Make your trave; photos shine with this easy guide to editing photos in Lightroom. Whether you are creating an amazing photo book of your adventures or wanting to share them on social – make your travel snaps the best they can be quickly and simply.
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What camera should you use?
Before we get started on how to edit your photos in Lightroom, let’s talk cameras for a moment. The best type of camera is the one you have with you – honestly! There’s no point in having a DSLR if you never carry it with you because it’s too bulky or heavy. Whatever you decide to use, whether it’s a point-and-shoot, phone, GoPro or DSLR, the most important thing is that you know how you to use it. The better your photography is, the less editing you’ll need to do. Beautiful images can be created with a range of devices as long as you’re wielding some know-how and creativity.
I recently upgraded from a 9-yr old Canon DSLR to a Sony A7III. I also carry an old waterproof point-and-shoot for watersports and usually have my iPhone 11 in tow, which I use for panoramas and short videos.
Lightroom versus Photoshop – which is best?
Photoshop is great for advanced editing, creating composites of more than one image or stitching together panoramas. You usually work with one photo at a time and edits are destructive, meaning that if you hit the ‘save’ button you are going to alter the original document (use ‘save as’ instead).
Lightroom, on the other hand, is great for organization of photos, basic editing such as cropping, light and colour adjustments, spot removal, sharpening and saturation. Lightroom edits are non-destructive, so you don’t have to worry you will accidentally alter an image permanently and you can batch edit many photos at a time.
I use a combination of both. I estimate using Lightroom 90% of the time for the basic editing I want to achieve – remember what I said about taking the best photo you can from the outset so it doesn’t need much post-production work. Then if there is something I can’t achieve in Lightroom, I take the edited image across to Photoshop and put the final touches on there. For me, this is usually if I want to do some heavy spot removal e.g. removing powerlines from a streetscape.
I recommend subscribing to Adobe’s photography package which gives you both programs for US$9.99 per month. Lightroom alone will cost you the same, so why not have access to both. The Creative Cloud Photography plan also includes the Photoshop Express app, which is great for making edits on the fly using your phone.
Find your style
If you’re looking to publish your images on Instagram, a blog or the like, you’ll want to create a consistent, identifiable style. This is partly achieved by the type and style of photos you take, but also how you edit your photos. My style tends to be light, vibrant and fresh. I want my images to reflect what is unique about a place and/or culture–keeping it realistic while portraying the vibrancy I see in the world.
I largely use editing to compensate for less than perfect conditions. As a travel photographer, I don’t have time to sit and wait for the perfect light or weather – I have to work with what is in front of me. That means getting creative behind the lens and knowing how to capture an image in a way that leaves room for editing.
For example, underexposing an intensely sunny midday shot so I don’t lose details to blow-out (bright spots), then selectively balancing the light later through editing – brightening the shadows and dulling the highlights. Lightroom is an excellent tool for these kinds of edits.
How to import photos into Lightroom
Lightroom may appear overwhelming at first, but it’s surprisingly simple and there are great shortcuts available to edit your photos faster. Firstly, move your photos from your device or SD card onto a folder on your computer. I have mine filed under year and destination.
Lightroom automatically opens into the ‘Library’ tab, so you’ll need to click on ‘Import’ on the bottom left of the screen. From the Import page, you can select the folder your photos are in on the left-hand side and decide whether you want to import selected photos or the entire folder-full.
There are four more things I do on that initial import of my photos to make my entire workflow more streamlined and efficient. These settings are in the panel on the right-hand side:
- In the ‘File Handling’ tab, I recommend checking the ‘Build Smart Previews’ option if you are storing your images on an external hard drive. That way even if you are not plugged into your drive you can still see previews of the images in Lightroom.
- In the ‘Apply During Upload’ tab, I add some general keywords (e.g. summer, autumn, city, beach, national park etc) in the “Keywords” box. Having Metadata attached to your photo will help you search the images later, which is especially useful when you have thousands of them.
- Also in ‘Apply During Upload’, I add my contact and copyright details which I have saved into a preset so I don’t have to type them out each time. You can create your own preset in the little dropdown menu called Metadata.
- Apply a preset which applies the basic edits that I make to 90% of my photos. This helps me sort and edit the photos faster. You can create a preset of your own or apply one that you have bought from a creator. More about presets later.
Note: Doing this all right at the beginning is more efficient overall but the initial import will be slow and takes a lot of your computer’s processing power. I usually set it to upload just before I go to bed or before going to do a workout, so I’m not sitting around waiting for it.
The power of presets – How to edit photos in Lightroom
Once your photos are imported you can view them in the ‘Library’ tab which is mostly used for organization, such as adding keywords and other metadata, and for viewing previews of your images. In order to edit them you need to move into the ‘Develop’ tab. Here you can edit one photo at a time or in larger batches.
To speed things up, I create ‘presets’ of my favourite edits which I can apply to other photos. A preset is like a snapshot of particular settings that you can apply to a photo in a single click. You can create your own presets or you can import ready-made presets that are available online. If you really like a particular Instagrammer or photographer’s style, ask if they have presets available to purchase.
Sometimes the preset is perfect straight out of the box, but most of the time a picture will need some additional tweaks. You can do this in the righthand panel. One of the most common tools I use is the ‘Crop’ for creating different formats for different platforms e.g. squares for Insta, portrait style for Pinterest and landscape for here on the blog.
Remember, Lightroom editing is non-destructive so you can crop the same image in different ways for different purposes. You’ll need to export a version of each before you make the next edit.
Lightroom editing techniques and styles
There are so many different ways to edit a single image, depending on your personal taste and vibe. It takes time to develop a distinct style, I’m not even sure I’ve found mine yet. Learn to use Lightroom’s editing tools (and later Photoshop) so with time, you can get away from presets and start creating your own looks.
Youtube is your best friend for tutorials on how to use Lightroom. I particularly like watching videos by Julianne Kost from Adobe. She breaks it down simply, explaining each tool and showing examples. I also like that she keeps her images realistic looking. This helps you to get a great baseline editing process going, then you can level up with your own creativity and unique spin.
Scream if you want to go faster! Batch editing in Lightroom
You’ve spent time editing and tweaking a photo to perfection and now you want to edit all your similar shots with the same settings. Here are two ways to go about that:
Firstly, the “Sync” function will take the settings from one photo and apply those changes across the other photos you’ve selected. To use “Sync”, open the photo with the edits you like in the “Develop” tab. Hold down “shift” and select the other photos you want to apply the edits to in the film strip at the bottom of your screen. Next, press “Sync” in the bottom right panel. The selected photos will automatically update, though it may take a few minutes if you’ve selected many images.
Secondly, the “Copy and Paste” function allows you to copy the settings from one photo onto another. Use this if you want to apply edits from one photo to just a couple of other images here and there. Start by selecting the image you like the editing on in the “Develop” panel, then hit “Copy” in the lower left of your screen. Then find the photo you want to use those edits on, select it and press “Paste” – presto! Your edits have been applied.
Export expert – How to export your edited photos
Once your photos are how you like them, export them for use on your chosen platform. If you are publishing online, you’ll want to know the best size for the platform so that you can export photos as JPGs that are the right dimensions and a file size that isn’t too big. For example, for Instagram, I export my photos at 1080 x 1080px which is the largest size photos are displayed on the Gram.
To export select ‘File’ on the top menu and then ‘Export’. You’ll need to choose a folder and name for your exported photos, ideally one that keeps the edited versions separate from the original images. Below are screenshots of the export settings I use for Instagram and here on Duende.
Have fun getting creative with your photography and taking it to the next level by editing with Lightroom.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,