Photo Friday: How I Edit

in Photography & Props

Tia To

Next to, “What kind of camera do you use,” the second-most common question I get is about editing: Do you use Photoshop? Do you edit your photos? How much do you edit your photos? What do you do?

No. Yes. As little as possible. I’ll show you.

And I’ll warn you right now – you might be underwhelmed.


I use Lightroom and absolutely love it. It has everything I need, from excellent cataloging and organization to an entire spectrum of editing. I can also shoot tethered directly from Lightroom but that’s a story for another day.

Now this isn’t the tool that you’d use to stick Simon Baker’s face on your ex-boyfriend’s body… but that’s not a problem I have so I can’t really make any recommendations if that’s a feature you need 🙂

While I do love Lightroom, I do not love editing photos. I spend as little time as possible, we’re talking seconds in post-processing. A minute, 90 seconds tops. The tweaks I make are only to make minor corrections and give the photo a little punch, not drastically alter it or fix major fouls. It hasn’t always been like that, but now, if I can’t give a photo that little extra oomph in seconds, I try to identify what’s wrong, fix it, and reshoot. And I try to save myself some frustration – I review the photos before eating the subject 🙂

Tia To (Before and After)

These are my post-processing Greatest Hits:
Temperature/White Balance – most of my photos come out a little on the cool side for my taste (white balance is measured with a temperature scale in Lightroom) so I almost always increase the temp for a warmer feel. I want my whites white, not blue-ish. What I do to the temperature is directly related to the time of day I shoot. Mid-day shots get little to no tweaking while early morning shots usually have to be warmed more. And late afternoon shots may even have to be cooled a bit.
*Exposure – Getting the exposure right on the camera is my goal but I usually find that I’m a little underexposed when I view the pictures in Lightroom.
*Blacks – I always increase the blacks. Few photos don’t benefit from the depth, definition, and richness that increasing the blacks gives.
*Contrast – Bumping up the contrast increases the difference between the darkest darks and lightest lights, it breathes life into flat photos and makes them pop.
*Lights – I increase the fill light just a bit to brighten the photo. Brighten is the wrong word. But it’s the one I’m going with.
Crop – I am completely incapable of holding my camera level so I have to straighten just about every photo. After I export the edited photo, I switch over to the 1:1/square crop and export a square photo for the “pretty food sites.” This lets me control the composition of the crop rather than using a site’s default square crop.

The areas marked with * are part of a custom preset I created in Lightroom. I call it “The Usual.” I realized that I was always applying the same edits to every photo so I used those settings to create a preset. With one click of the button, my usual edits are applied at once. Mucho time saved. It’s like my very own homebrew Instagram filter. Only not nearly as artsy.

Pears (Before and After)

The photo of the pear was a little flat, a little dull, and a little cool straight off the camera. 15 seconds is the difference between Before and After.

Figs (Before and After)

The photo of the figs, you can see I overexposed it a little bit on the camera. The amount of light flooding into the studio was… what’s a word for “incredibly magnificent x 1000?” It’s rarely a problem I struggle with at home – and I know you know what I’m talking about 🙂 I applied The Usual and then had to decrease the exposure a bit and increased the blacks a little more than normal. Otherwise, it’s so bright that the warmth and detail are lost. The difference between Before and After here was probably closer to 45-60 seconds.

Chocolate Gravy (Before and After)

Too cool. A tad underexposed. The Usual. You get it 🙂

39 comments… add one
  • These tips are AWESOME and sooooo helpful. I essentially do the same type of edits, ie. “the usual” over and over. Is Lightroom free? I use Picassa right now…

    • Lightroom runs about $150. GIMP is another free tool – it’s not really anything like Lightroom, it’s supposed to be more like Photoshop.

  • I tried Lightroom forever ago and didn’t like how it moved all my photos around – but it looks like I need to give it a try. I’m using Elements right now and while I love the ease, sometimes I wish it had just a bit more, ya know? Gotta talk my husband into buying LR now! 😉

  • Editing my photos is my last favorite part of blogging. I’ve never tried Lightroom but it sounds like most bloggers love it. I’ll have to try that.

  • Great post, great pics and great info! I haven’t braved lightroom yet (tried and got a bit overwhelmed) but its value certainly shows!

  • Very helpful. This is an area I’m working on right now. I will be getting a better camera soon., but I’ve used Photoshop for years, so at least I got that part fairly well down.

  • This is really helpfull! I suck at photography and editing so this is helping me A LOT!

  • Thank you so much for this. Editing is definitely something I just completely guess at, I really appreciate the tips.

  • Blair got me Lightroom with his student id, I love it, and it has really helped me with my photos. I like you can’t get a level shot, your tips are extremely helpful since I am still a novice at it. Thank you!

  • This was super interesting! Thanks for the tips.

  • Great tips, I have never head of lightroom until a couple days ago.

  • Great tutorial!

  • Thanks for the tutorial!

    I use Lightroom as also, but I’m still figuring out what to do in order to make my photos look nicer. This guide is very helpful!

  • Nice post! I’ve been debating Lightroom for a while, I might need to add it to my Christmas list. I’m still working with Picnik and though it’s ok, it has its limits.

  • This is great! I always love food photography posts but they often don’t touch on editing, which is crucial. It’s one of those things that seems overwhelming at first but you just need to get the hang of it. I’ve been waiting to invest in Lightroom or Photoshop, but it sounds like a worthwhile purchase. I’ve been using a free program called Photoscape that I like a lot, but it doesn’t have quite the same level of control. Your photos are gorgeous!

  • I’ve been using Picnik, the photo editing program attached to Flickr, but have been considering making the plunge and purchasing Lightroom. You’ve convinced me it’s totally worth it!

  • wow this was so helpful! thanks for taking the time to share it with us! i have a “usual” for my edits too & lightroom sounds like a great tool for it. thanks again!

  • I have Photoshop (my husband bought it for himself, digital media degree), but I’ve been considering Lightroom for the extras like photo organization. I was worried about the functionality compared to Photoshop, but this looks like just what I need.

  • I always appreciate the editing tutorials. I find it’s sometimes hard to locate some of that info out there. Thanks!

  • I love LightRoom and this post makes me love LightRoom even more! Great photographs!!

  • Love the simple stuff! I do about the same, just with Picasa. I have been looking into switching though. I’m not sure how they compare.

  • Interesting post, very helpful!

  • Pinning you… this is a great tutorial. Thanks for sharing !

  • I love Lightroom, it’s the best investment I have made, beside my DSLR.

    I like to process them a bit, like you do. My problem is that when I upload the pictures in Flick it does not look exactly like in Lightroom. Did you experience this problem and if so what do you suggest I do?

    • Helene – I don’t see any real difference between Lightroom version and the uploaded Flickr photo. I wonder if it could be something in your export settings? These are mine: Export to JPG; Quality 99, Color Space sRGB, No limit on file size, I do not resize to fit (I use Flickr’s default sizing off my original), Resolution = 600px. I previously used “sharpen for screen, standard amount” but when I reinstalled Lightroom a couple of months ago, this option was unchecked and I only realized it now. I rechecked it.

  • Thank you so much! I was wondering how you could possibly ALWAYS have such great lighting….

  • How this is so helpful! I’ve always been too intimidated to edit, but I can’t believe you can get those effects in 90 seconds- awesome

  • Such a helpful post, Shawnda! I started shooting RAW and using Lightroom a few months ago, after using Photoshop Elements for a long while. Lightroom is so much better in my opinion! And, now that I have these tips from you, I think I’ll enjoy using it even more. Thank you!! 🙂

    I’m curious if you’re a Mac or PC? 😉 I’m a Mac and have to first upload my photos into iPhoto then export/import into Lightroom. Haven’t looked into if I can shoot tethered or not…

  • Great info. Thanks much. Your photos are always lovely.

  • I have heard a lot about Lightroom, but I have never used it. I have Photoshop Elements and I barely use it either. I need to do more editing, but I hate it SO much! I would rather always have the perfect shot out of the can, but after reading your posts and seeing your perfectly great “before” shots and the amazing “after” shots, I know I need to work on it more. With Lightroom, do you always work with RAW photos? I normally shoot HQ JPG, but I can shoot RAW. Thanks!!

    • Shooting RAW will change your life! *So* much more data is collected with RAW than JPG and that makes a huge difference in post-processing.

  • Great post! Lightroom has been on my “must-buy” list for a long time and I really must take the leap soon. My post-processing program can’t even hold a candle to what LR has to offer.

  • Girl I could always use great photo tips like these. Excellent. Love hearing what my pals so to get the perfect shot 🙂

  • Thank you so much for the tips! These are really helpful for those of us who are just learning how to work our way around editing software. It can be really overwhelming at first!

  • I guess I should have come here first before asking u all those camera questions. Now I know I have a lemon 60d! I’ve been using PSE but am considering LR. Thanks for all this wonderful information.

  • Georgia Kate

    This whole series is so useful! Thank you 🙂

  • These are great tips! I finally got my digital camera fixed and downloaded a trial of lightroom, fiddled around a bit and it seems so simple! Thanks!

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