Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten a whole lot of questions asking how I edit my photos, so today I’m sharing some tips and tricks to editing your photos in Lightroom. A little over a year ago my friend Kelly finally showed me how to use the basics of Lightroom and it was 100% a game-changer for my blog. I thought that I needed to pay a professional photographer to get photos of that caliber and all it took was a little bit of editing.
With the internet being such a visual place, having beautiful photography will help your blog stand out in the crowd. Better photos also get shared and re-pinned more which will in turn drive more traffic to your site. So, basically what I’m saying is that photography can be a huge asset in growing your site, so it’s worth taking the time to practice and hone your skills.
So, let’s get started, shall we?! My first suggestion is that you shoot in RAW instead of JPG. The RAW files are much bigger and hold a lot more data than JPG which makes it easier to make subtle changes in the color, hue and tones in an image without it looking overworked. The files are much bigger and also only readable by certain programs. Last I checked Apple’s iPhoto and Photoshop do not accept this type of file, so before you go shooting in RAW, make sure you have Lightroom.
I get Lightroom through Adobe’s Creative Cloud. It’s super affordable and I always have the latest version. Plus I can install it on multiple devices so I have it on my desktop and laptop.
Now for editing! I always start by moving my images from my SD card into a folder on my desktop. Then I drag those into Lightroom from there. That way I have the original copy in case I mess up or delete something. When you drag images into Lightroom it will give you the option to either Copy or Add them to Lightroom. ALWAYS choose Add! This just temporarily puts them into Lightroom. Copying them makes a second copy of that huge file and adds it to Lightroom and over time this can cause Lightroom to run very slow.
Once your images are imported, you can see them in the Library and edit them under the Develop panel. So open the Develop tab and select an image.
- SHARPEN: I always start by upping the Sharpening to 50-65. This will make the edges look crisp like a professional shot.
- PRESENCE: Under here I bring Saturation to 5 and Vibrance to 35. Occasionally I’ll use Clarity, so play around with it and see what you like.
- TONE: I change the setting here quite a bit. In the image you can see that I bring down the Highlights, bring up the Shadows, bring down the Whites a bit and bring down the Blacks a lot. Again, everyone has different preferences on how they like the colors and shadows to look in their images, so play around here.
- EXPOSURE: Each photo is different, so while most of my photos have the same settings. The exposure changes more than anything else depending on the light in that particular shot. So tweak the exposure until it’s at a place that you like. Here the photo was a bit dark, so I brought up the exposure quite a bit, but sometimes I leave it at 0 and even go into the negatives (though I try to avoid going negative!).
When you’ve edited all of your pictures, you’ll need to export them to JPGs so you can upload them to your site. Go back to the Library tab and highlight all the images that you want to export in the film strip view at the bottom and then hit the ‘Export’ button. A new screen will pop up and here can select the export location. I typically make a new folder and rename my photos for SEO purposes. It also allows you to choose a size. I always choose twice the width of my blog column. Why? Retina screens need the double width to display images crisply! Make the resolution 72 and check the box that that says ‘Don’t Enlarge’ and then Export them! You can see the progress of your export in the top screen. Once it’s done you can go upload them to your site.
These settings are by no means the only ones. All of us are attracted to very different image styles, so know what you like and study images with that style and play around with the different settings until you get what you want. Here’s a few things to think about to if you’re looking to get a specific image style…
If you like photos like Happily Grey, notice that they’re not super saturated, so don’t bring up the saturation and vibrance as much. Try going up on the blacks too to get a softer, grey look.
If you love moody images, like Adventures in Cooking, shoot your photos in darker setting with lots of shadows. Up your whites and lower the shadows to create a moody image where the whites pop.
Like really bright, light images? Up your exposure — just make sure you don’t over expose them because that doesn’t look good either.
I hope that helps! Feel free to ask me any questions below!
Disclaimer: I use a VSCO FILM preset alongside this editing process to edit my photos. If you’re looking for a very specific style, I highly recommend the VSCO FILM packs for Lightroom. They’re easy to use and look great and are far more versatile than the phone app.