I get asked fairly regularly how my workflow goes for photo editing. While there is a lot of polishing that goes into professional photo editing, this is the foundation for everything I shoot.
My primary editing software tool is Adobe Lightroom. It’s a very powerful non-destructive editor, meaning that you can make all the changes you want to a particular photo without modifying the original file. There are dozens of online tutorials if you want to learn how to use it, which is exactly what I did back in 2013 when Apple retired Aperture.
It’s important to know when taking photos that if you plan on using Lightroom or any other non-destructive editor afterward, it’s best to take photos in RAW format as opposed to .jpgs. RAW format photos retain a lot of information in the pixels where .jpgs apply compression algorithms to keep the file sizes small. RAW files are indeed large – the 20 megapixel photos coming out of the Phantom 4 Pro are about 35 MB each. However with storage being as cheap as it is these days, I think the tradeoff is worth it.
The first thing that I’ll do when editing a photo in Lightroom is to apply lens corrections. Adobe has lens profiles for most of DJI’s fleet of drones while the micro 4/3 cameras I use have the lens profiles embedded in the file. I’ll also check the box to remove chromatic aberration as well, just for good measure. Chromatic aberration is basically when you see blue and yellow artifacts around distant objects. Lightroom can compensate and make this byproduct of most cameras disappear.
From there, I’ll adjust the photo settings in the following order:
- White balance temperature
- Drop the highlights
- increase the shadows
- Add clarity
- Increase the vibrance
- Adjust the whites and blacks
- Fine tune the contrast
This process puts the photo at about 85% complete. Once I’m satisfied with the initial development of the photo, I’ll move to tweaking the tone curve and any making any minor color adjustments as needed in the HSL / Color / B & W dropdown.
The last step of photo editing for me is always sharpening and de-noising the photo. Noise looks like static in your photo and can occur when you use higher ISO settings on the camera or shoot in low light. There’s always a tradeoff between sharpening and de-noising, since sharpening tends to bring out more noise in the photo. Lightroom’s de-noising software is pretty good, but for professional results a good standalone de-noise plugin is needed.
As you move toward more advanced editing work, Lightroom can be used as a springboard to make basic corrections to be used in other software programs. Of course Lightroom can seamlessly export to Photoshop if you need to make more drastic corrections or fix parts of the photo, but there are a slew of other editing apps that work extremely well with Lightroom.
All in all, Lightroom is a very good non-destructive editor than can make photos pop. I highly recommend it!