Tips for editing your flower photographs in Lightroom

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Sara Rodriguez Martinez
  By Sara Rodriguez Martinez
Tips for editing your flower photographs in Lightroom www.sleeklens.com

In a previous article I gave you some tips about flower photography. Today I want to talk about the editing of this type of photos. I always recommend doing your best in the moment of capturing the photo. Invest some time looking for the right perspective, work on the composition of your image, avoid cluttered backgrounds, focus on the right spot and aim for a good exposure.  However, there are some simple things you can do in post-processing that can make your flower photo even better.

I will show you some of my general post editing tips in Lightroom.  They are general, not universal. These tips will give you a good basis to start with, but they might not work in all the situations you might encounter. You will need to experiment with your flowers a little (this is part of the fun in photography, isn’t it?). The basic idea behind all my editings is to make my main flower/s pop out. So let’s jump to Lightroom Develop module and see how these tips goes!

Do some global adjustments first

This is a good tip for any kind of photography. First of all do the global adjustments, meaning the ones that affect the whole photo. For this tutorial I am going to use this straight of the camera photo:

Straight of the camera photo

The slides I like to work with are:

  • Exposure: You might need to adjust a bit the exposure (or a lot if you didn’t manage to adjust it at the moment of taking the photo). If your photo is overexposed, you need to move the slide to the right and if it is underexposed, to the left.

  • Highlights: I usually try to recover some highlights by moving the Highlight slide to the left. This is especially useful if you have to deal with a background which is too bright because it will bring a bit of detail to the photo. By default, our eyes are drawn to bright things so they tend to focus on the lighter areas of an image. If the background is too bright it will draw our eyes to it and make us ignore the flower, and this is exactly what we don’t what want!! So if you can make the background less bright, it will be better. This doesn’t mean that you always need a dark background. You can use white backgrounds too. What I mean is that they should not be extremely bright.

  • Shadows and blacks: If I see that my main subject has an interesting area too dark, I move the shadow slide to the right. You will see how details will appear in your image.

However, the contrast of the area can get a bit weak. Increase a bit the blacks (moving Blacks slide to the left) and your problem is solved! By decreasing shadows and increasing blacks you give a higher dynamic range to your image.

Add your personal touch with the clarity slide

I love the clarity slide! This is the point in the editing when you really need to decide which kind of final look you want for your flowers. Do you want to show all the little details of your flower? Then you should move the clarity slide to the right. This might darken your photo a little, so you might need to adjust the exposure again.

If you prefer a softer look, move the clarity slide to the left.

In this case too, you might need to adjust the exposure. In the example, by changing the clarity I also causes the colors to stand out a bit too much, to counter this side effect, I moved the vibrance slide to the left in order to get a more natural look.

When you decrease the clarity of a photo you get this blurry dreamy effect. However, you might like to keep the details in specific parts of the photos. For this, you can use a circular filter like in the image below.

You can add a circular filter to do local adjustments in your photos. In this case I checked the “Invert Mask” because I wanted the adjustments to be made inside the circle. I wanted the center of the flower to be more defined, so I increased the clarity and the sharpness of the area inside the circle. Note that I feathered the circular filter quite a lot to make the adjustments gradual from the center of the circle to the outside.

So here you have the 2 versions of the same photo.

This is the final sharper version of the image
This is the final softer version of the image

Increase (or not) vibrance/saturation 

By increasing the vibrance and/or saturation you can make the colors of your flower pop out. However… if you increase them too much your flower’s color can get to a point it looks unreal. If you are doing some creative post-processing, this might be a good thing. But if you are trying to achieve a natural-looking flower image, too much vibrance and saturation will not be good.

I did some general adjustments to this image, but I didn’t touch the vibrance and saturation slides yet.

I usually increase the vibrance little by little until I reach to a point that I like. Sometimes you won’t need to touch vibrance/saturation at all because your original picture has already beautiful colors.

I usually increase the vibrance little by little so I could find a point where the colors stand out, but the flower still looks real

In this image I increased both the vibrance and the saturation too much the so that you can see their effect on the photograph. You should be careful with these slides because you can reach an unnatural look pretty easily.

Highlight your subject

Imagine that you have a photo like the one below. The background is ok because it is quite dark, but your flower does not really stand out.

In this situation you can use a circular filter to highlight your flower and make it the focus of your image. I usually add the circle, then I check “Invert Mask” so that all the adjustments will affect the inner part of the circle and I feather it at 100 to make the adjustments look gradual. You might need to play a little with your adjustments, but usually you will need to increase the exposure. I also like to add a bit of sharpness and clarity, but this is up to you!

I use the circular filter to increase the exposure of my main subject/s and make them pop out from the darker background.

If you are using black backgrounds…make them really black!

If you are using black backgrounds for your flower photography, they might look a bit grey-ish in the original photo.

Straight out of the camera photo

Make them really black by using Lightroom brush tool. You just need to “paint” the background. I like to check the “Show Selected Mask overlay” because then I can see in red the places where I paint. Another tip: check “Auto Mask” and Lightroom will detect the edges and will help you to paint just the background (and not “stray” with the brush onto the flower).

When you have the “Show Selected Mask Overlay” checked, you can see in red the places where you “painted” with your brush. Check also “Auto Mask” to make Lightroom help with not painting outside of the borders.

Once you have painted the background, adjust the brush by decreasing the exposure, making the shadows darker (slide to the left) and make it smooth by moving the Clarity slide to the left too.

Last thing is doing general adjustments to the photo to make the flower really stand out!

Now it is your turn to practice with your own flower photos and Lightroom! Do you have a tip I have not included here? Tell me about how it goes with your editing! Have a happy post-processing!!

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Sara Rodriguez Martinez
I am a biologist and a self-taught photographer based in Barcelona (Catalonia). Buddhist philosophy has a strong influence on me: I have a deep appreciation to life and I give a huge value to the little things that makes our days happier. I became a passionate about photography when I got my first camera and I understood that photography allows me to express my way of approaching life. I love learning so I am always willing to trying new things. These days I am shooting mostly nature and portraits.

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