Is anyone else out there always chasing the light?
As much as I love shooting in my studio, it’s a fun adventure when I get to take a client outside for their boudoir session. It feels a little more daring and wild! Shooting outside is a whole lot different than shooting indoors. In my studio, I control everything- the lights, the environment… I set it up and keep it just right for the duration of the shoot.
Shooting outdoors though? Well, the natural light is always shifting and changing-- especially during the coveted golden hour when most of us photographers are scheduling our outdoor shoots with our clients.
Today I am walking you thought some basics steps for editing natural light images in Lightroom. There are a few key things and process you can walk through to get the best edit from your natural light image, even if you’re unfamiliar with where to start if you’re an indoor photographer. I’m walking you through 4 unique lighting situations and sharing what I do. I’m also including a handy video so you can actually watch me edit the photos!
Let’s dive in!
1.Shooting in Harsh Light
First off, shooting in Harsh Light means there is direct sunlight hitting your subject. If you follow along with the video, you’ll be able to watch exactly how I edited the image.
The first thing I do is look over my image and make the first adjustments necessary. In this image, I needed to dehaze the subject by increasing the clarity. Next, I turned up the exposure. At this point, I start looking at the skin tone. Since you’re shooting outside, the elements around you and the tone of the sun will impact the skin tone of your subject. Try to bring the skin tone back to a real life tone. With the dreamlike look from the haze created when shooting a backlit image, it’s important to sharpen the image so i’ll often do that next.
Tip - there is always yellow in the green so if you captured any greenery from grass to trees in your image, and you want to change the tone, remember to also work with the yellows and not just the greens in your image.
After making these few slight edits I usually apply a preset. Depending on the preset you use, you’ll make a few more minor adjustments to exposure and vibrancy. Presets are amazing to apply an overall look to your image that can be consistent throughout an entire session. When you apply a preset, you’ll make a few small adjustments and voila! A gorgeous image is edited and ready to send to your client.
EW 01 PRESET
2. Sun is Behind the Clouds With No Harsh Light.
You can’t control nature. One second the sun is out bright and the next, clouds roll in and everything seems to change. During an outdoor session you’ll need to be prepared to edit a variety of images in different ways. This image you’ll watch me edit in the video was actually taken during the same session as the first image I edited which was shot in harsh light.
The original image is quite dark (since the sun had just become covered by the clouds). The very first thing I do is turn up the exposure, shadows and the blacks. Then sharpen and adjust the clarity of the image. The image itself doesn’t quite ‘pop’ at this point so I added some more contrast to add more color to the photo.
If you’re adding a preset to the image (like I did!), you’ll make some minor adjustments after applying it, like shadows, clarity and adjusting the color tone. Using a preset in this kind of light can help achieve a whole new look!
If you haven’t watched this video yet, you can check out the video and watch me apply a number of presets until I find the one that I think helps bring out the best of the image.
3. Harsh Light Hitting Your Model From The Side
You’ll be in situations when shooting outdoors when the harsh light will be hitting your model from the side. When this is the case, I turn up the exposure, shadows and blacks first. The image I demonstrated that had cloud cover was very similar in the sense the original image was dark. From here I adjusted the clarity to dehaze the image since there’s a lot of harsh light hitting the model, creating that dreamy look that we want to keep, but still find clarity in.
In this image I made the decision to crop the image. Cropping images can help make the image less distracting so that your eye is drawn to where the light is hitting the subject. From here, adjusting the tone and vibrancy are the next things to really create a catching image that draws in the viewer and allows the subject to really stand out in the image.
4. Underexposed Image
When shooting outside you can move in and out of little pockets of light, making your image underexposed. When your subject has no light hitting them, your image will possibly be dark. So, here’s how to edit an underexposed image taken outdoors.
The first thing you’ll want to do is increase your exposure. From here, you’ll choose your personal preference of white balance for your image. When an image starts underexposed without light, chances are it will be tinted more blue. Warming it up for the white balance will be ideal! I generally like images warmer so I have adjusted my white balance to be set to auto in Lightroom.
Sometimes you do not need to make a lot of changes to the photo once you have adjusted the exposure and the white balance! When that happens, it’s such a nice surprise.
If you are making further edits, the ones I generally adjust blacks and shadows up just slightly. Then I adjust my color tone, which will all depend on your photo. To create even more punch in your photos that are taken without any direct light on your subject, you’ll also turn your contrast up while lowering both your vibrance and saturation sliders.
When you use a preset, you can achieve some stunning looks with just a few clicks-- applying a preset then making a few minor tweaks. If you have a lot of images to edit from a session, applying a preset on import will help you bulk edit!
When it comes right down to it, editing is a fun way to bring to life the image you envisioned in your mind before your finger hit the shutter button and the camera took the shot. My best piece of advice is to take time to have fun and play around in Lightroom! When you give yourself the time to play, adjusting all the sliders to see what they do, you’ll find what you like and you’ll develop your own unique editing style.
Be sure to watch the video and comment below letting me know your thoughts on how I edit images! If you’re interested in trying out presets to add that extra ‘wow’ to your images, you can grab some in the shop here. If you’re interested in grabbing a pack or two, I highly recommend the Embrace Collection or the Wanderlust Collection.
When your subject has no natural light hitting them. your image will possibly be very dark so you will want to increase your exposure. Then you will choose your personal preference of white balance. I like the image to be warmer so I have adjusted my white balance to be set to auto in Lightroom.
Sometimes you do not need to make a lot of changes to the photo once you have adjusted the exposure and white balance.
In this particular photo, I will adjust the blacks and shadows up just slightly. You will then need to adjust your color tone depending on your photo.
To create more punch to your photos in this light you will want to adjust your contrast up while lowering your vibrance and saturation sliders.
Using a preset can help you achieve a lot of the above looks quicker with some minor tweaks. If you have a lot of images to edit using a preset and then use bulk edit.
Most importantly have fun, play around in Lightroom and adjust those sliders to learn your editing style.