How to Use Lightroom to Edit Photos: A Complete Guide


Photography is one of the most popular hobbies in America today.

With the increasing role of social media in our daily lives, it’s safe to say that the popularity of photography is here to stay.

If you’ve been getting serious about photography, you’re probably starting to look into editing your photographs like a pro.

Let’s take a look at how to use Lightroom to take your images to the next level.

What Is Lightroom?

There are a lot of photo editing softwares to choose from, but Lightroom is the favorite of many professional and amateur photographers alike. Lightroom is software for photo organization and post-processing. This powerful software allows you to keep your photos sorted, edit them, and export them.

How to Use Lightroom For Photo Editing

Many people use presets when editing their photos in Lightroom. This means that they can edit their photos in bulk and improves the efficiency of their workflow. Here you can check out more tips for creating an efficient workflow in Lightroom.

Using presets can mean that you don’t really understand how to edit photos, though. It’s a good idea to learn the capabilities of the software and play around with it before jumping into using presets.

When just starting out editing photos, it can be a good idea to watch some Lightroom tutorials on YouTube. Since the process of editing photos is inherently visual, watching videos can give you a sense of what the different capabilities of the software are.

The Basic Panel

The first area of the program you’ll want to get familiar with is the basic panel. Here, you’ll be able to adjust the exposure, white balance, contrast, clarity, vibrance, and saturation.

Exposure is the tool you’ll use when you want to adjust the amount of overall light in the photo. If you’ve been shooting in raw, even a picture that looks way too dark can contain a vast amount of color data in post-processing. There are limits, though, and if the original RAW photo is too over-exposed or under-exposed, certain areas of the photo will be blown out or too dark, respectively.

White balance is the tool you can use to remove unrealistic color casts. The easiest way to do this is to click on the White Balance Selector tool and use it to choose a neutral color. Once you do this, you’ll see the color cast of your photo change, often dramatically.

Contrast is a tool that changes the lighter and darker mid-tones. When you push the slider to the left, there is less contrast between the darker and lighter mid-tones. When you push the slider to the right, the contrast between the mid-tones increases.

The clarity slider will enhance the mid-tones of your image. This increases the texture and brings sharpness to your photo.

When you use the vibrance slider, you can adjust the intensity of the colors in the mid-tones of the image.

Saturation is similar to vibrance but slightly less subtle. Saturation adjusts the intensity of all of the colors in the image, not just the mid-tones.

Tone Curve Panel

The tone curve is a graph that represents all of the different tones in your image. The bottom axis of the graph is the tone axis, with shadows at the left side, highlights at the right side, and midtones in the middle. The midtones are further divided into darker midtones and lighter midtones.

The Y-axis of the graph represents the lightness of a given tone. The lower you are on the  Y-axis, the darker the tones, and the higher you are the brighter the tones are.

While this sounds pretty complicated, the adjustment most commonly made to make your image pop is quite simple. After you’ve finished with your basic panel adjustments, you might want to slightly reshape your tone curve. The most dependable way to do this is to give your tone curve a slight “S” curve by dragging the upper third slightly upwards and the lower third slightly down.

HSL/B&W/Color Panel

HSL stands for Hue-Saturation-Luminance. This is a powerful tool that allows you to control the different colors in your image independently from one another.

Changing the hue of your photo can either make your photo look more realistic or more psychedelic depending on your adjustments. While you can change the saturation of the overall photo in the Basic panel, you can adjust the saturation of individual colors here. The luminance refers to the reflective brightness of the colors.

Under B&W, you’ll find a number of sliders that control how the original colors in the photo will be translated into black and white if you choose to do so.

Other Capabilities

When learning how to edit photos on Lightroom, you’ll soon learn that learning absolutely everything about the software would be a big time commitment. There are so many features and you don’t necessarily have to master them all. While we’ve gone over the Lightroom basics, you’ll probably want to learn more about some additional panels.

The split toning panel, the detail panel, the lens correction panel, and the transform panel are all fun and useful tools to look into.

Using Lightroom to Edit Your Photos Will Take Your Images to the Next Level

The technological advancements in photography have been truly remarkable over the last several decades. Equipment that was only available in professional circuits is now much more accessible to everyday people. Why not take advantage of the democratization of technology and edit professional-looking photos from the comfort of your own home?

Did you enjoy this article about how to use Lightroom to edit your photos? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more informative articles!

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