Before + After: Moody Photo Editing in Lightroom

I always love seeing the “before” photos (also referred to as the “straight out of camera” or SOOC image) from photographers. I’m a firm believer that you can’t make a bad photo good just by editing it, but I do think that editing an image is a crucial part of the photography process. Take a look at the photo below (use the sliders to change between the before + after), and notice how entirely different these two images look and feel.

The first image (the SOOC) is very bright, due to the fact that I intentionally overexposed the image. It was a cloudy, overcast day, and I didn’t have a reflector with me, so I wanted to prevent her eyes from being too dark. It’s also very colorful. I certainly love color, but I prefer more muted tones with a bit of a moody vibe.  These are just some of the things I wanted to fix in the image in order to make it more visually appealing and to match with my photography style.

I first imported the SOOC photo into Lightroom. Since I’m all about speeding up my workflow, I applied a preset called North West from the Innate Light Presets Pack (I don’t typically use these presets, but I loooved how they looked on this image). Then, I’ll usually turn on the lens profile corrections to fix the lens distortion, followed by adding in a slight vignette to lead the viewer’s eye into the subject. After this, I’ll adjust the crop and straighten the horizon line, if necessary.

I then decreased the exposure and bumped up the shadows in order to even out the lighting on her face. Additionally, I prefer my images to be on the warmer side of the spectrum, so I increased the temperature. Finally—even though Rikki already has flawless skin—I like to smooth over skin with the brush tool just to even out and soften everything up. To do this, I decreased the clarity to -60 and painted over her face, neck, and arms with the brush tool.

That’s it! This image was honestly super easy to edit, but I loved how it turned out. As I mentioned before, there’s no remedy in Lightroom or Photoshop for a bad photo. Slapping on a preset in Lightroom or a filter in Instagram doesn’t solve issues with composition, lighting, or other mistakes that could be avoided by learning how your camera works. That being said, I hope this shows you how you can take a photo that has good bones and really make it pop with your edit!

What’s been your biggest struggle with editing your images or developing an editing style? What can I help you learn? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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