A lot of people have asked me how I edit my photos on Instagram or they want to learn how to better edit their own photos. They’ve even asked to buy my presets (which I don’t have) so I’ll tell you my lightroom editing secrets.

Most anything I post online is a camera shot and not a phone shot. I think phones can take amazing photos but it’s not for me because I really want the ability to blow up my photos into prints. I want every detail and every pixel I can get in a photo.

Many people sell presets to edit your photo. I’m not really a fan of editing a photo as someone else would so I would recommend that if you use a preset that you also do some tweaking of your own. Think of it as fine tuning it. I don’t think photos are all a “one size fits all” approach with Lightroom editing. There’s so many different factors. Those Lightroom editing presets I see often turn skin blue or orange. It’s just not a good look on most people.

This is not from a preset but rather a reflection from the blue building on my skin. I was able to bring myself back to life though!

Blue Skin from presets is not flattering.

If you have blue looking skin consider toning down the blue in saturation or tone. Also consider adding yellow or pink. You need more warmth.

Another common mistake that I see people do is when they use the brushes, which are very powerful tools in Lightroom editing, they leave a halo around themselves. This is an obvious indicator that your photo has been edited and not edited very well. For me, a good edit is one that leaves you wondering if it was edited at all or what parts were edited. It should be more of a mystery and not a glaring blob.

My Lightroom editing tips

One feature that someone had to show me for Lightroom editing is that all photos are imported at “adobe standard” color settings. For my camera, there’s a set of color settings that you can choose from and I can tell you that once I select them it can dramatically change the look of the photo just by using this one setting. Usually it adds more color and vibrancy to the photo.

Camera Landscape Option for brighter colors

Another setting that I always use is to correct for lens distortion and chromatic aberration. These take out the curve in your photo. It can make only a subtle difference or a big one depending on your subject.

Lens Correction for less distorted edited photos

If you have a photo of a building and the perspective is off, consider using the “upright” corrections below what we just talked about. This can take your building from leaning forward or back to straight up and down. I will warn you that you’ll probably have to crop after using this feature as it can cut in a bit to the top or bottom of your photo but will make your building vertical. I also use this feature when doing home photography. It is a wizard at making everything straight so I don’t have any funny looking angels.

The next edits that I do to a photo is usually in order from top to bottom on the right hand panel. I start with the tone. Maybe going a little more blue or pink. Perhaps a little brighter so I adjust the exposure.

A tip that I learned over the years was to take my photos darker than I thought they should be so that I don’t blow out any highlights. I hate it when I can’t recover them. You can only do so much with that highlight or shadow slider. If you get really close to bringing back your highlights with the slider but have it maxed out at 100 consider using a “highlight” brush on just that spot to bring it back even more. It usually does the trick for me.

After tone, exposure, highlights and shadows, I can play a little with the whites and blacks but usually not too much. I also sometimes adjust the contrast or the individual color sliders if I want to punch up those flowers or fall leaves. I usually never use the vibrancy or the main saturation slider because I think it can be too much but that’s just me. Some people really love a saturated photo and that’s ok. This is all about editing for you and finding what works for you.

A cool thing about Lightroom editing is that if you have a whole series of photos taken at a location and you edit one, you can select the next photo and click on the “previous” button on the bottom right. That will give this new photo the same edits as the last one. It was such a time saver when I learned this trick. You can also “copy” and “paste” edits from one photo to another and you ca even be selective about what you copy from a photo.

Brushes are your friend and your enemy

Brushes can be really powerful final tweaks to a photo. Just remember to zoom in and use them wisely. It can take awhile to get used to using the brush. Sometimes a mouse or track pad works best. I’ve been doing it so long I can just use my track pad now.

I forgot to mention that I sometimes crop my photo early in the process or sometimes after all my edits. It really depends. Just remember that if you are editing for Instagram that you need to crop to 4×5 / 8×10. I usually crop in lightroom instead of Instagram so that I’m not surprised if I don’t like the crop. Sometimes I won’t post a photo because I don’t like how it crops.

If you liked this you might also want to see some before and afters? Or if you want one on one help let’s schedule a session. Group workshops coming soon!

Lightroom editing by Roux Roamer