1. Photo & Video
  2. Post-Processing

Learn Lightroom in a Week - Day 5: Advanced Editing

Scroll to top
Read Time: 12 min

In today's tutorial, we will go a step further in image development in Lightroom. We will also apply what we learned in the previous tutorials to various photo editing workflows.

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

Step 1: Edit Photos In External Applications

In Lightroom you have the ability to edit your photos in External Applications. Besides Photoshop you can setup any other image manipulation program as an external editor. You can setup as many as you wish. This can be made in the External Editing Preferences. To do it go to Edit > Preferences. If you have one or more versions of Photoshop installed on your computer the most recent version will be selected as the primary external editor by default (and you can't change this). You have the following set of options to specify:

  • File Format - Use TIFF format instead of PSD. The TIFF format provides all the same capabilities as PSD with a distinct advantage. TIFF is an open source industry standard and offers much more long-term viability than PSD.
  • Color Space - Use ProPhoto RGB to preserve the most color data from the original capture or AdobeRGB (1998) if you need more flexibility.
  • Bit Depth - Whenever possible use 16-bit to preserve the fine tonal details. More bits means more data is used to describe the values of the pixels. 16-bit reduces the appearance of posterization, making the transitions between colors smoother.
  • Resolution - Usually the default settings here are good enough.
  • Compression - This option appear when TIFF is set for file format. ZIP is a lossless compression method that is most effective for images that contain large areas of single color.

In the Additional External Editor area, you can specify one or more image editing applications to be used for external editing. Click the Choose button. Navigate to the application you want to use, select it and then click Open. Use the same setting for any additional editor as you would for Photoshop. You can create presets for external editors in the External Editing Preferences dialog box. External editor presets allow you to specify multiple applications as external editors and create different photo-handling options for multiple uses with one or more external editors. So to create a preset choose Save Current Settings As New Preset from the Preset menu, type a name and click Create. All presets are listed in and can be accessed from the Photo > Edit In submenu.

If you want you can specify the template for file naming of your photos from the Template pop-up menu at the bottom of the External Editing Preferences dialog box.

Step 2: Using Photoshop as External Editor

There will be times when you need to take a file into Photoshop to finish your work. One common example is when you need to combine multiple captures. This is called compositing. Compositing can be done manually, such as stacking multiple layers with masks in Photoshop, or automatically with hdr tone mapping or stitching panoramas.

To edit photo in Photoshop, select it and choose Photo > Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop. In the Edit Photo dialog box select one option.

  • Edit A Copy With Lightroom Adjustments - this applies any Lightroom adjustments you've made to a copy of the file and sends that file to Photoshop for editing.
  • Edit A Copy - this edits a copy of the original file without Lightroom adjustments.
  • Edit Original - this opens the original file ignoring Lightroom adjustments

If you want the edited photo to be stacked with the original then select Stack With Original. Then click Edit. If you edit a copy of the photo, Lightroom automatically adds the copy, with -Edit appended to the filename, to the catalog as you open it in Photoshop. Edit the photo in Photoshop and save it. Lightroom will automatically update the catalog to include the new file. (If you don't save from the other program, no file will be created.) When saving changes to JPEG, TIFF, and PSD images in Photoshop, make sure the filename and format are the same as the copy or the original in Lightroom if you want the photo to be updated in the catalog. Also, when saving from Photoshop, be sure to turn on the Maximize Compatibility option so that Lightroom can read the images. Photoshop CS3 and later automatically save PSD files from Lightroom with maximum compatibility.

Step 3: Roundtrip Editing With Photoshop

When you want to edit photos in Photoshop you have four additional scenarios available to you. Let's explore them now.

Open photos as Smart Objects in Photoshop - using Smart Objects helps keep your Lightroom edits to originals in-sync with copies edited in Photoshop. If you open photos from Lightroom into Photoshop as Smart Objects, any future changes you make to those images in Lightroom will automatically be updated in the Photoshop file the next time it's opened. Choose Photo > Edit In > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop. Edit the photo and save it.

Open Photos as Layers in Photoshop - with multiple photos selected in Lightroom choose Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop. Each photo will be opened as a new layer, all in the same time. Edit the image and save it.

Merge Photos as Panorama in Photoshop - with two or more images selected in Lightroom choose Photo > Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. In the Photomerge dialog box check your source photos and specify other options and click OK. Photoshop merges the photos into a multi-layer image, adding layer masks to create optimal blending where the photos overlap. Edit the panorama if needed and save it.

Merge Photos to HDR in Photoshop - with two or more images selected in Lightroom choose Photo > Edit In > Merge to HDR in Photoshop. Specify options in the Merge To HDR dialog box and click OK. Photoshop merges the photos into a background layer in one HDR image. Edit the image and save it.

Step 4: Main Editing Workflow

In this step, we will explore the typical development workflow. The general principle is to start with global adjustments and then advance to more specific local editing. Below you can see an outline of the development process:

  • The first step in the process is applying global adjustments to your photos. This includes any default and auto settings made during the import process, like Camera Calibration for example. Then, in the Library module you can do other global adjustments to multiple photos from the Quick Develop panel or by using the Painter tool. For example, you can convert the images to black-and-whites (this will be explained later).
  • The next step is to fix distortion produced by your camera lens, chromatic aberrations and vignetting problems.
  • Now you can perform crop and straighten operations to the photos that need this. You do this now because you don't need to make adjustments to the areas of your photos that you will crop later.
  • After that you need to correct the white balance of the photos.
  • The next thing you have to do is to adjust the overall tone of the photos.
  • After that, it's time to make sure the color looks good and if not to make the needed adjustments.
  • When the tone and color of your photos looks fine you have to pay attention to the details. This include image sharpening and removing the luminance and/or color noise.
  • The next step is to make final touches by applying some local adjustments. This include the spot removal, red eye correction, and adjustments made with Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush.
  • Finally when your photos are properly corrected, you can apply effects to them, if you want.

Keep in mind that every photo needs different corrections and not all photos need all adjustments mentioned before.

In the following steps, we will explore some common workflows.

Step 5: Retouching Portraits

In this step, we will explore an example of portrait retouching including teeth whitening, enhancing the eyes, making the skin smoother and changing the hair's color. Below, you can see a before-and-after version of the photo.

The first adjustment we are going to make is to set the Recovery slider in Basic panel up to 100 in order to bring up more details in the image.

Now choose the Adjustment Brush and set the effect to Teeth Whitening. Then zoom in to get closer view of the woman teeth and with the small size brush start paint over the teeth. As in Photoshop you can adjust the brush size by pressing left or right bracket key.

The eyes are more important thing in a portrait. They have to be sharp and expressive. So change the effect of the brush to Iris Enhance and paint the eyes.

The skin of this woman looks a little bit rough so we need to fix that. Change the effect to Soft Skin and start painting on the face. In the image below, you can see which areas are affected. Don't overdo the Soft Skin effect or the skin will looks unnatural.

The next step is to enhance the hair's color. This time change the effect to color and in the Color Picker choose some yellowish color. Now paint over the hair. If you paint areas outside the hair then choose the Erase mode for the brush and clean them up.

At this point the color may looks still too vivid so we will desaturate it a bit. In the HSL / Color / B & W panel choose Color and then click the yellow swatch. Now lower the Saturation until you get the result you want.

Step 6: Enhancing Nature Landscapes

In this step we will see how several simple adjustments aplied to your nature photographs can produce as a result with much more impact.

First let's make some basic adjustments. Set the following options in the Basic panel.

Now we will adjust the contrast a bit by lowering the Darks values in the Tone Curve panel.

And now it's time to fix the bright sky by applying the Graduated Filter on the image. Activate the tool and drag from top to bottom of the photo. Press Shift while dragging to keep the line straight.

Then adjust the exposure in order to darken the sky.

Step 7: Fixing Night Photography

The most common problem when you shooting at night is the noise produced in your camera sensor. So now we will learn how to fix this problem and besides this we will see how to make some another adjustments that will make your night photos better.

The first problem we need to fix in this photo is the noise of course. In this particular case the image contain both Luminance and Color noise. So we need to use the same areas under the Noise Reducton section.

The second problem to fix is that the lights on the image are far too much bright. So in the Tone Curve panel we will adjust the Lights and Shadows in order to achieve more clear result.

Step 8: Working with Grayscale Images

Some images looks great as black-and-white while others not. It's possible one photo that looks bad in color to have much better appearance when is turned into grayscale. First, determine which of your photos will look better as a black-and-white image. To do this in a fast and easy way start by choosing a folder or collection that you want to test in Library module. Now select all photos and press V key on your keyboard to temporarly convert them to black and white.

Once converted deselect the photos and switch to Loupe view to start examining the photos one by one using the arrow keys. When you find a photo that looks good in grayscale just mark it as a Pick by pressing P key (you can use another way to mark the photos if you want). After that select all flagged photos by choosing Edit > Select by Flag > Flagged and create virtual copies of them. Then choose Edit > Invert Selection to reselect the originals and press the V key to turn them back into full color. So now you have both full color and black and white versions of your photos which you can experiment with.

Usually when you turn a photo into grayscale it looks flat. So in the next example we will see how to enhance the appearance of a photo after black and white conversion.

First, adjust the following options in the Basic panel. Keep in mind that with different photo you will need different options.

Next we use the Tone Curve panel again but this time select Medium Contrast from the Point Curve menu in order to achieve more dramatic effect. Now set the following options.

The result of these additional settings is more depth and contrast in the final look.

We can now go further with our enhanced black and white photo by applying some split tone effect to it.

You can use the Split Toning panel to enhance the overall appearance of the colored photo too. Using the following settings, a color photo will have richer colors and the effect of using a warm filter.

Step 9: Creating Special Effects

Here I will show you how to achieve a basic old-fashioned, sepia tone effect without jumping to Photoshop. The first one is a sepia effect plus a little bit of grain.

First convert the image in black and white and set the following options in the Basic panel.

Now add brownish tint to the photo by setting the Highlights and Shadows with the same values.

Next we will add vignette effect and some grain by applying the following options in the Effects panel.

The second effect is a variation of the first one.

After black and white conversion adjust the Contrast and Clarity in the Basic panel.

Next adjust the Red and Orange in the Black & White Mix section of the HSL / Color / B & W panel.

Now we will add some color tint in the Split Toning panel.

Finally add vignette effect but this time with white borders.


The examples in this tutorial are not too complex but they give you the fundamentals of the image editing in Lightroom. Experiment and practice with your own images and mastery of Lightroom will soon come. In the next tutorial, we will learn how to show our images to the others. See you soon.

Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Photo & Video tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.