Lightroom CC Tips for Beginners

Maddy Sharkey

Content Marketing,
Digital Marketing

If you have invested in your camera and equipment, you shouldn't skip out on the editing tools that bring your photography to whole new level! Adobe Lightroom CC is available for $9.99/month when bundled with Adobe Photoshop, both of which are regarded by PCMAG as the top two photo editing softwares available. Lightroom CC is great for enthusiasts and trusted by professionals. Use these useful beginner tips to enhance your content creation.

How-To White Balance


White backgrounds are a popular trend, but a trend we don't want to see go away. White space is beautiful and many times utilized by Instagram lifestyle accounts, food photography, and product branding. How do you get something truly white if you're original lighting source wasn't so great?

Start with the point curve. It starts as a straight line but you want to go through all four color options and set them in a slight S curve, like this:

Increase exposure, whites, and highlights. Decrease your contrast to get rid of some of the oversaturation, and shadows (this actually means more shadow). Taking the shadows away in the exposure process can leave the image feeling over-edited. Bring the temperature down 2-4 notches. Depending on your image, decrease the vibrance and saturation if needed. Really look at the colorful part of your images and ask yourself if that is the true color or broccoli or has it all of a sudden started to become not-so-broccoli colored?

*Tip: Open your photo in Photoshop using the three dot icon on the far right side. Create a white box on top of your image to see if you've achieved true white. Your eyes might believe it is white but it might take a few tweaks to get true white.


*Another tip: After watching some tutorials on how to get a white and bright look to your photos, it always started with this: your background needs to light and simple in order to achieve this look. You're not going to get white photos if there is brick wall in the background. It seems obvious, but while photo editing you need to remember that everything is not possible.

How-To Edit People

There are some major differences in editing decisions based on the content of the photograph. It takes a long time to master editing portraits, but here a few simple tips I've discovered on my own.

  1. Don't miss the DETAIL section at the bottom of the settings panel. This is your best friend when editing people! Noise Reduction and Color Noise Reduction are tools that reduce the number of colors and smooth the look of an image. This is a great way to smooth the look of skin without looking over-edited.
  2. Make the focus on the eyes extra sharp with the brush tool. Select the brush on the right side panel and set the clarity between 30-90. You want it to be clear but you don't want the eyes to clash with the focus of the face. If the face is in focus, go higher, if the face is a little out of focus, go lower. Make the brush size smaller than the eye by holding down Command and pressing [ for smaller and ] for larger. Avoid the crease below the eye to not draw extra attention outside of the iris and lashes. Check out the difference it makes! I pushed this edit a little further than I normally would to emphasize the importance of the brush tool and how it can help draw attention to the eyes. You still want to keep it as natural as possible.

How-To Use Presets

A preset is a fancy word for a filter, but the good presets don't come preinstalled on your Lightroom CC application. It can be tricky getting started, finding online presets, and getting them loaded onto your Lightroom CC dashboard. Some presets are quite costly, but can save you a ton of time. This is especially true if you are editing similar pictures day to do, for example, baby portraits. It is worth investing in a preset that you will use all of the time, but you can find many for free. You can also create your own! This is how you get started.

Good and free? Sounds too good. Well, you need to do some digging to find the good presets and avoid link jumping from blog to advertisement, and back again to hopefully finish with a download. Some of my resources for finding reliable free downloads are on1 Free Lightroom Presets recommended by Adobe and with its user-friendly website with minimal advertisements.

Download the zip file to your desktop and open Lightroom CC. Open Presets by clicking the box in the lower right corner and the Presets tab will open up. Click the three dots icon in the upper right corner and select Import Presets. Select the download files and they will appear on your screen.

Even better, make your own presets.

I like to use the downloaded presets as a starting point for my own presets. If a warm vintage preset is too yellow for me, I tone down the Temperature and make the settings a little less drastic. Click the same three dots icon and select Create Preset, label it something a little more strategic than "Forever Yours Sunshine" and delete the download. Then you won't have to make those adjustments every time, knowing it wasn't exactly your style from the download.

How-To Use Linear Gradient


Linear gradient is a fun and simple trick to bring a lot of excitement to a photograph. While you should be careful not to over-use gradients, this feature can be a great addition to header images or an Instagram feed. I like to apply gradients to simple photos with a minimal background. If an image has a lot going on already, a gradient can clutter and confuse the image. To start, click the gradient icon on the far right side of your screen, below the paintbrush. You can play around with settings to get the effect you are looking for, but do not go higher than a +30 to keep a natural look. A hit of sunlight is easily executed by bumping the temperature up +10-20, increase the exposure +.50-.80, increase highlights between +10-20, and reduce the clarity -5-10. Simply drag your cursor across the image and stop when you get the effect you like. You can see it happening as your going. Keep in mind where a light source would typically come from so that you can convince the viewer it is a natural source of sunshine.

Lightroom CC is one of the most powerful editing tools available. Use these beginner tips to get excited about editing and the potential of your photographs! Don't forget to keep it natural, experiment with all the different capabilities, and save your own presets as you go. Got any next level tips to share? We'd love to hear them!


Digital Coordinator & Junior Designer

Maddy is a graphic designer and enjoys being immersed in everything digital. She has been an East Side resident for over six years and believes Milwaukee is the place to be! She prides herself on always having a restaurant recommendation and believes a screen should be replaced with a good book every night.

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