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Using Lightroom to Edit your Photos

Though many cameras have photo editing tools built in, they are not really as much useful as the stand-alone PC-only tools like Lightroom. Here is where spending just a few minutes could mean the difference between a bad photo and a good work of art. All it takes are a few easy steps. Master these and keep tweaking, and you are well on your way to photographic hall of fame. But first, some introduction to Lightroom.

Once you download the software, click on ‘File’ icon and use the ‘Import from Disk’ or ‘Import from Device’ button and you are good to go. You will soon have the image in front of you. Look at the top right corners of the page that has the following: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, Web. Click on ‘Develop’ because here is where you can edit your images. Now, notice the small TV icon right at the bottom left of the image. That shows the Loupe View, which is nothing but one large image that is being edited. Once you’ve finished editing the image, click on the icon next to the Loupe View. This shows the Before and After image, so you can see the difference after the editing yourself.

1.  Your subject can be a product, place or thing. To begin with, get the white balance right and all is well with the color saturation of your photo. After all, the more realistic the skin tone, the more professional it looks. Go to Settings/Auto White Balance. One before-after picture of this like the one below should give you ample reason to do this step first. If you are not happy with it, go to View/White Balance Selector and mark out the white in the image that is purest or closest to white. The result is vivid like this image below.

2. Exposure is key to how the lights and shadows highlight your subject. Less is more and more is less. Therefore, if striking the right balance becomes difficult, you can opt for the automatic exposure by going to Settings/Auto Tone. However, if you want to opt for custom exposure, go to the extreme right of your frame that shows all the Basic settings under the Histogram. In the above case, the auto tone was set at -60. But I thought, -86 was better and kept at that.

3.That’s not all. Now I decided to add some light, however little. And took the slider to 7.

4. To make the photographic contrast more arresting, I played with the Blacks slider now and took it up to 27.

5. Since I had used the Fill Light and Blacks, I kept the Brightness slider at 0, the default value and decided to tweak the Contrast which was automatically set to -2. I brought it down further to -11. One way to aid you in finding your sweet spot while adjusting is to watch the image and the histogram. The more flat and well balanced the graph, the better adjustment you’ve made to the image.

6. I found the image a bit too colorful and therefore toggled the Vibrance slider to -14. I left Clarity and Saturation sliders alone because my previous modifications had set these right as well. So here’s the before/after.

You’ll notice that there’s not much I did to achieve this effect. But the result is there to be seen. Both the women look warmer, happier and in their habitat. Just practice this more often, and you should get the hang of using the few sliders needed to do this editing job.

~Zahid H Javali