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Tabitha’s Adobe Lightroom Photo Editing Tutorial 

Challenges of Photo Editing

The greatest challenge as a computer tech and a photographer is actually helping other people organize and edit photos. Why?

1. Expectations vary from person to person as too often what a person wants to do, that one app might not allow, leading to frustration for you and I. One person wants images imported automatically and done as few clicks as possible. The next person wants full control over what folder they go in on an external drive and what they are named. Another person doesn’t want to edit much and another person wants to edit extensively.

2. Programs and Window versions people use vary greatly as Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 all have different photo apps built into the computer (as well as iPhoto and the Photo app on the Mac side varies by version) Importing and other steps can be very different between versions as well. How I do it in Windows 7 won’t work in Windows 8 or 10 for instance. For instance with iPhoto / Photo on mac it imports all your photos into hidden folders and you need to export the photos if you want them in a hierarchy structure. The Photo app on Windows app on Winodws 10 is very limited and it isn’t obivous how to share the photos if you want to say put them on a flash drive to give to someone else. 

3. Cameras vary greatly as well, with many types of memory cards and not every computer has a memory card reader so I can literally help 10 people with their photos and each person does it a different way than I do it personally. 

I’m not going to say my way is the best or only way to do them but people generally like the photos I make so if you want something similar I’ll share my workflow process with you step by step. Go at your own risk, I could be doing it wrong for all I know. Haha. Adobe Lightroom has been good to me and I’ve been with them since the very first version was released. 

I pay $10 a month for the Adobe Photography plan which includes Lightroom and Photoshop. 

 My Photography Equipment

1. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV 30.4MP Camera
2. Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM Lens
3. Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens
4. B+W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer with Multi-Resistant Coating on all lenses
5. B+W ND filters for long exposures
6. Manfrotto tripod with RRS (Really Right Stuff) , BH-30 LR: Compact ball head with LR, BGE6-L: L-plate for Canon BG-E6 grip.
7. RRS TFA-01 Pocket ‘Pod
8. Satechi WTR-A Wireless Timer Shutter for long exposures
9. Transcend and SanDisk Extreme Pro Memory Cards
10. Shoot everything in RAW format, Mostly use Adobe Lightroom for editing, Adobe Photoshop for Panoramas

I edit photos to be as professional as possible therefore I use the standard in photo editing, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop

I shoot in RAW mode and you should too for best photos

A camera RAW image is an unprocessed photograph captured with a digital camera. It contains the raw image data captured by the camera’s sensor (or CCD), saved in proprietary file format specific to the camera manufacturer. (In my case .CR2 format for my Canon camera) Most people shoot photos as jpg, basically, my photos will look bland straight off the camera than those shot in jpg. RAW means everything the camera sees gets stored as a large 20-22mb file with no in-camera processing.

For most people, they shoot in jpg mode which means your white balance, color corrections, sharpness and all the other settings in the camera are set then COMPRESSED into a jpg for ALL the photos you take. That means you have less post-editing options as well as fewer details to work with and a greater chance of noise in the photos with because it was compressed before being saved by the camera.

For many that is a great thing as it saves time on editing, however for me I want to edit each photo with as many options and details as I can so I have the richest result as possible. Lightroom is the kitchen in which I cook the RAW files and make them into jpg files which I upload online or get printed.

Quick video of how I edit a photo in Adobe Lightroom

My Computer Setup

Photo editing can take a lot of computer power, not as much as video editing but high resolution editing is taxing on a machine and espically when exporting. Plenty of hard drive space, powerful CPU and RAM / Memory for Photoshop editing is a must so plan on having at least a $1,000 + machine if you want to do photo editing well or expect slow performance. 

I built a custom computer with three montiors with photo editing in mind.

  • Custom Computer w/ Core i7 6700 processor (4 x 4.0GHz CPU – 8MB Cache +Iris Pro 530 Graphics)
  • Asus H170 Pro motherboard
  • 32GB DDR4 (4x8GB Kit) RAM
  • Thermaltake Open Cooling Mid Tower Case
  • 700W Power Supply w/ Active PFC
  • EVGA 1GB GeForce 8400 GS DirectX 10 64-Bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card Model 01G-P3-1302-LR
  • 1TB Samsung Solid state drive for Windows 10 and apps
  • 8TB HGST 8TB 7200RPM 128MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-Inch | SE | 512e | Enterprise Server Data Center Hard Drive for my photography drive
  • 6TB WD Black 6TB Performance Desktop Hard Disk Drive – 7200 RPM SATA 6 Gb/s 128MB Cache 3.5 Inch – WD6002FZWX drive for my data files. I made separate drive letters (partitions) A for Audio, D for data / software, T for Text documents and W for Web, Visual and Video files

The middle monitor is my Asus ProArt PA248Q 24.1 Inch LED Professional Graphics grade monitor and I use it for all my photo editing.

Backups are must

I lost a hard drive ones with about 10 years of photos on them, ever since I stepped up my backup of the photos. I have three internal drives and three externals drives. The 8TB (P) drive in my case is the photography drive with a 8TB external drive doing weekly backups using Acronis. I also replace the drive about every 2 years and clone it to the new drive and store the previous drive in a fire proof safe. I also backup my whole computer using Backblaze

Basic Adobe Lightroom Tutorial 

It might look like a lot of complex steps but once you find your own rhythm photo editing can go quick. It takes me about a minute from start to finish to make a typical photo while my most popular and more complex photos involving many layers taking an hour or more.

The files and folders you see and will create will be different as brands vary so this is showing what I do, your process will vary. 

There is so much you can do with Lightroom and Photoshop that I’m not showing you. I’ve taken full day classes at Photoshop World and Photography conferences around the country and Lightroom workshops with Scott Kelby to get to where I am now and still consider myself a hobbiest or novice at best. 

Step 1. Remove Compact Flash or SD memory card from Canon 5D Mark IV camera

Step 2. Place Memory Card in Memory Card Reader

Step 3. Open folder on Memory card to extract images. In my case, File Explorer opens automatically when I insert the Memory Card if not Use the Windows Key and the E key at the same time and that will open File Explorer. My Memory Card is the letter G, yours could be any letter, most likely D or E for most people. Click the letter of your memory card, mine is G and these Folders are what come up.

Click on the DCIM folder to open it then Click on 100EOS5D folder to see the photos that were taken.

Step 4. Highlight all the images in the folder. You can do that with the mouse and right click afterward they all go blue like in screenshot and click copy or in my case, I press Ctrl + A to highlight all the images and Ctrl + C to copy. Keyboard commands save a lot of time in my opinion

Step 5. Go to your photography drive / location (usually pictures library for most people)  I store all my photos on a 8 TB internal hard drive and I gave it the letter P and name of Photography. I go to the P drive and double click on the folder that makes the most sense.

I have the following folders, Architectural, Aviation – Drone, Documentary, Faith, Historical, Landscape, Landscape – Fall, Landscape – Winter, Lightroom Backups, Miscellaneous, Paranormal, People, Pictures (from iPhone), Travel, Video, Weather.

You will customize the folders to the type of photography that you do.

Step 6. In this case I made the “Test” folder on root of the P drive. To do so, Click on New Folder on the top toolbar or Control + Shift + N using keyword shortcuts or right click in a clear white area and go to New then Folder then give it a name you will remember like Yellowstone 2019.

Step 7. Time to paste the photos from the memory card to the new folder, I do it by clicking Ctrl + V but you can right-click in an open clear area in the folder and choose Paste.

Step 8. Time to open Lightroom so I go to my Desktop to click on the Adobe Lightroom shortcuts 

Step 9. After that is open it is time to import that folder into Lightroom, click on the + sign near Folders on the left side of the screen and go to Add Folder.

(Official tutorial on importing photos is here)

Step 10. Go to the location of the folder you created and click “select folder”, in my case this folder is on the P drive in a sub directory called “Test”.

Step 11. Thumbnail previews come up of all the photos, Select individual photos or click on Check All down at the bottom left and then click import on the bottom right. This is also a good time to add keywords to your photos that you are importing. 

Step 12. Click on the Develop tab on the top right or double click on an image.

I’ll show you a quick dirty edit of this image, I spend less than 1 minute per photo usually and then others will take much longer, all depends on what the photo is and how much processing I need to do in order to get it to match the vision in my head. All the action will happen for the sake of this tutorial on the right side.

Step 13. WB = White Balance. Since I shot photos in RAW I have all the options of White Balance. This is where making a photo sing can happen very quickly. Jpg photos will only have Auto and Custom as an option.

For sunrise I use Cloudy and Shade to really bring that Orange color then I customize the temp by going back and forth on temp and Tint to it looking just right.

For nighttime city and astrophotography I like to use Tungsten as the white balance as it turns the yellow / orange glow into a more pleasing blue tone.

For this photo of the red maple I chose Daylight for white balance. 

Step 14. I usually hit “auto” after the White Balance then I play with the settings. What you chose comes down to your style, if you like the result then that is what matters as you are free to experiment. I tend to take the highlights down in many photos. 

Safer to use Vibrance then Saturation. I typically will do “Enable Profile Corrections” as it will correct problems known for your lens.  The noise reduction slider can come in very helpful. Play with all the sliders, you won’t damage your original photo in Lightroom as Lightroom isn’t editing your orginal photo and doesn’t become permanent until you export a copy with the changes while leaving the orginal photo unchanged. 

#Fun Tip:  The HSL / Color / B & W module is a lot of fun, this is where you can make select colors go to black and white so you can have a kid holding a red flower and everything but the flower is grey scale. You can also make colors change to other colors too. Handy for fall photos when you make green into Yellow.

Step 15. Add GPS coordinates. Lightroom can do so much more then what I’m showing. A cool feature is adding your photo to the map. Click on Map on the top right. Type in the location or address for where you took the photo and it will come up the map.

Step 16. Left click on the image or Ctrl + A and highlight all the photos and drag them to where you took the photo. It will add the City and GPS location so when you upload the photo, many places will tag as the place. This where you can add a title and Caption saving you time entering that on Facebook, Flickr and other websites.

Step 17. Time to export the RAW photo into a jpg for social media and sharing with people via email.

You can select .tiff if you need a high-quality image for printing.

To export then right click on that image and click on Export and then Export again. (Another option is click on File on the top left menu then select “Export” or Control + Shift + E using keyboard shortcuts.)

If it is all of the images in the folder then go to Edit to the top menu bar and select all or Ctrl + A as I prefer. 

Step 18. These are the export options I use, I make sure I’m exporting to the Hard Drive on top. I tend to export to the same folder as original photo and then select Put in Subfolder. For my watermarked photos I put them in a subfolder called “Final” for non-watermarked photos I put them in a folder called “No Watermark” and for Website work I put it in my folder called “Web”

File Naming is where you can convert all the IMG_1952 to Summer Fishing Trip 1.jpg for example. 

File Settings, I always do the Quality at 100% for printing or to sell the image. I don’t resize the image and do 240 or 300 for resolution. 

For websites and social media I often do Quality at 80% and under “Image Sizing” I resize to fit “Long Edge” and do 1300 pixrels and change the resolution to 80 or 72 which allows for faster download times on a website. 

Now for the color space, this is a tough area as there are big names that argue for different ones, basically, if it is for web use then sRGB is best for color. You will find lots of stuff online relating to color space and what they recommend to work in. If you shoot in jpg, your camera has already chosen one of those color spaces already. This is why shooting in RAW format allows you to save a jpg in the widest color space. I honestly bounce back and forth between ProPhoto RGB and sRGB.

Lightroom primarily uses the Adobe RGB color space to display colors. The Adobe RGB gamut includes most of the colors that digital cameras can capture as well as some printable colors (cyans and blues, in particular) that can’t be defined using the smaller, web-friendly sRGB color space.

Lightroom uses Adobe RGB:

  • for previews in the Library, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print, and Web modules
  • when printing in Draft mode
  • in exported PDF slideshows and uploaded web galleries
  • when you send a book to Blurb.com (If you export books as PDF or JPEG from the Book module, however, you can choose sRGB or a different color profile.)
  • for photos uploaded to Facebook and other photo-sharing sites using the Publish Services panel

In the Develop module, by default Lightroom displays previews using the ProPhoto RGB color space. ProPhoto RGB contains all of the colors that digital cameras can capture, making it an excellent choice for editing images. In the Develop module, you can also use the Soft Proofing panel to preview how color looks under various color-managed printing conditions.

Settings I use for Full Resolution use (Printing, Selling) 

Settings I use for Low Resolution use (Websites, Social Media) 

Step 19. Post-Processing, you can choose what is best for you. For me, I like it when File  Explorer window pop-ups when it is done and be able to upload it or move the finished image to a flash drive. 

This what happens after it exports, in this case, I chose use my watermark. You are finished, time to email, upload to social media, print or whatever the heart desires.

RAW Image from Camera without Editing

All done. Here is the final result after editing.

Sometimes it is just a little pop and other times it is a vastly different image from the orginal.