In this photography video tutorial, we walk you through the fundamental steps of editing your photos using Adobe Lightroom.

Let’s say you finally captured the ideal photo. You’ve checked off all the boxes: exposure, focus, composition. Now you upload the photo to your computer or hard drive, and you open up Lightroom for the first time to finally figure out photo editing. Where do you start? What even is Lightroom, and how do you maximize the potential of the app?

The interface in the latest version of Lightroom (not Lightroom Classic, which is the old version that you can still download) looks a bit different, but that doesn’t mean it’s more complicated. Let’s take a look at what you can expect before embarking on your first adventure into the world of photo editing.

Exposure & Contrast

The first two tools you’ll encounter when you open up the right-hand Edit column are Exposure and Contrast. You’ll want to be careful with your exposure adjustments because most likely the image won’t need too much brightening or darkening. Contrast  will increase and decrease the contrast between the darker midtones and the lighter midtones. So basically, this will intensify the dark and light aspects of the picture. As I like to think of it, this makes the image pop, or come to life.

Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks

Video Tutorial: Understanding the Basics of Lightroom — Shadows
Image via Adobe.

So all you need to remember about these tools is that the White tool increases and decreases the brightest parts of the image, and the highlights controls the detail within that bright spot. The same goes for Blacks and Shadows. It’s all about controlling the overexposed and underexposed parts of your image.

Temperature and Tint

These are pretty self explanatory and are really to help give your image internal consistency. If you’re really into cooler or warmer images, these tools will allow you to toggle the image to that effect. You’re generally going to keep the adjustments to a minimum here or the changes will be too extreme (see video).

Vibrance and Saturation

Video Tutorial: Understanding the Basics of Lightroom — Saturation
Image via Adobe.

In a nutshell, Vibrance increases and exaggerates the dull colors within the picture. But then Saturation is there to melt your face off — because it amplifies every color. A little movement with the Saturation slider will go a long way, so tread lightly.

Hue, Saturation, and Luminance

Now we’re getting into the fun stuff. This panel allows you to bring out and tone down the colors however you see fit. So in the video, the wall in the background of the picture is the perfect example of how customizable Lightroom can be in this regard. You can change the colors however you’d like, and you can bring attention to certain colors that the eye might have forgotten since the first glance at your picture.

Clarity, Dehaze, Vignette, and Grain

Video Tutorial: Understanding the Basics of Lightroom — Dehaze
Image via Adobe.

Think of Clarity as a tool that works with the Contrast slider. It’s going to sharpen the image and make everything crisp, but be careful to not overdue it here after you’ve already played with the Contrast. Clarity increases the Contrast in the midtones of the image.

Dehaze offers another way to sharpen the image, allowing you to soften as well creating an aura around your subject. It’s also a great way to make your image look like a painting.

Vignette gives you the feathered black or white edges around the image. This is purely an aesthetic choice that calls for the right type of tone within the image.

Grain adds a filmic look to the picture, giving it a weathered, lived-in feel.


The detail panel is another way you can help the image look a little sharper — and it is also a way you can sometimes fix out-of-focus shots. These are pretty straightforward tools that you can play around with, and they shouldn’t change the image too much. The Noise Reduction tool is designed to do exactly that— but only to a certain degree. I wouldn’t rely on it when shooting in the field.

This sums up the basics of the editing panel in Lightroom. Keep an eye out for future coverage — there are far more options available to improve your image in the post-production process, and we’ll get to those at a later date.

Looking for more photography tips and tricks? Check these out.