Lightroom Questions and Answers

Pretty Presets for Lightroom

Q: Any way to delete a preset adjustment without losing the other edits.

A: That depends on where you are at in the editing process. As you know, your brush adjustments are safe. If you did your preset first in an edit and then added some other adjustments, and now you want to change your preset, you will lose everything if you click reset. You can click UNDO several times under the EDIT tab up top, which will take you back to the preset and won't undo anything you did before the preset. But if you edit like I do, which is choose the preset first and then make adjustments, you will most likely lose your edits.

Q: I have been finding a lot of my skin tones to look grey when my subject is backlit. I often go for the all in one color luxe presets and edit from there. What brushes would you recommend to take the grey out of my skin tones. I have tried the brighten face in the baby brushes but it doesn't really help with the grey skin.

A: The first thing you have to do when shooting backlit is expose properly. That makes a huge difference in how your skin tones will look. In order to avoid your subject having grey skin, always try to get it right in camera. What happens if you don't? Work with your basic adjustments rather than brushes. Learn how to apply a black and white or color edit and then adjust as needed. Increase the exposure, contrast, clarity and blacks. Then use your brushed for the surrounding area to bring out detail that you may have lost while adjusting the face. The most important part you want right in a photo in skin tone, so get that right first, then play with everything else. Check out this awesome post on how to correct skin tones in Lightroom

Q: How do you create folders for groups of presets that are similar? For instance all of the BW together.

A: This is something you would have to do on import of your presets. When you import presets, you choose how they will be organized. When you create the folder for the presets to go in, you can have your new presets go into their own folder, or you can choose to put them into an existing folder. To put them in an existing folder, simply right click that folder, choose import and put your presets in that folder. 

Q: How do I create a watermark?

A: To use your own watermark in LR, you first have to create one in another program, like Photoshop or Pic Monkey. Here's a link on how to make the watermark. Check out this tutorial on creating a watermark in Lightroom.

After you have made your watermark, you can then bring it into LR and have it on your own images when you export them. To do this, you simply go to Edit>Edit Watermarks, which is all the way at the bottom. In this dialogue box, you choose if you're using text or a graphic. You would choose text if you are going to type your name or business at the bottom left. If you made a graphic with your logo, then you would choose graphic. If you chose graphic, go into the box directly under that, click on Image to retrieve your watermark you created. Once you do that, you can change the opacity of it with the slider and then change the position of it. I always have about 6 versions of my watermark. I like to have one for the bottom left, bottom right, top left and top right and then each side. I do this because you never know where in your photo the watermark will need to be placed. To move positions of the watermark, choose one of the anchor points and then move it around to where you are happy with it. I save each one with a name I'll remember-BottomL, SideR...and so on. Now when you go to export, click on your Watermark box and choose which watermark to use.

Q: Sometimes a portrait from a good ways away is in focus and others it's not. I am making sure my red dot hits the face so why does this happen?

A: There could be a variety of reasons why this happens. One big reason could be your aperture setting. No matter what your aperture is set at, you could see that red dot hit the face but it may still not be in focus. A lot of this has to do with what aperture you choose, how many people are in the photo and how far away you are. If you are 3 feet away from one person and have your aperture set to 2.2, you have a small window to focus on. But if you stand back and you are now 6 feet away, you will have more in focus. Here's a visual: use your hand and make a fist, but leave a small circle open. Now look down at your keyboard really close and you'll see maybe one letter. Now pull back and you'll see more of the keyboard in focus. It works the same with your aperture and your distance to your subject. Also, pay attention to things like tucking in your elbows, hold still, learn how to toggle your focus points, and aim for in between the eyes. 

With a group of people you are probably focusing on the wrong person. Let's say you have a group of 7 people, like the picture I'm going to post. They are all on different planes (levels). I had my aperture set at 3.2 because I love pretty bokeh . I was able to get them all in focus because I stood back far enough and focused in between where the mom is and the little girl in blue that 's sitting on her lap. So think of lifting that hand on the keyboard, what happens? You see more of the keyboard evenly, right? So if I focus where I did, they will all be in focus because that's the center of the photo. If I would have focused on mom's eyes, the boy would have been out of focus because he is out of the diameter that gets larger.

Q: What are the sizes I should be using for exporting my images?

A: For Print: Leave the box unchecked in order to give the largest size to your client and 300 resolution. For Facebook: 2048 on Long Side in Pixels and 72 for resolution

For your blog or your website: Depends on your site. Each site is different, so you need to know that back end of your site and what size you should use. Or have an awesome person to help you with that stuff like I do!

Q: What is the best way to lighten a face that is to dark?

A: I usually do one of two things. I will use an exposure brush on the face and go over the face and increase the exposure, very slowly. You want to make sure the skin tone on the face matches the tone on the rest of the body so you can't over do it or it's obvious. The other method I use is with the tone curve. I take the tone curve towards the left end (it ends up being to the left side, where the first corner intersects) and raise that. By doing that, you are moving the darks up. It has a much different effect than if you were to increase the overall exposure.

Q: Once I've converted a color image to BW, how do I adjust it even more to my liking?

A: I love a good BW image. In order to have one, you need to get it right in camera. Exposure has to be good, otherwise you end up with a grey face, which you don't want. I love the BW set that Pretty Presets has because you can layer the presets to your liking. Even if you don't have this set but you have a good BW preset, you can adjust it and really make it stand out by doing some of the following: increase your contrast and your clarity but not too much. If you've applied a preset, you don't want to increase your blacks, I usually decrease them because of the contrast I've just added. I usually bump up the exposure as well. It's really about making sure the image is well balanced and that there is good contrast.

Q: How do you correctly use brushes, specifically if I want to bring out the blue sky?

A: First of all, I hope you're shooting in RAW because that makes a huge difference. If you want to recover your sky, you'll click on your brush, choose exposure, brush over the are you want to bring color back to. I bring down the exposure first because it's obviously blown out and too many highlights are there if there isn't any color. If you are going to brush the exact same area, you don't need to brush over it again. So now you adjust your saturation slider, move it up. Then play with your clarity and contrast sliders. There really isn't a formula, but those are the steps I take. I go to the beach a lot, and end up with blown sky all the time!!

Q: I have a question about chromatic aberration. Mainly how to properly use the sliders. I discovered them this weekend (sad I know) buy I'm not quite sure how to use them properly. I was confused by the double sliding things. Any explanation on that would be greatly appreciated.

A: The easiest way to use the Chromatic Aberration tools is to go into the "Color" area. There you will find a dropper tool. Zoom into your photo really close (like 2:1 or 3:1) pick up the dropper and click on the areas where you are noticing Chromatic Aberration. That will move your sliders and get in the ball park. You can then tweak the sliders if it went a little too far. I tend to move them a little closer together when that happens. The two sliders dictate the colors that are being removed so moving them closer helps to focus the color range a little more. You can adjust the amount slider as well to have it do a little less. Hope that helps!

Q: Please post the settings for exporting images for print and web.

A: These are the settings I use. I've been in business for 5 years and sent many images and many sizes off to labs and have never had a problem. For print, leave your box unchecked so you have the full size, 300 resolution. I personally leave the box unchecked for sharpening. I sharpen during editing to my own taste. For web, 2048 on long side, have pixels checked. 72 resolution. Again, I leave sharpen unchecked. Those settings work for facebook. For your own website/blog, your long edge depends on your site. We have a great tutorial on exporting images here.

Q: How do you layer presets?

A: Most presets are meant to click on once and you're done. The great thing with Pretty Presets is that several collections have what's known as layering presets. These presets are labeled with a number or letter next to them. You first choose your main preset at the top of the collection, then you go down the collection and choose one from each number or letter grouping. But you can only use one from each grouping. When you're done, if you want to change a layer, you can and it won't change all the other layers. We have a great tutorial on layering presets here.

Q: Elizabeth has a question about blending the background of a photo, especially if there's a distracting element.

A: I would use your brush. You can use a skin softening brush or clarity, they're the same thing. Go over the area, if you want it blurred more, then click new and run the same brush over again. Next time, you could achieve this in camera with a lens such as the 50mm with a wide aperture set. They're on the same plane, so if you focused on the flowers and set your aperture at maybe a 3.2, the blurring, which is called bokeh, would occur naturally in camera.

Q: How do you find balance when editing, while not going too far with the brushes?

A: As a photographer, my rule for editing has always been to keep people looking as natural as they are. I love to add a pop of color to my photos but when it comes to people, I want them to have nice, even skin tones and their features to be very real. When I do a senior session, I use the skin smooth brush over the face and never adjust that brush. The setting that it comes in is perfect. Then I go over the eyelashes and I sharpen the eyes. That is ALL I do to eyes. It's easy to get carried away because you have all these fun new toys to play with, but you have to remember to use them to enhance people, not alter them.

Q: How do I change the strength of a matte preset.

A: The answer to this is actually very simple, but I think it will surprise a lot of people, since it used a feature I don't hear too many people talk about. I use the Tone Curve to change the matte look to my preference. I actually use the Tone Curve a lot in my editing, but I'll save that for another post. Along your tone curve you'll notice dots. Click on the dot that is the farthest to the left, bring it up, then do the same with the next 2 dots, and watch the changes that are made. You can adjust this as much or as little as you want.

Q: How do you use the clarity brush?

A: I use the clarity brush for a few different things. I love it for editing faces-this brush does a great job if helping eyelashes and eyebrows stand out. It’s also great to use if you’ve applied a preset and lose some of the detail, like freckles. You can simply go over the freckles and bring them out again. I also use the clarity brush to bring out detail in objects like old trucks with texture and color. This brush helps that texture to really pop and come alive. You can also use it in the reverse so soften the background.

Q: How do you keep LR from editing your photos when you import them. I had it turned off and can't remember how to switch it back off again?

A: Go to your Library Panel and choose Quick Develop > Saved Preset > Default Settings. That will erase anything being applied to your photos upon import.

Q: How do I know if I missed a spot when I'm using the brushes?

A: Under your picture, there is a small box that says Show Selected Mask Overlay. If you click on that, it will show you what you just went over by turning that area red. For example, just the face needs to be brightened, so you use a brush to increase the exposure. When you're done, click on that box to make sure you got the entire area. You can do this with each new brush. Check out this great post we have on flow and density with brushes also!

Q: Is it possible to transfer the entire LR program to another computer?

A: Yes, you can. I have. So I know you can. But, your presets and files in LR will not transfer over with it. So if you have presets and files that have never been backed up, back them up NOW. You should always do that anyways. Either get an external hard drive or use a cloud software that will sync up to your computer and copy any new files automatically, like Crashplan. If you bought LR from Adobe, the product came with a key (a string of 16 numbers) and you can enter that in on your new or other computer. If you are using the cloud version, just login and download LR on your new or other computer. Learn more about transferring your presets to a new computer.

Q: What is the best way for a beginner to start out? I don't have Lightroom yet, but was looking at getting the $10/mo deal and then trying out a preset.

A: I am a huge fan of LR. I think it's the best way to go for beginners as far as learning how to edit photos. There is an easier learning curve for editing in LR vs. Photoshop. I personally don't do any editing in Photoshop unless it is something like a head swap or major cloning. The plan that Adobe has for $9.99 a month is great. Especially because you can try it first before you commit. 

Q: If I load 100 photos into LR and edit 17 as my photos to deliver to client, how can I export without doing a CTRL select individually?

A: I use the flags when I edit. If I come home from a session and I have 200 photos I have to sort through, I go through them and flag the keepers. Then, so I'm only looking at the flagged images, I go to the far right side, above the filmstrip of images and choose Flagged where there is a Filter box. Now, I'm only looking at the keepers. I edit those and when done, I can export only the ones I have just edited. You do still have to use CTRL if you want to select individual files, or choose Select ALL from Edit, but you don't have to look at all 200 photos that you took. 

Q: Do you have any time saving tips when working on multiple similar images? Sometimes I use multiple brushes for skin and/or background - And I have a similar picture but the people aren't in the exact position so I have to redo my brushwork and it takes me forever.

A: Unless the subject is in the exact same position, you don't want to sync up your images. Syncing your images works great for applying the same preset to a group of images that are in the same spot with the same light, but they don't work the same with brushes, since the chances of someone's face/body being exactly in the same spot are slim. I have two suggestions for this. 1-Always get as much right in camera as possible so that you don't think of brushes as saving you. They are meant to enhance, not fix. 2-I have an incredible minimalistic approach to editing. I don't have forever to edit. That's why I have presets, brushes and LR. Learn what really needs to be edited and not over edit. Too many people spend time overdoing it on eyes, skin and applying make up where there wasn't any. Learn to use your brushes at the right amount.

Q: When importing to LR I create a folder on my desktop, name it, open LR, put my memory card in slot, click on import, choose the folder I just made and start import. I now how so many photos and folders I can't keep track and my desktop is full of folders. I'm a beginner at this and certain there is a better way to organize it. I'm nervous about moving / renaming/ deleting anything on my desktop because I'm afraid to lose files. I have tons of photos of my kids....what if I want to create a new folder and transfer them all to that one folder? I've attempted this before and my photos disappeared! I know my folders and LR are connected but I'm getting overwhelmed and confused Can you share your method for organizing in LR please?

A: In Lightroom, you can set up how you want your photos to be imported and the destination of your originals. I have 1 main folder I work with for each year, labeled with the year. On my hard drive, I go to Library>Pictures and click on Pictures, then there are several folders labeled. In there is a folder labeled 2015. Inside that folder is where all of my original downloads go when I import in LR, as well as my saved files. One folder is labeled with client's name.RAW and the other is name.edits. Now you go to LR and you're ready to Import from your camera or card reader. You should have it set at the very top to Copy as .DNG. On the very top, right side, you choose where to put the original files. Mine is set up to go to that Picture Folder I have set up, that I described above.

Q: I have tried sharpening eyes and can't seem to get it I bought the brush and filter!

A: There are a variety of ways that you can add detail to eyes with the brushes, that's one of the reasons why I love them so much! They truly are a must have if you photograph people and do close ups! I like to make sure to never overdo it. The eyes on someone should never look fake because it's the first thing we look at. When I edit the eyes, this is my process (I'll use the attached picture as an example): Eye Color Brown, Eyes Sharpen, Add Clarity (I run this over the top and bottom eyelashes and the eyebrows) and done. If you aren't noticing any change by doing that, check your Density and Flow sliders. They should be at 100 and are located right under the box where you control your brushes.

Pretty Presets for Lightroom

Q: What is the best way to remove glare in the eye from using a flash when doing head shots?

A: When doing head shots, you want to have some light in the eyes so that your eyes have some catch lights. When eyes don't have this little bit of light, they can look very dark and dull. I will admit though, I have never used a flash to do head shots. I am an all natural light photographer and that even means head shots. I have an external flash I use for weddings, but I have no idea how to use OCF. So all head shots I have done have been done outside, without flash. I'll post an example (a CA teen pageant head shot). I would love for those that use flash to comment on what their experiences have been.

Head Shot

Q: Is there anything that can help an out of focus shot?

A: I usually don't even bother keeping out of focus shots, unless they make me feel something. If I look at an out of focus shot and know the instant I look at it that mom is going to love it or that it is something I just have to keep, I keep it. Obviously, you can't make it in focus, so you find ways to edit the photo so that nobody would question why you would keep it. I either do a black and white edit or a matte edit when this happens. You can get away with more with either of those edits. You can also play with the composition. Think outside the box. The picture I'm posting was quickly taken, it's not totally in focus, hair is on her lip, but I love it. I posted it on my wall and mom ordered a canvas of it. Sometimes it isn't about the rules, it's about what you feel.


Amy Phipps  Amy Phipps is the photographer behind On the Phippside Photography, located in Stockton, California.  Amy has been married for 21 years and has 4 children.  When she’s not trying to decide between which of her 43 black shirts to wear, you can probably find her sipping on a Dr. Pepper and walking around any day of the year in flip flops.  We're so grateful to have her in our Pretty Presets facebook group.  You'll find her in there encouraging us all with her incredible wisdom and helpful tips!