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Lightroom Tutorial: 6 Quick Steps to Make Your Photos Pop

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Getting great photos straight out of the camera without any editing is every photographer's aspiration. In practice, while the choice of settings and composition are of course to be done in camera, images taken in certain light and weather conditions may need an extra kick. Besides, if you shoot in RAW format (which we absolutely recommend), basic post-processing is inevitable to make the files usable for prints or sharing online. We have therefore put together six Lightroom tips and tricks for making your images pop in only a few minutes!

The photo below was taken at the beach in Belgium on a sunny but somewhat hazy day. A little boy is running towards a bright yellow buoy laying in a shallow puddle of sea water that reflects the vast blue sky with a few feathery clouds. The settings (f/8, 1/640 sec, ISO 125) are correct for the given situation, wide angle and high depth of field make the image sharp, and the composition works well, however, it feels like this photo could get some boost to reflect the mood of a sunny summer day by the sea. Here's the original image straight out of camera:

Make your photos pop 1

Let's see what a few minutes in Lightroom can do to make it really pop.

1. Straighten + Lens Correction

Let's start with basic geometry check: make sure that the horizon is straight, that everything that needs to be vertical actually is vertical and that the overall composition looks pleasant to the eye. All the necessary tools for straightening the image and adjusting the perspective can be found in Lens Correction tab. Since there are no vertical lines and the horizon is properly aligned, the only thing that our image needs is lens profile correction. This feature is particularly helpful when shooting with wide angle lenses. Lightroom stores information on a variety of the most popular lens distortions and their corrections, so we simply tick the box next to Enable Profile Corrections. The effect is a slight correction of horizon from curve to a straight line.

Make your photos pop 2b

2. Spots Removal

The next step is to clean up the image from any blobs, spots and 'dust bunnies' resulting from the dust particles on camera's sensor (they become particularly visible on higher f-numbers). We identify a few major spots and clean them up using Spot Removal tool. This important step is not to be neglected as dust spots may easily spoil the impression of an otherwise perfect shot.

3. "Blue Primary" Trick

This is a quick Lightroom trick that helps to quickly enhance the colours of the image in a subtle and pleasant way. In Camera Calibration tab, simply increase the saturation of Blue Primary color and you will notice an immediate boost not only in blues, but also in all the other colours present in the image. Looks better, doesn't it?

Make your photos pop 4b

4. Adjust White Balance

When shooting in RAW, we can adjust the white balance of the image in post-processing to our liking without any loss of quality. A quick touch of WB slider and the sand starts looking warmer and more appealing!

Make your photos pop 5

5. Exposure Adjustments

The time for the Basic tab and exposure adjustments. Before deciding what adjustments to make, let's have a quick look at histogram:

Make your photos pop 6a

Histogram tells us that the image lacks contrast, so let's boost it a little: we add just a little to the overall exposure, decrease the Highlights to avoid overexposing certain areas, and darken Shadows and Blacks. Our favourite slider, however, is Whites: very often it will make the image pop in no time!

Make your photos pop 6c

6. Add Definition

Finally let's add some overall definition to the image. Note that even though the histogram was telling us that the photo is lacking contrast, we did not use the Contrast slider at all. Instead, we prefer adding Clarity, which is a softer and more subtle version of contrast. Note, however, that increasing clarity often tends to wash out the colours. To bring the colours back, we add some Vibrance (which is a softer version of Saturation), and slightly decrease Saturation to make the colours bright but still looking natural.

So now you can compare the "before" and "after" and see how in only a few minutes we revived the otherwise dull colours and gave the photo some punch! We encourage you to try the above workflow and share your results with us!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.