Ruminating, Tutorials


Hey y’all. I think a few of us have been drinking from the same well since I’ve seen a few great photography posts this week while I’ve been working on a few of my own (Sew Well talks cameras here, The Cashmerette shares some great photography tips here).

Today I thought I’d talk about something I haven’t seen covered too often, and that is the organization and editing of photos. I’ve tried a few systems over the years; organizing by album on PC, iphoto on mac, a few different freeware photo organization tools. And then I watched my boyfriend using Lightroom and it was like lightning striking.

Lightroom is an Adobe product which is the de facto tool most photographers use. Why? It is incredibly intelligent about how photos are organized, and there are countless ways you can categorize things. There a million ways to view, flag and delete photos as well, which makes it much better than anything else I’ve tried for editing 150 shots down to the 5 or 6 I’ll show on the blog, not to mention managing 10 years of digital photos.

My favourite element of Lightroom is the built-in editing suite. If you don’t need to do any touchups or real Photoshop manipulation, it’s a snap to colour correct, add contrast, convert to black and white etc. etc. And all these changes can be saved into “presets”, so you can apply the exact same changes to a gallery of photos. It took my photo editing time down to under 30 minutes, compared to the hours I used to spend. There are tons of free and inexpensive presets available around the web, so if you’re nervous about playing around with settings, chances are someone’s already done it for you.

Here is a photo from my Coco post with 4 custom presets applied to it so I can compare:

Closet Case Files: Editing photos with Lightroom

The other great thing about Lightroom is that none of these changes are permanently applied to your photos. It always keeps the original image and merely logs the changes you’ve made. Finally, it makes it super easy to export your images in whatever format and size you want without modifying the original image.


I know there are a few free Photoshop-esque services out there like Pic Monkey, but I will always be a dyed in the wool Photoshop user. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you want to make great graphics for your blog. It’s very easy to import your Lightroom edited photos into Photoshop to continue editing them; this is generally what I do when I want to add text to photos, or when I need to make graphics for my online store. It has a lot more options for manipulating photos; with a few google tutorials you can easily remove pimples, blur backgrounds and overlay photos in interesting ways. The Photoshop equivalent of Lightroom presets are called Actions, and again, there are tons out there if you want to play around with your photos. I generally leave all my photo editing to Lightroom, but the two programs when used in conjunction are formidable.


To each their own, but my favorite blogs generally have big photos that match the width of the written content. Visually, it’s just easier to look at. Take a look at your blog layout and make a mental note of your content width. This is generally a number between 500 and 800 pixels. That is the width you want to save your photos at.

There are a lot of factors to keep in mind when saving photos, but once you have a rhythm it’s pretty simple. First of all, consider your image quality. Most digital photos are quite large; you don’t need to save your blog photos at the same size because monitors won’t recognize the change. In Lightroom I save everything at 750 pixels wide (the width of my blog content) with a quality of 80 out of a 100 which creates a good quality image that doesn’t take up a ton of  space on my hard drive or server (this is for web only; if you want to print your image, you won’t want to change the pixel width, fyi).

Images should be saved as a jpeg in sRGB colourspace. Not to get too confusing or technical, but there are a number of different colour formats; sRGB is the one that will make all of your photos look the same across browsers and systems. If you’ve ever noticed your photos look different on your blog than they do on your screen when you are editing, you may not be saving them in an sRGB format. I think Photoshop uses Adobe RGB as its default which shows up differently than sRGB, so please use the “Export to Web” function under the file command to ensure it’s exporting correctly.

Whatever you use to edit or export images, try to always keep a master file of your image in its original size. Sites like Kollobora ask for images with a minimum pixel size of 2000 pixels if you want to be featured on their homepage banner. Keeping the original image and then exporting to the sizes you need ensures you’re not accidentally downsizing your image permanently. Trust me, I’ve learned from experience.

Finally, don’t be confused by dpi. This setting is really only important for printing. Just make sure your jpeg quality is high and it will look great on your blog.

The only problem with using Photoshop and Lightroom is that they don’t come for free. Adobe has moved away from standalone licenses towards a cloud system. It’s $10 a month for both programs (with discounts for students). You can check out their plans on their site here. I managed to get both programs before they started the cloud system, and after looking around I found out you can buy standalone licenses on Amazon. Lightroom 5 runs at just under $140 here, but a standalone license for Photoshop is almost a thousand dollars (which is why signing up for the Cloud version is probably a good idea). You can also get a free 1 month trial to see if it’s worth an investment. If you do decide to use Lightroom, you might want to check out this Craftsy class that explains how to make the most of it.

Hopefully the exporting/formatting info is helpful regardless of what editing software you are using. Jennifer at Workroom Social suggested I package some of my custom Closet Case Files photoshop/Lightroom actions. If anyone is interested in that let me know, and I will work on putting that together!

I’ll be back next week with another photography post, this time about the gear I’m using. In the meantime, are there any photography editing tips you’ve picked up along the way? I love hearing about how other people work.

  • Ooh, great topic for discussion! I use iPhoto and Snapseed and sometimes PicMonkey too! They are all good at different things, but ti would be lovely to have a program that does it all.

  • Corinne Begg

    I agree with Gillian – great topic! Blog photography & tips for improving it is probably a hot topic for many bloggers! I use Adobe Cloud to have access to Lightroom though have never really explored it because I primarily use Photoshop. But guess what I’ll be playing around with today?!

    • It’s so great! I seriously don’t how I lived without it. I fyou’re just doing basic editing in Photoshop you probably could do most if not all of it in Lightroom.

  • sallieforrer

    Great info!! I’ve been using iPhoto for years (limited editing capabilities, but then again I don’t often do much – just adjusting exposure sometimes and blurring out a pimple if need be) – and store my photos on Flickr (which I kinda hate because it makes pinning them to Pinterest difficult, no matter how many times I change my settings!!) I used to have Photoshop on my old laptop, but they both died together. Nick and I have talked about buying the Adobe suite for awhile now, but I just can’t quite justify that much money when neither of us are professional photographers or designers! I bought everything for my work though – mostly just for Photoshop and Illustrator. Honestly I’ve never even LOOKED to see if I got Lightroom with it!! I’ll have to check that out now. It sounds like it would be useful for my work, too. When I need to really edit a photo for the blog, or add text or something, I usually just wait for a slow day at work and dick around with it there. Which is why it doesn’t happen very often! Ha! Anyway, thanks love. I’m always curious to hear how other people do this.

    • It’s the best. There are always sneaky ways to a acquire it too….

      • Yeah, I wasn’t sure if I should mention how I actually came to possess my Adobe products…

        • Yeah.It was a free product from work (sorry boss). However, I am on the up and up with Adobe now, and I will miss that kidney dearly, but I shake my tiny fist at the rental cloud. All I really need from them is a PDF compiler. Nuance’s PDF products are doorways into your computer for them. Don’t let them in. No matter how much I …detest Adobe, they haven’t crashed my computer. Or destroyed my printer interface. So I tithe.

  • jen

    The Photoshop situation is really unfortunate. I’ve been using an old version on an older computer just because of it. Adobe has had some kind of 2-tier system for some time, always with this outrageously high costs for one option that is geared towards “commercial” users. However, it prevents artists (who usually don’t have that kind of money) from using it. I work with very large high resolution images, and I just cannot imagine trying to work with something like an 80MB file over the internet. The monthly subscription option won’t work for me, and I don’t have the $900+ for standalone licensing. For the time being, I’ll have to stick my the old software, but I do not have warm feelings for Adobe these days. Not a blog issue–sorry! Just my gripe about Adobe’s marking plan!

    • I’ve worked on giant 500mb files and you’re right, I can’t see how the cloud would manage. I think it is a good option though for people who don’t have the money to put down on a standalone license. But the cost is so insane – they’re basically asking people to pirate their software!

  • This is a fantastic post. You’d think I’d apply it to myself with all the years of PS and photography under my belt. It must be in the water because I’m just about finished organizing my TechTalk about google analytics and SEO

    Adding to this helpful post is that with the introduction to retina, save your photos twice the size than you really need them to be. for example if you are saving something at 1000px width.. double it up. It won’t come up that size if you’re retina equipped (wordpress has retina plug-ins and I believe most themes are capacitated for it in their CSS) but it will save at the half size but with a much crisper image.

    Also, shoot in RAW, if your camera has that setting. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to edit in RAW and get the exact corrections that you need, skipping Lightroom and using Bridge/Photoshop directly. (screenshot below)

    Speaking of Bridge, if you have it, it’s an excellent tool to figure out preliminary photos that you’d like to edit, by grouping them by exposure, aperture, etc.

    I’ll leave this at here because I’m too nerdy with PS and then I’ll just continue to ramble on and on.

    • Yes, I should really shoot in RAW. I just have to change my camera settings. And totally looking into this Retina business!

      • WP has a great plugin of course. It’s called simple wp retina. The way retina works is that there’s already CSS that detects a large image and scales it down without losing the x2 pixels

  • YES Lightroom is the best! It makes editing and organizing photos sooo much easier. I have an older version of the creative suite, but it still works fine and I don’t think the newest version is terribly different.

    Also, if you’ve taken a lot of photos under the same lighting conditions (like we usually do for outfit shoots), you can edit one picture to your liking (temperature, brightness, contrast, etc.), copy the settings, and apply them to all your pictures. You can then tweak the settings on individual pictures if you need to. I’ve found that cuts way down on editing time. It’s basically what you said you do with presets, I just like to adjust the settings manually for each photo set.

    • Yep, I do this all the time too. I just use the preset initially and then tweak as necessary.

  • I’m a huge Lightroom fan and I also use Capture One, which the photo studios are work use. What I like most about it is that it has a function that eliminates lens distortion. Because I shoot primarily with a 24 or 35 mm lens, there can be a lot of distortion!

    • I’m pretty sure Lightroom corrects distortion as well, doesn’t it?

      • It should. PS has it under filter lens correction, usually it can read the meta deta and detect your lens right away. Not sure where it’s in lightroom. hope that helps!

      • Yes, that’s what I was referring to. It’s in the develop module under lens correction. Check the box “enable profile corrections”

  • So far I’ve been using iPhoto – and you can apply changes made to one photo to all of them (Edit -> Copy Adjustments -> Paste Adjustments), but it’s definitely not as sophisticated as something like Lightroom. But neither am I 😀

    • I didn’t even know you could do that in iPhoto!

  • WOAH, sooooo much good info! I need to find time to sit down and go over this different aspect by different aspect soon. I know I need to work on my photos, but I had no idea where to start. All the photography terms are like a foreign language to me, then you add in the computer formatting side to it and some days I just wave a white flag in defeat. Thanks for all the inside how-to! 🙂

  • sundaricarmody

    I really wish I had lightroom. I work between ‘Digital Photo Professional’ (for adjusting raw photos), PS and Bridge. Though I find when I’m shooting digital I don’t use PS much at all. But when I shoot film I would sit there for such a long time working with different layers and adjusting colour levels bit…by…bit.

  • Amy

    Cool post–I love it when bloggers post about their photography tools. I want to go back and re-do the width of photos on old posts because I’m a nerd about my visual space, but it would take so much work. I use Aperture, which I just love–same kind of photo processing software as Lightroom or CaptureOne. You can do soo much with these programs without needing to ever touch Photoshop.

  • Sarah

    This is amazing! Such great advice, I’ll defintely have to get more into this. Thank you!

  • David Kooper

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