I recently shared the 3 edits I make to almost every photo in Adobe Lightroom CC.
But there is so much more you can do in Lightroom. This post will go through all the other adjustments that can be made using the edit sidebar panel.
I often adjust these setting somewhat when I’m editing food photos, but the amount really varies depending on how the photo I started with works out, and on the
Here’s a run-down of all the options available in the Edit sidebar panel, and exactly how to use the edit panel in Adobe Lightroom CC – strap in because its a lengthy post!
Opening the edit panel
First, you need to get the Adobe CC photography package (that’s Photoshop & Lightroom for under a tenner) using my affiliate link here.
Finally, open the Edit sidebar panel by clicking the icon in the top right (illustrated below), or using the keyboard shortcut ‘e’.
Editing food photos in Lightroom
Using the Light panel in Lightroom
Light is the first section in the Edit panel. Light is essential to photography, and the Light panel allws you to adjust the lighting settings after taking your photo.
Do bear in mind that, as with any other edits or adjustments, we’re not here to fix bad photos, but to enhance good ones. If the lighting was just too dark or too bright and the image wasn’t captured properly, there isn’t really much you can do about that.
I’ll write more in-depth about shooting in RAW later, but for now, just know that adjusting the light (and other settings) is more likely to be possible for photos shot in RAW than for JPGs or PNGs.
Additionally, bear in mind when shooting, that
This is something that I struggled with for a long time (and still do to some extent). I prefer the look of light and airy pictures, which means I have a tendency to over-expose rather than under-expose when shooting. Just remember, too dark is better than too bright!
When using manual camera settings, the exposure refers to the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor. In Lightroom, it
The higher the Exposure setting, the lighter the picture will appear – too much and the image will totally wash out. The lower the E
The higher the C
The Highlights slider is very similar to the Whites slider (below), in that they both allow you to lighten (or darken) the brightest parts of an image. While this is true, the Whites slider only adjusts the true ‘white’ parts of the image, where the Highlights slider adjusts all the brightest pixels – whether they’re ‘white’ or not. That means that adjusting the Highlights can be useful to return some detail to a bright part of an image.
Lowering the H
As with Highlights & Whites, Shadows & Blacks are very similar but have distinct functions. When you adjust the S
Adjust the Shadows slider down to lower the tone of those dark areas, making them even darker and losing some of the detail. Adjust the Shadows slider up to raise the tone of the dark areas, and make the detail of those areas more visible.
Again, the Whites slider is very similar to the H
Lowering the Whites brings down the bright tones in the white pixels in the image – making the image appear overall darker. Raising the Whites brightens the tones in the white pixels in the image – making the image appear overall lighter.
The final slider in the Light section is for Black tones. The Blacks slider is very similar to the Shadows slider but again has its own functionality & uses. Where adjusting the Shadows slider affects the darker-toned areas of the image, adjusting the Blacks slider makes the true black areas of the image (with little-to-no detail) lighter (or darker).
Adjust the Blacks slider down to make and black pixels in the image appear darker. Adjust the Blacks slider up to make and black pixels in the image appear lighter. You can also adjust the overall exposure of the image to reveal more (or fewer) details in the Black sections.
Using the Colour panel in Lightroom
The Colour panel has two main functions for editing food photography.
The white balance – controlled by the Temperature and Tint sliders – can be used the fix the colour & quality of the light used to shoot.
The Vibrancy & Saturation sliders both affect the intensity of the colours in an image (though in slightly different ways). They can be used to change the overall aesthetic of an image – whether it should be popping with colour or more muted.
I covered white balance in more depth in this post on the three adjustments I make to (almost) every photo in Lightroom, so I’ll just give you a quick review here.
White balance deals with the colour of the light in an image. Particularly when using artificial light sources, an unnatural colour can easily be cast on your photos, which can make the whole image look slightly ‘
We talk about white balance, not colour
You can set white balance manually on your camera before shooting. Even if you do that, you will likely need to make slight white balance or colour adjustments
There are a number of ways to adjust the white balance in Lightroom: using a white balance pre-set, using the dropper to select an area of the image that ‘should’ appear white, or manually adjusting the colour mix of Temperature and Tint.
In photography, the colour temperature refers to the warm or cool tones in an image, affected by the light source used when shooting the photo. The colour temperature of a light source is measured in Kelvin.
The Temperature slider runs on a scale from blues to yellows. A higher Temperature setting has a ‘warm’ orange-yellow glow, and a lower Temperature setting gives your pictures a ‘cold’ blue glow.
Tint runs on an axis from green to magenta. A high Tint number in Lightroom gives your photos a pink/purple glow, and a low Tint number in Lightroom gives your photos a green glow.
Vibrance and S
First, Vibrance. Vibrance is the more subtle of the two controls and should be your first option for adjusting the colour intensity. Adjusting the Vibrance doesn’t put a blanket adjustment on the entire image, it only adjusts the intensity of colours that already appear to be muted. This is particularly useful for images featuring people (whether that’s the faces of happy diners of the hands of a busy chef), as the Vibrance doesn’t affect skintones either.
Turning the Vibrance up intensifies the most ‘colourful’ parts of the image, with less effect on any already less-saturated sections. Turning down the Vibrance decreases the intensity of the most colourful parts of the image, bringing the intensity of colour in line with any already less-saturated parts.
As with Vibrance, Saturation can be used to increase or decrease the intensity of colours in an image. Unlike Vibrance though, using the Saturation slider adjusts the intensity of all colours throughout an image – regardless of how intense the colours already are.
Turning up the Saturation increases the intensity of colours throughout the image – turn it up too high and areas of colour will lose definition, making the image ‘posterised’. Turning down the Saturation decreases the intensity of colours throughout the image – turn it down to zero for a black & white monochrome effect.
Using the Effects panel in Lightroom
Texture and C
Adjusting the Texture has a more subtle effect on an image than adjusting the Clarity, allowing you to retain fine details whilst increasing or decreasing the appearance of textures.
More Texture makes an image appear sharp and less T
Unlike the Texture slider, adjusting the Clarity affects the image contrast slightly, sharpening the edges.
Clarity works in a similar way to the Contrast slider, adding some sharpness to your image by adjusting the definition between light and dark areas. Unline the Contrast setting though, Clarity only affects the mid-tones of an image – which can enhance textures.
Higher Clarity brings out some of the texture in an image, though raising the Clarity too high can result in grainy quality. Lower Clarity removes some of the texture and adds a softness to the image, but can make an image appear blurry.
Dehaze is used to remove (or add) a hazy, fog-like quality to photos. It’s predominently intended to add detail back into landscape or outdoor images.
Specifically, Dehaze adds some contrast to the background of images. You can also reduce the Dehaze adjustment, to remove some of the contrast in the background of an image.
The Vignette reduces or increases the brightness at the edges of an image.
Use vignettes to bring focus onto the subject at the centre of an image, and somewhat obscure the edges of an image. Vignettes can also add an old-fashioned, vintage quality to your photos.
Adjust the Vignette down to remove brightness from the edges of the image for a dark/black vignette effect, and adjust it up to add brightness to the edges of the image for a light/white vignette effect.
As well as adjusting the Vignette slider itself, there is also a dropdown to adjust other aspects of the vignette effect. In these examples, I’m adjusting a low (black) vignette, but each of these settings can also be adjusted on a high (white) vignette, apart from the Highlight.
The Midpoint essentially adjusts the size of the vignette. A lower Midpoint gives a larger vignette and a higher M
Feathering is the amount of blending between the edge of the vignette and the centre of the image. A higher Feather gives you a more subtle blend, and a lower F
This slider is only used with a low/dark vignette effect. It allows you to recover some of the brightness of the image. The Highlights slider can make a vignette look more natural, as it allows for brighter parts of the image to remain bright whilst still undergoing some of the vignette effects.
Though Grain is similar to Noise (which is adjusted in the next section), they are subtly different. While they are both based on the amount of light entering the camera sensor, the key difference is that noise comes from digital photography, while grain comes from old-fashioned analogue film photography.
Typically, the presence of grain is viewed as a bad thing in photography, but as with vignette effects, you may want to add grain to give your images a vintage appearance.
You can use the Grain slider to add grain into your
Using the Detail panel in Lightroom
The Lightroom Detail panel lets you remove any digital noise and make your images look sharper.
Some Detail correction (Sharpening and Noise Reduction) will be automatically applied by Lightroom when you import RAW images. You can override those automatic adjustments if required, though you shouldn’t need to for most images.
When you do need to make adjustments in the Detail panel, zoom in to 1:1 view (by pressing 1:1 in the bottom right of the screen, or CTRL++ on your keyboard) to see the level of detail needed.
Similarly to the Contrast setting, Sharpening creates the illusion of sharpness and detail in your images by highlighting the difference between the lightest and darkest pixels.
To Sharpen, Lightroom identifies edges in the image and increases the contrast between light & dark pixels there. In this example, the sides of the bowl in the foreground against the dark cloth would be identified as an edge. Contrast, on the other hand, defines the difference between the lightest and darkest areas of the image – without grouping them into ‘edges’.
Adjust the Sharpening slider down to create less contrast between light and dark pixels at the edges in the image, making the details look less defined. Adjust it up to create more contrast between light and dark pixels at the edges in the image, making the details look more defined.
The Sharpening dropdown panel gives you three extra elements of control to the Sharpening adjustment:
- Radius – The Radius of the Sharpening adjusts the thickness of the edge of the area being sharpened. A low Radius sharpens only the specific pixels identified for Sharpening and a higher Radius also
effectsthe other pixels nearby.
- Detail – The Detail of the Sharpening adjusts how much
Sharpeningis applied to the image. Less Detail means only the largest and most clearly defined edges (eg. the side of the bowl) will be Sharpened. More Detail applies Sharpening to every small edge of the image (eg. each strand of microgreens) – too high and you may start to create grainy ‘noise’.
- Masking – Masking adjusts how much of the image the Sharpening applies to. Without Masking, every pixel identified as part of an edge will be Sharpened to the same degree. Add more Masking to Sharpen areas with the most clearly defined edges.
- What the difference between Detail and Masking? At first glance, they seem very similar. The best way I can describe the difference is that adjusting the Detail slider selects which edges will have Sharpening applied to them. Then, once Lightroom knows which edges to Sharpen, turning up the Masking slider varies the level of Sharpening applied to those edges. Zero Masking applies the same amount of sharpening to all the identified edges and when Masking is increased, the more strongly defined edges will be Sharpened more, while the less strongly defined edges will be Sharpened less. This can help to reduce or remove any noise created by turning up the Detail.
As mentioned above, the ‘noise’ in an image is somewhat similar to the grain. It is, essentially, caused by taking photos in low lighting conditions, and/or with the ISO set too high. Noise is a fuzzy, grainy distortion that appears in some digital photos.
There are two types of digital noise you might see in your photos. The Noise Reduction slider (in this section) reduces the luminance noise (which appears as small flecks of white or dark pixels) and the Colour Noise Reduction slider (in the next section), reduces colour noise (which appears as discoloured pixels, usually in solid areas of dark or light colour).
Though Lightroom does have these Noise Reduction settings, they aren’t perfect. It’s much better to get your camera settings right and avoid as much digital noise as you can in the first place.
Raising the Noise Reduction slider reduces some of the noise in an image by ‘smoothing’ the pixels. Raising the Noise Reduction too far can remove some of the fine detail in your image and create an artificial, glossy look. You can’t add noise into an image in Lightroom.
There are two additional Noise Reduction settings in the dropdown:
- Detail – The Noise Reduction Detail slider allows you to finely control the amount of detail lost in smoothing pixels. Adjust it up to recover some details back into the image (but understand that this may add some noise back in too). Adjust it down to remove more detail for a smoother result
- Contrast – The Noise Reduction Contrast slider allows you to control the amount of contrast lost in smoothing pixels to reduce noise. Again, adjust it up to add contrast details back in, but avoid adding so much C
ontrastthat noise is increased. Adjust it down to lose more contrast.
- Note, the Noise Reduction slider applies the pixel smoothing effect of Noise Reduction to the entire image, not just targeting specific areas where digital noise is clearly visible.
Colour Noise Reduction
Like luminance noise, colour noise is caused by poor lighting conditions and/or too high an ISO setting. It appears in photos as multicoloured pixels in areas which should appear as a single flat colour. Again, you would be much better avoiding colour noise in your photos in the first place than removing it later.
Colour Noise Reduction also has two additional dropdown sliders:
- Detail – The Detail slider works the same way here as it does for luminance noise reduction: Slide it up to recover some of the details lost in smoothing the pixels
- Smoothing – The Colour Noise Reduction Smoothing slider lets you adjust the appearance of the smoothness that noise reduction gives to the image
Raise the Colour Noise Reduction slider to smooth pixels and reduce the appearance of colour noise. As with l
Using the Optics panel in Lightroom
There are just two options in Lightroom’s Optics panel, and both are tickbox on/off options, rather than sliders.
Remove Chromatic Abberation
Chromatic Abberation is when a purple or green halo or fringe appears around the edges in parts of an image. It usually appears when there is lots of contrast in the image, and the lens is unable to capture the full range of tones. In food photography, it can be particularly prevalent with ‘shiny’ objects in an image – like cutlery. If you can see a green or purple outline in your image, tick the box to automatically remove the appearance of Chromatic Abberation.
Enable Lens Correction
Every lens can naturally cause slight distortions and vignettes to an image. Lightroom’s Lens Correction automatically corrects any distortions – straightening lines and removing any vignetting. Make sure to select the type of lens you used to shoot the
Using the Geometry panel in Lightroom
The Geometry panel allows you to do more detailed straightening and levelling than you can in Crop & Rotate.
It allows you to adjust a lot of options, like the Distortion, Vertical and Horizontal lines and the Aspect. The Geometry panel is particularly useful for adjusting images with lots of straight lines. I’m not going to go into them all here. To go over every adjustment in the Geometry panel could probably be a post of its own.
This post has been a really detailed look at all the options available for editing and adjusting your food photos using the Edit panel in Lightroom. It seems like there are a lot of options, but in reality, there are just a few adjustments that I make over and over again. There are also a few ways to batch the process of editing your photos, using presets and copying edits, which is where Lightroom really shines over other editing software for food photographers. Sign up to my mailing list to get more tips, tricks and tools for food photographers.
This post is part of a series on using Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom for food photography. See the other posts:
– Pixlr vs Photoshop: Why I made the switch
– Importing photos to Lightroom
– Sorting & organising photos in Lightroom
– When & how to straighten, crop & rotate your food photos
– The 3 Lightroom edits that make my food photos pop
– A detailed guide to editing food photos in Lightroom