Enhancing Light in Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom is rapidly becoming my go-to photo editing software. It took a while for me to appreciate its versatility but now I can’t imagine editing a photo without it.

The whole question of whether photo editing is a good thing is the subject of a different post, so here I’m just going to show how I do it to bring out the features that are already there, but which need a little help.

Making the Most of What’s Already There

This should be the sole purpose behind most editing. Take a good photo and you can make it better. Take a bad photo and there’s little you can do to make it great – except maybe pinch bits from it for a composite photo using bits of other images. I’m not saying this image is great ((I can already hear the cries from my photo group), but it pleases me 🙂

That said, here’s how I processed this image to emphasise the great light on these rocks.

Here’s the image before any Lightroom editing, shot in RAW as always:

RAW image of cliffs before editing in Lightroom
The image as shot in RAW, before any editing.

It’s not horrible, but the sky is washed out and some of the detail in the highlights and shadows are clipped as you can see from the histogram. Also, the foreground is duller than I’d like.

The histogram is your friend when editing photos. Ideally highlights and shadows won’t be clipped, but sometimes we do it on purpose for a particular effect and that’s okay too.

So Let’s Edit with Lightroom

Universal adjustments. Increase exposure a little, lift shadows, apply camera/lens adjustments and sharpen. Be light with the sliders. Going too far can introduce noise, and that means even more editing to get rid of it. It’s easy to fall down the adjustment rabbit hole where solving one problem causes another.

Local adjustments using the graduated and radial filters. This is my favourite bit because these filters can make a huge difference by selectively enhancing just the parts that need it.

Graduated filters positions on image in Lightroom
Addition of three graduated filters.

Graduated Filters: I used three, as shown in the image above by the little grey marker pins. On the right, I lowered the exposure slightly but lifted the shadows. On the left, the exposure is increased just a bit. Middle top, I dragged the filter down from the top reduce the exposure of the sky and bring back the lovely blue that was there in real life.

Enhancing light with radial filter in Lightroom.
Adding radial filters in Lightroom.

Radial Filters: This is probably my favourite of all the Lightroom tools. I used just one here, on the frosty heather at the base of the rocky cliff. I wanted to bring out the light and shadow, balance the foreground light with the sky, and make the whole image just a bit more dramatic. I increased exposure and whites, but as you’ll see from the histogram I was careful not to clip the details at either end.

Compare the Before and After Images

photo showing before and after shots following editing in Lightroom.
Shot straight from camera and after editing.

Camera and Lens: , 18 – 55 kit lens:
Settings: 1/50 at f/8, iso 200, 28mm (aps-c)

Hope you like it.

Do you edit in Lightroom? What are your favourite steps or tools? Please share your tips or images in the comments and help us all learn together to do a better job editing photos in Lightroom.


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