How to work with the “A La Carta Food Workflow” in Adobe Lightroom

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Pia Lopez
  By Pia Lopez
How to work with the “A La Carta Food Workflow” in Adobe Lightroom

In addition to our video of the same title, this tutorial will get into the general use of our “A La Carta” workflow for Adobe Lightroom. This workflow has been designed by Sleeklens to specifically support the Post-production editing and enhancement of food photography, containing 21 brushes and 82 presets.

With our photograph of a nicely plated dish pulled up, let’s go ahead begin.

For this photo, we are going to start out with the “A La Carta” presets. And, for the first one we will use All in One – Sweet Paprika which will add a bit of contrast and also warm up the image. Although this preset did warm up the photograph, the effect was a little too warm. To adjust that, we will apply another preset. For this we will use the Color Correct – Reduce Oranges, which will, like the name suggests, reduce the orange tones in your image. The fact that these presets are stackable is great, this way we can apply presets, one on top of another, to get the look and effect that we want. And, even though these presets are considered “one click edits”, they can be easily adjusted to work best for the particular image that you are editing.We are going to tweak the presets that we have just applied, over in the Basic panel. For this image, we’ll move the Black slider up to about +30 so it isn’t as dark.

Now that we have applied a couple of presets and adjusted the appropriately, we will now move over to the “A La Carta” brushes. To start off, the first brush that we will use is the Enhance – Color/contrast brush. We’ll run this brush generally over the food on the plate. This will enhance the details and contrast of the areas where it is applied.

To switch to another brush, click New to start a fresh one.

Let’s go back into our brushes and scroll down to the Light – Brighten brush. We’ll just apply this brush to the food as well, just to add a little more light. We are brightening up the food a bit to bring more attention to it, as the food is the main subject in this photograph. When we finish with that brush, go ahead and click New to start a fresh brush.

Now we will go back into our brushes, this time going with Color – Red. Before applying this brush we are going to make it a little smaller, which you can do in the panel or with the bracket ([]) keys on your keyboard. We’ll run this brush over the tomatoes and red pepper on the dish, to bring some more of that color out. If you find that the color of the brush is too bright, you can make adjustments to the sliders for the brush, located in the panel to the right. For this one, we will turn down the saturation a bit.

Next, we are going to use another Light brush, this time we will go with Light – Reduce Highlights. I am just using this brush in the areas that appear to be a little blown out and way too bright.

Now let’s go back over the our presets and add a vignette to our photo. Scrolling down through the presets, we’ll select the Subtle White vignette, which will add a soft white glow to the outer edges of this image.

Now that we have finished with this photograph, we can see obvious difference in the before and after. We have focused more light on the dish and brightened up the colors of the food. Also, the subtle white vignette draws more focus to the center of the photo, where the food is.

Let’s move on to our next image, which is a nicely plated dessert. We will start this one off by applying the All in One – Fresh Contrast preset, which is going to add color, light and contrast all in one click. We will follow that up with the Base – Clean and Clear preset. Next, we want to add some more light, so we’ll apply Exposure – Brighten Shadows. Once applied, I’ll go over to the panel and raise the Shadows slider, just a bit, to bring up the shadow a little more.

Now it’s time to move over to our brushes. For the first brush, we will use Enhance – Clarity and Detail. We are going to run this brush just over the food, enhancing the texture and making it look more appetizing. After that we will go back over to our presets and add a vignette, and for this one we are going to use the Subtle Black vignette. As mentioned before, as the presets are one click edits, but they can be adjusted and tweaked. I will go over to the color panel and increase the orange to add just a bit more color to this dessert.

In the before and after views of the photo, the differences are pretty noticeable. We have, again, brought more light, contrast and color to the image, as well as brought more focus to the subject with a vignette. The end result is a much more appealing and appetizing food photograph, all done quickly.

For our third photograph, we have one that appears to be a little underexposed and lacking in some of the detail on one side. Let’s see what we can do with it and apply the All in One – Fresh Contrast, like we used in the previous photo. Once applied, we can see a return of that missing color and contrast. Next, we’ll apply the Base – Clean and Clear preset.

Now we’ll go over to our “A La Carta” brushes and scroll down to the Light – Brighten Shadows brush. Making this brush bigger, we’ll use it in the areas where the shadows are a bit overwhelming and have covered up a lot of the detail. Then, after clicking New, move on to the Enhance – Clarity and Detail brush. Like the previous photo, we will apply this brush to the food in order to bring out some more of the detail. An extra bonus to this brush, is that it also brings out the highlights, so it adds some more light as well. For the last thing that we’ll do is add a vignette. So, let’s go back over to the presets and select Vignette – Subtle Black, which will go well with the darker tones in the photograph. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but it does darken the edges, drawing more focus to the food in the center.

In our final image we were able to keep the same darker tone. However, we have made a very noticeable difference by enhancing the the color and light, while maintaining the darker contrasts in the outer areas in the photograph, bringing more attention to the subject. As you can see, this workflow works wonders with enhancing food related photographs with edits that can be done quickly and easily in Adobe Lightroom.

Thanks for following along with us, and be sure to check out some of the other great posts on the Sleeklens blog, updated constantly with fresh material by some great artists. Find new topics regarding Lightroom, Photoshop and general photography.

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Pia Lopez

Pia Lopez

Pia Lopez is a self-taught photographer, architecture student and ArchViz artist. As Editor in Chief of, technology and art are two of her passions, which take active part in her professional training. Being an authentic Montevidean, travelling is daily routine; enjoying both the green meadows and urban surroundings as well as the beautiful beaches that are so characteristic in Uruguay's landscape.

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