Editing Manually | Part 2

  • Ask Anything

workshop attendees can attest to the fact that I’m easily distracted. I could start a really great conversation about pricing and end up talking about the weather in a matter of seconds. It just happens. So it’s not a surprise that I started an “Ask Anything” series on “Manual Editing” and have yet to finish it! Well, today is PART TWO! Get excited!! For those that have been patiently waiting for this since February of LAST YEAR… no worries, here’s your part two. It only took me 12 months to get this done (I’m so embarrassed!). I received an email this week asking if I was going to finish this and I’m very thankful for the reminder!

In my last post I explained my journey from actions to Lightroom. Basically, I learned very early on that my images looked SO much better when I exposed properly in-camera rather than “sprucing” them up later with an action or two! Today, I’m going to share a few tips about Lightroom that have really helped me speed up my editing time and develop my style. Once you find what adjustments help you create your style, your editing time will become lightening fast!! It’s wonderful! The trick is, you have to be consistent. If you’re doing some clean edits and then throwing a sepia tone on a few and you’re adding a VSCO preset on a few as well, that’s VERY confusing to your viewer. If you’re trying to find your “style”, you have to find what you love, stick with it exclusively and master it!! If I could type that last line in all caps without seeming like I was yelling at everyone, I would. It’s THAT important!!

So here are some basic Lightroom tips that have helped me tremendously over the last 6 years! Remember, the purpose of this post isn’t to make EVERYONE edit like Katelyn. The goal of this post is to educate photographers on how LR can help them find their own personal style through a deeper understanding of the program!! Enjoy!

1. It doesn’t take much. What I mean by this is, don’t “overdo” it!! I consider an image “over edited” if you can’t see the details of the darkest parts of the image or the brightest parts of the image. For example, look at this image below. The image on the right is over edited. The highlights are so bright that you can’t see detail anymore and the shadows are so heavy that you can’t see details in her hair. Her hair just becomes a dark clump of pixels…. and that’s not good! You should be able to see the detail of the strands of hair! The image on the left is a more accurate edit.

2. Pay attention to how every slider in Lightroom affects an image. It takes time and practice to really master this but this is the type of knowledge that will save you so much time in post processing!! Look at the example below! I darkened the “DARKS” on the top image.  On the lower image, I darkened the “SHADOWS”.  These dials affect totally different areas in the image. It’s important to realize this! I choose to edit by darkening the “Shadows” because it’s a much lighter edit that still “pops” without loosing detail in the dark areas of the image. That “Tonal Curve” will become your BEST friend!

3. Learn to understand what you’re trying to accomplish in each image. In the image below, I knew that I needed to brighten their faces and so I did that by lightening the “Fill Light” (Which is also called “Shadows” on the BASIC module). After I brightened the shadows, I had to make the image “POP” by adjusting contrast, shadows on the tonal curve and lightening the darks.  This is my standard edit! I do different variations of this edit over and over again. Over time, I have started to “master” these sliders!!! It makes my editing time so much simpler!! Be sure to take a look at the sliders below. They are showing my edits for the image on the right!

4. Last but not least, here is one final tip! If your image has a yellow “tinge” to it, scroll on down the “Camera Calibration” and adjust the green primary just a bit! This is a great example of why knowing what EVERY slider does is helpful! By sliding the “green” slider under “Camera Calibration” to the right, you will be removing the intensity of the “Yellows” in your image. Don’t slide it too far because you will lose ALL of your yellow. This is a slider that helps a lot of photographers accomplish more of a “film” look. I don’t mute my images as much as film photographers but I do love this little trick! The image on the right has had its’ Green Primary adjusted! See the difference?



xoxo, Katelyn
30 Comments Ask Anything, Education, Resources
  1. Megan K. Marcus reply

    Thanks for sharing this, Katelyn! I love that you bump the darks and drop the shadows. It’s one of my favorite things to do, too! I agree… Mastering lightroom really helps you figure out how to get EXACTLY what you’re going for :)

  2. Jackie reply

    Umm. I am in love with you for that last tip!

  3. Janelle C reply

    Thank you for this post!!! I am always looking for ways to master lightroom!!

  4. Jordan Mattie reply

    Thanks so much for these posts Katelyn! I have always wondered about the editing process because you have the most natural and consistent style that I’ve ever seen. I would looooove to hear more about how you always seem to get such a great white balance for your shots :)

  5. Morgan Leigh reply

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I love your heart and am so thankful you share tips like these! Now I want to go edit some photos :D

  6. Anna Filly reply

    This. ROCKS. Thanks Katelyn!

  7. Beth T. reply

    THANK YOU!! This is amazing information. I really appreciate you sharing – as always!

  8. Ashley Dawn reply

    I never want to touch the tone curve!! I cant wait to get home and try it out! thank you.

  9. Kathryn Grace reply

    Thanks for the great tips! I’ve been using LR for a while now but I still have to master all those sliders!

  10. Jessica Bulloss reply

    OMG LOVE YOU FOR THIS!!! That last tip will save me from pulling my hair out!

  11. Carrie Logan reply

    LOVE this! So helpful! Thank you for this! I love your clean processing :)

  12. Laura reply

    These are fab tips, Katelyn! Thank you!

  13. LOrin reply

    Woo hoo! Thanks for sharing your editing tips with us, Katelyn! Especially the last. Super helpful to know about getting rid of the yellowness.

  14. Barbara C reply

    Thanks for the post katelyn! I have another Lightroom question for you. what about exporting your images from Lightroom to give to your clients? What are the best export settings? Thanks a bunch!!

  15. Kristina W. reply

    This was fascinating!

  16. Jason and Amy reply

    Great tips as usual katelyn! Thank you! I would really like to see you embrace the longer focal lengths for portraits. The 70-200 on the long end versus the 50. I think you would learn to love it! Thanks again!

  17. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    Awesome tips! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  18. Trent reply

    So you use lightroom alone for your editing? Do you have to have PS or PSE to use as well or in conjunction?

  19. Ali s reply

    Thank you, Katelyn! What was your favorite source of information when you first started to learn lightroom?

  20. Melissa Macko reply

    I have to say, this is one of my favorite posts. I am so thankful for this Katelyn. I have spent sooooooooooo much $ on actions and I am trying to steer clear of them and learn how to edit on my own. I have purchased LR so that I can learn without presets and get that timeless clean edit. I just adore your style. keep up the great work.

  21. christa reply

    Thanks Katelyn! Love Lightroom and this was a huge help!! I’d love to hear about setting your camera. for instance, why you set the ISO up with still a high shutter speed. Your images are always so sharp and clear and I am newer to the photography business!

  22. April reply

    I do love my photoshop, but lR just is so convenient! Thank you for the Camera Calibration tip! I just tried it out and it’s exactly what I needed for my skin tones to have that creaminess and to lift the blue shadows just a bit more. If you weren’t so far away I’d be at your workshop/coaching in a minute. I just found you and you’re my new favorite photographer!

  23. Finding a Style » Anna Lynn Hughes Photography reply

    […] not sure anyone reading this owns Lightroom, but if so, check out this post with various tips. I think it is really good. This is the site of the wedding photographer […]

  24. Morgan reply

    Thank you so much for these helpful editing tricks! I am trying to learn as much as possible to give my friends/referrals great edits that they will love, and this has been a huge eye opener. You’re a doll for sharing your talent, thanks again!

  25. Amy reply

    Hi Katelyn! I love, love, love your work! Your a true inspiration! I was wondering…I just started using PASS as an online gallery, but was unsure on how to export my photos from lightroom… do I export twice, one for prints and one for web and upload both to PASS or how would it all work?….I’m still new!

  26. Kate reply

    Thanks for sharing this awesome tips!
    Do you only use lightroom to create such beautiful soft coloured images?
    Thanks :)

  27. Joanna M reply

    Thank you for the great tips!

  28. Kendra reply

    Where can i purchase your KJ Basic Import Lightroom Preset?

    • Katelyn James reply

      The preset is only available through the KJ Consistency Course to course students! If you’re interested in the course you can learn more here:

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