Adobe Lightroom has quietly become one of the best photo editing software options for photographers thanks to its easy-to-use interface and extensive range of tools and controls. In our latest Raw Tuesday post, our Adobe Lightroom tutorial shows you how to use Lightroom’s Develop module for perfect edits.
Lightroom is far more than just an image organiser. Its Develop module houses a set of tonal controls that at least match, and arguably surpass Photoshop stalwarts like Levels and Curves.
These tools enable you make a range of useful edits – from basic tonal tweaks to more creative effects. If you’re used to Photoshop’s Camera Raw plugin you’ll find a near-identical set of controls on the right of the Develop Module’s interface.
Whether you want to make basic exposure tweaks, correct lens distortion, crop in tighter or remove spots, the Develop Module is the place to begin.
And because Lightroom allows you to make these changes non-destructively to raw files, you can work on your images while retaining the highest possible quality.
In this tutorial we’ll start by making a few fundamental tweaks to exposure and tone in the Basic Panel, which is the best place to begin editing your raw files. We’ll go on to use targeted tools to lighten eyes and darken the corners.
One of the main reasons to work in Lightroom is that every single edit you make is completely reversible and editable at any time. So not only can you undo or tweak anything at any stage, you also have the freedom to try out different effects and treatments.
The Develop Module isn’t just essential for basic enhancements, it also lets you take your images in interesting and unexpected directions.
6 fundamental edits for raw files in the Adobe Lightroom Develop module
01 Make Basic Tweaks
Open Lightroom and click the Library Module, then hit the Import button and import develop_before.dng. Next, click Develop. Go to the Basic Panel on the right of the interface and use the sliders to improve the tones. Set Exposure +0.35, Contrast +7, Highlights +20, Shadows +49, Whites +18, Blacks -7, Vibrance +29.
02 Curves and vignette
Scroll down the set of controls on the right until you come to the Tone Curve. Either drag the line, or input these settings to create an S-shaped curve line: Highlights +15, Lights +5, Darks -9, Shadows -17. Next scroll down to the Effects Panel and set Post crop vignette, Style: Highlight Priority, Amount -20.
03 Crop in tighter
Go to the tools below the histogram and click the Crop tool. Now scroll up to the top of the right-hand settings to find the Crop options. Click the Lock icon to lock the aspect ratio, then crop in to the top and right. Next, click the Adjustment Brush and hit Z to zoom in to the eyes.
04 Paint in adjustments
Check Show Selected Mask Overlay, then set Brush size to 14 in the settings on the right. Click over Iris to set a pin, then paint over both irises. Hold Alt and paint to erase if you need to. Hide mask overlay, go to settings and input Exposure +0.94, Contrast +51, Clarity +48, Saturation +51 to boost the iris.
05 Reveal highlight details
Click New at the top right of the screen, then click on the bright white flower to set another pin. Paint a new mask over the flower, as well as some of the brighter parts along the arm, then set Highlights -26 to reveal more of the detail in those areas. Next you need to grab the Graduated Filter tool.
06 Remove the flower
Drag in from the edges to create several gradients, each with Clarity set to -71, to create a soft blur around the edges. Grab the Spot Removal tool. Set Spot Edit: Heal, Size 79 then zoom in to the flower under the arm. Click over the flower and drag to the left to remove it.
34 Photoshop effects every photographer must try once
101 Photoshop tips you really need to know
Adobe Lightroom 4 review
Photoshop Curves Tool: 6 techniques every photographer should know
How to retouch photos: pro techniques in 10 easy steps