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2 - Editing Workflow

Elsewhere, you were encouraged to follow a workflow in Lightroom.

Beginning editors often see a flaw in a photograph.

They "dive in" to fix that flaw.

Your editing will be easier and better if you follow the editing workflow below.

Swim a lap—rather than diving into the deep end.

Is Your Photograph Organized?

1 - In a Collection?

Click on a photograph in the Library module.

The photograph that you're about to edit—is it in a collection?

After importing photographs, immediately put them into a collection.

If you don't, it'll become an onerous task later.

2 - Color Labels

Did you use a color label to sort—photographs to-be-edited—from the others?

3 - Get Going

Press d to go to the Develop module.


1 - Original Is Not Changed

Your photograph is not changed by Lightroom.

Instead, Lightroom stores your editing instructions in its database.

These instructions are applied only to the exported photograph.

2 - Saving Is Not Needed

Lightroom saves your work automatically.

3 - Backup Lightroom Often

Everything you do is stored as 0s and 1s in a database, the Lightroom catalog.

It's imperative that you back up Lightroom often.

By default, Lightroom backs itself up only once a week.

Change this to Every time Lightroom exits.

Press Ctrl + Alt + , (Windows) or Ctrl + Option + , (Mac) to go to Catalog Settings.


Every time Lightroom exits

4 - Sliders

Moving a Slider

You can grab the slider, of course.

You can also mouse over the slider's name, click and hold, and move your mouse.

Zeroing the Sliders

To return a slider to its default setting, double click its name.

To return all of the Basic panel sliders in a section, double click WB, Tone, or Presence.

In the Adjustment Brush Tool panel, in the upper-left corner, double click Effect.

5 - Convenience

There are many panels on the right side of your screen in each module.

Right click on one of the panel tabs and select Solo Mode.

Now, only one panel can be open at a time.

This makes for less scrolling up and down.

Make a Virtual Copy

Press Ctrl + ' to make a virtual copy.

Some photographers like to edit a virtual copy.

Others will make a virtual copy only when they're about to change the photograph dramatically, such as converting it to black-and-white.

A virtual copy is denoted by an upturned corner.


Virtual Copy


Look at the histogram on the upper-right corner of your screen.

The ends of the histogram are important.

Over & Underexposure

If there are overexposed areas, you'll see a spike on the right side of the histogram.

When you mouse over the tiny triangle in the upper-right corner of the histogram, any overexposed areas will turn red in the photograph.

If there are underexposed areas, you'll see a spike on the left side of the histogram.

When you mouse over the tiny triangle in the upper-left corner of the histogram, any overexposed areas will turn blue in the photograph.

Note—if you click on the triangles—the red and blue areas remain.

Click the triangles again to turn off the constant red and blue areas.




The corners are over and underexposed.


Upper-right Triangle Moused Over


Upper-left Triangle Moused Over

If the over or underexposed area is important, you're stuck.

You can't edit the area.

Set the White & Black Points

This is also called setting the clipping.

If there are no pixels at one or both ends of the histogram, that portion of the bandwidth of the photograph isn't being used.


Unused Bandwidth

If there are no pixels on the left side, do the following.

1) In the Basic panel, on the right side of your screen, look for the Blacks slider.

2) Press and hold down the Shift key.

3) Double click the word Blacks.

4) Release the Shift key.

Pixels are shifted to the left, filling the empty bandwidth.

If there are no pixels on the right side, repeat the above steps.

But, click the word Whites, next to its slider.

Be sure to compare the effect of setting the white and black points.

You may want to adjust the sliders manually.


You must compare your editing.

Use the choices in the Compare menu, in the Tool bar, below your photograph.

Press y on your keyboard to compare.

Press y again to turn off the comparison.

Go to Compare.


Reset Button

If you click the Reset button, in the lower-right corner of your screen, the photograph returns to its original state.

Global → Local → Global

Edit globally, at first.

Do things that change the entire photograph, such as the Basic panel.

Then, do local editing, such as:

• Spot Removal tool.

• Burning and dodging using the Adjustment Brush tool.

Finally, return to global editing by doing noise reduction and sharpening, if needed.

Global Editing - Part One

Basic Panel

WB Section


If you're editing a raw file, change the white balance setting in the presets menu, as needed.

Selecting Cloudy or Shade will warm up a scene, for example.

The Temperature slider is used to cool or warm up the color in a scene.

The Tint slider changes greens and magenta.

Use it to:

• Remove the green from florescent lights.

• Reduce a pink complexion.

White Balance Selector

If your photograph has an unwanted color cast, even after selecting a white-balance preset, you can use the White Balance Selector.

Look at your photograph and locate an area that should be gray, white, or black.

The area isn't colorless because of the color cast.

Click the eyedropper icon in the WB section.

Click on the area that you located that should be gray, white, or black.

Don't click on over or underexposed areas.

The rocks, in the JPEG photograph below, were in the shade.

The camera's white balance was set to Daylight, not Shade.

Hence, the cyan color cast in the photograph.


Eyedropper Positioned on an Area That Should Be Gray


Cyan Color Cast Removed

Tone Section


Avoid using the sliders at their extremes, as noise and clipping (over and underexposure) may be introduced.

When using the sliders, be sure to look at the area in your photograph that's about to be affected.

For example, when using the Shadow slider, make sure you're looking at a shadow in your photograph.

That may seem obvious, but most beginning editors are not used to dividing a photograph into highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks.

This is easier with a black-and-white photograph.


You may want to convert one of your color photographs to black-and-white.

Then, experiment with the Tone section sliders while watching what happens in your photograph.

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Church, Sunrise, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, 1948

From the book Ansel Adams in Color, Little, Brown and Co.

Copyright © 1993, 2009 by Trustees of The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust


Use the Exposure slider, as needed.

It performs much like exposure compensation on your camera.


When you move the slider to the right:

• The darker midtones become darker.

• The lighter midtones become lighter.

When you move the slider to the left:

• The darker midtones become lighter.

• The lighter midtones become darker.

Highlights & Shadows

These sliders affect the bright and dark areas in which there's detail.

Whites & Blacks

These sliders are used to set the white and black points, as described above.

Moving the Blacks slider to the left may remove haze.

It may add body, texture, or depth.

Presence Section


Clarity changes the contrast mostly in the midtones.

For example, let's say you're editing a portrait.

You may decrease the Clarity to conceal blemishes.

If you're editing a landscape, you may increase Clarity for more body, texture, or depth.

Clarity is also available as a local editing option in the Adjustment Brush tool.


Vibrance affects the saturation of non-saturated, pastel, colors.

Saturated colors and skin tones are not affected.


Saturation affects the saturation of all colors, whether they're already saturated or not.


The Vibrance and Saturation sliders, below, were moved to their maximum positions to make their differences more pronounced.

They're not usually set to +100.

The saturation of the original photograph below is muted.

This editor suggests that the color needs to "yell" more.



Below, the Vibrance slider increased the color saturation of the pastel colors.

Skin tones were affected only slightly.

The saturated red shirt in the middle of the photograph was only slightly affected.


Vibrance at Maximum

Pastels Are More Saturated

 Skin Tones & Already Saturated Colors Not Affected as Much

The Saturation slider, below, increased the color saturation of all the colors.

Skin tones were affected, as well as the already saturated red shirt.


Saturation at Maximum

All Colors More Saturated

Including Skin Tones & Already Saturated Colors

Local Editing

Six Tools Above the Basic Panel


Crop Overlay Tool

Reframe your photograph with the Crop tool to delete areas that are:

• Unneeded, distracting

• Overexposed

If you're going to print the photograph at a lab, be sure to use a common aspect ratio, such as 4 x 5 / 8 x 10.

Spot Removal Tool

Remove distracting elements with the Spot Removal tool.

Adjustment Brush Tool

Correct too bright and too dark areas by burning and dodging using the Adjustment Brush tool.

Many photographs benefit from burning in, darkening, their bottom edges.

You can emphasize and deemphasize elements in your photograph by burning and dodging (lightening).

Auto Masking

Auto Masking is like using blue masking tape when painting a window.

If there's a tonal difference between the area you want to brush—and the adjacent area—select Auto Masking.


Let's say you're editing a portrait of a woman.

She has a dark red lipstick.

To brush just her mouth, select Auto Masking.

When you go to add some blush to her cheeks, deselect Auto Masking.


There are many presets for the Adjustment Brush tool.

Click the menu.

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To cancel a preset's settings, move any slider.

Basic & Adjustment Brush Tool
Panels Look Similar

Both the Basic panel and the Adjustment Brush Tool panel have Temp and Tint sliders.

Therefore, beginning editors often confuse the two panels.

The Basic panel has an eyedropper—the Adjustment Brush Tool panel doesn't.


Basic Panel


Adjustment Brush Tool Panel


When brushing, release the mouse button periodically.

Then, if you make a mistake, you won't have to undo all of your brushing.

Erase Brush

You can fine tune your brush with the Erase brush.

It's located at the bottom of the panel.

Flow & Density

If the Adjustment Brush tool is misbehaving, check to make sure Flow and Density are at 100.

They're at the bottom of the panel.

Auto Masking

Auto Masking only works when there's a tonal difference between the area to-be-edited and the surrounding area.

Avoid using it when there's no need to brush carefully.

Direct the Viewer's Eye



Add Clarity

Add Sharpening

Increase contrast




Subtract Clarity (blur)

Decrease Shapening

Lower contrast


Zoom In

When doing local editing, be sure to zoom in on the area where you're working.

Tone Curve Panel & HSL Panel

These panels change a tone or color in part of your photograph.

Use the Targeted Adjustment tool.

Targeted Adjustment Tool

The Targeted Adjustment tool is located in the upper-left corner of the Tone Curve and HSL panels.


Targeted Adjustment Tool

Do the following.

1) Click the tool.

2) Click on your photograph, hold, and drag, up-and-down.

The area that you clicked on, and other similar areas, are adjusted.


When you're finished with the Targeted Adjustment tool, click Done.

The Done button is located below and to the right of your photograph.


Done Button

Global Editing - Part Two

Detail Panel - Sharpening & Noise Reduction


Noise reduction could be done earlier in the editing workflow.

Sharpening is usually done at the end of editing workflow.

That's because sharpening varies depending on the output medium.

Yes, sharpening depends on the subject in the photograph—and what you're communicating with the photograph.

But, you may need to sharpen differentially for display on a monitor, Smart television, glossy or matte papers, canvas, and so forth.

Dramatic Change

If you're about to make a dramatic change to your photograph, consider making a virtual copy before you do so.

Then, make the change to the virtual copy.

Change the Before Image

Let's say you're about to convert a photograph to black-and-white.

You make a virtual copy, do the conversion, and do some editing.

When you press y on your keyboard to compare your editing, you see the color photograph on the left.


You can change the before image.

On the left side of your screen, go to the History panel.

Right click on the step that you would like to use as the before image.

Select Copy History Step Settings to Before.


Copy History Step Settings to Before