Lightroom OnlyLightroom Tips

The Final Day of “Lightroom Only” Month

Whooops! Well, I goofed. I posted this early this morning. I even got up early to write it. But sadly, in my tired state, (yeah, I’ll blame it on fatigue) I forgot to categorize it so it showed up on the home page. Sorry 🙂

Welcome to the final day in my self-project-ish, month-long postings of images I’m only using Lightroom to edit. If you’re just coming in to reading this and haven’t read the original post where I wrote why I’m doing this, then make sure you check that out too. Okay, here goes:

The Photo: Natural Light Portrait
This is a portrait I took of a friend of mine and his daughter a few years back. It was a quick candid portrait. I usually try to position my outdoor natural light subjects in front of backgrounds without so many bright spots as this one. But in the end, with some creative processing, it actually worked out pretty well.

(click to see the image larger)

Photo Details:
Camera: Nikon D3
Lens: Nikon 70-200mm
Aperture: f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO: 200

Basic Processing
The Auto button doesn’t do so well when you have bright spots like we have here so I adjusted this one manually. I increased the Exposure, pulled back on the Highlights, left the Shadows alone and adjusted the Whites/Blacks with the usual Alt/Option key. I also added some Vibrance to boost the colors a little. No Clarity though, because it tends to add a gritty look to portraits that won’t really work well on this photo.


Not too much here. Just a quick Crop to get rid of some of that head room at the top.


White Balance and Color
White balance was a huge part of this one. It had a very cool feel to it before. But I pushed the Temp slider quite a bit to give it a warm feeling. It’s actually not the “correct” white balance. But I like the exaggerated hazy warm feel it has.


The Detail Panel (Sharpening)
Like most portraits, I can increase the Amount slider a lot here. You have to be careful with Detail though so I held back on it. Then I increased the Masking to hide the sharpening from their skin.


There’s not a ton of retouching to do here. And it’s not something I normally did in Lightroom. But after this month, I think we’ve seen that Lightroom can take care of tasks like removing some of the dark circles under people’s eyes really well. So I used the Spot Removal tool (on Heal mode) and brushed under their eyes. The main thing here is to reduce the Opacity setting so that it blends in with their original skin texture and doesn’t look fake.


I couldn’t get the Spot Removal brush to work on her eye on the inside near her dad. No matter what I did it looked fake so I just used the Adjustment Brush (with increased exposure) to paint on the dark area to help it match the rest.


I also added a new brush adjustment setting for his teeth. The increased warmth almost gives his teeth a yellow color so I reduced the Saturation and increased Exposure (just a little) to paint on his teeth.


The Adjustment Brush
Here’s one of the biggest changes. There’s obviously a lot of light coming in from behind them. You can see it on their hair with the edge light that surrounds them. I wanted to enhance this and give it that feeling of even more sun-flare behind them. So I grabbed a large brush with a high feather setting. I increased the Exposure to add brightness and the Temp slider to add warmth and painted a few brush strokes behind them. I haven’t used that technique this month, but it’s actually something I do with my outdoor natural light portraits a lot.


Finishing Touches
I normally add a vignette and I added one here. But not much. Just a very light vignette because I don’t want to counter-act the adjustments I just did with the brush in the previous step.


What Else?
I really don’t have anything I missed in Photoshop here. I do have a couple of presets I like that either Nik or onOne have. Their “glow” presets. Nik’s Color Efex calls it Glamour Glow and onOne Perfect Effects has a Sunshine category that has several nice glow presets in it. It’s hard to say, but they just add a softness to the photo that I can’t recreate in Lightroom. So my personal workflow includes using a preset like that, but honestly, it’s not a huge difference and I think the photo still looks great here.

Here’s a quick Before/After:

[tabs slidertype=”images” auto=”yes” autospeed=”4000″]
[imagetab width=”836″ height=”558″] [/imagetab]
[imagetab width=”836″ height=”558″] [/imagetab]

Okay, well that wraps it up for the month. I’m off to teach my Lightroom seminar today, but I’ll be back next week with a recap from this month. I’ve had a few requests to process a photo, start to finish, the way I normally would. Plug-ins, Photoshop, and anything else. And then compare it to the Lightroom only version. So I’ll see what I can whip up and share it here.
Have a great weekend 🙂



  1. Stephane 3 February, 2014 at 10:03 Reply

    I don’t understand the sliders in the first screen shown – it seems that you actually DECREASED the exposure (I read “-30”), left the shadows alone… and yet the resulting image is considerably brighter than the original ?

  2. Claudia Copeland 2 February, 2014 at 11:09 Reply

    What a great series – I really learned a lot, and I only wish that there were twice as many days in January.

  3. Matt Schlotzhauer 1 February, 2014 at 08:30 Reply

    What a great month! This series is by far, some of the best posts you have made to date on the site. Looking forward to see what’s next.

  4. John Van't Land 31 January, 2014 at 23:40 Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to go through these things with us for the past month. You got us into the habit of going to site!

  5. Ven McAndrew 31 January, 2014 at 19:36 Reply

    Great series Matt! Thanks for the variety of shots and the before/afters. I’ve been using LR since the beginning and I’m always looking for new tips. It’s great to see how other LR creatives solve challenges to make their images look their best. Would love to see you continue this series using LR plus some of your favorite plugins. 🙂

  6. Bill Bentley 31 January, 2014 at 14:37 Reply

    Good stuff once again Matt. My only nitpik would be the the strong highlight dropping all detail on the girl’s forehead. But like you said it was a quick snap in bright conditions. The highlight “painting” for the background is a great tip. I’ll have to try that one out.

    Thanks for sharing this excellent series with us.

  7. Disillusioned_Banker 31 January, 2014 at 13:59 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    again this was super interesting for someone like me who’s just starting out the PP journey. It made me take a subscription at Kelby1 to check your tutorials 😉

  8. Phil Wells 31 January, 2014 at 12:30 Reply

    Just wanted to say thank you for this series. I’ve only recently started using Lightroom (or doing any post-processing at all) and I’ve learned a huge amount from these posts. It would be great if you could continue this series in some form, even if on a less frequent basis, regardless of whether you just use Lightroom or other tools too.

  9. Keith R. Starkey 31 January, 2014 at 10:59 Reply

    Thanks, so much, Matt. What a great series. Gave a direct insight into your thinking, and that’s worth it’s weight in gold!

  10. Christine Roosa 31 January, 2014 at 10:39 Reply

    I find myself fighting with the highlights and backlight and haze when I shoot into the light. Never thought to capitalize on it and maximize it for a glowy-er look. Thank you for that idea.

    The series was great. I love seeing how you process photos and how you work. Whether it be LR only, or LR plus others. I’m still really learning all these s/w programs and need all the help I can get. (As soon as you are in the bay area I’ll be in your class.)

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