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How to Edit Photos Using Less Time and Effort in Lightroom Classic

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It's all too easy to get bogged down spending forever on a photo edit in Lightroom Classic. With Lightroom's slider adjustments being so easy to manipulate, it can be tricky to know where to begin and when an edit is 'done'.

In this quick tutorial, you'll learn how to use Lightroom to get the most out of your photos with the least amount of effort possible. We'll look at optimizing your editing workflow and cover ways to create shortcuts for some of your most frequently used edits.

Frugal and Fun

One common way to get bogged down in photo editing is to edit in a hurry. In excitement, we've all jumped into an edit too early and, not really knowing what to do with the pictures, taken the processing too far or in an unfruitful direction. That's part of the fun of Lightroom's non-destructive nature and of learning photography. In an efficient workflow, however, you want to stop work the moment your pictures have had enough. Knowing what is enoughto your eyeis the key.

Before you start processing your photos, what it is you want from them? If you're sharing your pictures, think about the intended audience. Will they click with the look you want to create? What do you want the photos to say? Spend as much time as you can looking at your photographs, thinking, feeling, and getting to know them before you start seriously adjusting anything.

Arrived Organised

Start up whatever note-taking app you use, or open a new notebook, and start to make notes about your post-production. Answer the questions for each project: who do you want to see it, and how will your post-processing help the photos communicate with them?

Keep track of where you are in the process outlined below, noting any thoughts, problems, creative questions, and ideas you have. Lightroom is great for photos, but it's no project management app. Keep track of which photos you've worked on, to what degree, and what's left to do.

Use a Consistent Basic Workflow

One of the most effective tools for streamlining our photo editing workflow is to have an "order of adjustments", or a process that we follow every time we edit. It can be tempting to jump to clarity or saturation adjustments straight away, but if we follow a process, we'll save time and have more consistent editing results.

A good starting point for anyone is to work from the top down in Lightroom's interface. Here's an example of a great basic, beginning photo-processing checklist:

  • set white balance
  • make exposure adjustments
  • make contrast adjustments
  • set white point
  • set black point
  • make vibrance / saturation adjustments
  • set sharpening

The adjustments listed above are edits I'm doing to every single photo I edit. No exceptions. Because many of these adjustments affect other adjustments, doing them in this order leaves the least room for unpredictability. 

For example, if I set my saturation to where I'd like it before adjusting the contrast, then when I adjust contrast, this will affect my saturation, causing me to once again have to adjust the saturation. This is why sticking to the same order of adjustments is crucial to saving time in your photo-editing workflow.

Photo Projects

If you're working on a project or portfolio, resist the urge to race ahead and complete individual photos. Trying to match an unprocessed photo to a processed one is usually pretty difficult; it's better to work on a series of images all at once. For a series, move every image to the same point before proceeding to the next stage on any of them.

Add Presets and LUTs to Make Adjustments Automatically

If you find yourself consistently making the same type of adjustments to your photos, consider creating custom presets or profiles (LUTs) for these adjustments. As you get to know your own camera and develop your own editing style, you'll begin to see places where calibrating and automating your workflow will work for you.

For example, if you're drawn to high-contrast images and find yourself always decreasing the black point and increasing the contrast in your edits, why not create a preset that does these moves for you? Then, simply apply your preset upon import of your photos, and you should already be well on your way to a finished edit.

There are also a ton of incredible Lightroom presets and LUTs available on Envato Elements if you're looking to get outside of your comfort zone in your upcoming photo edits.

I hope this has helped you to make sense of how to edit photos with the least possible effort in Adobe Lightroom Classic. Remember, if you stick to a game plan, you'll have a ton more time for non-computer-related activities!

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