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When your images aren’t up to snuff, there’s always photo-editing software
Photography can be impenetrable from the gear to actually shooting and then the image editing software is a whole other uphill battle. Even with Adobe introducing Lightroom as a lightweight Photoshop alternative, it can be daunting to see a screen full of sliders as a complete novice. To help get you from serial Instagramer to amateur photographer, here’s a crash course to making your images look great with just a few steps in Lightroom.
First off, before we get to editing any images, it’s super important to start shooting RAW format images in case you haven’t already. Unlike JPEGs, RAW files are uncompressed digital negatives that carry much more information. This in turn makes them easier to work with in Lightroom or any image editor. Thanks to this full allotment of the data packed into RAW files, you can fix more images otherwise destined for the trash heap such as blue-tinged messes or almost completely black frames.
If that wasn’t enough to sell you on shooting in RAW, this entire guide was done using the uncompressed format to show off and take advantage of the full image editing power of Lightroom.
The first thing you’ll need to in Lightroom is to migrate your images of course. Upon starting Adobe Lightroom, navigate your mouse up to File and select “Import Photos and Video” (Ctrl+Shift+I). Another shortcut users can take advantage of is Lightroom will auto-detect any memory cards or cameras plugged into the computer.
Lightroom will automatically drop images into dated folders. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some) this is programmed into the software, but users can always rename their folders. More importantly keywording your photos will be an indispensable tool to manage, search, and organize your images.
Once your images are all loaded into the library we can start editing one by clicking over (or hitting "D" on the keyboard) to the “Develop” screen. On the right edge of the screen users will find a list of settings that will allow them to tweak their images.
There’s a lot to take in with Lightroom’s interface, but the most important thing users will navigate to are the filmstrip along the bottom to navigate images. Clicking anywhere on the image displayed in the center window, meanwhile, will zoom into the frame.
Just beneath the featured picture there’s also a box designated with “X|Y” that will allow you to view the original image next to their processed counterpart. The button to the left of this aforementioned comparison toggle will return the window to normal, displaying only the final picture. Along the left side of the screen users will find a history log of all the edits made so far to each individual photo--and speaking of image settings, they’re all stacked on the right side of the window. At the bottom of this list of editing options there's also a handy "Previous" button to let users undo one chance or "Reset" to start all over again.
Sometimes in the rush to capture that decisive moment there isn’t enough time to line up a perfect composition. But as long as the subject in the photo is in focus and your camera has enough megapixels, there’s always the option to crop the image.
The crop tool is located on right, underneath the histogram, and is designated by a boxed grid icon closest to the left. Depending on the shot it might be smart to cut away some of the background to isolate the subject. Alternatively, cropping could come in handy to remove a busy or boring background (otherwise known as negative space). Sticklers for completely level images can also bring their mouse cursor to the edge of the frame to rotate the picture as well.
Red eyes and flash photography seem to be inseparable despite all our technological advances, but at least it has gotten incredibly easy to fix this niggling issue. Located just two icons to the right from the Framing icon, clicking on Red Eye Correction will give you a new cursor that you'll want to select any red eyes in the photo. After that Lightroom will use the point users select and auto detect red pupils.
Lighting is one of the toughest things in photography, especially when there’s a mix of sunlight and a blue hued lightbulb. Not only do the two different types of warm and cool light clash, they also completely throw off all the colors in your photos. With this in mind shifting the white balance should be one of the very first stops on your image editing train. Lightroom comes with a series of preset white balance settings just as cameras do with options such as daylight, shade, tungsten, and flash just to name a few.
There's also the option to have Lightroom figure it out all on its own and most of the time it does an admirable job of picking out the right type of lighting. In case anything still looks a little off, there are also sliders that users can move around. Each slider is fairly self explanatory—shifting the top knob leftwards will make the image take on a blue shade while shifting towards yellow will cause your image to take on a sepia tone. The one underneath splits the spectrum between green and violet.
For those wanting a bit more fine tuned control with a point-and-click solution users should select the eyedropper tool. Simply hover the dropper over to a neutral gray or white area and clicking it will have Lightroom take a best guess on white balance from that one spot.
Click on to the next page where we'll dive into more editing magic.