A few years ago, my editing process consisted of mainly doing auto color and tone on everything and calling it a day; big no no, by the way. So today I decided to bring you a basic photo editing tutorial that goes past auto-everything. I decided to use the picture on the left as an example from when I photographed Lira N’ Roll at The Versailles in Phoenix, AZ.
For this tutorial, you’ll need to have a version of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop on your computer. I’m using LR 5 and CS6 to get through the next few steps. Overall, I’ll guide you through straightening your image (if applicable), working through curves, shadows and lights, and modifying tones through luminance and saturation.
For reference, I started with this unedited picture.
1. Get rid of distractions (PS)
I removed the top part of the image by using the clone stamp and spot healing so that the background on the image would even itself out where I made adjustments. After that, I removed the bottom portion of the stand and microphone with the clone stamp and filling in what would be the remaining part of the letter signage in the back. For precise selections, I used the polygonal tool first at 0px feathering, and then at 10px feathering so that it would blend a little bit better and look more realistic. The polygonal lasso tool is probably my favorite to work with, even if it’s a slower process than using masks.
2. Straighten out the image (PS)
Now that the distractions are out of the way, I ended up straightening the image. I could tell it was crooked since the bottom portion is part of the floor speaker from the stage, so I used the crop > straighten tool until I felt it was leveled enough. I ended up with this picture.
3. Adjust basic parameters (LR)
We’re done with Photoshop for the time being; now moving to Lightroom, I ended up adjusting the basics column once I opened my image there. For this image specifically, I made adjustments on absolutely everything inside the Basic section. You can see my adjustments here. After making these changes, I ended up with this picture. This is definitely an improvement from the blue tones in the original image, but there are still a few items that can be fixed such as the skin tone, the almost white portion of the cheek, and I want the tattoos to be a bit less shiny and true to the skin tone/texture.
4. Curves, Saturation, Luminance, and Split Tones (LR)
Curves are probably the most important step in this phase since they can be pretty tricky if you don’t know how to make them work for you. I could go into each separate curve under R, G, B, but in this case we’re only sticking to all. The rule of thumb typically is to keep the curve as an S shape, however sometimes the image needs further manipulation (like this one). After you’re happy with the image through curve adjustments, we move on to Saturation and Luminance. These two are mainly just to adjust how you want certain colors on the image to look. In my case, I needed the red/orange toned down enough to make the skin more realistic without losing the color in the guitar, and the yellows bright enough without overexposing or keeping the white on the edges. Lastly, we move to split tones. I don’t really bother with the second hue, only the first so that I can get a better effect on my image. You can see my curves, saturation, and split tone settings here, here, and here. After going back and forth between settings until I was happy, I went from this picture to this one.
5. Color balance and curves (PS)
Back to Photoshop; The only thing that really bugs me is the green-ish looking outline on the letters in the background. In photoshop, I adjusted the color balance to offset the green and make it blend better with the letter colors, and finally I went back to curves and quickly made adjustments to further blend everything together. My end product, though not a drastic difference from step #4, is this picture.
This ends the tutorial on basic image editing. A lot of it is going with your gut so that everything looks the way you want. Eventually, we’ll move on to intermediate and advanced editing which includes the tones and textures I mentioned back in my Photography Trends & Social Media in 2019 post, among other tutorials I’m planning to include in the near future.
If you’re new at both Photoshop and Lightroom, hopefully this tutorial helps you familiarize yourself better with some tools you may need; Every photographer’s editing process is different depending on what they’re going for, so feel free to research other editing techniques to complement your learning.