I started using Lightroom last year, as part of my exploration of blog photography through the Better Picture Project series. You can find all my old posts in the header at the top of my blog (or here), but after Carolyn did an update on her own blog photography, I though maybe it was time to revisit mine, too!
I started the Better Pictures Project in the summer of 2015 because I was disappointed at how unpredictable my blog pics were: sometimes they came out great, sometimes they were bad, and I didn’t know why. I’m still using the same camera, tripod and remote, but I’m happy to report that I now get better pictures, with a lot less stress!
As I interviewed bloggers who have aspirational photos, it became clear that Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the gold standard for editing photos. Both Closet Case Files and What Katie Sews talked about how Lightroom allows powerful editing that isn’t too obvious. Have you ever edited a picture on free software and found that to fix one part of the photo, you had to wash out or oversaturate another part? With Lightroom, that doesn’t need to happen. On the other hand, Lightroom does cost money. Last year I cancelled Netflix, and got Lightroom instead! My subscription is $10CAD/month, though I think it’s $7USD.
Left: Before. Right: After.
My goal is always to take photos that are good right out of the camera. Most of my Me-Made May photos are completely unedited, and if I get the lighting and background right, I might just tweak the temperature or exposure and call it done.
Sometimes photos need more selective help. Here you can see the original was quite dim and blue-toned, so I’ve cranked up the exposure, temperature, vibrancy and saturation. I’ve also specifically brightened the highlights and shadows, but made sure the dark colours like the black in the jumpsuit don’t get totally washed out.
So far, I could have done all of this in a free tool, like PicMonkey, Snapseed or iPhoto. But wait, there’s more!
This photo benefited from some more nuanced edits. I’ve lowered the exposure overall, made the picture warmer and pinker, and upped the clarity, vibrancy and saturation. My skin was still grey-green, so further down the tool bar I made the orange, red and pink tones more saturated. Then I used a slightly warm-tone mask tool to make the background a bit darker, and brightened up just my face. The end result, I hope, doesn’t look overly edited, but does make my outfit and I pop more against the background!
An overexposed picture like this is the hardest to fix, because all the really light areas have limited data to work with and change. With free software, the whole thing would have turned out rather grey, as the bright whites were made darker. In Lightroom though, it was really easy to fix, and hopefully you’d never know this photo was more heavily edited than the rest in a post!
The changes are basically the same as with the previous pic: exposure dropped, and masks used to darken my skin and the background. Blues and pinks and increased in the temperature, and whites and highlights are darkened further. Vibrancy, clarity and saturation are bumped up! Basically, I’ve darkened the photo in at least 4 different ways (exposure, masks, highlights/whites, and saturation) but I haven’t lost the shading in my face or the detail in my lace top.
I’m self-taught on Lightroom, and obviously a more experienced person could get a lot more bang for their buck. I watched a few videos on YouTube, and from there I just played around.
So, is Lightroom worth it? If your photos cause you $10 of frustration or $10 of pleasure a month, then yes. For me, I’d rather pay for this than hosting, which would make my blog address look more professional but wouldn’t bring me as much satisfaction. I like being able to fix photos that haven’t worked well, rather than having to post mediocre pics or reshoot.
On the other hand, as I said in this post, hobby bloggers don’t need to feel pressure to go pro. If you take and edit pics on your phone, you don’t need Lightroom. If you blog once a month, it’s probably not worth it either!
How much photo-editing do you do? Would Lightroom be a waste of money for you, and a wise investment?