in photography, one of the most intimidating aspects can be post-processing. We spend a lot of time on the Adobe Photography team seeking ways to make editing tools and the post-processing workflow feel less intimidating to beginners via tutorials and the Learn & Discover sections within Lightroom.

I recently spoke with several of our Lightroom Ambassadors to gather their ideas on making the process even easier, especially for beginner photographers trying their hand at developing their editing workflow. They provided a bevy of tips and tricks for becoming more comfortable with post-processing, including how they learned to put their own unique stamp on their images using the wealth of different digital tools Adobe makes available for photographers.

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#1 Focus on the Overall Vision

In order to nail down your individual style, focus on the overall look and feel of your portfolio. Lightroom Ambassador Aundre Larrow suggests beginners should spend the most time studying the Color Panel. Start by finding the right color to establish mood, using localized tools like the Adjustment Brush to perfect tiny details.

Aundre advises you to “start with the mood and end with the mood. Your edit should be focused on translating a feeling and accentuating the photograph, not overpowering it.”

When it comes to post-processing, Johnie Gall notes it enables her to create a vision for something, not just a snapshot. Be patient, as it can take time to develop a certain style or mood that feels like you before you start developing your own presets and signature style.

There might be some mistakes along the way too, but Ambassador Omar Z. Robles was quick with the reminder that mistakes are just opportunities to grow. “Learn your limits,” he told me, “And rely on them to make them your strengths.”

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#2 Explore Sliders and Panels

We often hear from photographers that they want post-processing tools to be intuitive. That’s one of the reasons that we built our editing panel with a variety of sliders, which become one of the foundational ways to learn as a beginner. You can play around with controls like temperature, contrast, texture, dehaze, and more.

Paola Franqui counsels beginners, “don’t stop experimenting and playing with all the sliders and tools until you understand what each and every one of them does.”

Once you’ve had the opportunity to get comfortable with the different features, you can start using presets or creating your own. Luisa Dorr told me one of her favorite parts of post-processing is to use presets to color her images. Since she photographs a lot with her phone, she leverages Lightroom for mobile to find her color tones and aesthetic.

At the same time, Nicoline Malina encouraged beginners not to rest on their laurels when it comes to presets: “When you download and use a preset, see what the creators do in tweaking the photo. Learn what each slider and button does, and that’s how you’ll learn the basics.”

While it is possible to over-edit a photo, take time in your own Lightroom library to play around. Mylo Fowler wanted to make sure beginners know they can’t do any harm to photos by clicking on different Lightroom tools to see how they work. If you don’t like what you’ve created, you can always start over with the click of a button.

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#3 Get Organized and Get Mobile

Thanks to today’s digital age, we have the ability to edit and organize photos in the cloud, meaning you can start editing on one device, like your phone, and then pick up the process later on a tablet or computer to more carefully refine details. This is one of studio photographer Christina Poku’s favorite things about Lightroom , especially how the app allows her to work on projects across devices when she can’t be in her studio.

And don’t forget, one of the best ways to keep track of post-processing is to invest time in organizing. Lightroom and Lightroom for mobile store your photos in the cloud so you can work across applications and leverage machine learning to help you search without manually keywording, but it is still strongly recommended that you create folders and albums in Lightroom to help stay organized.  

According to Max Muench, “if photography is your life, then order in Lightroom is absolutely essential.”

We hope that these tips, ranging from organization to which sliders to try, will help you develop your own unique style, mood, and workflow as you explore post-processing. Be sure to follow the Ambassadors for more tips and tricks and don’t forget to experiment – there’s always the undo button if you want to go in a different direction.

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About the Lightroom Ambassadors

The 2021 Adobe Lightroom Ambassadors are a circle of photographers handpicked to  inspire and educate you by showcasing images of theirs that have been made possible with Lightroom and sharing a range of tips and best practices.  The Ambassadors are helping to build a community where photographers anywhere can connect with each other and share their passions.

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