As nice as it would be to get everything right in-camera and have perfect images from the outset, that doesn’t happen very often.
In fact, I don’t remember the last time I took a photo that I felt was just how I wanted it right from the get-go.
That’s why it’s so important for photographers today to understand how to use programs like Lightroom to bring out the best in their images.
Some purists would say that editing your photos in Lightroom and other post-processing programs is cheating.
I say it’s just one more tool in your toolkit to produce the best images you can.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at three essential Lightroom editing tricks that Mango Street loves to use, and that you’ll love to use too!
Use HSL Adjustments to Correct Skin Tones
HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance, where hue refers to the color tones of an image, saturation controls the depth of a specific color, and luminance is the brightness of a color in the photo.
When you’re editing a portrait and notice odd skin colors – say, the skin looks a little red due to bad lighting or because of the presets you’ve applied to the shot (as seen above) – use the HSL controls to bring those skin tones back to a normal range.
Doing so in Lightroom is easy, as the HSL panel offers a host of sliders that give you pinpoint control over how hue, saturation, and brightness appear in your image.
Here’s the process, with the numbered steps shown in the image above:
- Click “All” in the HSL Panel.
- Click the target adjustment circle, just to the left of “Hue” (or saturation or brightness, depending on which one you’re working on).
- Click on the area of the photo that has the tones that need color adjustment.
- Click and drag the sliders to adjust the tones. If the skin tones are too red, drag the slider to the right; if they’re too yellow, drag the slider to the left.
- Follow the same procedure for luminance and saturation, adjusting the sliders as needed to get a more natural-looking skin tone.
I think we can all agree that looking at the before and after in the image above shows just how powerful the HSL tools can be!
Use Manual Lens Corrections to Get Rid of Chromatic Aberration
If you’ve ever noticed a green or purple outline around the subject in your photo (as seen above around the tree), that’s chromatic aberration.
Also known as purple fringing or color fringing, chromatic aberration results when your camera’s lens isn’t able to capture all the wavelengths of color on a single focal plane.
Instead, this type of aberration occurs when the lens disperses the different colors of light as they pass through the lens. It can result in blue, yellow, red, or purple or green fringing, as noted above.
It sounds like a serious problem, but it isn’t. You can use Lightroom to get rid of it.
Here’s how, with the numbered steps shown in the screenshot above:
- In the Lens Correction Panel, click on the Manual tab.
- Using the Amount Slider, reduce the defringe amount to around 5.
- Select the colors of the aberration in the Hue Slider. Adjust the slider until the aberration is no longer evident.
Again, looking at the before and after versions of the image shows how easily (and effectively) you can use Lightroom to correct aberration.
Get Rid of Vignetting With Profile and Perspective Controls
The vast majority of lenses (even some high-dollar ones) create what’s called vignetting.
Vignetting occurs when the outer corners of an image appear to be darker than the center of the image. For that reason, this situation is also commonly referred to as light falloff.
Though you can add vignetting as a creative touch to your images in post-processing, typically, if your lens has created vignetting in a photo, you want to work to remove it.
Here’s the process to remove vignetting, with the numbered steps shown in the screenshots above and below:
- Click on Profile in the Lens Corrections Panel.
- Check Enable Profile Corrections. The lens you used to take the photo should automatically appear, but if not, manually enter which lens was used.
- In the Transform Panel, check the Constrain Crop box
- Click the Auto button to correct the perspective.
In looking at the first screenshot above and the third screenshot immediately above, you can see a marked difference in the brightness of the image around the edges and at the corners.
That’s the profile and perspective controls in Lightroom at work!
Putting It All Together
As I noted in the introduction, there are some photographers that shutter at the thought of using Lightroom and other programs to process their images.
I’d encourage you not to be one of those photographers…
It’s a noble effort trying to get your images just right in-camera, but it’s not something that’s all that practical. After all, the more you fiddle with your camera settings and such, the less time you’re actually spending in taking photos.
What’s more, as demonstrated in the tips above, Lightroom is an incredibly powerful platform for making subtle (or not so subtle) adjustments that make your images just plain better.