8 Great Lightroom Photo Editing Tips for Beginners

by Jeremy Gray

posted Thursday, April 28, 2022 9:29 a.m. EDT

Photographer James Popsys has some great photo editing tips for beginners in his latest video. The first subject is cropping. This is definitely a basic photo editing skill, but make no mistake about it. This requires a careful and thoughtful approach. Cropping an image can completely transform an image. While we’re hoping to nail our composition in camera and not need to crop an image at all, that’s easier said than done. This is where cropping comes in.

Before you start with any other image edits, it’s a good idea to crop so you know what the final image frame contains. Why crop first? When you change the exposure or the overall brightness of your image, you should use the histogram. Each time you change your crop, the histogram also changes based on the information in the frame. You don’t want to alter your exposure or your curves with unnecessary information that won’t be in your final image. For example, if you’re going to crop a dark or light area, you don’t want that brightness information to show up in your histogram.

After cropping, Popsys likes to turn its attention to exposure and white balance. These are two simple tweaks in Adobe Lightroom or any other photo editing software. Exposure and white balance have a significant impact on the appearance of your image. Simply put, exposure is how bright or dark an image is, and white balance is how cool or warm it is. Popsys thinks you should start your editing process with the tweaks that will make the biggest difference. Even if you don’t make any changes to cropping, exposure, or white balance, it’s important to assess these big three first, because each one can completely transform a photo on its own.

So far we’ve looked at adjustments that affect the entire image. These are often referred to as “global adjustments”. There are also “local” adjustments. These are adjustments to specific parts of a photo, rather than the entire image. Lightroom offers many ways to make fine adjustments, including smart masking tools, color range selection, luminance masks, and even hand-drawn brush tools. While it takes some time to learn how to use each local editing tool effectively in Lightroom, improving those skills will pay off tremendously.

As important as local adjustments are – and they are essential – it’s important to always keep your whole image in mind, even when you’re spending a lot of time on a small part of the frame. If you’ve already cropped out unnecessary parts of your image, that means everything else is important and works together, so you need to keep the whole image in mind. “It’s easy to miss things that get a little weird,” as Popsys says. For example, if you adjust the sky in a photo, it’s all too easy to realize that even if you like the edited sky, it just doesn’t match the rest of the image. Using a light touch when making any adjustments, especially local ones, is often the right approach.

For the rest of Popsys’ eight photo editing tips for beginners, watch the full video above. If you want to see more of his videos, head over to James Popsys’ YouTube channel. You can see more of his photography on his website and Instagram.

(via James Popsys)

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