Looking for Lightroom tips and tricks to improve your workflow, increase your speed, and improve your edits? You have come to the right place.
I’ve been using Lightroom for over a decade, and in this article, I share my top tips for amazing results, including:
- The panel everyone should use for beautiful artistic edits
- An easy way to apply complex edits at high speed
- The best tools to create professional effects
Let’s do this!
1. Create color harmonies using the HSL panel
If you’ve never worked with the Lightroom HSL panel, you’re in for a treat. It’s a little option hidden under the tone curve that looks like this:
The panel works by targeting different colors independently. You can choose to tweak only the reds in an image; you can clarify only the Greens; you can desaturate only the Blues. You simply choose the corresponding color slider and then make the necessary adjustments.
Note that the HSL panel allows you to adjust colors in three specific ways. You can:
- Change color hues. You can make reds more orange, purples more pink, or blues more green.
- Change color saturation. You can make the blues more muted or the reds more intense.
- Change color luminance. You can brighten greens, darken blues, or brighten yellows.
When you’re just starting out, I recommend just experimenting with the different sliders until you get an effect you like, but here are some ideas to try:
- Remove all cold colors from an image for a warm, cinematic look
- Saturate the main subject color while desaturating the background colors
- Push several different colors in the same direction for a simpler color palette (and a more harmonious result)
This image, for example, features a warm color palette (which can be achieved by desaturating the blues, greens, and magentas:
2. Try Automatic Slider Adjustments
Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to start (or continue) a Lightroom edit.
In such cases, I recommend a simple little trick:
Hold down the Shift key, then double-click the sliders in the Basic panel. Lightroom will analyze your image and then automatically apply the adjustments.
No, the edits won’t always be perfect, but they’re often beautiful – and if you hate the result, you can always double-click the slider name to reset it. Plus, you can always use the automatic settings as a starting point and then tweak it from there.
By the way, if you want to see all of Lightroom’s automatic edits at once, just click on the Auto button above the Exposure slide:
It will instantly adjust the sliders in the Basic panel!
Now these automatic adjustments do not work for all Lightroom sliders. They won’t work outside of the Basic panel and they won’t work on the Texture, Clarity, and Dehaze sliders.
But you box use it to automatically adjust white balance, exposure, contrast and even saturation – so why not give it a try and see what you think?
3. Use Clipping Masks (or Clipping Warnings)
Clipping refers to a loss of detail in the highlights and/or shadows of an image – and in general, clipping is pretty bad.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell if you’re actually clipping detail while editing, and it’s possible to exacerbate clipping issues by pushing your sliders too far without realizing it. You can always keep an eye on the histogram, but it can be difficult to interpret, especially for beginners.
Fortunately, Lightroom has a solution: clipping masks, which clearly indicate clipping in real time.
Before adjusting the Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, or Blacks slider, simply hold the Alt/Opt key. Then, as you raise or lower the sliders, you’ll see a white or black overlay, like this:
A mask that reveals zero clipping will be all white or all black. But a mask that shows a bit of clipping will change color over the problem areas:
(Note that when adjusting blacks or shadows, clipping is shown as a color on white. On the other hand, when adjusting exposure, whites or highlights, clipping is indicated in color on black.)
As long as you don’t have clipping, you’re good to go, but as soon as you start to see loss of detail, you’ll want to reduce the intensity of your edits. Make sense ?
Another Lightroom tip: If you want to identify clipping but you don’t want to spend some time looking at the masks, you can always click the arrows at the top of the histogram:
This will enable clipping indicatorswhich causes clipped shadows to turn blue and clipped highlights to turn red:
4. Use the copy-and-paste shortcut to speed up your workflow
Suppose you are editing a large volume of photos from an event, wedding, or portrait photo shoot. You need to browse photos quickly, so you don’t want to edit each file individually.
You could create presets, but each one takes time to produce, and if the presets are specific to a photo shoot, you may never use them again.
Instead, why not use Lightroom’s copy-and-paste option?
You see, after editing an image, you can always select Edit>Copy (or press Ctrl/Cmd+C). A window will appear, asking you which settings you want to copy:
Then, once you have chosen the relevant settings, select your photos to be edited and then choose Edit>Paste (or press Ctrl/Cmd+V).
Your original photo settings will be pasted on the selected images and your editing work will be done!
It can be a great way to manage complex photo shoots. For example, if you captured images under multiple types of light, you can edit the first front-lit image, copy the settings, and paste them onto all the remaining front-lit images. You can do the same for backlit images, shadow images, etc. – and if you need even more control over your results, you can make slight adjustments to your settings as you go, then copy again and paste as needed.
However, I have one recommendation:
Even if you think you’ve done a good copy-and-paste job, quickly go through the edited images and make sure everything looks right. You don’t want to send images to a client, only to find that you cropped all the files by accident!
Lightroom offers a handful of local adjustment options – called masking tools – and they are incredibly powerful. You can find them towards the top of the editing panels, just below the histogram:
Unlike global adjustments, which affect the entire image, local adjustments edit only part of a file.
So while you can brighten an entire image using the Exposure slider, you can brighten just the foreground using a local adjustment; while you can fine-tune the entire image using Lightroom’s detail sliders, you can sharpen only the main subject using a local adjustment. It’s a great way to create fine, detailed edits that add depth, enhance color, and draw the viewer’s eye to the main subject.
I like to use local adjustments for all sorts of things, but here are some ideas:
- Use a radial gradient to add a vignette (i.e. darkening effect) around the edges of the frame
- Use a radial gradient to increase the exposure of the main subject
- Use a linear gradient to decrease exposure and increase contrast in the sky
- Use a linear gradient to darken the foreground
Really, when it comes to local adjustments, the sky is the limit. Feel free to use the suggestions I provided above, but be sure to experiment as well. That way, you’ll get a clear idea of how the masking tools work and what they can do for your photos!
Lightroom tips and tricks: final words
Well, now you have it:
Five tips to take your Lightroom editing to the next level.
Try these suggestions. See how you like them. And let us know in the comments how they work!