Most new photographers edit photos using profiles, presets and filters. So why bother learning to edit your photos using the sliders?
Photo editing is like a language
Photo editing is a skill, just like any other. If you’re trying to learn a language, repeating phrases from a phrase book is only going to get you so far. To become fluent in a language, you have to learn its structure and vocabulary, so you can start to build your own sentences that can apply in any situation.
Editing photos is the same. Profiles and presets are like those pre-built phrases. They’ll work okay in some situations, but they’ll never be a perfect fit.
Skilled editing can enhance photos in a way that presets simply can’t match. Learning which sliders to tweak is also much faster than hunting through hundreds of presets trying to find one that works.
Profiles and presets have their place
Don’t misunderstand us… profiles and presets have their place. Benefits include:
- Selecting a base profile can be a good starting point for your editing.
- Profiles and presets (especially those you’ve created yourself) can help to ensure consistency over a group of photos, or over your entire portfolio.
- Presets can be really helpful in learning the kind of styles of editing you prefer, and looking at which sliders are adjusted by presets is a great way of learning how to create a specific look.
However, learning to edit using the sliders gives you maximum control over the finished look of your photos.
It takes time
Any new skill takes time to develop, and you’ll improve with practice. When you first start trying to edit photos with sliders, rather than relying on presets, you won’t always be happy with the result initially. But that’s ok! That’s the benefit of non-destructive editing—you can go back and change them later, as your skills continue to develop. If you’ve saved a “classic” edit (as opposed to a fashionable look), your future changes will be tweaks, not a complete overhaul.
Learning the language of editing
Make a start by introducing the sliders and tools, like adding new words to your vocabulary. Then, learn how to combine related sliders to get a specific result, like combining words to make a sentence. Finally, learn to combine different sets of sliders into full photo edits, like turning sentences into whole conversations. This is the process we use in our books, especially in Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro which focusses on the Lightroom cloud-based app.
Learn to create and install presets
Once you found a good starting point, you might want to create your own preset. This can save time and also help with consistency. We look at how to do this in How do I create Lightroom presets?
Or you may want to install presets that you purchased. We look at that in How do I import Profiles and Presets into Classic? and How do I import Profiles and Presets into Cloud and Mobile?
For lots more information and tips on using Lightroom, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro (covers the cloud and mobile versions) and Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ (for the folder-based version). Both cover the various sliders and what they do / how they interact. Adobe Lightroom – Edit Like a Pro also looks at the thinking behind how to edit based on how professionals approach editing. If you have a current Premium Membership, you can download the latest version of your book from the Members Area right now. (And if not, here’s the shop – go and buy your copy!)