15 Snazzy Lightroom Before and Afters

Lightroom will surprise you.

Many photographers see it as a tool for basic adjustments, like exposure, white balance, and contrast, but think that creative processing needs to be done in Photoshop. Once you really dig into Lightroom, however, you’ll see that you can do so much neat stuff, it may just blow your mind.

We’ve been using it as our primary editing program for a couple years and it still regularly amazes us! So we’ve thrown together 15 snazzy examples to show you just how much creative editing you can do using only Lightroom!

If you enjoy this blog post you’ll probably like our Before/After video tutorials. Here’s a sample video from the Before/After: Black & White video tutorial. The tutorials include about 10 videos just like this one:


Note: All of these have had the colour balance adjusted, some had tone curve adjustments, and some had profile corrections. The creative editing has been described after each example to give you an idea of how to achieve the look yourself! These are all processed fairly heavily, so you can see how much can be achieved. Make sure to edit to your own unique tastes!

1. Frost Branch

Lightroom Tips:

  • Basic adjustments – increased exposure, contrast, saturation
  • Split toning – aqua shadows, low saturation purple highlights
  • Vignette applied to darken the edges

2. Twilight Seagull

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Basic adjustments – increased exposure, fill light, brightness, contrast, clarity, and saturation
  • Split toning – warm highlights, cool shadows
  • Slight sharpening and noise reduction

3. Cattails

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Basic adjustments – Increased brightness and contrast
  • Hue and saturation have been adjusted to bring out the warm tones in the stalks of the cattails and the shift the color of the water.
  • Split toning – warm highlights
  • Sharpening

4. Graphic Flower

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Increased clarity
  • Saturation of purples increased and hues of purples shifted to red to bring out the color in the flower
  • Split toning – teal shadows and warm highlights

5. Sunset on the Amazon

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Large increase in contrast
  • Split toning – This image is a great example of how adjustments under the split toning panel can produce dramatic results. Because this image had a lot of darker tones, and sunsets often vary in color intensity, by changing the colors of the shadows you can change the color of the sky quite a bit. This image could just as easily be intensely golden, or nearly blood red just by changing the shadows slider. I used a warmer tone for the highlights to retain the typical colors of sunset around the sun.
  • Sharpening and noise reduction

6. Yellow Wildflowers

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Recovered highlights
  • Slight increase to brightness and contrast
  • Split toning – cool shadows and warm highlihgts

7. Peruvian Catch of the Day

lightroom-before-after-019.jpg

lightroom-before-after-020.jpg

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Basic adjustments – recovered highlights, increased fill light, brightness, clarity, and global saturation
  • Saturation – Increase saturation and luminance of oranges and yellows to bring out the color of the fish
  • Split toning – blue shadows
  • Vignetting

8. Spikes

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Recovered clipped highlights on flower leaves
  • Increase contrast and clarity
  • Split toning – warm highlights and cool shadows
  • Sharpening – Because this image was cropped so much and the detail of the flower was important, careful sharpening has been applied

9. Wildflowers

Lightroom Tips:

  • Increase contrast and clarity
  • Variety of hue adjustments mainly shifting the blue color of the flower to purple
  • Split toning – warm highlights, cool shadows
  • Sharpening

10. Cliffs of Miraflores

Lightroom Tips:

  • Custom cropped to better balance the composition and remove the foamy water at the bottom
  • Increased contrast, clarity, and global saturation
  • Split toning – blue shadows, warmer highlights
  • Slight sharpening
  • This image also has a combination of graduated filters and adjustment brushes. The graduated filters were used to darken the sky and the adjustment brush was used to brighten the cliffs and add a bit of contrast.

11. Sunset Surf

Lightroom Tips:

  • Cropped to square
  • Increased fill light, contrast, clarity and saturation
  • S
    plit toning – pink shadows
  • Sharpening

12. Santorini

Lightroom Tips:

  • Increased brightness, contrast, and saturation
  • Saturation – Adjusted the blue to darken the sky. Adjusted hue to slightly change the color of blue
  • Split toning – warm shadows
  • Sharpening

13. Greek Port

Lightroom Tips:

  • Reduced exposure
  • Increased contrast and global saturation
  • Saturation – increased the reds to bring out the reds in the cliff and the blue to enhance the water.
  • Sharpening

14. Clouds Over The Volcano

lightroom-before-after-041.jpg

lightroom-before-after-042.jpg

Lightroom Tips:

  • Increased exposure, blacks, contrast, clarity and global saturation
  • Adjustments to hue, saturation, and luminance in order to bring out blue and oranges
  • Split toning – cool shadows and warm highlights
  • Vignette
  • Also used the adjustment brush to brighten some of the volcano island

15. Green + Blue

lightroom-before-after-043.jpg

lightroom-before-after-044.jpg

Lightroom Tips:

  • Increased fill light, brightness, contrast, clarity, and global saturation
  • Hue and saturation were also adjusted for individual colors in order to bring out the green and the blue
  • Sharpening helped enhance the texture in the wood and stucco

Play!

As you can see, Lightroom can do some pretty awesome things! Get in there, play around, experiment, and see what you can come up with!

lightroom-before-after

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

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Comments

47 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Great info guys! I would love to know the creative processing in the family shot on your previous post! Thanks!

  2. Hey Dennis!

    That shot was actually pretty straight forward, and didn't have much creative processing. Since it was so badly over exposed the exposure slider was reduced. Recovery was increased to recover some of the clipped highlights. Blacks were increased to bring back contrast. Then adjustments were made to fine tune brightness, contrast, and white balance.

    "The family shot can be found here":http://www.photographyconcentrate.com/2011/jun/20/10-reasons-why-you-should-be-shooting-raw/

  3. Everything you guys do is so awesome, so creative, and so helpful. You rule!

  4. My favorite post so far. I love Lightroom and it's great to see the before & afters and hear the choices you make in processing. Thank you!

  5. Thanks guys!!! So glad you enjoyed this post! It was a ton of fun going through our travel work to put it together!!

  6. Loving the square crops! I love lightroom. It's totally my secret weapon thanks to you guys!

  7. Thanks Erin! That's so awesome to hear, I love secret weapons ;)

  8. malithi says:

    thanks for including the lightroom tips with each before/after! sometimes it is overwhelming to see all the editing options, so seeing the results of 'split toning' or 'global saturation' etc. is rather handy!

  9. You are most welcome Malithi! So glad it was helpful!! These things are definitely easier to understand when you can actually visually see the results!

  10. I bought your Lightroom tutorials months ago and still refer to them constantly. They are honestly better than any of the official material from Adobe, and far more affordable. Keep up the great work! I'll be sure to recommend your site to everyone I know that's interested in photo processing.

  11. Some great stuff on here, I really like #7 and #11, I'm always interested to see what can be done with Lightroom alone, especially when you have the before shot available as a comparison.

    I did my own Lightroom Before and After a while back, if you're interested you can read the post here:

    http://www.3songsnoflash.co.uk/blog/2010/10/12/lightroom-photo-retouching-luchadora-before-and-after/

  12. *@Nick:* Wow! Thanks so much Nick! That's so great to hear that the tutorial was helpful for you!!

    *@Jamie:* Thanks so much. It is a blast seeing just how far you can go with Lightroom alone! I took a peek at your Before/After, wow! Excellent work! It's amazing that Lightroom can even do some solid retouching. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Thank you. I always love seeing the before and after. Great help, much appreciated.

  14. I liked to see how cropping changes the way object looks and subsequently perception of the subject but I must say that many of these pictures looked more natural (and better- in my perception) before they were post-processed and begun to resemble postcards. Making things looking good does not neccessarilly mean making them to look unnaturally colourful . I am not against colourful photography but if picture has unnaturally bright colours then it makes me question its quality. Shame because most of these pictures are very good.
    Reading Susan Sontag's 'On Photography' would help you to understand photography deeper.

  15. Hey Juris! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! We processed all of these images very heavily to demonstrate just how much of a difference Lightroom alone can make. A lot of people saw Lightroom as just a basic editing tool, and we wanted to create some dramatic edits to show just how much it can actually do. If you check out the rest of our work on this site you'll see that we generally do pretty minimal, natural processing. :)

  16. Awesome post. It's good to be reminded sometimes that Lightroom really rocks. I get to doubt it sometimes. :)

  17. Hi Rob!
    For split toning, how do you decide whether to go with cool shadows, warm shadows or pink shadows in the above examples.
    I am just learning about split toning and I'm wondering if there is a way to decide which tone of shadows (or highlights) will improve the image, without spending so much time testing and playing around with the saturation and balance sliders.

  18. Hey Sunday!

    I find that warmer highlights and cooler shadows (with the balance shifted towards the shadow end) generally produces the most pleasing result.

    You can create presets of the split tones you create so that you can quickly test a variety of looks, and then fine tune once you get it roughly looking good!

  19. Great examples of the work of Lightroom. I'm just starting with lightroom LR3 and it's a much better help than PS8

  20. Thanks for great examples! Being back, after years, to photography and seeing such results from old trusty Lightroom is very inspiring!

    #1, 2 and 10 are especially good, I love them for their mood. Your tips are very helpful, especially creative use of split-toning.

  21. Thanks Rob for all this great help!
    Can you direct me to more information on how you specifically go about using the split toning tool?

    Again thanks sooo much!

  22. Thanks so much for these tips. I love the way you brought out the colors in these images! Beautiful work!

  23. number 7 the person’s thumb becomes black. i think it’s too much on the shadow

  24. Hey Hi Rob,

    I just went thru your post and it does have a lotta information needed for any growing photographer like me. It really helped me edit photos with more confidence. Do post your experiences, the good and the bad. And also similar kinds of guidance for creating better photos.

    Thanks,
    Keshan

  25. I like these instructions. i have one more question though and i have been digging through the internet for with success. Is there some way that you can change the color of your whites like white to red? Similar to how a gradient map would do in Photoshop? All i keep finding are articles on split toning.

  26. Thx for the guide.. it’s useful :)

  27. Hi Rob! Right now I just downloaded the 30 days trial of Lightroom 4 which I really like it a lot. I’m wondering if you can tell me how to change a particular object to any different color in a photo? For example, I wear a head pointer on my head since I can’t use my hands to operate my keyboard or mouse due to being born with Cerebral Palsy. My pointer is a light pink color, and I would like to change it to a light blue color. Does Lighroom 4 have the capability in accomplishing this task? If so, would you tell me how please? FYI, these photos were taken from an Iphone if that would matter.

    Thanks!!!

    • Hi Tommy! Great to hear you’re enjoying Lightroom! Now you could use Lightroom to accomplish what you mentioned (changing colours). You could use the adjustment brush to to paint on desaturation (essentially removing the light pink). Then you could paint on another adjustment by adjusting the colour picker at the bottom of the adjustment brush panel to your choice of light blue. Then just paint over the area you just desaturated. While it’s possible to use Lightroom to do this sort of adjustment its probably not the best tool to use . Photoshop would to a better job of making the adjustment look more natural.

      If you need more help with this just send me an email at hello[at]photographyconcentrate.com :)

  28. Split Toning – the use of it with control gives outputs that gives you enthusiasm to do more photography. Also the before and after images with the actions so taken to bring about the changes in the final images are great. Its like adding life to a dead man or to a photographer, struggling with processing to get that punch in the images. Ganesan.

  29. WOW….the drama created in LR was amazing….makes me want to go beyond basic edits in it. Thank YOU!

  30. Really nice collection. Lightroom never fails to amaze me in how I can both bring images to life and also change their meaning with simple edits.

    It would be nice if Lightroom let you export a JPG of a before/after split down the middle, as for some of my favourite images it would be cool to upload that too so people could see the difference.

    Right, I’m off to go and subscribe to this blog now, as it seems to be a good find!

  31. Great great articles this is helpful !

    I have a question, i have been locking for a while to how to do this kind “script” maybe or curves ?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolaslefebure

    You knows that true Dark color and gold skin ?Anyone knows ?

    Please i’m stucked .. :'(

    Cheers from Belgium.

  32. I love lightroom for the range of presets, but sometimes I just don’t know when to stop!

  33. I don’t really dig the crops. Closing up kinda blocks you from the whole scene, or something…

  34. What kind of gear did you use?Camera,lens,monitor,settings?

  35. Thanks dude, editing scenery has always been my weaker point

  36. Love these. I obviously need to play around with split toning! What do you nean when you say, “Recovery was increased to recover some of the clipped highlights. ” , is this a new feature in LR or a technique or something?

  37. Greetings, Rob,

    I am a fine art photographer, old school, very non-technically inclined. I started photographing (with more intent) in the early 70s, that’s 1970’s, so yes, I am a dinosaur on the technology scale.
    Any who, I have at least 15,000 color slides in my “portfolio”(that number is the good/printable amount) as well as about 18,000 b/w negatives.
    When I give a slide show, folks always want to buy prints (and even posters!), but I have not been able to print them out. I just got brand new equipment. I am disabled and I am trying to return to partly self employment with the help of the Rehab Commission. They purchased a brand new MacBook Pro w retina display (13”), an LED slide projector and an Epson film/photo scanner for me.
    It’s going to take me a long time (less, if I get an intern to work with me) to scan in the slides, but I am only starting with about 1,000 which are already composed as “shows” in carousels. My thoughts were to store only a min. amount of pics on my hard drive -and store the rest onto CDs< which I actually prefer because if something happens to the laptop, etc., all my photos would be gone.
    I opted for the 2 year extended warrantee with the Mac VS purchasing the extra memory so, I anticipating on using an external hard drive to store several thousand pics, but I haven't been able to afford to buy it just yet. I have a filing system categorized by subject matter. I am still getting used to the program called Photos on the Mac but I still need to walk thru the tutorial. I almost bought Aperture but saw reviews/complaints that photographers have over Apple's discontinuance of the program. Apparently, it's a great program and folks are angry about it.
    I am looking for some advice. I have like, no money (on Disability) and I am looking for a program (that doesn't cost a fortune) for sorting and cataloging photos. I have a list of subject matter that ranges from art and architecture to cars and vehicles to sky and scenery.The other alternative is to store (each segment of a slide show on CDs and then, just pop the CD in the laptop CD drive, and play my slide show via the LED projector. You are probably thinking that I need to learn more, and you are correct. If you can shed any light on any topic here, very appreciated! Any suggestions?
    Super thanks and thanks for taking the time to read this.
    Mr. Newman in Waltham, MASS.

    • Hi Mr. Newman,

      Thanks for sharing! I think you should check out Adobe Lightroom (it’s the program we recommend for photo editing and for image organization). You can subscribe to Adobe’s photography plan which allows you to use both Lightroom and Photoshop for $10/month (which is pretty affordable). You can learn more here: http://www.adobe.com/ca/creativecloud/photography.html

  38. Nice examples, thanks!

    Just a quibble: is there actually a reason to put the After before the Before? It’s a bit annoying, specially when you are reading the “tips” and have to be constantly scrolling up and down to read the tips and watch the image.

  39. very useful to me. thanks.

  40. Old page I know. I agree with the poster who dislikes the square crops. Don’t crop square. The vast majority of digital images going forward will be viewed in landscape mode on a computer monitor. Cropping square doesn’t make sense. Please rethink…

  41. Omar Mohamed says:

    how i can cropped square?.please

  42. Julius Moore says:

    Please share with me what camera you used to take the photos.

  43. This is a really nice collection of before and after shots! Love it!

  44. Hey I am new at editing in lightroom and have just started a small photography business! I feel I do a great job yet when I am done editing and satisfied that I have done my best, I look at them on facebook, on my cell phone and they look way over saturated, vibrant especially in the red tones! I have absolutely tried everything!!! I even rented a new basic model laptop. an HP pavilion convertible from a rental company. No change! I even tried editing wit other software and not used lightroom at all, no change!! is is possible that my laptop is just not good enough, powerfull enough, or enough pixels??? I am so upset over this cause this is the only thing standing in my way of becoming a really great photographer and having a great website to advertise my portfolios!!! HELP!!! I have tried color calibrating my laptop but with windows 10 you can’t adjust the contrast and white balance. the pics looked fine with the example that they give you anyway! I just don’t kow what to do!!

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