Create this photo! || Adobe Lightroom CC: step by step tutorial

Learn how to create this photo! A step by step guide to editing this drone shot in Adobe Lightroom CC.

Original Image

First of all, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the original shot. It has some nice colours, some nice action going on with the waves and I even snagged a kite surfer in there.

But I’d be lying if I was totally satisfied with it.

First of all, I think the art of photo editing is in being able to change how you see the world. I love being able to change an image so that other people can see how I see. I think that’s the best part of photography.

With that out of the way, let’s jump into it. You can edit a similar photo to these steps, or just read about the controls and adapt your work to your own style.

1. S-Curve

This is by far the most powerful editing tool available in Lightroom CC. As you can see, the image is completely transformed, and could be printed after that one change. I like to make the curve as smooth as possible, but there isn’t really a set formula. A rough S shape will bring out shadows and highlights, but you can mix it up. I sometimes use the top of the S to blow out the sky, but not with an ocean shot like this one.

2. Contrast, Highlights and Shadows

Boosting these controls will create depth in your image. This is super handy for ocean images, because it separates the different elements of the sea itself. You can see above where the crest of the wave is now more defined, but obviously different than broken foam.

3. Saturation 1

When I’m editing the colours in an image, I try and dull them down first. This helps me when I’m lifting them back up. I know it looks a bit shitty now, but those colours will be back.

4. Clarity/Dehaze

Go easy on these controls. I find they help me to make my photo look sharper and more professional.

5. Split Toning

This can be really effective, or really disastrous. Make sure you experiment and use this sensibly. I use split toning to decide the whole colour palette of the image. For example, I try and emphasise teal and orange in most of my shots.

6. Temp and Tint

I’ve only just started using these, and I think they produce some very powerful results. A little goes a long way with these tools, and it helps to have a clear image in your mind of how you want your image to look. I try and warm my photos up a bit here, while creating a purple tint. I usually try and make it look like a haze rather than a full blown tint.

7. HSL

This is where the colour magic happens. I recommend copying my settings, then tweaking them to your own taste. This won’t be the same for every photo, so just experiment and tweak them how you like.

8. Light (round two)

Now that the colours are sorted, I want to start wrapping up. This is where I look at the image and think about what’s missing, and use light to fix it. In this instance, I saw that the sand was dominating the scene a bit too much. To fix this, I bumped up the exposure by about .38, and that solved that problem.

9. Saturation 2

To wrap up, I wanted my colours to pop out. To achieve this, I bumped the saturation back up a tiny bit, and was now happy with the image.

And there you go! That’s how I edit my photos, from start to finish. Please let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this tutorial and what you would like to see next!

Final Image
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