Photo Editing Basics for Lightroom and Photoshop

Picture this, you’re wearing all of the hats in the business (including the DIY photographer) and you’re finding that your photo editing hat is a little shaky… Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Photo editing can become an overwhelming task, especially if you don’t know how to navigate your way around the platforms you’re using. 

So we’ve curated this handy go-to guide for those DIY-ers looking to nail the basics of photo editing using either Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, walking you through organising and storing, workflows, handy tools and some editing tips to help you polish and perfect your images without a sweat. 

Why Photo Editing is Essential

If you want first-class, professional photos, then photo editing basics are essential. 

Editing allows you to tell a story by making tweaks to suit a certain style, correct colours, retouch, crop, adjust lighting and even gives you a second chance to clean up after a shoot gone wrong. Even if you have good photos to begin with, editing is the cherry on top helping you to get that client on board or pull that customer in.

Organising & Storing

Organisation is key when it comes to photo editing basics. Your photos are irreplaceable, so losing them is not an option, especially if you’re shooting for a client. Plus there’s nothing worse than wasting hours of precious time skimming through IMG_0123.JPG and IMG_0124.JPG etc. So the more organised you are from the beginning the better off you’ll be in the end. 

We recommend when starting a new project you should first create a file structure, the structure will depend on how you shoot but an example of a good file structure could be: 

2021>Events>Brisbane>Festival>RAW>photos from the camera go here 


SD Cards

When it comes to storing your photos, you should buy several, quality SD cards, however, try and get them in a low capacity so that you don’t have all of your photos on a singular big card that can be easily lost or corrupted.

Routine Copying 

Try to make a routine out of copying all of your photos onto external Hard Drives. For extra precaution, keep another Hard Drive off your premises that gets updated monthly, and store your most precious shots on iCloud or G Drive. 

Photo Editing Basics in Lightroom 

Lightroom will provide you with all of the image manipulation tools that you’re most likely going to need for basic editing. Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom also helps with importing, organising, managing and finding your images, therefore a much better option for big projects that require basic editing and consistent editing. Plus if you shoot RAW (which is recommended), Lightroom is where you should start.

The Workflow 

A dependable workflow is going to save you so much time along the way as it helps in managing and editing your photos.  

Lightroom allows you to create collections, move multiple images or files around your hard drive, print photos and print books, share your photos directly to Facebook and allow you to flag, label and rate your photos with absolute ease. Basically the bee’s knees of photo editing and organising. 

Now there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to editing, but these are some of the fundamental steps that you need to follow in order to successfully export your images. 

5 Key Steps In The Lightroom Workflow:

1. Catalogues – This is the first thing that Lightroom will prompt you to do, this is basically how your images are organised 

2. Importing – Pop your card into your computer and hit “IMPORT” at the bottom left of Lightroom. Select your card, check all your images and then hit “IMPORT”

3. Selecting –  Now that the images are in your “LIBRARY”. To be as efficient as possible, pass over your images and mark them with a 1-5 star rating. Once you’ve made your selections, go to the top of the page and hit “ATTRIBUTES” and select the stars, this will allow for only your selected images to be seen

4. Editing – Moving over to “DEVELOP”, where you’ll see on the right side all of the tools for editing your images, while on the left is your presets and history

5. Exporting – After you are happy with your edit, move back to the “LIBRARY” where you’ll find “EXPORT” at the bottom left. Here you will have multiple options for exporting your images depending on what you’re desired end result is

The Basic Edit 

Now that you’ve gotten this far and your image is safely in the develop module, it’s time to edit your photos. Lightroom has so many features which can become very overwhelming especially if you’re only new to editing, so it’s important to understand the very basics (aka the Basic panel) in order to achieve the best results. Despite the name, this basic panel is an extremely practical tool for bringing your images to fruition.  

The basic panel for photo editing basics on Lightroom

The Basic Panel Guide


Color or B&W –  The most import decision which is entirely dependent on your style and the context of the ima

White Balance (WB)

Temperature – Warmth and Coolness – Which will mainly be controlled in-camera with your white balance but there in case 

Tint – Magenta to Greens – minor adjustment to compliment the Temperature slider


Exposure – Overall Brightness or Darkness control

Contrast – Pushing the Whites and Blacks further apart or closer together

Highlights – For controlling a slim range of tonal values of the overall Brightness

Shadows – For controlling a slim range of tonal values of the overall Darkness

Whites – Think of this slider as complete control of all White pixels in your image (use this first and refine with Highlights)

Blacks – Think of this slider as complete control of all Black pixels in your image (use this first and refine with Shadows)


Texture – Softens or increases the fine details while not affecting the surrounding areas

Clarity – Blurs or Hardens details, reduces the color saturation and slightly bleeds the edges

Dehaze – Deepens the image by adding contrast, saturation darkness or flattens it by taking those factors away

Vibrance – The more subtle version of the saturation slider, focusing more on the parts of the image that aren’t as colourful

Saturation –  Enhances or sucks colors in your image, affecting the intensity at which your colors are used

Tips for Photo Editing in Lightroom 

  • Using colour and B&W is an important storytelling tool 
  • Push each slider to the limit to get an understanding of what it does to your image
  • Don’t push the sliders beyond around 40 points from zero to keep it looking natural
  • Each adjustment will affect the others, so it is important to go back and fine tune previous ones

Handy Tools in Lightroom 

Above your Basics panel, you’ll find some commonly used tools that will help refine your image  

The handy tools in Lightroom

1. Crop & Straighten: This will allow you to chose the Aspect ratio and angle of your image 

The crop & straighten photo editing basics on Lightroom

2. Spot Removal: This allows for minor spot removal, pimples, dust on your lens and small subjects in your shot

The spot removal for photo editing basics on Lightroom

3. Local Adjustments: Giving you the same control as your basic tab, expect in more focus areas rather than the whole image 

  • Graduated Filter – This creates a rectangular area that gradually weakens your adjustments from one side to the other. (Example – used for darkening a bright sky while leaving the ground uneffected.
  • Radial Filter – Same as the Graduated Filter but round (Example – used for lightening a round face evenly).
  • Adjustment Brush – The most versatile of these tools, giving you complete control of what area you adjust, add more or less by painting over areas of your image. The adjustment brush is a very powerful tool used to enhance your storytelling.

Photo Editing Basics in Photoshop

Now when it comes to Photoshop, it’s not quite as easy. Photoshop is the tool you’d use if you needed more post-processing options than Lightroom can offer. 

Put simply, Photoshop is a complex beast that is more commonly used by professional photographers, graphic designers, architects, etc. as it gives them the power to work at a pixel level, designed for print, web and mobile apps.  

The Workspace 

The workplace for editing basics on Photoshop

The workspace generally consists of these 5 components: 

  1. File Menu – The master controls, this is where the deepest level of control over your settings are
  1. Toolbar – Basic editing
  1. Tool Options – Each tool has several options to change how the tool is used
  1. Advanced Palettes – We won’t be touching on this section much in the basics
  1. Layer Panel –  The cornerstone of photoshop. This is where your image lives 

Tool Panel 

To understand what each tool does simply hover the pointer over certain tools in the Tools panel and Photoshop displays a description and a short video of the tool in action. 

The tool panel in photoshop for photo editing basics

Guide To Layers and Masks in Photoshop

Think of Layers as pieces of paper stacked on top of one another. We use layers because it’s non-destructive so rather than applying an adjustment directly onto a photo, each adjustment has its own layer, meaning that you can always go back and change something. 

Layers and masks in photoshop for photo editing basics
  • Background – This is your first layer, the lowest on the stack of papers that’s created when you open a photo into photoshop
  • New Layers – By clicking this icon you can create a new layer above your current one
  • Masking – Think of a mask as a literal mask over a face, it allows you to hide or use as much of any one layer as you like
  • Adjustment Layers – These special layers come in a variety of ways to tweak your image
  • Group – So layers don’t become overwhelming, you can put them in group folders
  • Blend Modes – These change how the layers above affect the layers below. As you pass over each blend setting you’ll see how it changes in your image
Blend modes in Photoshop editing basics

Missed a step? Need help with photography basics? 

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