Editing Workflow In Lightroom®
So, I'm gonna start by simply going through each of the boxes and each of the sliders in Lightroom, explaining in my own words what they mean to me. Like I said before, it's, you know, there's so many ways to edit. It depends who you listen to. They all have their own techniques. There's no right or wrong. It's, you know, a form of art, and we all get to our final result the way that we get to it. So, just keep that in mind as we go through it. All right, so starting at the top, we have color versus black and white. If we want an imagine in black and white, we hit that button, pretty straightforward. Profiles, something new that Adobe released in 7.3. I'm not gonna dive deep into it, but there's a lot that can be done with this by creating different looks for yourselves that get applied on top of a certain set of settings that might already be on the image. White balance, it didn't come up as I was shooting, but I do shoot in auto-white balance the entire day. It is extremely rare that...
I'll feel the need to change to a more manual white balance. We're shooting in raw. We can change it completely from, you know, 2000 Kelvin to 100,000 Kelvin, whatever we want it to be. The files are completely malleable, so we can really change that. There's no need to fiddle around with our settings. The less we have to do on the wedding day, the less technical things we have to think about, the more we can focus on documenting the wedding itself. So, temperature affects our blues and yellows, so very simple. You can see it in the color chart right there, and then our tint affects our greens and pinks. In general, what we're aiming for is as much of a neutral white balance as possible. So the best way that we usually do that is by going too cold, too warm, less cold, less warm, a little bit cold, a little bit warm, and then we kind of find our neutral. It's a very, very visual process, and so, I'll demonstrate here. So I'll go too cold, too warm, cold, warm, and then make little fine-tune adjustments, and I find my neutral. When in doubt, I'll go maybe just a little bit on the warmer side. Usually more flattering for skin tones. For our pinks and greens, so for our tint, we'll do the same thing. So we'll go too green, too pink, and then kind of make fine-tune adjustments and try to find as neutral as possible. I did it here, but there will be further tweaking that needs to get done. Once we adjust our exposure, our contrast, everything is gonna shift a little bit, so we might come back to the white balance. Exposure, pretty straightforward. Makes an image brighter, makes an image darker, so it's at some kind of neutral brightness. We won't worry about it too too much right now. Contrast, that is a very important slider to keep in mind, especially in conjunction with whites and blacks, which are further down in this box. Contrast we try not to push too much, because it affects the skin tones a lot. So, to give you an example, if you go to plus 100, skin tones go quite orange, something that we really wanna try to avoid in the image. So, in color photos, we'll keep the contrast around 10, 15, 20, and not go much higher than that; however, if it's a black and white photo, we can go ahead and push our contrast to give it that punch. Because there's no color, it doesn't affect the skin tones, so we can get away with pushing it a lot more. Let's bring it back down, put the image back in color. Our highlights slider affects a wide range of highlights, so anything that is generally bright is gonna get pulled down by this. So we can either go in the minuses to make it darker or in the pluses to make the highlights brighter. Most cases, we'll use it to recover detail in the highlights. So we'll go somewhere around minus 10, 15, 20. We try not to go too far down, because it affects the skin tones as well. If we go down to minus 100, minus 80, any kind of low number, it's gonna make the skin tones very muddy, which we really wanna try to avoid. So we'll generally stick around a minus 10, minus 20. Shadows, same ideas as the highlights, so a wide range of tones, but in the shadow area. So anything that's a little bit dark will generally get brighter as we push our shadows into the plus. If you want to make them darker, well, you simply go into the minuses. Our default would be to set it at plus 40, plus 50, but it's not uncommon for us so push the shadows to plus 80, plus 100 if the situation really requires it. Our whites is a slider that we can really go in the minuses or the pluses. If we go on the plus side, it adds visual contrast to the image, so it's gonna make your whites, which is the brightest part of your highlights, so the very end of the tonal spectrum is gonna go brighter, so that's what gives it contrast, and then if we pull it in the negatives, it's gonna soften the image, and it's gonna especially soften the skin tones. So generally, we actually like to pull our whites into the minus, because it's gonna give that very creamy, softer look on the skin tones. So anywhere at minus 40. And then to go back and give the image that visual contrast in the photo, so deep, rich blacks, we're gonna control the black slider. So we're gonna pull it into the negatives, and now it gives it this sort of richness in the blacks. This needs to be used in conjunction with the exposure, so we bring the exposure back up, which brings our white and our highlights brighter, and then pull our blacks back down. So by using this combination, we have a bright image with soft skin tones, because we pulled the whites into the minus, all while getting a good punch and a defined black point by using the black slider. Carrying on, clarity. That is sort of a form of sharpness that affects really the edges where your highlights and shadows meet. A subtle plus five, plus 10 does a really nice job, but anything too crazy makes the image really, really destroyed, if I can use that word. So for portraits, it doesn't really work great. It can also go into the minuses to really soften the skin a little bit. So it either softens or oversharpens an image. Dehaze, we don't really use it with subjects, but it's a good tool if you have a little bit of haze in the image, and then we have vibrance and saturation. The main difference between the two, and that, again, is my own interpretation is that vibrance will increase the tones or the colors that are already present in the image. So if we do that, it's really gonna pull out the oranges and the blues, whereas saturation is going to go and try to add more color than what is already present in the file. So that's sort of the subtle difference between the two. We'll usually use vibrance rather than saturation. Carrying on to the tonal curve, we typically don't make adjustments to the tone curve on a per-image basis. We like to leave it as-is. If we do make an adjustment, it's simply going to be to push our highlights up a little bit and pull our shadows down to give a little bit more of that contrast to the image on a base, I'm sorry, on a base level, and we'll apply that on all of the images. So, we'll leave that as-is, close the curves. The HSL box is something that we use quite a lot. So starting with the hue, it allows you to adjust the color levels on a per-color channel basis. So if you wanted your oranges to be more yellow or more red, you could control that here. Now, this obviously is not a good use of that. The way that you might wanna use it is just by making your oranges a little bit more, more yellow. So that takes out some of that redness in their faces very easily. Another way that we will use it is to affect the greens, if we have grass in the photo, and we find that there are two yellow, fluorescent. We might move the greens into the bluer tones, just so it makes it a little bit more neutral. Under saturation, we might drop the oranges down a little bit, just to minus five, again, to make the skin tones a little bit less vibrant. And we'll also often reduce the blues, unless there's a sky visibile in the photo, obviously, but in a photo like this, reducing the blue slider is gonna get rid of any blue undertones in the shirt, in the suit, in the dress, which is very normal. It comes through because of the daylight that we were shooting with. So we can put that anywhere between minus 50 and minus 100. They don't have any blue in their skin tone, in their hair, in anything that's relevant to the photo, so it doesn't affect anything negatively. And then luminance is also a great slider. This is gonna affect the brightness of that color, so either make it darker or brighter. So again, going on the oranges, if we go darker, well, that doesn't look great, but if we go just to a plus five, plus 10, it's gonna make their skin tones have just a little bit more of that brightness in it. So, our typical combination will be sort of a plus 10, on luminance in the orange, minus five saturation, and a plus five or plus 10 on the oranges. If I turn this on and off, you can see how their skin tone here is a little bit more red, a little bit heavier, and then once we apply those settings, it just makes it a little bit brighter, a little bit more neutral. So it makes it a lot easier to work with. Split toning, the way this works is you can apply a color on top of your highlights or on top of your shadows. It's not something that we typically use, but I'll quickly explain the way it works. So I'll increase it quite a bit, just to demonstrate. On your highlights right now, we've added a saturation in the reds, and then we can adjust the hue of it, so make it green, blues, yellows. More typically, you'll use it at a much softer level. if you wanted your image to kind of have this soft blue undertone, this is a great place to do it. So, remove it, and then you can use it on your shadows as well, so it'll add a little bit of a green or a blue or a purple fade on top of your shadows. Under detail, we have our sharpening. Our default is generally set to 70 or 80. We'll leave it at this on all of the images. We find that it does a great job. If we need to do extra sharpening, which is rare, we'll do it usually in Photoshop, and then noise reduction, we'll set it to 30 and 50, sorry, 30 on the luminance and 50 on the detail. Based on our experience, we notice that this works great across all images. If an image has a lot of noise because we shot at high ISO, it does a great job reducing that noise, and if an image is shot at ISO 100, there's no noise, it doesn't affect the photo negatively. So there's no point in us spending time putting this back down to zero, because there's no negative effect on the photo. So we might as well just set it at and sync it across the board. So we'll leave it at that. Lens correction, we will go ahead and turn on our profile correction so it gets rid of any distortion and vignetting, and then if we had chromatic aberration, we'll go ahead and adjust that as well under defringe. Transform in this case doesn't really apply, but if we edit some architecture, we'll definitely be using this as well. Effects, last one. We generally will apply a bit of a vignette on our photos, something around minus 10, and that does a great, in Lightroom, it does a great job at not creating this fake look. It really applies a very natural tapering off the light by using the highlight priority over here. All right, so now that we've covered all of these base settings, we'll go ahead and edit some of the images. So, a simple image like this, we're actually not gonna tweak it a lot. The only adjustments that we wanna make to it is maybe adjust our exposure, maybe pull our highlights a little bit more, and we're gonna leave it at something like this. If we go to an image that's a little bit more complex, so let's go in front of this wall over here, what I'm gonna do first is just copy my settings from this image and paste them on the other one. I'm copying everything except for my white balance, exposure, adjustment brush, which I didn't use, any transformation or crops. Items that are very specific to that image, I don't wanna copy over onto the next one. But I do want all of my base settings, so all the HSL adjustments, all of the sliders that we moved, I want that copied over to the next photo. So I'll just hit copy, and then hit paste. And so I don't have to go through each slider and reset it one by one. Obviously that's, you know, to have an efficient workflow. So, step one that we're gonna do here is bring our exposure back up. We're gonna go ahead and adjust our white balance. It's maybe a little bit greener and a little bit warmer than I would like it, so we'll adjust our tint. We'll make it actually a little bit warmer. It wasn't that warm after all once we fixed the tint. And we'll adjust our highlights. What we can do here is underexpose this scene a little bit, and then use our adjustment brush to bring in a little bit more detail in the face, and any other part of the image where we wanna see a little bit more. So I'm gonna start by underexposing the image a little bit. Actually, before I continue, I'm going to crop it for straight lines, so we'll go ahead and bring it in a little bit. What I'm looking for here is again good visual balance between the left side and the right side. I want to go very close to the knees. I wanna keep their heads in the thirds, so I just kind of perfected that. I'm looking at the balance here on the left side of his face and the light bulbs here. Make sure that it's as even as possible. Again, get that visual balance. All right, so, to go to our adjustment brush, it's up here in the top right corner. What that allows us to do is brush in different parts of the image by adjusting exposure, white balance. Any of the regular sliders that you see on your default, in your default screen module, we can apply that on certain parts of the image. So, our typical dodge settings is bumping up the exposure a little bit, lowering the contrast, lowering the highlights, and bumping up the shadows. What we have found is that by using this combination of settings, it's gonna brighten up the highlights in the face and the general skin tones, but it's gonna keep the shadows darker and not create this halo effect around the subject. So, once I go in and brush them, it's just gonna make their faces a little bit brighter. I'll do a before and after in a second, just so you guys can see. So, let's look at the difference. So this is without the brushing, and this is with the brushing. It's not a huge difference, but what I'm looking to do with this is really make sure that the face is the brightest area in the image, and that is gonna control where the viewer looks at in the photo. You wanna make sure that when they look, when they arrive to this image and they look at it, that they connect directly with your subject. If we go ahead and do it without the brushing, the brightest spot is maybe, well, this light bulb for sure, but also this part of her dress. So, if you were to look away and then look at the image, your eye goes here on the light bulb, and then here, and then maybe here. So we really wanna make sure that the brightest area is on their face so that as soon as you arrive on this photo, boom, you connect straight to their faces. So we'll add just a little bit more, and then we can go out of the adjustment brush and maybe give it a little bit more contrast, a little bit more punch. Whoops, sorry, I hit auto tone, which I didn't mean to do. And kind of stop right there. So, let's copy these settings once again and go to an image that was a little more evolved, kind of a similar idea, but even more interesting, and we'll see what kind of brushing we can do on this one. So we'll paste our settings. My in-camera settings here were a little bit different than the previous photo, so there are adjustments that I need to make in terms of exposure. So we'll go ahead and make this brighter. We'll go ahead and adjust the white balance to make it warmer. Adjust the tint. And in terms of exposure, what I'm looking for is to keep the scene a little bit underexposed so that I can then go brush in the subject. Whoops, my bad, sorry, one second. There we go. And actually, because the light bulbs here were reflecting, they're creating a lot of bright light, what I wanna do is maybe just underexpose it even further so that they don't compete with the highlights in the bride and groom. So, this is a good starting point. We'll go ahead and take our adjustment brush. We can take a big, big brush with a feather. We don't wanna be tracing the subject, 'cause that's not gonna look natural, and by having these settings, we're actually not gonna be affecting the shadows so much behind them. So, we'll pass it once, and we can hit new, which will give us a second version of that same brush, and we'll pass it on them again. If we feel that this is not enough brushing, or maybe we want it to be warmer, once we've applied it, we can simply go to our exposure, make it a little bit brighter, and even adjust our white balance. And it's gonna affect only the area that we applied that brush. So what I've done now is I've made the bride and groom a little bit warmer. I don't wanna affect the whole scene in general. I just wanted for the two of them to be a little bit brighter. Final thing. We'll go ahead and apply just a little bit of a crop, straighten out all of the lines, get rid of any distractions at the edges of the frame, and do this. One thing I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna scroll down just to my vignetting and remove it, not do a white vignette, definitely not. The reason why I want to remove it is because the groom is so close to the edge of the frame, the vignette is kind of cutting the light a little bit more into him than I would like to. We can go ahead and maybe add a little bit more dodging on his face, just so he's a little bit more present. So, perfect that. And the final thing is we'll take a new brush, and we will select our D+D Punch brush, which boosts the contrasts, lowers the blacks, adds a bit of clarity, and adds saturation to the image, and what that does once we brush it in is it's gonna emphasize even more any of the color and any part of the landscape of the photo, so to speak. It's gonna give it a lot more vibrance. We like our images to have, you know, that punchy look while also retaining some of those good skin tones with good color, nothing too crazy in terms of contrast. So, it's important to apply different set of settings on the landscape of the photo and then on the bride and groom. Let's carry on to maybe something like this. So, we're just gonna go ahead and paste our base settings, come out of the brush, go ahead and adjust our exposure, adjust our white balance, adjust our tint, so they're not too green or too pink, and then what I'm looking at here is the highlight here on his wrist and his shirt cuff is gonna be competing with her face. It's a white highlight, so it's normal that it's reflecting more light than her face, so there's no way to find a set of settings where it's gonna be the inverse. So there's adjustment brushing that is gonna be necessary to either tone this down, or in our case, we're gonna bring more light on the two of them. So let's go ahead and underexpose it a little bit, make it just a little bit warmer, and then take our adjustment brush, take our dodge, and brush in our bride and groom. I'm also gonna brush in her hand. I think it's really important to make sure that any other skin that is visible in the photo gets brushed in as well. Otherwise, you're gonna have skin tone on the face that is a very different shade or a different exposure from the rest of the body. So we wanna, it doesn't need to be perfectly equal, but we want it to be as close as possible. Now, I've applied the brush. I can show you by showing the mask. I've applied it on the faces and the hand here, and what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna bump up the exposure a little bit, make it just a little bit brighter until that looks good. What I'm doing right now is I'm actually going brighter than I want it to be, because this highlight on his wrist is still a bit too bright, so we'll come out of the adjustment brush and then lower the exposure overall. So now the ratio between the light on her face and the wrist is in the right place. We just move everything together via the exposure. Other adjustments that we can make here, we can go back to our adjustment brush, take our Punch, and just pass it on top of her dress, on her shoulder here, and on his shirt. All that did is just add a little bit of, a little bit of clarity and a little bit of texture to other parts of the frame. Come out of the brush. We can try to play around with our shadows, see how much we wanna be showing in terms of detail. As you guys remember, when we were shooting this, we could see a lot of detail in the background, and the reason why we don't see it now is because we've lowered our blacks. So if our blacks were staying closer to zero, you could see some of the detail in the back of the room, but then once we lower it, all that sort of vanishes, and we get to really isolate that light in a very nice way. We can control the amount of the light, not just be exposure but with highlights as well. So we'll make those just a little bit brighter. On a photo like this, you might wanna be wondering, what do we do in terms of retouching. So there's a few different things that we can do. If it's easy and quick, we can do it here in Lightroom, but if there are a lot of images and we need to process them a little bit, like, a little bit more in-depth, we're gonna bring them into Photoshop. And it's fairly typical for us for, in a wedding set, we'll take the, you know, any photos where there's a little bit more of a closeup. 30, 40 photos, we'll bring those into Photoshop and make sure that we clean them up as much as possible. If the subject is small in the frame and they might need retouching, we'll leave it as-is, and if the bride and groom feel that they want to have those photos retouched, well, they can reach out to us, and we'll typically do it. So since we're in Lightroom, let's just talk about how we would do that in this platform. So we would simply take our spot, our heal tool, make it just a little bit bigger than the area we wanna fix, and then pass it over any areas that need to be retouched. And then I notice the groom too has a few minor spots. Whoops, didn't mean to do that. So, nothing too crazy, just anything that catches our attention. And then on top of that, what we like to do is go back into our adjustment brush, take our skin soften, and apply a minus 10 contrast, minus 80 clarity, which, obviously, we don't wanna apply on the entire image, but if we do it only on the skin, it's gonna soften it nicely and blend in some of those tones in the face. What's important here is to stay in the confines of the general skin tone, so forehead, T-zone, nose, cheeks, chin, neck, avoiding the lips, the nose, the eyes, the eyebrows. Any contrast point where you have highlights and shadows that meet, we don't wanna apply any clarity, because that's where it's really gonna show. So, we'll go ahead and just brush it on her forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, neck. We can do the hands also, just to soften it a little bit, and we can do it on the groom, too. That's it. And just to look at what that did, so maybe zoom in a little bit. Whoops. Yeah. So, this is without. And then this is with. It's not a huge difference, but it just softens the skin just a little bit, and on the closeup, it's generally gonna be appreciated. While I'm here, I noticed just a few minor spots, so we'll go ahead and remove those as well. All right. Let's move onto an image where we can play with the white balance mix a little bit. So here, we have good daylight and good tungsten. So we can really play those blues and yellows within the same frame. What we're gonna do instead of paste, well, with can go ahead and paste our settings from before. It'll bring us closer to the starting point. But we're really gonna spend some time playing with the temperature and some of the other settings as well. So, let's start by going into a cooler white balance, which is going to make our daylight, so, anything outside, a lot cooler. We're gonna lower our exposure to really try to silhouette the couple as much as possible, bring our highlights back up, bring our shadows closer to zero. Maybe our blacks are a little too pushed. And we're gonna push our saturation and our vibrance to, the only part of the image that I'm looking for, at here is, you know, the window area and anything around them. We don't really see their face. We don't see their skin tone. So it really doesn't matter if we're pushing our vibrance and saturation so much. None of that is going to be visible. We can go ahead and push our clarity as well, make little tweaks with our white balance. We then go into our adjustment brush. The first thing I'm gonna do is I wanna darken this highlight over here. So I'm just gonna apply a brush. Doesn't matter what it's set to right now. All that matters is that I've applied it on this area, and then I'm gonna go ahead and adjust our settings, so put everything at zero, and then lower my exposure. Whoops, that was too much. Somewhere around there. Same with the highlight here. I'm just trying to get nice, even blue cast and blue exposure on the back window, and we're gonna take a new brush, and we're gonna pass it over the light bulbs. So, this is the area that I've applied it in. Again, doesn't matter what the settings were. We're just gonna undo them anyways, so we'll put everything back at zero. And then we're gonna start playing with our white balance. So we're gonna go warmer and adjust the tint. We can make it a little bit brighter, give it a little bit more contrast, maybe lower the saturation a little bit. And what's happening here is I've overapplied my brush on this part of the image where I would actually want it to be more blue than yellow, so I need to go ahead and I'm just gonna take the erase mode and then pass it over any area where I might have overapplied it. And so now we've managed to get that mix of blues and yellow. The last thing that I'm gonna do is take my dodge brush and just brighten up the area between the two of them. The reason why I'm doing this is again because I want the viewer to connect with this part of the image, and including their hands. I want the light to be as even as possible all around them. And we can just adjust the exposure a little bit. We're gonna lower our shadows because we don't wanna be revealing the detail in the silhouette, so in their faces, all we wanna do is just make it a little bit brighter. So, before and after. Last image that we're gonna edit in Lightroom before we move on is maybe gonna be this one, which was the final photo that we did with the reflection. This ended up being sort of the best pose where, you know, you really feel the connection between the two of them the most. Let's do it in black and white. We haven't done any so far, so we can see how we would edit those. So, we start by setting it to black and white. White balance in this case doesn't really matter. There is for sure a technical aspect to it where adjusting the white balance will affect the way that black and white appears. It's not something that we necessarily fiddle around with. We try to achieve the look that we're going for just by using the regular sliders. So we can go ahead and boost our contrast to plus 80, pull our highlights to retain some of that information, push our shadows to go and get a little bit more of that tonal range, lower our whites to soften the skin tones, and lower our blacks to really get that richness. We can also give it a little bit of clarity to bring out some texture, and then we go back to our exposure and make some adjustment. Same as in the colored version, I'm looking at the highlight on his wrist and his shirt to make sure that that's not overexposed, and that is where I stop. Take our adjustment brush set to dodge, and then start brushing in their faces. Go ahead and brush their hands, too, the dress a little bit, and brush in that reflection. So, so far with our brushing, this is what we've done, and then we're gonna go ahead and adjust our exposure on that, make it a little bit brighter, and we're gonna take a new brush, set it to Punch, and we can pass it over the reflection. That's gonna give it more clarity, more contrast. This is sort of the secondary version of the main subject, so we wanna make sure that they look, you know, nice and crisp and clean in, in the real version of themselves, but then in the reflection, we can go ahead and push our contrast, push our clarity a little bit more. Come out of the adjustment brush, make it maybe just a little bit brighter, give it a little bit more contrast, make those final tweaks and adjustments to really get the most of out it. We'll go ahead and crop it in just a little bit, get rid of that line on the left side, and we would then go ahead and make just a little bit of retouching on their skin. Not gonna do that now since we've demonstrated it already. So, what's most important with our editing approach is to keep a level of consistency across all of the images. Over time, we've defined our style to what, you know, we know what it is. We always look to underexpose the image, make sure that we have good dodging, good light on the main subject, have good contrast, but nothing too crazy. We aim for something that's timeless but also refined, and what's most important is that we don't change it from one wedding to another. For us, consistency is super important. We wanna know that our couples know what they're hiring us for and that they know what their final images are gonna look like. That isn't to say that, you know, several years ago we did go through different exploration when we're trying to figure out our own style. We weren't sure what it was yet, and at that stage, it was definitely important for us to explore and try different things until we finally found what worked for us.