My Process for Creating Bright, Airy & Moody Photography in Lightroom
If I had to describe my editing style, I’d say bright, airy, and moody. It’s a mixture of the things that I love about bright and light photographs (the whimsicalness of it and how it allows the viewer to see all of the colors within the photograph) and the things that I love about moodier photoshoots (the deeper hues, darker blacks, matted and/or grainy textures). While much of which one I decided to emphasize more depends on the photographs, the lighting, and the purpose of the photoshoot, I’d say that most of the time it’s a mixture of both.
The trick to doing so can take a while when you first get started, but once you get used to it it’s pretty simple, which is one of the reasons why it’s my go-to. If I had to sum up what I’m about to explain in a short sentence, I’d say it’s all about the hues and the exposure. Allow me to explain my process.
SLOWLY INCREASE THE EXPOSURE:
The first step whenever I begin editing a photograph is that I usually increase the exposure on the photograph. I do it very little so that I give myself room to play around with the white balance in the photographs while also allowing me to see what I am working with in terms of color. Sometimes, after I increase the exposure, I notice that I do not need to do much else in terms of increasing the white balance, so then I move onto the next step.
LOWER THE CONTRAST OF THE PHOTO:
Since I know that I am going for something a little more muted in terms of color, I actually lower the contrast in the photograph. Doing so also allows me to have more freedom with the other settings I tend to adjust such as the black balance and the vibrance. I usually do not make it any lower than -23.
ADJUST THE HIGHLIGHTS:
If I were going for a photograph that was much brighter, I’d increase the highlights. For example, you can see there’s a difference in the brightness of the photographs that I’ve shared for comparison. The one on the right is the final version of the photograph I edited by lowering the highlights and the one on the right is how it looks once I made it higher. See the difference in the background and in my hand? In the first one, the photograph appears a little more muted in color while the second one appears brighter. It’s a slight difference, but it sort of changes the mood of the photograph.
It’s ultimately up to you and the vibe you are going for with your photographs, but if I usually increase the highlights if I am shooting photographs in a setting that’s darker or outside on a day with lower sunlight. On days where it’s brighter outside or I am in a setting where there’s more natural or artificial light, I lower them. Doing so makes the photograph from being over-exposed – especially since at this point I’ve already increased the exposure of my photograph.
INCREASE THE SHADOWS:
As far as the shadows, I like to increase them to keep the photograph from turning out too gritty. One of the things about the shadow balance in Lightroom is that sometimes decreasing it to the left can cause the photograph to appear darker. Since I am bringing the black balance closer to the left a little later, I usually increase the photographs so it does not end up looking like the example below.
See how gritty it makes my hand look?
INCREASE THE WHITE BALANCE:
Since I’ve already increased the exposure, I usually do not increase the white balance very much unless I am looking to brighten the photograph even more. I’d say this step is optional, but in terms of the photograph I have been using as an example, I brightened the white balance just a little to give it just a little more brightness without compromising the photograph.
ADJUST THE BLACK BALANCE TO THE LEFT:
While this is highly dependent on the lighting in the photograph, I usually drag the arrow for this setting further to the left in every photograph that I take. In brighter settings, it helps to make the photograph a little more crisp by highlighting some of the darker hues in the photograph. In darker settings, it helps to add a little more moodiness. In the example above, I adjusted it to about -57.
INCREASE THE SATURATION:
At this point is the point that I’ll increase the saturation as one of the last steps. I may go back and adjust different settings as it pertains to lighting in the photograph or I may adjust the vibrance and the clarity a bit, but usually after this step I am done. I like to increase the saturation to bring a little bit of color into the photograph by enhancing the ones that are present in it. If the saturation enhances too much of some of the colors I do not want to highlight, I’ll adjust them later in the hues section in Lightroom.
AN ADDITIONAL TIP – ADJUST YOUR BLUES:
One of my favorite things to do in practically all of my photographs if I’m hoping for a moodier photograph is to adjust the blue hues. I may the lower the saturation on the aquas for a deeper hue or change the temperature of the photo to a bluer hue if it’s too warm or orange.
For example, in the photograph below, I adjusted the temperature to about 4,500 – which means that I dragged the arrow further towards the blue side. See the difference in makes in the edit on the right when I didn’t touch the temperature on the photograph? It’s still stunning and would look great if you’re looking for a warmer edit, but if you want something a little moodier, adjusting your blues and/or your temperature will make a difference.
As you can see, it still has it’s warmth, but it’s a little bit moodier than the edit on the left.
That’s it! While there are adjustments as I’ve mentioned above, that I may tweak depending on the composition of the photograph, the lighting, and what I am going for, but these are essentially the process I use for adjusting my photographs. It can be pretty time consuming, so I am a frequent user of presets such as our own to edit the photographs that I take.
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What are some of your go-to tips for your editing process?