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Quick Edits using Lightroom Brushes and Graduated Filters

Let's get real, shall we? Even as professionals, we don't always get it right in camera. We go from shooting indoors to shooting outside and forget to adjust our ISO accordingly. We stare unbelievingly at our LCD, not comprehending why our images are so off and don't realize our mistake until we're looking at the image in Lightroom. 

It happens. More often than most of us would care to admit. I, for one, don't want to propagate the myth that professionals have it all together. What a disservice to those of us who are just starting out. So, I'm admitting it! I'm not perfect. I make mistakes.

While getting together for a fun evening shoot with some other photographers in my area, I pulled out my camera and started shooting without checking my settings at all. Two of my kids were running around crazy and I was calling out "No! Don't touch that!" between each shot. I was distracted and as a result, this image was underexposed.

Oh, but it can be saved! I'd like to show you just how quick and easy it is to edit an image start to finish using the brush and graduated filter presets

The first thing I did was a quick basic edit: an exposure bump, adding a bit of contrast and a bit of clarity. This is pretty standard for me in all my editing. 

I want to maintain the integrity of the original so I automatically gravitate toward the presets that fit in with the colors and backlighting in the original shot. Because I use these presets all the time, I already know that the Rose Haze graduated filter will add a nice bright warmth to the upper half of the image. I make sure to keep the filter off of the grass in the lower half of the image because I want to maintain the green color.

Next, I use the Brighten Faces brush to do just that - brighten my subject's face and hair. I like to start at a low flow and brush on additional layers if needed. I also brushed on some clarity to her face, hair and clothing.

What can I say? I'm a light junkie and the image at this point is still not quite bright enough for me. I really want to make the colors pop so I use the Sunlight graduated filter and drag it over the entire image. 

The image is looking pretty darn good at this point but to finish it off, I just take down the highlights and add some sharpness. I don't mind if parts of my images are blown out as long as the subject is well lit, but if I can tone it down, I will.

That's it! Super easy and quick! This whole edit start to finish took me about a minute! Here you can see the difference between the before and after. Happy editing!


Lea Hartman is a family lifestyle photographer, a proud army wife and the busy mother of three. While she dreams of vacationing in exotic places and taking tropical cruises, all she really wants is to sleep in! You can get to know Lea better by following along via her website, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram (@leahartman).





You can view Pretty Presets Lightroom Brushes and Graduated Filters here.

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