How To Correct Color and Exposure Using Lightroom

How To 5 min
Follow these steps to discover how to make color and exposure corrections in a photograph using Adobe Lightroom software.

Julieanne Kost, Principal Evangelist for Photoshop and Lightroom, demonstrates how to enhance images using the basic panel in Adobe Lightroom. You can make color and exposure corrections using the white balance, tone and presence options in the basic panel. Remember, any image color and exposure correction must be in accordance with the current imagery ethics policy and the DoD Instruction 5040.02. Follow along with the steps below.

Working in the basic panel, there are three ways to do this:

  • Choose from the "WB" dropdown list. As shot, Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash or Custom are the options available. Choose one of these options to change the image color and exposure automatically.

    Note these preset options will vary depending on the photo's format, e.g., RAW, DNG.
     
  • Change Temp and/or Tint sliders. Move sliders left or right to increase or decrease the values. 
  • Choose the white balance selector tool by clicking the pipette icon. Position your cursor over an area of the image that should be neutral and click.

Use the Auto button to change the histogram significantly. This expands the dynamic range of the image, brightens lighter areas of the image and ensures there is a black point. 

The sliders in this area (Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks) will help fine-tune corrections. Change the values by moving the sliders to the left or right. These sliders are non-destructive, so any changes you make can be refined later.

Select the Clarity slider in the Presence area to add contrast. This will darken the dark areas and lighten the light areas, fooling the eye into believing the resulting image is sharper than the original.

Select the Vibrance slider in the Presence area and drag left or right. This is a relative slider, which means that even at -100, there will still be color in the image. The vibrance setting has a bit of a bias. When working with portraits shot on location, use this setting to increase blues and greens and "punch up" the image, as well as make flesh tones more subtle. Double click "Vibrance" to reset the slider. 

Select the Saturation slider in the Presence area and drag left or right. This is an absolute slider, which means that at -100, all color is removed, leaving the image in grayscale. 

After adjusting saturation, you may need to scroll up to temperature and tint and readjust those.

The histogram is interactive. You can click and drag in the histogram to make changes to the image. Use Command+z or Ctrl+z to undo the most recent change.

Tap the backslash key to toggle back and forth between before and after changes.

Adobe product screen shots reprinted with permission from Adobe Inc.

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