Compare the two images below and there is no doubt that the second image is better in every way possible. The first one just doesn’t have that extra punch that the second one does have. (I do realize I should have worked the shadow behind his head away. I can’t stop noticing it.)

It happens often that you have a series of pictures but the original lighting misses that extra thing that would make it perfect. The shadows are just a bit too bright and the highlights a bit too dark. Other times the lighting accentuates something that you don’t want or you want to bring the viewers attention to something specific in the image. In all of these cases it’s necessary to bring your image to a higher level in Lightroom or Photoshop.

There are still people who think you shouldn’t adjust an image, but if we’re honest we all know that dodging and burning has been around since well before digital photography existed. Also I’m not talking about making composite images here, but about working with the lighting that was already there when you captured the image.

I prefer Lightroom over Photoshop so in what follows I’ll focus on how I edit specific parts of an image in Lightroom to make certain things pop or to accentuate the lighting that was already there.

The first thing I usually do is use the sliders to change the shadows, highlights, whites and blacks. (In the video below I use a preset to shorten the process.) Often this doesn’t get things exactly like I want them, so the next step is to edit only a specific part of the image. There are 3 main tools I use for this: the graduated filter, radial filter and adjustment brush.

The graduated filter lets you edit a specific part of the photo in a linear way while the radial filter lets you edit a circular part of your image. The adjustment brush lets you brush any section of an image that you want to edit.

In the video below I edit a couple of photos using these filters and brush. You’ll see how you can turn an ‘okay’ image into a good one by only editing parts of it.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Let me know in the comment section below.

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