Editing ONLY in Lightroom: Before & After with Video

A few weeks ago, I was reading an interesting thread on www.ilovephotography.com where one of the most respected members said that most photographers don’t use Lightroom for more than organization and basic fixes like White balance and exposure. In her view, that is because most people approach actual editing in Lightroom the wrong way after being used to editing in Photoshop for so long. She also mentioned (and this hit home for me!) that most of us don’t get paid enough for huge amount of time that we spend doing detailed laborious edits in Photoshop. WORD!

I took this as a bit of a challenge because I consider(ed) myself pretty knowledgeable in Lightroom, so I set about trying to edit an image from a recent session only in Lightroom. I did so by trying to use the adjustment brush to “brush in” contrast, saturation and darkness around my subject. In the end, I found it took even MORE time than my usual photoshop edits and posted back in the thread for advice. What was posted in return was that I was going about it backwards, which was her point to begin with! In LR, it’s easier/more effective to darken/saturate the whole image and then brush back in brightness just on the subject. Total lightbulb moment!

So I tried on this recent session to edit ALL the images only in Lightroom. Once I figured it out and edited one image to my liking, it was very easy to apply the edits across the whole session and it did save a huge amount of time. More importantly, the results were super consistent. I did have to retouch a bit of a rash on the older child’s face and I really cannot live without portraiture, so I did run it on several of the images so you might say that these were edited 99% in LR and 1% in photoshop. Just for full disclosure :)

I recorded a video showing my editing steps, it will take us from this SOOC:

to this:

Before I post a link to the video, I have to apologize for the audio.. I should have checked my mic levels but alas I did not, so there is a bit of annoying distortion!

Leave a comment if you have any questions!

Pin It

Wall Display Templates for Photographers

You might also like

Photoshop Friday: Selective Levels Adjustments! I felt as if I were in a post processing slump lately.. I had some good captures that I just feel  like...
Jasper the Easter Bunny Oh my, so much to post I don't even know where to begin... First there are these Easter pictures...
Creating Smart Collections in Lightroom – and WHY I do most of my initial edits in lightroom (basic exposure adjustment, white balance) and then any image...
Photoshop Friday: A Peek Into Lightroom You've heard me evangelize about Adobe Lightroom, but you probably have been wondering what all the fuss...
Chelsae S says:

I loved watching your video. I am just beginning to edit my own photos and I never played around with Lightroom that much. It was quite fun figuring everything out.
I do have a question though, have you found an easier way to put your watermark on your photos? I am having problems with getting it on there in Lightroom.

marina says:

Thanks for posting this! I love using LR. I’m not a professional, but I love learning new things.

ariana says:

@ Leila, no special settings, just the same settings that you used when you shot in that same light. No need to fill the frame with the card if you are adjusting in LR later with the WB picker tool, only if you are using it to set custom WB in camera.

@Kelly – I would highly recommend portraiture.. there are numerous other tools/actions that smooth skin, but Portraiture does it in one click – AND it can be batch processed. You can actually use the code “Mommyblog” and save 15% on it :)

@ Monica, thanks! If I’m going to open up a file in PS, I’m going to use it. I figure if I’m already there, might as well because it ALWAYS makes images look better! In the case of these photos, I only edited them in PS where the older boy’s rash around his mouth was noticeable, so I ran portraiture on those. Hope that helps!

Monica says:

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your instructional videos and your shooting style! My first time leaving a comment, but I have viewed your LR, PS and photoshoots videos numerous times. I recently purchased PS and was previously editing all my photos in LR exclusively. Thank you for teaching me new tips for LR! For this shot, did you use portraiture in PS when done editing in LR? Do you always use portraiture?

kelly says:

Hi Leila. Thanks so much for this wonderful tutorial and for sharing all of your knowledge. I have been considering purchasing Portraiture but then someone on another forum mentioned the mixer brush tool in CS5 to smooth skin. Have you tried that? Can you compare it to the Portraiture plug-in? Thanks s much!

Leila says:

So I have one of those round grey discs and assume I should be using that. Any special settings or need to fill the frame or just shoot a sample pic with the disc in place?

ariana says:

Hi Leila,
A digital grey card is something you buy and then take an image with the card in it and in LR or ACR you use the Whitebalance dropper tool and click on the card.. it sets the correct white balance which you can then synch across all the images that were taken in the same lighting condition!

Leila says:

So helpful. Just loved watching you work. Can you explain how you used the DIGITAL GREY CARD? I’m sure that is something I should be doing but I’m just not sure how. Thanks

Carrie says:

WONDERFUL video!! Thank you so much for posting this! :) I learned a ton! And it helps that you took a beautiful image to begin with :)

Emily says:

Talk to me about Portraiture . . . like the plugin for PS?

Sandra Jolly says:

Hi Ariana! I LOVED this LR tutorial! It was so helpful. I, for one, would definitely not object to seeing lots more LR tutorials from you :)

Megan says:

Thanks for your exporting steps! I recall in another video you commented that the sharpening in LR is not as good as Photoshop.but from this post, does it mean you no longer sharpen in PS and you only run Potriture?

Carolyn says:

Thank you for sharing, I love watching your tutorials. I look forward to more. Thanks again!!

Nancy Cuppy says:

Awesome video Ariana. During the video when you were using the dodge adjustment brush to lighten the little fellow up, you said you increased contast, but you increased saturation to 5 instead. Did you mean saturation? Great video thanks so much.


ariana says:

Nancy, I noticed that too when I was playing it back – I was just seeing if you all were paying attention ;)

Jaymi says:

This is a great tutorial, thanks so much for sharing!!

Vera says:

Thanks for posting this! I always learn so much from your videos. Lately, I’ve been working in Lightroom a lot more and I tend to get the overall photo looking the way I want it to, and then I try to just work on skin retouching, levels and brightening up faces in cs5. I’m always tweaking my workflow, but I really love Lightroom because everything is right there on the side. You don’t have to go looking for tools or menu items. It’s all on the side in LR. Love that!

ariana says:

Thanks for de-lurking Allison!!

I actually really had a hard time “getting” lightroom until I watched the free and very informative tutorials on Adobe TV:

The ones I originally learned on were not by Julieanne Kost, but the new ones are and I highly recommend them..and not just because Julianne is an awesome person (even though she is!!)

Allison says:


Long time reader, first time comment. Thanks for this wonderful video! I used lightroom 99% of the time and love to see how you did this on professional beautiful images. Lightroom has been so much more intuitive for me, whereas photoshop is so difficult for me. I’ve learned a lot – thank you!

Thank you for posting! Your videos are always so helpful!

ariana says:

Sorry – so for exporting to save on FB or my photography blogsite, I open and run an action I created that uses an USM as also places my logo.

For sharpening for print, I use the LR default medium print sharpening for “glossy” paper.

Christine: So, in my first video that crashed (LOL!)I did touch on that.. I would use the luminance noise slider to about 20. But really, I was so zoomed in, you wouldn’t notice that level of noise on a small to medium size print (I don’t think!).

Christine says:

That was awesome! I feel like I learned a ton about LR by watching that. And I feel like I should at least buy you a coffee or something for sharing your knowledge! Thanks so much!

I noticed you didn’t touch the noise reduction. Was that because you felt like the image didn’t need it? I noticed a bit of noise below his chin, but am wondering if there’s a reason to leave it as it, like to maintain detail.

Megan says:

So happy you posted this! Been wanting to ask about resizing and sharpening. I tried uploading from LR3 to flickr and images are horrible. I’d love to learn about your steps and settings to upload images to flickr.

Off to watch now…and more questions later!

Kathy says:

Thanks for sharing! Actually I meant to ask do you sharpen when you export from LR, but I see that you do not … unless I am missing the USM in LR?

Kathy says:

Thank you for this video! I would say I am about 80% in Lightroom, working on a higher percentage. LOVE the split toning info – haven’t tried that yet and definitely will.
Did you sharpen upon export for web? If so, would you share which settings you used? Thanks so much.

ariana says:

Yes, always! I save my web images at 960 wide for both my Photography blog and FB so these settings probably only apply to that size, but I use USM as 500% and .2 radius. Sometimes I will lower that percentage to taste!

ariana says:

Hi Cathy, yes – I was trying to match the after settings, so I had written it down. I did use my grey card, but I usually adjust to taste quite a bit, particularly shooting in shadows like this the grey card value ends up almost yellow! :)

Cathy says:

When you typed in the temperature is that because you had used that on the image prior.Does that number relate to the grey card?
I love LR and how much time it will save in my editing flow.
Plus it is all non destructive !