How to Edit Travel Photos With Lightroom

How to Edit Travel Photos With Lightroom

Editing your travel photos is more than just achieving a cohesive Instagram feed. Editing is a way to restore and enhance the beauty and sentiment that gets lost in a lens when you capture an image. Plus it doesn’t hurt to correct some user-error that might have happened when you took the picture in the first place.

I recommend using Adobe Lightroom to edit all your photos. However, if you’re using a different platform, most of these techniques should still apply on some level.

How to Edit Travel Photos

The Basics

Everyone has their own editing style, and it takes some time to develop. But here are some basic tools and techniques you can use to get started. In case you need a quick glossary…

  • Exposure – Exactly how it sounds, this is controlling how bright your picture is, or how much light is exposing is.
  • Contrast – You can accomplish this with the contrast tool, or by manipulating the blacks/whites.
  • Temperature – I almost always mess with the temperature in my photos, but use it in small increments, because it has big effects.
  • Highlights and Shadows – Once I learned these tools, my photos took on new life! Highlights will manipulate the brighter parts of your photo (like the sky), while shadows will help you illuminate the darker parts (or use shadows to make the darker parts even more dramatic)
  • Vibrance – This will enhance or tone down the existing colors in the image. It works similarly to saturation, but it’s not quite as risky. With saturation, you can very easily oversaturate a photo making it look like a Picnik picture (anyone?) or under-saturate it and make your subjects look like they’re in a western film. Vibrance is a safer bet.
  • HSL – Hue, saturation, and luminance. These became my favorite weapons when I finally understood them. Saturation is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll just go over the other two. With hue, you can alter the way a color is perceived (I.e. make your red look a little more orange). Luminance will brighten or dull a certain color.

Now let’s get to some editing techniques.

I’ve laid out 5 basic guides for editing photos in some common scenarios. I gave hints like “increase shadows and decrease highlights” but intentionally didn’t give specific numbers for how much, because there’s really not a one-size-fits all formula.

On the Coast

Amalfi Coast Edits

Amalfi Coast Edits

  • Decrease
    • Exposure*
    • Highlights
    • Blacks
  • Increase
    • Shadows
    • Contrast
    • Whites
    • Dehaze*
  • Color
    • Increase temperature
    • Move red hue towards orange
    • Move blue hue towards aqua
    • Split toning: highlight with orange (hue: 37, saturation: around 20)
    • Split toning: shadow with blue (hue: 200, saturation: around 10)
Lightroom Settings
Here’s what I mean by “split toning”
City Scenes
Travel City Edits
Decreasing the blacks and/or increasing contrast will make scenes look more dramatic.

Rome Photo Edits

  • Decrease
    • Highlights
    • Blacks
    • Whites
  • Increase
    • Shadows
    • Contrast
    • Clarity
  • Color
    • Increase vibrance and decrease saturation
    • Move red hue towards orange
    • Move blue hue towards aqua
Architecture and Landscape
Architecture Photo Editing
Since architecture is often detail-oriented, usually I’ll use the clarity tool to enhance that.
Berlin Photo Editing
Since you’re not dealing with people and skin tones in architecture/landscape shots, you can be a little more liberal with your use of color.
Editing landscapes
Here’s a good example of how tone tools like shadows, highlights, and blacks can have dramatic effects!
  • Decrease
    • Exposure
    • Highlights
    • Blacks
  • Increase
    • Shadows
    • Contrast
    • Dehaze
Portraits
Editing Portraits
For this portrait, I’m going for a “moody” look by making the greenery a little deeper, and brightening up the face.
  • Decrease
    • Exposure
    • Shadows
    • Whites
    • Clarity
  • Increase
    • Contrast
    • Highlights
    • Blacks
  • Color
    • Move green hue towards yellow
    • Move red hue towards orange
    • Bring down the luminance of green
    • Bring up the luminance of orange
Bright Portrait
Same subject in this photo (thank you to my friend Cam), but for this one the scene is a little brighter and airy, and I want to enhance that.
  • Decrease
    • Exposure
    • Highlights
    • Whites
    • Clarity*
  • Increase
    • Temperature
    • Contrast
    • Shadows
    • Blacks
  • Color
    • In this photo I also moved blue hue towards aqua, and added a blue highlight in the split tone.

*You can compensate for decreasing clarity by increasing sharpness. This will make the face look softer, but the details of the photo still stand.

Evening Shots
Photo Editing for Night
When you’re shooting at night, take advantage of light sources around you like street lamps or headlights.
Tuscan Evening Edit
With a darker photo like this, it might look a little grainy when you try to bring up the exposure. You can try using the luminance tool (the one under “Details” not “HSL”) to decrease some of the noise.
  • Decrease
    • Highlights
    • Blacks
  • Increase
    • Exposure
    • Shadows
    • Contrast
  • Color
    • Increase temperature
    • Increase vibrance
    • Move red hue towards orange
    • Move blue hue towards aqua
    • Split toning: highlight with blue (hue: 170, saturation: 10)
    • Split toning: shadow with orange (hue: 33, saturation: 20)

What are your go-to editing techniques? I’d love to hear! Drop them below, along with any questions you have about this blog.

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Editing Travel Photos with Adobe Lightroom

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