The Basics

Lightroom helps you do lots of sorting, keywording, and sophisticated RAW processing. But you can do a lot more with it: Built into version 2.0 are tools and tricks that go beyond what you can usually do with RAW images. Learn the ropes, and you’ll find yourself clicking “Edit in Photoshop” less and less often.

Here are a few of our favorite techniques, all of which can be found within the Develop module:

The Adjustment Brush

When you want to tweak an irregular area of your image, try the Adjustment Brush. With it, you can paint in changes wherever you want them.

Tip: Most of the time, you’ll want to check the box to turn on Auto Mask – that will ensure that no matter how messy your brushstrokes, Lightroom will make its best attempt at helping you color within the edges it finds.

Step 1: Choose the Adjustment Brush tool; it’s just to the right of the Graduated Filter.

Step 2: This photo has good exposure in the puddle, but the sidewalk around it is way too bright. First, get a brush that’s the right size. The inner circle of the tool represents the brush’s primary diameter, the outer circle, the feather. Take a guess at the settings you’ll want – we’ll adjust them later. For now, just make them different enough from the original that you’ll see where you’re painting.

Step 3: Now start painting in the areas you want darker. The Auto Mask will keep the puddle from changing as you adjust the sidewalk.

Step 4: To check the mask you made, type the letter O on your keyboard. If there are spots the program got that you don’t want to affect, click on the word Erase in the Brush menu. Then paint out the areas where you won’t be needing a mask.

Step 5: If you want to add a second mask, click the word New. Then use the Effect pull down menu to chose what you want to do. To add a little more pop to the red sign, choose Saturation.

Step 6: This time, choose a smaller brush, and paint the sign to mask it. Then adjust your settings; a little boost of contrast and clarity make a big difference here. Notice how now you see two dots floating on your picture. The one with the black center is the one you’re working on. The gray one represents the one you did first. You can always click on a dot to re-edit or delete its mask. When you’re finished, just click on the word Close to hide the dots and get back to the usual Lightroom interface.

Finished Product:

The Graduated Filter

Use the Graduated Filter tool anytime you want to adjust a section of your image that’s easily divisible by a straight line. This works very well when you’ve properly exposed a landscape for the ground, but the sky’s looking a bit too bright.

Step 1: Start by getting the Graduated Filter tool by clicking on its icon in the top-right of the Develop module.

Step 2: To make this tool work, you’ll use the tool to draw the area where you want your transition. The direction of the grad filter depends on the direction you draw it. Draw it from right to left, and your adjustment will show up on the right. Draw it from left to right and the affected area will be on the left. Once you’ve drawn a selection, you can modify it by grabbing the outermost edges to expand or contract it, move the whole mask by clicking and dragging on the dot at the center of the mask, or rotate it around that center dot.

Step 3: Now make your adjustments. The area on the right side of this photo needs to be brighter to balance the light from window. Move the brightness slider to the right until you like the result. If you need to, adjust your mask for a more natural transition.

Finished Product:

Post-Crop Vignettes

For this photo, I added a graduated filter on the right to brighten the chair, but it left the bottom-right corner looking overly-blown out. It also looked unnatural compared to the light on the bottom-left corner. Adding a vignette will make the photo more natural. Scroll down until you see the Vignettes panel. Here you can do lens correction, but you can also add a vignette to an image after you fix or crop it. Just dial the Vignette amount down until you like the added darkness. You can also adjust the midpoint up if the shadows are encroaching too far into your photo.


Finished Product: