Lightroom CC: The Photographer’s Secret Weapon

Tips & Tricks

Photoshop was the starting point for photo editing for decades, but the game changed when digital cameras came on the scene. With the ability to edit, catalogue and store thousands of photos, Lightroom CC helps pro photographers realise their true editing potential and make the most of every shot. Meanwhile, they would turn to Photoshop to transform a photo or create a unique image using their photography.  

By taking us behind the scenes of his best and favourite shots, travel and adventure photographer, Benjamin Lee, aka @itchban, shows us how and why Lightroom CC is a photographer’s secret weapon. 

 1. Composition is half the story

Think about how you want to arrange your image. This is something to think about when taking the photo, but you can also adjust or fine tune it in Lightroom CC.

When editing for the perfect photo, consider the rule of thirdsleading lines and ultimately where you want to direct the viewers eye and attention. Consider which elements of your shot will draw the viewers eye in first – brighter or higher contrast spots usually do the trick.

 2. Set the mood

Whether it was a dark and stormy night or a bright sunny day, you have the opportunity to control the mood you want evoke from your photo. Colour correcting – using the white balance to set the mood – is a good place to start. Generally, the whites in your photos should be close to white. After you’ve corrected for that, you can decide whether you want a warmer or cooler scene depending on the mood you want to create.

3. Don’t be afraid to get experimental

Look for patterns, repetition, symmetry and texture in your shots and play around with contrast and tone curve to amplify your subjects. Having a strong contrast between your subject and its background creates a separation between the two that can help your shot tell a stronger story.

With these tips in mind, I’ve chosen my favourite shots and shared them below, with a little more detail about how I took them from a cool picture to a good story. 

Bondi Icebergs

Left: before | Right: after

By cropping the photo and recomposing the image I was able to change the photo from being a general landscape scene into a story about a subject (the girl at the centre of the image). 

How it’s done

Find your Subject

  1. Find an interesting focal point or subject. Think about how you can focus your story in your image by changing or tightening your composition.
  2. Click the Crop & Rotate  tab and select the aspect ratio for your photo.  I use 4:5 (vertical) to get the best results on Instagram.
  3. Lightroom CC has a built in ‘rule of thirds’ guide in the Crop tool. Use this as you rotate your image to place focal points or patterns at the intersections.

Bring Out the Details

  1. Click the Edit  tab and scroll down to the Effects panel to bring out detail or add mystery to your photo.
  2. Drag the Clarity slider to the right to bring out more detail in your image, but be sure to find a good balance so your subject is still the main focal point of the image.
  3. Drag the Dehaze slider to the right to remove atmospheric haze or bring out lost details in the sky.
  4.  Adjust the Color to a tinted blue, and play around with the saturation.

Pro Tip: Use the Healing Brush to remove unwanted distractions from your image. To do this click the Healing Brush  tab, adjust the brush size to the area you want to correct. Then paint over the unwanted area.   

The final image:

NYC Subway


Left: before | Right: after

By changing the colour from a yellowish green to a vivid blue and darkening the outside of the image I drastically changed the mood of the photo. I then used light to draw the viewers eye to the subject. It adds a strong cinematic feeling to the image and creates mystery around the subjects, telling a more interesting story.  

How it’s done

Change the temperature

  1. Click the Edit  tab and scroll down to the Color panel to change the temperature
  2. Adjust Temp slider to enhance the mood – left for a cooler feel or right to add warmth.
  3. When you’re done the whites of your photo should still be relatively white. If they’re not make fine adjustments to bring them into balance.

Draw attention to the subjects with darkness & light

  1. Click the Radial Gradient  tab
  2. Identify the focal point or subject of your image, place the cross-hairs on that spot and drag outward.
  3. Drag the Exposure and Shadows sliders to the left to darken edges.
  4. Drag the Temp slider to the left to cool the temperature of the setting without impacting the colours of your subject.

Pro Tip: In this image, I also created a second radial gradient and clicked the Invert checkbox to make changes apply to the inside of the circle. I then adjusted the Temp slider to the right to warm the subjects and make skin tones feel natural.


Torii Gate

Left: before | Right: after

This photo was taken at Torii Gate in Japan. The lighting was harsh and unforgiving, but by shooting the photo in RAW, I was able to capture an image with more data in it so I could go in later and use a few editing tricks to turn it into what you see today.

Pro Tip: If you’re using your smartphone, be sure to use the Lightroom CC Mobile app so you can capture photos in DNG for future editing.

How it’s done

Quickly Start with Sensei

Auto settings have come a long way, especially now since in Lightroom CC it’s powered by Adobe Sensei artificial intelligence. Sensei compares your photo to tens of thousands of professionally edited photos and takes care of the big adjustments automatically. It is a great starting point to begin your edit so you can focus on the fine tuning.

  1. Click the Edit  tab go to the Light panel
  2. Click the Auto button, and Adobe Sensei will automatically make light and colour adjustments

Beginners’ Tip:  Another great place to start is the with Lightroom CC Presets. Think of them like filters which you can adjust endlessly. (Click Editselect Presets at the bottom of the screen to bring up the presets you can choose from). 


Find your aesthetic with light and colour

Each photographer has their own aesthetic in how they use light and colour. There’s no right or wrong, but I’ll walk you through how I use them to edit my images.

Adjust Exposure, Shadows and Highlights 

  1. Click the Edit  tab go to the Light panel.
  2. Drag the Shadows slider to the right to lift the shadows and bring the darker details out.
  3. Drag the Blacks slider to the left to regain some of the lost contrast
  4. Drag the Highlights slider to the right to give the image a nice bright glow (or to the left if you want to bring in some highlight details).

Pro TipClarity is great for adding some punch to your photos. It intelligently brings out the sharpness, contrast and details of our photo. Use it to enhance the image, but be careful not to add too much as it can become distracting to the viewer.

Bring out the colour of the photo 

  1. Click the Edit  tab, go to the Color panel, and select Adjust> Saturation.
  2. Increase the saturation of each colour so that that pops, but still looks realistic. I’ve chosen the red and orange of the Tori gate and dragged those sliders to the right.

Pro Tip: Change to Adjust> Luminance and adjust the sliders to increase brightness of each colour. This can help enhance visibility and “pop” of certain colours in your image.  

Use Gradient & Radial filters to enhance foreground and sky


Colourising the foreground

  1. Click the Linear Gradient  tab
  2. Place the crosshairs at the horizon line and drag up so the gradient matches the horizon
  3. Using the tips you learned above, adjust the temperature to warm or cool the image, saturation to increase blues or yellows and decrease blacks to add more contrast to the water.

Bringing back cloud detail:

  1. Click the Linear Gradient  tab
  2. Place the crosshairs at the horizon line, but this time drag upwards
  3. When bringing detail to clouds and sky decrease highlights to bring back the detail in the clouds and increase clarity to give the clouds more definition

Beginners’ Tip:  Non Destructive Editing means you can always go back to an image later to make further edits or undo your last changes. This is a great feature for photo enthusiasts sharpening their skillset.


Now it’s your turn!

Continually taking photos, editing them and sharing them is essential to improving your skillset. You’ll get instant feedback from others and it will help you find your audience. Don’t be discouraged if your first creations don’t look like masterpieces or get 100 likes in an hour – the first photo I ever uploaded to Instagram was a really bad picture of my feet! But I kept at it and got a lot better.

I hope you’ve learnt something from this and are ready to go make some great photos! Post your pics to Instagram using the hashtag #shareyourstory and I’ll have a look at your work. Keep an eye out for me on Instagram @itchban

Find the right Photos 

If you’re like me and have thousands of photos stored in your Lightroom library, Adobe Sensei can help automatically search through them to find the one you’re looking for. Just start typing in the Search All Photos box at the top of the screen and tell it what you’re looking for (person, place or thing). A few to try this summer: Beach, family, picnic, Bondi, etc.

Post and Share

Be sure to download the Lightroom CC mobile app and use it to take photos directly in the app in RAW format and apply your edits. To share a photo, click the Share icon and select Save to Camera RollYou can then share to Instagram, Facebook or any other app just as you would any other photo on your phone.


Click here to learn more about Ben and get his top three tips for taking photos.

Tips & Tricks

Posted on 12-22-2017

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