Photography Tips: Editing in Lightroom

I really cannot tell you all how encouraged and honored I am by the amount of interest in my recent photography series.  You can catch all the previous installments below:

Equipment
Staging and Composition
Lighting

While all I shared in my previous posts has improved my photography immensely, I think that far and away the greatest impact on my photography development has been learning to edit images well.  I use a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop*, and while they are not free, there is a wonderful Cloud option from Adobe* these days that provides you with both for around $10/month.  Totally worth it in my opinion.  Today, I will be talking about my editing process in Lightroom.

Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com

Let me begin by saying what this tutorial is not.  This tutorial is not an introduction to Lightroom or even how to edit photos in Lightroom.  If you’ve never used Lightroom before, you may be intimidated by the way you have to import and organize your photos… Start by searching some tutorials for that and then come back here.  This tutorial is also NOT a comprehensive list of all the wonderful things you can do to photographs to improve them in Lightroom (that could take weeks!).  What today’s tutorial IS, however, is how I edit almost all of my interior photographs in Lightroom, including my favorite tricks and tips.

I will be sharing the step, a screenshot of my Lightroom screen, and an explanation.  I hope it all makes sense!  Before I begin, let me tell you that I’m using an old photograph (about 2 years old), so you can see the full effect of the editing options.  I’m pleased to say that my photography has improved significantly, and I no long need to edit each image quite this much, but I wanted you to see the full range of possibilities.  Here is the SOOC (straight-out-of-camera) shot – complete with crazy distortion because the room is so tight – compared to the final, edited image.

Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com

And now I will walk you through the editing…  So without further ado, how to edit interior photographs in Lightroom:

1. Set your White Balance
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com
Lightroom has this nifty dropper tool that you can use.  This particular image didn’t need any white balance adjustment, but I always start with this step.  Grab the dropper from the slider section on the right (by clicking on it) and click again on a gray area in your image.  Now, as we all know, computers may be brilliant, but they don’t think for themselves.  So be sure to use your own eyes and adjust the blue/red and green/purple sliders manually if necessary.

2. Adjust your Shadows and Highlights
(from now on, my screenshots are simply zoomed in so you can see the slider numbers better)
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com
Again, in your slider section, find your happy place with these.  I almost always lighten my shadows and drop my highlights.  If it starts to look too washed out, though, I will darken my “blacks” to compensate, as you can see I did in this image.

3. Adjust your Exposure
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.comOnce I’ve got my light/dark balance where I want it, I play with my overall exposure.  As I mentioned in my Lighting tips, I always over-expose.  And then I almost always lighten the exposure in Lightroom, as well.  Light.  Bright. Better. :)

4. Adjust your Clarity/Vibrance/Saturation
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com
After leveling out your lights/darks and lightening your entire photo, it can look a little flat and washed out.  Here is where Clarity comes in.  I almost always raise this 15 or higher (just using my slider until it looks right).  Vibrance and Saturation can have similar effects – adding punch, if you will.

5. Adjust your Sharpening
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.comI love this little zoom box (see the sidebar).  It shows you up close what your image looks like.  When you increase your sharpening, you’ll notice the picture becomes grainy.  Grain is the enemy.  Kill it.

6. Adjust your Luminance
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.comThis is your secret weapon, friends.  When you increase your luminance, you give your image a slight glow and blur, which removes the grain.  Score. You do, however, have to be careful not to use too much because it will actually make the image look like a cheap dream scene from a B movie.  No joke.  The sweet spot for luminance is the minimal amount you can use to remove any grain, especially from the dark corners of your image.  The image we’ve been following had so much natural light that luminance wasn’t as important, but take a look at this much darker image of the light fixture and the difference that luminance makes.

Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com

7. Use your Lens Corrections
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.comThis entire editing section in Lightroom has changed my picture taking.  Remember in my post on Staging and Composition when I said you should be “square” on your subject?  Here is the compensation for human error.  You can always start by using their automatic corrections.  Just make sure you are on the “Basic” tab, check all three boxes, and click Auto.  Sometimes, this is perfect.  At other times, though, (like with white balance), the computer can only do so much.  That’s when the “Manual” tab is helpful.  Start by checking the box “Constrain Crop.”  Don’t be afraid to play with all of the sliders.  Distortion is the most important one if your image is bending (like the image we are examining – notice how the mirror looked curved?).  The rest are helpful, too, though, and it will work wonders towards getting your images square.

8. Adjust your Lens Vignetting
Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com
This is only relevant sometimes.  When using a zoom lens, the corners of your images can appear darker, and this adjustment will compensate for that.  Just move it along until it looks right.

And that’s it!  That’s all I do in Lightroom.  It may sound like a lot, but once you get the hang of it, you just fly down that column on the right adjusting your sliders until the image is done.  It’s pretty painless.

One more tip:

If your images were taken in similar conditions (like lots of pictures of the same room), you can essentially copy those edits you just made to all the images in the group.  Make sure you are viewing the one you already edited, and hold down “shift” while you highlight the other images in the preview bar at the bottom.  Once you have highlighted all you want, click the “Sync” button at the bottom of your slider menu on the right.  A giant window will pop up asking you to choose which edits you want to copy.  Click the appropriate boxes (I usually copy the first two columns – up to Noise Reduction >> Color – and leave the rest unchecked), then hit Synchronize.  Bam.  I go through the rest of the images and tweak settings, but the hard work is done. :)

Don’t forget to export your images (remember, this is not a full Lightroom tutorial… too much info for one post!).  Next stop: Photoshop for a tiny little boost and a watermark.

Until then, which of the tips above is your favorite new tip for Lightroom*?  And for you Lightroom users out there, do you have any favorite tips you’d like to share that I missed?  Put them in the comments below, and I’ll even give you a shout out later if it’s one I haven’t heard of!

(Update: find the next tutorial in the series here!)

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Such helpful tips! How to create gorgeous interior photography: A full step by step tutorial for editing in Lightroom | maisondepax.com

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Comments

  1. Ah….this is the post I’ve been waiting for :) I saw it in my feed this morning before leaving for work and had to read it in the few minutes that I had. This is THE BEST tutorial I’ve seen for using lightroom. I started using it a few months ago and am so lost with all the things I can adjust. But this spells everything out so well in language I can understand and copy. It was really helpful to see how you changed the dark before picture into one of your signature bright and clear afters. Thanks for putting so much work into this series!

  2. Gosh, I loved this! What I think is super crazy . . . I have been using lightroom for years and never really adjusted shadows and highlights all that much. I was surprised to see it as one of the first things you did. Definitely playing with those sliders next time I edit my pics. Wondering, do you use presents all that much? Like ones you’ve purchased and loved or do you set your own presets? I think it would be super helpful to see if you edit an image with people and skin tones in it the same as a room shot. I know adding that much clarity and luminescence can be scary with head shots. Wonderful series girl! Truly enjoying it!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thanks, Cami! So glad you like it! Truth be told? I’ve never used a preset in Lightroom. I bet they would help, but since I first learned to do it manually, I’ve just never branched out beyond that. In Photoshop, however, I’m the opposite. I mostly just use a series of actions there (tutorial coming tomorrow). You are right, though, it’s a totally different beast editing portraits. I don’t do nearly as much of it, but I find I use very different combinations.

  3. Beautiful! Such great tips! It was so good seeing you at Haven!

  4. lAvERNE wATTS says:

    What is the name of the gorgeous paint in this bathroom?

  5. Needed this post! I am pretty familiar with Photoshop and that is what I normally use to edit photos. But I recently bought Lightroom and I am completely lost! This tutorial is going to be very helpful. I’m saving it so I can refer back to it when I start editing my next photos! Thanks Rachel!

  6. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this whole series, Rachel! I’ve really gained a lot from your tips. I was clueless about so many things in Lightroom, but this really helped! I was going to send you one of my pics to take a look at, but I don’t think that I’ll have to bother you with that now.

  7. I am loving this whole series, very helpful! I struggle with any shots that include windows. Especially if I want to get shots of the window treatments on the windows. I’d love to read a whole post on how to do that!

  8. Rachael,
    Thank you so much for this entire series. A month ago, I purchased my Canon Rebel (copying you) and I followed all of your tutorials. I now have beautiful images of my home on my new blog. I know I still have a long ways to go with my photography skills, but this series was the most user-friendly and helpful that I have come across. When unsure about something, I find myself coming back to these posts.
    Thanks Again! Erica

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      You are so welcome, Erica! I can’t tell you how much it pleases me to hear that. I hope you continue to enjoy it!!

  9. What version of lightroom and photoshop do you use? I’m loving you photography series!

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Ruthie! I have the Adobe Creative Cloud monthly subscription, so it provides the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop.

  10. Such a great post, Rachel, and very helpful …. now if Santa just brings me that camera …. 😀 Merry Christmas to you! Cynthia

  11. Love your series! Question do you shoot in Raw or jpeg?

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Great question, Ivonne, and thank you so much! :) I shoot in jpeg for two reasons: first, my computer software that was supposed to read my Raw images was messed up for a while. Second, I already struggle with storage space using jpegs; I can’t imagine finding enough space for Raw images!

  12. Loving this series!! I have been battling to shoot interiors and you have given me so great pointers. Going to try the ISO at 100 even on a tripod and see how I go because I have been getting good light but a grainy finish.

    Congrats on a great blog and a great informative series.

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I’m so glad to hear that, Eva! What a wonderful comment. I hope you enjoy the product of your efforts!

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